Writing Science Fiction

Impressive space ship mothership in Earth orbit

Writing science fiction (sci-fi) can be immense fun. Although I've read a great many sci-fi novels, from a writing perspective, I don't speak from experience, but simply echo what my sci-fi writer friends and key sources have been kind enough to share with me.

This brief but laser-focused article identifies the important points that can really make a difference and therefore can help you get started.

If writing sci-fi is for you, please read and digest the following tips and guidelines:

  • You know a lot more about more than perhaps you may realize. If you don't believe that, just trust what I say. The simple fact that you're reading and absorbing this from an electronic screen proves your brain is amazing and can work out things for you on a subconscious level, while your conscious mind is working on something else entirely. If you haven't yet written a book, why not trust yourself more, relax, and make a start?
  • To thrive as a science fiction writer (or indeed, any kind of freelance writer), you need to get deadly serious when considering the business side of your writing. For example, business expenses: you can set aside a variety of costs associated with writing a book or ebook.  
  • As with all of your writing efforts, whenever you first start out in a new area or market, I recommend that you do your homework, your research, to better understand your target readers and the area into which you're getting, BEFORE you get started actually writing. Though accept that sometimes, you can't research what hasn't been invented yet, so be prepared to devise and invent new technologies in your mind. Become the melting pot for what is to come.
  • Today, writing a book, any book, and making your book commercially successful, is statistically improbable. That doesn't necessarily matter, especially if you self-publish to electronic formats to start with. Don't be fazed by commercial considerations: you have enough to think about just writing your story. If you can accept that your first book may fail, but are still not put off from the idea of writing your "baby" or "monster", continue reading.
  • Remember, every new book you write brings with it new skills that you have learned. Without doubt, you can thrive better if you have written and published a book or ebook.
  • As an author, consider your first book as your own personal apprenticeship: you're just training yourself, so don't be so hard on the writer. If your first book is a success, then well done and enjoy the fruits of your labors.
  • Some well known authors never found profitable success for their books until they had written at least several non-profitable books. Some bombed — repeatedly! If you like writing, stay the course. Pace yourself. Do what you need to keep writing.
  • Try to learn something new that you failed at from each book you write. Then, resolve not to make that mistake in your next book. This point is crucial.
  • Science fiction is popular with several different markets and specific age groups. For example, many teenage boys seem to like science fiction themes at present. Yet, most teenage girls don't seem to command a similar level of interest. The key point is to just note differences and adjust your writing to match.
  • However, also remember popular trends can change quickly. Today, millions may love the lure of distant galaxies; tomorrow, ancient worlds, or parallel Earths can hold us mesmerized with expectations of what is to come.
  • All output can create multiple delivery formats and opportunities, including television and movie rights of course. So write your books in striking, visual ways, that they can more easily be converted to film. Try to think visually for all of your writing. How: as you think about your plot, constantly ask yourself how the scene you are writing can be transcribed for film or TV, with minimal changes needed. If the process is easy, and your book gains a following of loyal readers, you may have a film producer knocking on your door sooner rather than later.
  • Science fiction is less likely to become dated and so may enjoy a longer shelf life compared to some other fiction / non-fiction themes.
  • Sci-fi topics stand a better than average chance of being made into blockbuster films. Understandably, the film rights is where the preferred money / royalties target lies for most sci-fi authors bent on literary success. With this approach, the book or books you may write are just the vehicle; the preferred destination is the movie rights — and why not?
  • An author writing sci-fi can more easily sell their product to a worldwide market.
  • Contrary to what you might think, sci-fi authors don't need to come from a scientific background. However, they do need to perform the necessary background research and develop clarity and an interest in defining and understanding the environmental details of the story.
  • If you do have a specific scientific or technical background or speciality, you can use that advantage to more easily write content that draws on your experiences, or knowledge of what might happen in specific circumstances, etc.
  • Sometimes, sci-fi can be so far removed from our world today, that imagination is your best skill to develop. Consider wacky ideas, and build on them if you're fascinated by strange outcomes and possibilities.
  • Play with topic or theme sex: combine two technologies and explore what happens. Your books can recount the fall-out.
  • As with all compelling books, while sci-fi is your genre, never forget the power of plot and how your characters develop are what truly connect your books to your readers.
  • Develop your characters and scenes. Work out ways to make your readers hate at least one of your characters, love another, fear more, and become captivated by the exploits of your main protagonist. Build in surprises, as you generate suspense and interest and fascination with evocative scenes from worlds we have yet to discover.
  • You can write short stories or full-length novels, but short stories allow a sci-fi author to test out interest in a theme without committing a large amount of time and resources to a project before you're more certain that such a huge task will be worthwhile or suitable for you to complete. Even so, while some sci-fi authors do opt to write several short stories before they tackle a full book or ebook, that's not a set course, written in stone. Decide what works for you. All rules are meant to be broken — eventually (you can have fun with that idea too).
  • While we can learn much about the tips and techniques of fiction writing, if we are to write our first novel, ultimately, one day, we need to stop listening to what others may say or advise, and just make a start: write the damn thing — ideally as fast as you can. Yes, you will most likely develop a love-hate relationship with your book, but do stay the course. Why: at the least, you can have such fun.
  • Sometimes, just getting started has a remarkable effect upon your writing. Before you realize, you're steeped in another world, another time, other minds of people who don't really exist, yet seem so real — to you. Sometimes, all hell breaks loose. That's okay, bring it on: you'll be the first to find out what happens.
  • Then, go back over, edit slowly. What's next? Edit again: tweak, you may decide to add new material here, delete some text there, in order to create a final "read to publish" riveting, spellbinding story. Enjoy.
  • After a suitable vacation, break, or holiday, you may want to do it all again with your next book two of your trilogy.

So if you think writing science fiction might be for you, why not boldly go where others have gone before and resolve to become — you! The same you, but different.

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