Five science fiction and fantasy books recommended for aspiring writers

So, you have a great idea for a fantasy or science fiction book! It’s unlike anything that you have read anywhere else, and only you can tell this story. You need to write it!

So… how? How do you get your ideas down and make your inspiration into a book that everyone will want to read? Here are my recommendations for your writing toolbox…

On Writing; a Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Master of the art of scaring the pants off his readers, King sets down his suggestions and techniques for beginning and improving one’s writing. This master class covers the basics, explains why each element is important to good fiction, and guides you toward the best way to achieve them. King tells you not only what to do, but what not to do. Full of good advice and anecdotes from King’s life, this book is an entertaining and informative read.

If you want more guidance, look into Orson Scott Card’s books on the craft, especially Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction: How to Create Out-of-This-World Novels and Short Stories.

Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain

The Clarion Workshop, a six-week writing program, established in 1968, has long been lauded as one of the best workshops for aspiring science fiction and fantasy writers. Swain, an attendee of the program, gathered together the information gleaned from the teachers and condensed them into this small academic volume. He takes the writer from getting ideas down on paper (or computer file), expanding the plot into scenes and chapters, working with characters to make them realistic and interesting, and polishing the story until it glows.

Once you’ve learned from this book, check out the line of Million-Dollar Productivity books published by WordFire Press.

Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Essential Guide to Fantasy Travel by Diana Wynne Jones

Why do characters on fantasy quests always seem to cook stew when they stop to rest? Ms. Jones tackles the hard questions of what unrealistic clichés have evolved in fantasy writing. While you laugh like a drain, she’ll make you blush with shame because you – yes, you!  – have committed at least one of these enormities. We all have. Promise to do better. Your writing will be more realistic and logical for it.

Once you’ve enjoyed the Tough Guide, look up the Turkey City Lexicon, an online website of other tropes to avoid, such as the immortal “As you know, Bob,” precursor to an unnecessary infodump that will bore the reader. Another great resource is

The Borderlands of Science by Charles Sheffield

But your story isn’t fantasy, it’s science fiction. Dip into this great book. Do you want to write about time-travel? Faster-than-light ships? Sheffield gives you an overview of numerous branches of science that can act as launch pads to steer you toward deeper research. His style is as approachable in this non-fiction book as it is in his many wonderful novels.

Need a more basic approach to science? Isaac Asimov wrote many short books on elements of science. His genius in breaking down difficult topics for anyone to understand is still unmatched.

Ron Hubbard Presents the Writers of the Future, Volume 39

As the Coordinating Judge of the Contest, I am proud of the twelve writer-winners whose stories are featured in this volume. The skill and style that each of them brings to the book will surprise and delight you. The volume also features how-to articles on writing and art by Kristine Katherine Rusch, Lazarus Chernik, and Hubbard himself. Each of the previous anthologies also contain informative articles to help budding professionals start and grow their careers as well as great stories to read.

Check them out!

If you’re a short story writer, the Writers of the Future Contest (free to enter!) is a great place to hone your skills, and possibly be published in the next anthology. Enter here and find the rules here.

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