Breaking Down Sci-Fi

Note: Although we are focusing primarily on the genre of science fiction, most, if not all, points mentioned in this post can be applied to other genres in writing!


  • Star Wars
  • Star Trek
  • Octavia Butler
  • George Orwell

These are only a few names known in the realm of science fiction (sci-fi from here on out.) Our own worlds have broadened because someone took the time to travel to the futuristic unknown rather than entering a fantasy world. But what are some key components to writing sci-fi? Let’s get talking!

star wars.gif

Like any other creative writing project, planning and mapping out your story is crucial and necessarily before you dive into your tale. Not only for plot purposes but you always need to question: “how will this affect that?” You know, the usual. Depending on your sci-fi story, you’ll get the opportunity to create even further. For example, settings are new, language is different than what we know on our planet, races vary even more so than skin color…there are so many details to account for! We always recommend doing research into other novels within your genre range. Take it a step further and watch shows and movies. It’ll help further stimulate your creativity.

Something to help you indulge in your research is looking into scientific journals, new discoveries by labs or space teams, etc. This can influence your story in any way you want it to. Shaping your universe with new discoveries and current-world situations. Not only that but you’re expanding your own knowledge. what a way to kill two birds with one stone!

Our last point we’d like to highlight pertains to another question you can ask yourself. What if…? Utilizing the knowledge in the journals you find and articles you read, you can mix this with the creative details you’ve mapped out thus far. Apply your ‘what if’ question and add more depth to your story, add a new element, or a new plot line. Whatever the case may be, you’re adding something to the story by asking what if.

So what if…you start writing now?

Language 101

We can all agree: languages are fun to write, sometimes. Other times, they’re difficult to work with. There are a variety of languages, accents, dialects, and so on we have to keep track of while writing our dialogue. There is a way to write them effectively, so let’s talk about it!

The readers of this day and age don’t typically take a liking to phonetic spelling. It may not be the route to take if you want to build an audience. These readers may not want the challenge in reading non-standard English. The real downfall is how much time they’re going to spend deciphering what the characters are trying to say without diving into the deeper meaning.

Any language can relate…no one speaks their language the same way. This is where dialect plays a huge role into how language is spoken and can be portrayed in writing. When anyone learns a language in grade school, they aren’t learning the different dialects of the language…but one can learn through native speakers in certain areas. Depending on region and ethnicity, everyone speaks differently. Utilizing modern language with minor change to the dialect and phonetic spelling here and there will improve the quality of your story. This is only important if communication between your characters is a central point in your story. Most characters interact with others – but sometimes the language in which they speak…speaks volumes for the story.

speaking french.gif

Some important bits to remember when writing in other languages or dialects are diction, syntax, and idioms. All of these key components help the conversations between your characters become unique to them. Even if things sound strange to you, it may be best to detach your experiences from that of your characters speech.

Always remember: you want your characters to come off as unique through dialogue, especially if you want your reader to be able to distinguish who’s speaking. We also want less boring and more relatable characters so you have to find the perfect balance!

Jumping Through Time

A story can include one of two things: flashbacks or skipping to the future. We don’t think recommending the two is a great idea but if executed cohesively…sure! Why not! Let’s discuss.

Sometimes, writing flashbacks can help a story flesh itself out. Readers understand the plot better, the character better, ANYTHING! But what happens when a flashback becomes more than a flash back? Meaning, what happens when a brief moment takes up a whole chapter? Is that acceptable? There isn’t any reason why it shouldn’t be acceptable – other than not being written properly. Make sure flashbacks are quick and easy. They’re meant to be memories triggered by people or items or occurrences surrounding the character or plot. Here’s an idea: it doesn’t necessarily have to be written in the perspective where the character is brought back to a moment in time…but rather, induces a feeling, an image flashed in the character’s thoughts. Something like that.

Skipping ahead in time is also a way to get the story moving along. Readers don’t need all filler details and a story doesn’t deserve that either! A few months can pass in the story in a matter of words, as long as the reader is caught up with the characters and ongoings in their world, what else is needed? Questions should never be left unanswered, too. If they are, there better be good reason for it. Did something happen prior to the time hop that wasn’t resolved during the time not mentioned? Well, it better come full circle because then the reader will not be happy (they’ll scream, “PLOT HOLE, PLOT HOLE!” and write a whole review about how the plot hole ruined the story for them.)

future.gif

So, now that we’ve lectured about time and the relationship it has with your story – let’s build a time machine and have some fun!

Nope, Nope, Nope.

Have you ever looked over your old work and thought, What in the world was I thinking?

We know how that may feel sometimes, so we thought it was about time we helped you embrace the cringe with some memes


should not.jpgImagine this: you start reading some piece written three years ago and your first thought is…No. No. Why? No.

Cheers to feeling that way. Just so you know, you should not have done then.

year.jpg

Sometimes, with re-reading old work, people get inspired to re-write it. Which leads us into our next meme: the lengthy process that goes along with it.

You never know how long it’s going to take, but you know it has to get done sometime or another. Once it is done, though…you realize you’ve lost track of reality.

everywhere.jpg

One of my personal favorites is when you notice how many times you used one specific word. For me, it’s just. For others, it’s that. You never know what word you actually lean on until you type it into your word finder and it pops up over 500,000 times throughout your entire manuscript.

 

From Orwell to You

George Orwell:

“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention.”

Writing With…

Neil Gaiman:

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

Things We Wish We Knew When We Were ‘Writing Virgins’

With each word, sentence, and paragraph we write we often learn something new- whether we are writing a book, article, essay, or blog post. We learn something new about ourselves, our writing style, the world around us, and the best part- how to write better. But what if we could go back in time and keep all our current knowledge? If we would write our first words knowing everything we know right now? Although impossible, it sounds enticing, right? Maybe we would all be best selling authors and award winning journalists by now. As it turns out, we shouldn’t relish on things we can’t change. Instead we should be thankful for those lessons we have learned along the way that helped us grow into the writer we are today. Hey, at least we aren’t that clueless ‘writing virgin’ anymore.

We don’t only have our own lessons to learn from, but we also have our fellow writers experiences to lean on as well. Recently, Marie Claire sat with author Kate Mosse and talked with her about things she wish she knew before writing her first book. She really seemed to nail down some crucial points and if we can’t take writing advice from a successful author herself, then who can we really trust? Whether you are a veteran writer or a ‘writing virgin’ (go ahead thank me now before you become famous… well, maybe you should really thank Kate), everyone will find something they can relate to or learn from on her list:

  1. You must tackle the blank screen.

As Kate puts it, the blank screen is your enemy. You can’t say you are writing anything until you actually have words on the page. Research, outlines, doodles, and excuses are all part of the writing process but don’t let them keep you from doing the one thing you really need to do- write.

writinglessons

2. Editing is where success happens. 

Sometimes we get so caught up in the actual writing process because we think that if we have a crappy first draft that we are doomed from ever succeeding. But, editing is really where all the magic happens so let yourself get to that point as quickly as possible. We need time to digest our own stories and often our best ideas come when aren’t really looking for them.

3. Everyone has bad days. 

Every writer has a day (or maybe countless days) when they feel like everything they are doing is wrong and that maybe they never should of started this project in the first place. These feelings aren’t just for you ‘virgins’ out there, everyone has them. Some days you feel awesome and others you may feel completely discouraged. Just know that this is completely normal.

4. Make a plan and stick to it.

You know that feeling when you think you have the best story idea ever and then you get half way through and start to question everything about it? Yes, I know you do. Well, guess what? Don’t do that. Stick it through and keep writing. This is where the editing magic really takes place.

5. Write every day. 

Make sure you are writing something every day. Even if you only have 5 spare minutes one day, write a few sentences. You need to stay in the writing groove to make sure you stay on track.

6. No writer is the same. 

In order to be successful you need to find out what works for you. Every writer has a different time of day in which they write their best or a different writing spot that really gets their creative juices flowing. Just because it worked for one writer, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Stay true to yourself and give yourself what you need.

7. Write on inspiration, not sequence.  

You  don’t need to write your story in order- that’s the beauty of ‘copy and paste.’ If you are itching to write a particular scene, go for it. Writing is supposed to be enjoyable and the more fun you have with it, the happier you will be with the end result. Don’t force yourself into writing something you aren’t into at the moment. There’s always tomorrow for that.

8. Don’t be afraid to fail. 

Every failure leads to another success, so don’t let that get in your way of trying. If your first, sixth, or tenth story completely fails- brush it off (after you treat yourself to a nice big pity ice cream sundae). Something you learned from that experience will help you succeed in the future, I promise (and Kate does too).

Write on.

Swinging and Writing

Everywhere we turn, there’s a potential lesson to be learned. Life is filled with challenges and triumphs- each waiting with a new perspective to be gained. There are good lessons. There are bad lessons. But as long as we keep changing, evolving, and (most importantly) learning- we are winning. Life isn’t about hitting every shot you take, it’s about taking the swing.

Writing is a lot like life. We learn new things everyday from our own writing. Some things are good, some are bad. Some things are technical realizations, while others are self-reflection. Whatever the case may be, as long as we keep writing, keep swinging- we are winning.

I read an article today by Lauren Jessen on The Huffington Post blog that highlighted the four lessons she learned while writing. I know we can all relate to and find inspiration in the lessons she learned. One of life’s greatest gifts is learning from each other. If you play the game alone, you won’t ever succeed.

lessons4

1.There’s no wrong way to write your book.

What perspective do you want to write from? What point of view is best for your story? Which tense should you tell your story from? These are all very important questions, to which only you have the answers to. You know your story better than any one else. There’s no magic formula that’s going to tell you how to write your book. You are the only one that knows what is best for your story. It it feels rights, it’s probably because it is.

2. Know when to stop.

This is important, especially because I stress the importance of editing in pretty much every other post on this blog. Eventually you need to be happy with your end product, flaws and all. There’s no such thing as absolutely perfect writing. There’s always going to be that one comma you missed or that one word you jumbled. You need to accept your finished product and be happy with it.

3. Stop doubting yourself.

When you are feeling down or defeated, don’t dwell on it. Instead think about why it is you are feeling that way and take steps to fix it. If you fix the problem and learn from it, was it ever really a problem?

4. Write in pieces.

Don’t get overwhelmed with thinking that you are going to need to devote large chunks of your day to writing. Write everyday, but write when you can. If you can only get a quick fifteen minute session in, that’s perfectly fine. You will be a few sentences closer to finishing than you were yesterday. You can even jump around within your writing. Maybe you had a spark of inspiration for a particular scene- write it. You don’t need to write your story in order, that’s what ‘copy & paste’ is for. Write your ideas before they disappear.

Keep on swinging. Write on.