July 22, 2013
32 Tips for Science Fiction Writers
Science Fiction is not like writing a romance novel, or a thriller. You-all who claim this genre understand that. You are inventing a new reality. The story’s strength comes from being able to convince readers to accept your version as true–to willingly suspend their disbelief long enough to journey with your main characters.
Here are some tips (and in some cases, quotes–they all don’t share tips) from those who do it best. Let me know if you agree:
Isaac Asimov (author of I Robot and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
Isaac Asimov’s reputed writing tips revolved around paying attention to plot, vocabulary, and information. SOAP Presentations discusses these in more detail–I’m going to move on to something more fun. Here are seven quotes that will give you a better idea what Asimov considered integral to good stories (for more, visit Writers Write):
- Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today – but the core of science fiction, its essence has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all.
- I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.
- From my close observation of writers… they fall into two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.
- Science fiction writers foresee the inevitable, and although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not.
- Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.
- Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.
- You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success – but only if you persist.
Ray Bradbury (author of Martian Chronicles and Farenheit 451)
I collected these from all over the internet, but Jim Denney at Unearthly Fiction has a massive collection you’ll enjoy:
- Read intensely. Write every day. Then see what happens. Most writers who do that have very pleasant careers.
- Stuff your head with stories, metaphors, poetry, Shakespeare, science, psychology, philosophy.
- Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world.
- Fall in love with movies, especially old movies.
- Read dreadful dumb books & glorious brilliant books, & let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head.
- I wish craziness & foolishness & madness upon you. May you live with hysteria & out of it make fine stories.
- I have a sign by my typewriter that reads, DON’T THINK!
- All of the good, weird stories I’ve written were dredged out of my subconscious.
Arthur C. Clarke (author of 2001: A Space Odyssey)
These, too, are pretty popular on the internet. For a long list, visit Writers Write:
- End what you began!
- Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories.
- I don’t pretend we have all the answers. But the questions are certainly worth thinking about..
- The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
- I don’t believe in God but I’m very interested in her.
- I’m sure the universe is full of intelligent life. It’s just been too intelligent to come here.
Frank Herbert (author of Dune)
- There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.
- The gift of words is the gift of deception and illusion.
- You don’t write for success. That takes part of your attention away from the writing. If you’re really doing it, that’s all you’re doing: writing.
- The truth always carries the ambiguity of the words used to express it.
- Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.
- The function of science fiction is not always to predict the future but sometimes to prevent it.
Robert Heinlein (author of Stranger in a Strange Land, Starship Troopers)
A lot of writers don’t publish ‘writing tips’, but you can get a lot out of their words. These Heinlein quotes told me as much about doing my craft well as the shelves of books I’ve collected:
- Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.
- Always listen to experts. They’ll tell you what can’t be done and why. Then do it.
- If you would know a man, observe how he treats a cat.
- In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.
- Thou art God, and I am God and all that groks is God.
What are some writing strengths Sci Fi authors do better than any other genre?
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a weekly columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, IMS tech expert, and a monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.