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Standing Out: Creating Short Stories with That Crucial Spark

Instructor:  Scott H. Andrews
Level:  Intermediate to Advanced
Class Times:  There will be three live class meetings.
Thursday, January 11, 2018,
Thursday, January 25, 2018, and
Thursday, February 8, 2018

7:00 pm-8:30 pm U.S. Eastern Time Zone
Application Deadline:  Friday, December 15, 2017
Tuition:  $239.00

For a description of the class, its assignments, requirements, schedule, and a biography of the instructor, see below.

To apply, click here. Note: If you wish to apply for more than one class, you must apply for each class with a separate application.

For more information on Odyssey's Online Classes, click here.

Standing Out: Creating Short Stories with That Crucial Spark


Course Description:
Most of the submitted stories that magazine editors reject aren't terrible, in their ideas or writing. They're competent. They feature interesting ideas and thoughtful writing. They do all the things a story needs to do, but they don't do anything more. They don't leap off the page, with fascinating concepts or thematic impact or emotional resonance or potent voice. They don't captivate or enthrall or delight. They don't have spark.

This spark is the biggest factor that makes good stories, of any subgenre or style, stand out in the submissions pile from competent ones; that makes submitted stories catch the attention of editors; that levels-up writers' work from repeated personalized rejections to regular story sales.

This course will push writers to examine what they have to say in their stories, in concept, theme, voice, and emotional resonance, and how their writing is going about saying it. Lectures and discussion will offer tools and insights for writers to use in taking a thorough look at their writing's content and execution, plus approaches for honing a story's concept, voice, presentation of theme, and evoking of emotional resonance. Examples will explore stories that do stand out in different ways, and homework will develop skills for writers to add spark to their own work and strategies for showcasing it in story openings.

Students will analyze examples, explore various techniques, and write or revise their work with these techniques in mind. Students will also provide critiques on their classmates' work.

Students must be ready to hear about the weaknesses in their writing and to work to strengthen them. Students must also be ready to give feedback to their classmates that is both truthful and helpful.

Our goal as a class is to provide a supportive yet challenging, energizing environment that will help students improve their writing.

Each student will have a private meeting with Scott.

The course is intended for writers of fantastic fiction, an umbrella term encompassing fantasy, science fiction, horror, magical realism, and anything in between. Yet spark is important in all fiction writing, short stories and novels, so fiction writers who focus on other genres or lengths could profit from this class and would be welcome.

The course will be most valuable for intermediate or advanced students, since it will assume students already understand the basics of fiction writing.

Students will be required to complete several readings before the course begins. Readings will be made available electronically or as links to online publications. One or two short readings may be distributed after the course begins.

Students will have some homework assigned before the first meeting, and will also be assigned homework during the course.

The first assignment will have a due date of January 10, the day before our initial meeting.

Homework will be assigned on January 11 and January 25, with due dates, respectively, of January 17 and January 31. You will also be required to provide critiques of some of your classmates' work, which will be due on January 24 and February 7. Any student who misses a deadline may be expelled from the class and will receive no refund.

All assignments should be in standard manuscript format and should be submitted as MS Word .doc files (NO .docx FILES) or rich text files.

You should reserve a minimum of 5 hours to complete each homework assignment.

Assignments will include reading and analyzing assigned texts, critiquing, performing exercises to practice techniques, writing new material, analyzing your previously written material, and revising previously written material. I will return students' homework with my feedback by the day before the next class session.

Students are expected to follow guidelines about assignments and class materials established in the Odyssey Online Student Handbook.

Since we will have only 3 class meetings, attendance at every class is necessary for you to get the most out of this course.

You are expected to attend all classes, except in cases of emergency. In such cases, you should notify the instructor. It is your responsibility to find out what happened in any classes you missed and to complete homework by the deadlines.

Classes will be recorded and made available to students for a limited time. On rare occasions, students' computers do not allow them to access the recordings, so we cannot promise that this will work for you.

Any student who misses more than one class may be expelled from the course and will receive no refund.

Students are expected to follow the policies about attendance and behavior set out in the Odyssey Online Student Handbook.

Technical Requirements:
Technical requirements for all Odyssey Online Classes are covered on the Online Classes page.

Tentative Schedule:
January 10: 
Pre-class assignment is due.
January 11: 
First class meeting. Introduction and orientation. Having something to say: concept, theme, voice, emotional resonance. Assignment of homework.
January 17: 
Homework is due.
January 24: 
Critiques are due. Homework is returned with my feedback.
January 25: 
Second class meeting. Discussion of homework. Honing what you have to say: digging deep to refine concept, integrate theme, and evoke emotional resonance. Student questions. Assignment of homework.
January 31: 
Homework is due.
February 5: 
Seven students will have private meetings with me between 7:00-9:20 PM EST.
February 6: 
Seven students will have private meetings with me between 7:00-9:20 PM EST.
February 7: 
Critiques are due. Homework is returned with my feedback.
February 8: 
Third class meeting. Discussion of homework. Saying what you have to say: presenting concept (information dissemination), portraying emotion (prose and point of view), featuring theme (complexity and authenticity); building your story's spark into its opening. Student questions. How to continue your progress.

Scott H. Andrews Scott H. Andrews lives in Virginia with his wife, two cats, nine guitars, a dozen overflowing bookcases, and hundreds of beer bottles from all over the world. He writes, teaches college chemistry, and is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the five-time Hugo Award finalist and World Fantasy Award-winning online fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Scott is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop; his literary short fiction has won a $1000 prize from the Briar Cliff Review, and his genre short fiction has appeared in Space & Time, Crossed Genres, and Ann VanderMeer's Weird Tales.

He has lectured on short fiction, secondary-world fantasy, editing, magazine publishing, audio podcasting, and beer on dozens of convention panels at multiple Worldcons, World Fantasy conventions, and regional conventions in the Northeast and Midwest. He is a three-time finalist for the World Fantasy Award, and he celebrates International Stout Day at least once a year.

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