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Top comments that mention products on r/scifiwriting:

u/legalpothead · 2 pointsr/scifiwriting

Bookshelf time! Books are expensive, but the holidays are coming up, and that's a decent excuse to buy a present for a writer on your list or yourself.


If you want to get pumped about writing a novel, get Write Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell. It's a short, easy read, ~100 pages, and the ebook is $4; put that on your phone and you can read it in a couple afternoons. Bell's premise is there's a place in the middle of most great books where the main character has to take a hard look in the mirror. Nail this scene in your head and the rest of the plot forwards and backwards falls into place.

If it turns out you like James Scott Bell, his Plot and Structure is a great lesson on how a story is constructed. We all have these pieces of stories in our heads, and it's sometimes hard to know where they would fit in a story, how they come together to make a story. Understanding how a story is put together is critical.

How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James Frey is another good book to get you pumped. It is a modern classic. If you have one book on your writing bookshelf, this is probably the one I would recommend.

Writing Active Hooks by Mary Buckham seems a bit esoteric here, but I've personally found this essential. I wrote for years as an amateur and even took classes in writing, and no one told me about active hooks or about how important they are. I had to stumble upon the concept by accident. Basically, a hook is a convention or tool you use to grab and then hold your reader's attention. It's how some authors keep you awake and reading at 1 a.m. You want this in your toolbox.

All the previous books here are applicable to all genre fiction, but Randy Ellefson's excellent worldbuilding duo Creating Places and Creating Life are relevant to speculative fiction in particular. Creating Places covers creating planets, geology and mapmaking, systems of government, systems of travel and backstory. Creating Life takes you through creating species, famous persons, monsters and biology.

I'm also going to include Evan Marshall's The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing. Every successful writer has to figure out their own method or procedure for creating finished stories, and ultimately you have to put the pieces together yourself; no one can do it for you. And personally, I find Marshall's plan to be too restrictive. But if you've been trying for years to put it all together and can't, Marshall might be able to help. He is very strict about what you can and can't do, but if you follow his instructions step by step, you'll end up writing a novel. One thing I find interesting is the projected length of your novel determines how many POV characters you're going to use, and he has formulas for how many chapters to allocate to each POV character. If you write with multiple POVs, it's worth your while to have a look.

u/Manrante · 1 pointr/scifiwriting

I really like the idea. I particularly like using a wildlife expert as your main character. It's a friendly, good profession, and he/she could be someone who is easy for the reader to empathize with.

There's a possibility for some pivotal action scenes involving attacks by various species of animals, possibly many species at once.

Throw in a love interest and you've practically got a script-ready story for a summer blockbuster.

Possibly establish early on what your hero's standard problem solving technique is, his m.o. Whenever he encounters a problem, that's his go-to method. Then have the love interest challenge that method. She wants him to try a different method. So throughout the story, while the main plot is taking place, this back & forth fight is a second plot underlying the first. Just an idea.

I recommend you read James Scott Bell's Write Your Novel from the Middle. The ebook is $4 and it's only 100 pages. Download it onto your phone and you can read it in a afternoon or two.

Bell's premise is that there's a point in every good novel when the hero has tried everything, where he essentially takes a good, hard look at himself in the mirror. Then he makes a decision. If you have the hero's personality matched with the story problem and you can nail this scene...the rest of the book practically falls into place.

u/Cdresden · 12 pointsr/scifiwriting

Okay, the way you describe the political situation makes it seem fairly easy to grasp, so as a setting for a story, there's nothing wrong with it. But the story isn't the scenario, it has to be about something personal. You've got a liason officer you're setting up as your main character, and that's good.

>My greatest worry is that the world I've set the reader to jump into is very active and unstable.

That's the very best kind of world to throw your reader into. Don't just set the reader up to get ready to do so, actively grab the reader by the collar and belt and pitch them into the shit.

One mistake a lot of writers make is in trying to bring their reader up to speed quickly at the beginning of the story. Some of them have a whole first chapter of nothing but a history lesson, about who fought who in what year, and the outcome and the whatnot & the powerplayers & who got butthurt. That's all just infodump, and it's boring as hell. The truth is it's perfectly fine if the reader doesn't initially know what's going on. You can weave all that information into the body of the story over the course of the book. And this can even add to the mystery, provided you give your readers something to hold onto, a rock to stand on. And that rock is your liason officer.

More important than anything else at the beginning of your story is the need to hook the reader, to make them interested enough to keep reading. Forget about the history lesson. Focus on your main character. Show me, on page 1, that she's a real human being, just like me. Make me identify with her, understand she has a life that hasn't turned out the way she hoped, that she has hopes & dreams & fears and ambitions. Once you do that, if you can do that, you've got me hooked.

>she still has a lot to learn about the world, so I was hoping that the reader could learn about the world as she does.

Your instinct is good here. This is a time tested convention: showing the world through the eyes of a newcomer.

I think a good solution to the problem of a complex political situation is to narrow the focus. However big and complicated the outside world is, the story is going to be about the liason officer, and a choice she is forced to make at a critical point in time.

I recommend you pick up Write Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell. It's short, ~100 pages, and the ebook is $3. Download it onto your phone, and you can read it in an afternoon. This book talks about finding a certain crucial point in your narrative, a place that's essential to a well written story. Once you know who your main character is, and you find her crucial moment, the start and the end of the book almost fall into place.

u/MorwenEdhelwen · 0 pointsr/scifiwriting

Here's something I've been wondering about.

Can some of those posters who typed "No it wouldn't work because it's not on a subject familiar to teenagers" please explain why they feel familiarity with a small part of the premise is important? Sorry if that sounds rude but to be honest, I really can't understand why "It has to be familiar to teenagers (beyond the sense of it being about teenage issues in general, ie in the sense of subject if you know what I'm saying) is an important factor for judging if something is YA or not.

Here's an example of what I mean. This probably isn't a good analogy but I hope what I say is clear.

Say you have a book set in Australia (I live here and I'm an Aussie) about an Italian-Australian girl who discovers her father is an admirer of Mussolini and believes Italian fascism was a great thing and should be implemented over here and the story is how she deals with the fact that her father is a fascist and the judgements she faces when this news gets out.

Maybe my friends are a different group than most young adults, but I think most people I know would be more familiar with Fidel and Che (if vaguely) than with Mussolini beyond knowing that he was a fascist and the leader of Italy from the Great Depression to WWII and that his regime were allies of the Nazis. He also had a number of sympathisers outside of Italy, as did Franco and Hitler.

I probably know a bit more than the average person my age about Mussolini, although it's not that much: for example, one of the things he did while in power was to go to Southern Italy and help out in the fields for a day (make it look like he was sympathising with the rural workers) then return to his Ducal Palace.

Anyhow, the point of this example is to ask this: If a book focusing on teenage issues told from the perspective of Che Guevara's clone is called adult fiction because it has

>a plot involving historical events

then a book about a girl whose father is literally a fascist and follower of Mussolini would also count as adult fiction for the same reason. Because anything serious involving a historical figure has to involve the events they were involved in in some way as well. It's pretty much unavoidable, even in books like [this one which has twin brothers who are Hitler clones as protagonists] (

u/scalyblue · 0 pointsr/scifiwriting

As long as you put your desire and hope in the act of writing itself, as opposed to the desire of wanting to have written something, you will do well.

I would suggest a few pieces of light reading, a few pieces of heavy reading, and some listening for you too.

Light reading:

Stephen King's "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft" This book is not meant as a book of lessons so much as the formula that assembled one writer. It's short, it's heartfelt, and it has some wisdom in it.

The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. - This is a short book, it gives a good starter set of rules that we accept for communicating with one another in the English language.

Heavy Reading:

Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell. - This is a short book but it is very thick with information and esoteric names from all cultures. Why is that? Because it deals with, very succinctly, the fundamental core of nearly all human storytelling, Campbell's "Monomyth" premise can inform you all the way from the Epic of Gilgamesh to Star Wars a New Hope

Writing Excuses This is a Podcast about writing by Brandon Sanderson, of "Mistborn," "Way of Kings," and "Wheel of Time" fame, Howard Taylor, the writer and artist of Schlock Mercenary, a webcomic that hasn't missed a day for a long while, Mary Robinette Kowol, a Puppeteer and Author of "Shades of Milk and Honey" and Dan Wells, from the "I am not a Serial Killer" series It has been going on for more than a decade, and nearly every episode is a wonderful bit of knowledge.

u/2hardtry · 9 pointsr/scifiwriting

Honestly, I've got to tell you: from where I'm sitting, you're writing a fantasy and you've got yourself some humans. Or leastways, close enough.

I don't think the hook of the thing is that upper class only are allowed to ride dragons. I'm not hooked.

You're right that you don't have a story yet, you've just got a setting. I'd say you can probably stop the worldbuilding now and get on with the story. Worldbuilding is the easy, fun part of writing; actually doing the writing is the tough part.

You need to think about what kind of story you're going to tell within this framework. Whether you want it to be about redemption or revenge or true love or hubris or whatnot. The story has to be about something.

If you're interested in reading something about writing, I'd recommend Write Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell. It's all about find a certain point in the middle of your story. If you can find that and nail it down, the rest of your plot gets easier to figure out. This book is short, 100 pages, and it's $3; put it on your phone and you can read it in an afternoon. If you need more, pick up his Plot and Structure.

u/GregHullender · 3 pointsr/scifiwriting

First paragraph is an info-dump. Rule of thumb for info-dumps: you can only do one when the readers are begging you to. Normally, I wouldn't read past that.

Second paragraph has some very awkward sentences in it. I did double-takes to figure out the pronouns.

By the third paragraph I realize that a big part of what makes the prose so awkward is that you use the passive voice like it was going out of style. Sometimes the passive really is the right voice to use, but not here. It distances us from your protagonist. You do that in other ways too, such as when you say "he felt" or "he thought" when you don't need to. "The lights were painfully bright" is far, far better than "He felt the lights were bright and caused him pain."

Fourth paragraph. The biggest problem here is that you need to "show, don't tell." Don't tell us the man's voice is soothing--show it to us through your hero's reactions. Don't tell us what's in his mind--take us there. I'll illustrate:

"Welcome to the breeding deck."

Langdon jumped. Squinting into the glare, he made out a pale bald man in a white coat.

"Hello, Landon." The man smiled at him. "I'm Jules."

Langdon took a deep breath and managed a weak smile in return. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all.

The reader doesn't like being told how they're supposed to feel. You need to show them what the character experiences but without telling how to interpret that. "Tell the visible to show the invisible."

Telling instead of showing is the #1 thing that makes prose sound "lame." You do it everywhere. Taken together, these problems mark you as a beginner.

There are a lot of great books for beginners that teach how to avoid these problems. I like the "Write Great Fiction" series.

u/otakuman · 2 pointsr/scifiwriting

I personally recommend reading "How to write science fiction and fantasy" by Orson Scott Card.

Lots of great advice in there, esp. about what NOT to do, rookie mistakes, etc.

And as a sci fi author, don't feel shy with starting with fanfiction, I started there. (No, you can't read it. Too embarrassing 😅)

TVTropes is also a great resource for writing, but it requires great willforce not to get sucked into opening 100s of tabs 😛

u/USKillbotics · 1 pointr/scifiwriting

I doubt you want to read a 700-page book in search of insights, but Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312 is the best take on local colonization that I have ever read. One idea that I hadn't seen elsewhere is hollowing out asteroids and spinning them. Then you can put tens of thousands of colonies in any orbit you want.

He also puts a lot of people out on all the gas giants' moons, for what that's worth. But you've probably thought of that.

u/WillWeisser · 3 pointsr/scifiwriting

"How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy" is a good book, there's some useful stuff in it. But for a raw beginner it doesn't hold a candle to Ben Bova's "The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells" (

Some other books I recommend: (note: despite the title, I'd recommend reading this before you write a book).

Mr. Coorlim is right however that you should ignore anything you read about the business side of writing. It's all changing too quickly now for any book to keep up.

u/cepheus42 · 6 pointsr/scifiwriting

Plus one, it's really the best source.

Also, you can't go wrong with the book, Putting the Science in Fiction by Dan Koboldt. It's a far wider range of science topics than space, but very useful.

u/polyology · 5 pointsr/scifiwriting


Some questions come to mind. Two factions, are they at war? Will your group get caught up in that? If so, why are they fighting? Will your group play an unexpected yet decisive role in the outcome of said war?

How does FTL (Faster Than Light) technology work in your universe? Warp, Hyperspace, Worm Holes, etc? Who owns the USS Funboat VII? Did they steal it, and if so, why wasn't it locked? Is that why they need to escape from the Republic? Will they be chased? Can they expect the Crystal Brotherhood to protect them?

You'll need to ask yourself lots of questions like these and starting getting more specifics figured out so that you can start figuring out your characters and plot.

Sounds like you're wanting to write Space Opera with either aBadass Crew or a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits.

If you want to get started writing Science Fiction I can think of nothing that would be more help than this book by Orson Scott Card, author of Ender's Game. Some people don't like his political and moral views but the man knows about writing. It has been invaluable to me.


u/tensegritydan · 5 pointsr/scifiwriting

William Shunn's format is pretty much the standard, so much so that some magazines/publishers refer to it in their submission guidelines.

And, as others have commented, English prose is written in paragraphs. Some style guides to English writing:

Short handbook: Strunk & White, Elements of Style. 4th Edition

Exhaustive reference: Chicago Manual of Style. 16th Edition which is kind of expensive. Or get the 15th Edition for the price of a latte.

u/PermianWestern · 2 pointsr/scifiwriting

>I want some sort of rhyme and reason for creatures to exist where they do, and I'm not too familiar with evolution and how it would factor into this.

I think to some degree you need to "write what you know", that is, write about subjects you're familiar with. However, a bit of research can buff you up quite a bit.

Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene is a transformative popular science book that explains why form follows function, and it's a surprisingly quick read.

Have a look through Dougal Dixon's After Man, The New Dinosaurs, etc. for inspiration. Also, browse Deviant Art and shamelessly steal the ideas of artists creating alien lifeforms.