Review: How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy

Almost a year ago – December 24, 2016 – my fiancé (now my husband) gave me a large box of books.  I’d recently finished writing the first draft Bombshell and was working on revisions.  I had just shared with him that it was my goal to query agents in 2016 as a first step to trying to publish my work.

This large box contained six books about writing in general, revising, the publishing industry, and much more.  Among the six was an especially thin one with a boring brown cover: How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card.

It took me a long time to start, but over the past two or three months, I’ve been reading it.  Well, reading probably isn’t the right word.  It’s more accurate to say that I’ve been studying it little by little, highlighting thoughts and writing notes in the margins.  I’ve been reading a section, taking a week or so to chew on it, then reading more.  It’s been a slow process, but it’s been oh so good.

Orson Scott Card does a fabulous job of looking at science fiction and fantasy from every angle.  He talks about the history of science fiction and fantasy, the difference in the genres, and the similarities in the genres.  He dissects a few of the different sub-genres.  Card prompts thoughts on the pros and cons of writing either science fiction or fantasy, as well as the benefits and drawbacks reading each of those.  He talks, from much experience, about the joys and woes being an SFF writer.

Card doesn’t just write about the genres though.  He writes about the writing: worldbuilding, plot, character development, etc – so many tips and things to consider.  For example, he dives into the different methods of space travel that have been used in science fiction, and he looks in depth at what makes each one both viable and unlikely.  He does the same things with different magic systems in fantasy stories.

But Card doesn’t just do it to do it.  With every example he gives, he ties it back to why that aspect of storytelling is important, leaving you encouraged, inspired, and desperate to rake through your manuscript to look for worldbuilding inconsistencies.  It’s a great and terrible thing and so necessary.

I loved reading How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, and I highly, HIGHLY recommend it if you enjoy writing – not just SFF, but any genre, really.

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