Types of science fiction, and how to go about writing and marketing science fiction stories.
Science Fiction writers are as varied as Science Fiction itself, but they all have a common goal; to write good thought-provoking material, and to get paid for it. If you have enormous talent, you will succeed despite yourself, but for the rest of us, success requires hard work, discipline, and constant honing of our craft. Whatever our level of experience, preferences, and abilities, we can all benefit from guidelines and tips from other writers, inside and outside the genre. Below are some tips and guidelines for the writing of science fiction.
First, let’s get some general guidelines out of the way. I’m assuming you have a workspace, a word-processor, or, much better, a computer with manuscript tracking software. If not, go to your local library. You can get everything you need there, and it’s mostly free. Set aside a realistic amount of time. Read, and write, and research, and write. A realistic 5 hours per week is better than 30 or 40 hours that you can’t manage.
In the second-century BC, Lucian of Samasota described voyages to the sun and the moon, and in the early 1960s, science fiction was still talking seriously about little green men from Mars. Now, we’re all living in a Science Fiction age, and the boundaries of the genre have exploded outwards. You will probably settle into one or two of the sub-genres of Science Fiction writing. If you are not sure what direction to take, read as many different types of SF as possible.
Read as much as possible, then settle into what you do best. Good Space-Opera is better than preachy apocalyptic stories, or implausible “hard” science-fiction. And currently, if you can write hypertext fiction, you have a whole new world of writing at your feet. The point is, do what you’re comfortable with. (However, take heed when an editor offers you a suggestion. He is the person who will publish your masterpiece.)
Here are a few ideas to play with. They should help you to come up with at least an outline for a story, or a novel.
Here are a few more things to consider: -
Everyone writes differently, but you can still learn from other writers. A classic “how to” book is Orson Scott Card’s “How to write Science Fiction and Fantasy” It’s comprehensive, examining “speculative fiction” from several perspectives. It talks about creating worlds with logic and internal consistency. It looks at story and character construction, viewpoint, and language. Finally, it focuses on markets, agents, classes, and finances.
Connecting these is the very important subject of research. Please, if you have a computer, or have access to one – use it.
Research the markets for likely online and hard copy publishers. Go to a search engine such as Google, type in “Writers Guidelines”, and you will get 112,000 entries (as of today). Search within results for “Science Fiction” and you will get 4,650 results. How on earth can you handle this avalanche of information? Think about your own areas of expertise. Say you’re a history buff, hardly a subject for science fiction, you might think. Search for “history” within the 4,650 results, and you’ll get close to 1000. It’s tough to have a world of information at your fingertips. Let’s say you find the perfect market(s). Now you can look up the American Civil War, Quantum Mechanics, and all the different ways a gunshot wound of knife bleed.. You can also join an email discussion group or a newsgroup.
Agents are listed in the Writers and Artists Yearbook, and Google will dig them up for you by the hundreds. Then you can narrow your search. There are also specialty search engines that on the areas you require. Where do you find these? Do a search on “Specialty Search Engines.” You’ll get about 11,600 hits.
If you want to take writing classes, look them up on the Internet, and compare prices. Or, go to your trusty newsgroups or discussion lists. Another option is to visit writing websites, many of which have writers’ forums. One of the best I’ve found is a website designed by Francis Coppola, which has forums for all kinds of writing, including SF.
As you can see, research will also be very helpful in controlling your finances. With a vast amount of information on the web, you can choose between deluxe and free classes, research forums, manuscript and writing software, and anything else your science-fiction heart desires. Free content is often as good, or better than, an expensive product.
As in trenches. It’s a big effort to launch yourself into the unknown, face the minefields of rejection and writers block. You must keep running, despite all obstacles. Eventually, you will make your first sale, and all the effort will be justified. Then you will make your next sale, and your fiftieth, and with each sale, all the effort will be justified again.