Director’s Corner: Gaining Distance to Revise

Jeanne Cavelos is the director of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. She was a senior editor at Bantam Doubleday Dell, where she worked for eight years, editing the fantasy/science fiction program, the Abyss horror line, and other fiction and nonfiction. Jeanne is also the bestselling author of seven books and numerous short stories and articles. She has won the World Fantasy Award and twice been nominated for the Stoker Award.


You don’t care about my protagonist? You don’t find my plot to be a page-turning masterwork of suspense? You think my sentences are awkward and my point of view inconsistent? Writers are often quite surprised by the feedback they receive on manuscripts. Continue reading “Director’s Corner: Gaining Distance to Revise”

Writing Question: Outlining

It isn’t easy holding together a story of 100,000 words, the average length of a novel these days. Many writers find they can’t manage without first creating an extensive outline. Other writers use a handful of three-by-five cards as an outline, while a few very successful authors, such as Stephan King, write with no outline at all. We asked Odyssey graduates:

Do you outline? Why or why not? What method of outlining do you use? Continue reading “Writing Question: Outlining”

Getting into Characters’ Heads

Ask readers what makes a good story good and they are likely to say “the characters.” But how does a writer create characters that are engaging, believable, and distinct?  And how does a writer bring such characters to life on the page? We asked Odyssey graduates:

How do you get into your characters’ heads? Do you make all your characters similar to yourself in some ways? Do you use research to better understand different types of people? Continue reading “Getting into Characters’ Heads”

Writing Question: Point of View

A story’s point of view (POV) affects the entire story, from how much information the author can divulge to how a reader empathizes with the protagonist. Choosing a point of view is one of the most fundamental choices an author can make. We asked Odyssey graduates:

Have you tried experimenting with different points of view for your stories? How does the viewpoint change the story itself? How does it change the experience of writing and reading the story?  How do you know which viewpoint is best for a particular story?  Continue reading “Writing Question: Point of View”

Podcast #44: Laura Anne Gilman

Laura Anne Gilman was the writer-in-residence at Odyssey 2010. During her week at Odyssey, Laura Anne lectured on a variety of topics, participated in critique sessions, and worked individually with writers. In this podcast, Laura Anne discusses how to approach revisions. Before one can revise, one first needs to get a draft of the story written. Often, writers can get hung up on creating the perfect sentence and lose focus on the story. In a first draft, each sentence doesn’t need to be perfect; it’s more important to get the heart of the story on the page. Of course, that doesn’t give one the right be a sloppy writer. Improving the sentences will come in revision, along with other improvements. Laura Anne discusses common problems writers need to address in revision, drawing on her experiences as both editor and writer. She also provides tips on how a writer can tell when something isn’t good enough. And she explains how revising a work can help you with future works.

Laura Anne GilmanLaura Anne Gilman was an editorial assistant at the Berkley Publishing Group in 1994 when she took the first plunge into murky writing waters and submitted her first story to a professional market. An almost immediate sale to Amazing Stories followed. She didn’t make another fiction sale for more than a year, which taught her humility and patience. And the fine art of perseverance. Continue reading “Podcast #44: Laura Anne Gilman”

Writing Question: Idea Bank?

During the six-week Odyssey Writing Workshop, students write six original short stories, making successful idea generation imperative. To get a better idea of the methods used by experienced writers, we asked Odyssey graduates:

Do you keep an “idea bank” for future stories? How does that work? Do you organize your ideas in any way? Do you actually use them? Continue reading “Writing Question: Idea Bank?”

Podcast #43: David G. Hartwell

Podcast #43 is now available for download here.

Award-winning editor David G. Hartwell was a guest lecturer at Odyssey 2010, where he spoke on a variety of subjects authors need to know to survive and thrive in the publishing world. In this podcast, David discusses story titles and pseudonyms. A good title can make a story stand out, not only to editors but to readers, as they scan down the contents page of a magazine or anthology. A good title may relate to the themes of the story. It can even suggest to the reader how to read the story, or suggest to the author how to revise the story to make it stronger and more unified. A bad title confuses or turns off the reader. For example, a title that makes sense only after the reader has finished the story is generally not a good idea. A title with unfamiliar words is weak and may turn off readers, bookstores, and book distributors. David also discusses pseudonyms. He explains the different reasons you may want to use a pseudonym, as well as some of the questions you should ask yourself before making that decision.

David G. HartwellDavid G. Hartwell is an American editor of science fiction and fantasy. Continue reading “Podcast #43: David G. Hartwell”