Online Classes for Winter 2015


This winter, the Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust is offering three live online courses with the same high quality and rigorous approach as its acclaimed, in-person Odyssey workshop: Showing versus Telling in Fantastic Fiction, One Brick at a Time: Crafting Compelling Scenes, and Effective Endings in Speculative Fiction.

Since learning is an active process, all Odyssey Online courses involve live online class meetings, allowing students to ask questions and participate in discussions. Jeanne Online Class captureEach course is designed to provide intensive focus on a particular aspect of fiction writing. Challenging homework assignments allow students to practice new techniques, while feedback from the instructor and from classmates helps students to make strong improvements. Each student also has an individual meeting with the instructor. Courses provide a supportive yet challenging, energizing atmosphere, with class size limited to fourteen students. While courses are designed for adult writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, interested writers of all genres are welcome to apply.

Last winter, forty-two committed writers from the US, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan participated in Odyssey’s three online courses. One student commented, “Odyssey is a precious resource for aspiring writers. Instruction that goes beyond the basics, that teaches how to write compelling, not merely competent stories, is hard to find.”

Odyssey offers only three online courses per year to ensure high quality. Instructors, the very best in the field, fill each course with invaluable insights and information. Working with students during class meetings and in between classes, instructors are able to foster illuminating discussions and provide personalized, in-depth advice.

Odyssey’s winter 2015 courses focus on critical writing skills:

jeanneShowing versus Telling in Fantastic Fiction
Course Meets: January 1 – January 29, 2015
Instructor: Jeanne Cavelos
Application Deadline: December 6, 2014
Level: Beginner/Intermediate

Many writers have been asking me to offer my Showing versus Telling course again, so after three years, it’s back due to popular demand. It may never come again, so if you’re interested in learning key skills that will enrich every part of your story, now is the time to apply. Few writers truly understand the difference between showing and telling. Even fewer understand that showing and telling are not two opposing possibilities, but two ends of a spectrum offering a range of subtle gradations. To write with power, a writer must know where on that spectrum he should be at every moment, must be able to control the levels of showing and telling, and must be able to write strongly at each point of the spectrum. These abilities are key to every sentence in every story. The skillful manipulation of showing and telling makes settings vivid, brings characters to life, puts the reader in the middle of the action, emphasizes the most important ideas and moments, and conveys powerful emotions.

We will study examples of the successful and unsuccessful use of showing and telling. We’ll also discuss the special necessity of showing in fantastic fiction, and the challenges of doing so. Students will practice showing and telling across the spectrum, will study works they love for examples of showing and telling, and will rewrite a section of their own work, putting these techniques into practice. Previous students have found this course extremely helpful. When it was last offered in 2012, thirteen out of fourteen students rated the course “excellent.”

“Jeanne’s Showing versus Telling in Fantastic Fiction was another amazingly effective Odyssey Online course that I had the privilege of participating in. As Jeanne’s brilliant teaching guided the discussions and led me through passage after passage of great writing examples, revealing their subtleties, rendering their secrets and the techniques responsible for their emotional impact, and as her amazingly designed assignments led me to experience such effective revision tools, study them, apply them, make them my own, and as it all took place among the propelling enthusiasm of such a diversely talented group, I saw my weaknesses and learned to treat them; I saw my strengths and learned to enhance them. I felt the gigantic leap of improvement, and so did my readers. Now after the class has ended, I sit in eagerness for what’s in store for next year.” –Anahita Ayasoufi

One Brick at a Time: Crafting Compelling Scenes
Course Meets: January 5 – February 2, 2015
Instructor: Barbara Ashford
Application Deadline: December 9, 2014
Level: Intermediate

Barbara Ashford, one of Odyssey Online’s most highly-rated instructors, has crafted an exciting new course for this winter focusing on scene structure. Compelling scenes pull readers into a new world, evoke an emotional response to the characters and conflicts, and encourage readers to turn the page to find out what happens next. Failure to fine-tune these essential building blocks of your story can dilute its power and impact. This course will explore ways to help you add tension, drama, and power to your scenes by

  • examining the fundamentals of scene design–from its overall shape down to its individual beats;
    exploring the characteristics of effective scenes and the common pitfalls that can undermine their impact;
    providing tools to diagnose “ailing” scenes and bring them back to life;
    discussing the “special needs” of opening and closing scenes, and flashbacks;
    considering each scene as “part of the whole” by understanding its role in developing characters, showcasing the world, and fulfilling the implicit promise you are making to readers

Many students have asked for a course on scene structure, so we’re very excited to be able to offer it.

One of Barbara’s students last year, Christine Row, said this: “Barbara is an incredibly knowledgeable and effective instructor who completely blew away all my expectations for the course. In addition to discovering how to bring emotions to the page in a stronger and more precise manner, I learned more about theme, story structure, characterization, and world building than I’d thought possible for three short classes. Her analysis of my novel excerpts has helped me redirect my wandering plot issues, and every critique I received has been detailed, analytical and thought provoking. This course over-delivered and will be something I refer back to for many works to come.”

lo-res-ccfinlay-portraitEffective Endings in Speculative Fiction
Course Meets: January 22 – February 19, 2015
Instructor: C. C. Finlay
Application Deadline: December 26, 2014
Level: Intermediate/Advanced

C. C. Finlay has an outstanding reputation as one of the top fantasy/science fiction workshop leaders in the country. We’re thrilled to have him as part of the Odyssey family and even more thrilled to have him teach a course on Effective Endings. The most common weak area in stories is the ending. Many writers can grab a reader’s attention with an intriguing beginning and build through a promising middle, but when the end arrives, the reader is often left confused, incredulous, or deeply disappointed. The ending is the true test of the story, of the author’s ability to give greater meaning and power to everything that has preceded it.

Legendary science fiction editor Gardner Dozois has said, “I think last lines of stories are very important, and a bad last line for a story can diminish the value of even a good story by, say, forty percent.” While the course won’t involve calculating percentages, it will examine how the right ending can help fix a broken story or make a good story great. We will study the way story beginnings set up endings. We will look at characters and the way the ending needs to provide a satisfying conclusion to a character’s narrative arc. We will explore the importance of taking risks and being audacious, how satisfying endings depend on making bold and meaningful story choices. Finally, we will examine the endings themselves–the last scene, the last image, the last line. This will be a very helpful class to any writer.

C.C. Finlay is the author of four novels and dozens of short stories. His fiction has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and Sidewise awards and collected in many Year’s Best volumes. More recently, he has also been editor for the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. From 2000-2007, he was administrator of the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, and currently serves as one of OWW’s Resident Editors. He has previously been an instructor at the Clarion Writers Workshop, the Clarion Young Adult Workshop, and the Alpha Writers Workshop, as well as numerous convention workshops. (Author photo courtesy of Michelle Daniel Photography)

More information about Odyssey’s online classes can be found here: or by emailing jcavelos(at) (If you’ve visited the Odyssey site recently, you may need to click REFRESH on your browser to see the new content.)

PLEASE NOTE: Those application deadlines are coming up soon! If you would like to apply for more than one course, you must apply separately for each one.

Odyssey Online helps you to learn new techniques and build your skills, and provides in-depth feedback to guide you. If you’re ready to hear about the weaknesses in your writing and ready to work to overcome them, you’d be welcome to apply to our online classes.

In addition to the courses and the resources found on this writing blog, the main Odyssey site offers many resources for writers, including free podcasts, writing and publishing tips, a weekly salon, a critique service, and information about the six-week in-person workshop.

Apply to a class and make a major improvement to your writing in 2015!


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