Science Fiction Writing Guide
Before putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, there's a lot to consider. What kind of science fiction will you write? Where and when will you write? How can you get motivated to write? The topics on this page address these and many other questions.
With a million other things to do in the world – let alone dozens of other types of stories that you could pen – why write science fiction?
What is science fiction?
Now that you've decided to write science fiction, you face a big question: How exactly do you know if you're writing science fiction?
Science fiction vs. fantasy vs. horror
Go to the science fiction section of your local bookstore or tune into SciFi on cable and you’re likely to find novels and movies that aren’t exactly science fiction. Or at least it’s not what you think of as science fiction, though it’s quite similar.
Using real science to creat a sense of wonder
The kernel of any good science fiction story is a scientific fact that we know of today. A good writer grows his story by extrapolating from this fact. In the process, he probably should create an intriguing world that awes the reader in some way.
Talent or hard work?
You’ve written story after story, but none of them ever seem to measure up to your favorite authors’ pieces. Meanwhile, editors keep rejecting the few of your stories that you thought were actually decent. You’re starting to wonder if you have the natural-born talent to be a writer.
Elements of fiction
For the convenience of analysis and discussion, stories often are broken into parts. These parts typically are referred to as the five elements of fiction.
Is science fiction dead?
If you’re thinking of writing science fiction, you first need to answer an important question: Is science fiction dead?
Answering common criticisms of science fiction
You’ve heard it all before: You’re at a party or sitting with colleagues at others during lunch, and someone smirks when they discover you like to read and write science fiction.
Types of science fiction
Not all science fiction stories are about space or time travel as many believe. In fact, many “types” or “subgenres” of science fiction exist.
When the general public thinks of science fiction, they most often think of one kind of SF – space opera. In such a story, action forms the plot, usually in a space battle or on another planet. It’s the Buck Rogers of 1930s and 1940s radio and Saturday matinee dramas.
Among the earliest types of science fiction stories are utopias, or stories that describe ideal societies. Such tales are a perfect match for science fiction, which extols the benefits of science and technology.
Coming up with story ideas
When coming up with a story idea, it’s best to remember that science fiction is about extrapolation. Imagination is the fuel that runs extrapolation.
Short stories vs. novellas vs. novels
There’s no hard or fast rule about what is a short story, what is a novella and what is a novel. It’s largely a subjective matter for which editors and publishers assign arbitrary numbers based on their needs and available space.
Value of reading
As writers, we have an obligation to support our colleagues by reading their works.
Getting motivated to write
Unfortunately, writing is hard work. Most who write find themselves filled with anxiety and self-reproachment as they pen their paragraphs and compare it to those authors who inspired them to write. And then there’s always the frustration that comes when the right word (or even no words) won’t come.
A place to write
One of the obstacles facing beginning writers is finding a place where they actually can write.
When writing any story, your goal ought to be to create and maintain a fictional dream, or an “illusion that there is no filter between reader and events that the reader is actually experiencing what he is reading."
Finish your story
Many writers have unfinished novels and short stories sitting on their hard drives or as printouts in a desk drawer. Often coming up with a story idea isn’t a problem, but finding the time or knowing how to finish the work is.