I love io9.

It’s pretty much the perfect site for a geek like me, and has so much content that I could lose myself for days (not that I have…). Occasionally, they post an article about something especially near and dear to my heart, and this is no exception. Read the full article, or check out the abridged version below. I’m still working on the last one, personally.

Science fiction readers truly believe in books. They know in their hearts that the world is improved by good ones and diminished by bad ones. They don’t read books like consumables. They read them like ideas. And you, as both a reader and writer of science fiction, believe that, too: that this matters. When you think like that, it’s immensely satisfying to write a novel. It feels like the best thing you ever did.


How to Write a Great Science Fiction Novel in 7 Easy Steps



Great sci-fi begins with an idea. Unfortunately, as people will tell you, all the good ideas were taken long ago. But that’s only true if you believe ideas are indivisible, like, “A guy goes on a journey and experiences personal change” covers everything from Moby Dick to me visiting the bathroom. In fact, ideas are totally divisible. There’s no idea that you can’t make new by filtering it through your brain.


Some ideas sound like good stories but aren’t. In science fiction, it’s possible to ram an ill-fitting idea into a story, the same way it’s possible to force a cat into a little tuxedo, but it takes the same amount of effort and the result is just as awkward. When an idea feels enticing but won’t come out, like a cat under the sofa who’s gotten wind that you want to put it in a little tuxedo, it’s because you have a concept but not a situation.


Ego is a critical part of a writer’s toolbox. Without ego, you’d succumb to the fear that the eighty-to-one-hundred thousand words you’re preparing to dump on the world may not measurably improve it. This will only seem ridiculous if you have a tremendous ego, the kind that can look upon a work-in-progress crammed with of plot holes, opaque character motivations, and spelling errors that have dogged you since third grade, and think: Mmm… not bad.


There are plenty of ways to do this. But all you need to know is that no technique works for everyone, and what’s best for you is whatever gets you regularly putting down words and feeling good about them.


It’s fine to leave dangling threads and unrealized characters in a first draft, because you’re creating something from nothing. Literally anything you add is better than what you had. Plus, since you’re full of ego (Step 3), everything you wrote is pretty damn good, you feel. This is only way to finish a first draft.


This means writing thirty query letters to literary agents and responding to the one who replies asking to see some chapters. The other option is self-publishing, which is also viable if you have plenty of time and enthusiasm for self-promotion.


Now the good part, where you let the praise roll in. Unfortunately, science fiction people are the most demanding readers in the world. They sniff out implausibilities no reasonable person should care about. They take weak plots as a personal insult. They compare any idea to one better executed in an all-time classic. And they are super visible about it, because they live online.

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