What does it mean when people say your story's “tone” is wrong?

Writers and creative people talk about tone all the time. But what does it mean? Is it just the difference between a comedy and a drama? Is it just light versus dark? When you write a story, how do you figure out your "tone," and keep it from lurching from one thing to another? Here are some ideas. » 7/15/13 1:08pm 7/15/13 1:08pm

How to turn a high concept idea into an actual story

Every story begins with an idea. What's amazing about science fiction stories is, they often start with a cool idea. Like a spin on space travel or robots that nobody's ever thought of before. But how do you turn an idea into a story, with memorable characters and powerful moments? That's often the hard part. » 5/14/13 10:12am 5/14/13 10:12am

Things That Will Make Literary Agents Throw Your Novel Across the Room

The first chapter of your science fiction or fantasy novel absolutely needs to hook readers, and that goes double for any literary agents or editors who might be looking at it. But at the very least, you don't want your opening chapter to contain any of the red flags that make agents toss books in the "reject" pile. » 4/23/13 10:39am 4/23/13 10:39am

Flesh out your fictional characters by having Redditors interview them

Need a little help adding depth to your fictional characters and the world they inhabit? Reddit's new IAmAFiction subreddit offers writers an intriguing way to explore new angles of their stories. These work much like reddit's ever-popular "Ask Me Anything" Q&As—except that in this case, the fictional characters are… » 3/09/13 11:30am 3/09/13 11:30am

What it Means When Someone Tries to Tell You THE Rules of Good Writing

There's only one rule for how to write a story, and that's: "Write a good story." Apart from that, anything goes, as long as you can pull it off. (And some things are harder to pull off than others.) But sometimes, people will try and teach you ironclad rules of fiction writing. Like, avoid an omniscient narrator, or… » 2/01/13 12:45pm 2/01/13 12:45pm

How to make sure the language in your historical fantasy novel is…

We love seeing the grand technological anachronisms in science fiction novels set in the past, such as Victorian or Edwardian-era steampunk or exaggerated Renaissance automata. But what if you want to keep the language in your historical novel accurate for the period? Here's a simple trick historical fantasy novelist… » 1/19/13 7:30am 1/19/13 7:30am

H.P. Lovecraft's Advice to Writers: Read the King James Bible and…

What advice would horror writer H.P. Lovecraft give to writers? Lovecraft's work is filled with rich, often florid language, and he was keenly interested in the descriptive powers of language. It's no surprise then, that, when Lovecraft wrote an essay on writing fiction for The United Amateur, words and grammar were… » 1/12/13 10:30am 1/12/13 10:30am

Great Quotes about Writing from Game of Thrones Author George R.R.…

George R.R. Martin is a master craftsman, whose A Song of Ice and Fire series was a legend even before HBO turned it into a massive hit TV series. His strengths include astounding world-building and an ability to get inside the heads of a wide variety of viewpoint characters, one at a time. How does he do it? And what… » 12/27/12 1:00pm 12/27/12 1:00pm

9 Joyful Ways to Demolish Your Favorite Genre

Genres don't have to be comfortable old pairs of socks. Genre storytelling can be thrilling and unexpected — and one major way to seize the element of surprise is to bust out of genre boundaries, like a rocket sled crashing through the walls of dreamland. Drop some nanotech into that literary story. Nuke the fairy… » 12/20/12 10:14am 12/20/12 10:14am

How to Tell if the First Draft of Your Novel Just Isn't Worth Salvaging

It's almost the end of November, which means one thing: tens of thousands of you have just finished a novel. Congratulations! Now for the heart-breaking part — looking at the hundreds of pages of action and emotion that you wrote in a feverish daze, and figuring out how to revise it. Or whether you really even want to. » 11/26/12 1:18pm 11/26/12 1:18pm

Strategies to Make Sure You Actually Finish That Novel

It's National Novel-Writing Month, which means you're starting a novel from scratch. And there's always one question that hangs over your head as you rush into the void — will you actually be able to finish this one? As hard as starting a novel is, finding your way to a proper ending is often harder still. But what if… » 11/06/12 3:14pm 11/06/12 3:14pm

10 Tips for Generating Killer Science Fiction Story Ideas

Science fiction is the literature of big ideas — so coming up with an amazing story idea often feels like the biggest stumbling block in the way of your dreams of authorship. Unfortunately, most of us can't just have Robert A. Heinlein mail us $100 and a couple dozen brilliant ideas. So what do you do? » 10/09/12 10:15am 10/09/12 10:15am

How to Write About Hermaphrodite Sex

You've got two life forms who are hermaphrodites, and they're having sex. But how do you describe it accurately, without calling on human-centric terms like "male" and "female" or "penis" and "vagina"? It's one of those rare writing questions that comes up for both scientists and science fiction writers. In the interests of… » 8/31/12 4:50pm 8/31/12 4:50pm

Great SF authors share their biggest writing setbacks — and how they…

Any time you read a terrific science fiction or fantasy novel, you're witnessing a great victory. Every writer faces armies of doubts and difficulties. We're at WorldCon, where many of science fiction's greatest authors gather to share ideas and war stories. So we asked some of our favorite writers what their biggest… » 8/31/12 12:00pm 8/31/12 12:00pm