How to Write a Science Fiction Novel

In this post, learn how to write a science fiction novel from beginning to end, including 4 approaches for the first chapter of your novel, tips for writing about fictional technology, writing dystopian fiction, writing a science fiction series, and more.


Whether you want to write about peace-loving aliens or a heartbreaking dystopian future, there are a number of practical strategies for starting your novel, building your world, and landing a satisfying finish. In this post, learn how to write a science fiction novel using some of the best advice on WritersDigest.com.

(Click here to learn how to publish your science fiction novel after you’ve written it.)

Starting Your Science Fiction Novel

While a great opening will not guarantee a successful novel, a bad opening will usually guarantee a failed novel. That’s because writers have a limited amount of time to hook their audience before they abandon a story and move on to something better. Fair or not, this reality places a great deal of emphasis on a compelling beginning.

As such, here are a few posts related to starting your novel:

  • 4 Approaches for the First Chapter of Your Novel, by Jeff Gerke. In this article, Gerke shares the four primary approaches for beginning a successful novel: The prologue beginning, the hero action beginning, the in medias res beginning, and the frame device. Of course, there are other approaches, but these are the most common that tend to work time and time again.
  • 5 Great Tips for Starting a Novel Right, by Jessica Strawser. In this post, Strawser shares five great tips for starting your novel from bestselling novelists, including James Scott Bell, Karen Dionne, and Lee Child. For instance, Bell advises novelists create a “doorway of no return” for their protagonist in the first 1/5 of the book.
  • Famous First Lines of Novels and 7 Tips for Getting Started, by Zachary Petit and Jacob M. Appel. The first half of this post shares excellent opening lines from novels to use as inspiration and reference for your own. Then, the second half shares seven strategies for starting your novel on a sentence level.

If you need to start at an even earlier step in the process, check out Cheryl Pon’s 5 Ways to Start Writing Your Novel Today, which is focused on the sometimes stifling step of just getting started.


Do you daydream about distant worlds and mythical creatures? If so, take this six-week workshop and transform your ideas into creative science fiction and fantasy novels. You’ll discover the essential elements of fictional worlds, how to write a science fiction novel with intriguing characters and plot, and write up to 2,500 words for your science fiction or fantasy story.

Click to continue.


How to Write Your Science Fiction Novel

Once you’ve blasted through those first pages, most novelists find there’s a lot more to the process of novel writing than an excellent opening scene and compelling protagonist. For science fiction, this is just as true as any other genre, because there’s a chance you’re dealing with building a new world, introducing new technology, and possibly new creatures (from this galaxy or another one).

Here are a few posts to help you through that process:

  • 5 Tips for Writing About Fictional Technology, by Julie Hyzy. In this post, Hyzy shares five principles for writing about fictional technology, including going light on details but sticking to the rules you’ve established in your novel.
  • 11 Ways to Write More Scientific Fiction: Lessons From Michael Crichton, by Dustin Grinnell. While science fiction readers come into novels expecting to find scientific fiction including in the story (I mean, it is in the genre’s name), there are proven methods for introducing new tech so that it makes sense to the reader and doesn’t bog down the story.
  • How to Build Fantastic Worlds, by Kameron Hurley. One of the trickiest things in writing science fiction (and fantasy, for that matter) is world building. For some writers, world building can overwhelm the entire writing process, which may be why Hurley says, “I’ve discovered that I create my best work when I begin building my fantastic worlds by starting not with magic systems or geography, but with a single character.”
  • 7 Ways to Add Subplots to Your Novel, by Elizabeth Sims. While not specifically science fiction, this post is applicable to all novel genres and the need for seamless subplots. Sims shares tactics, such as the isolated chunk, the swallowtail, the bridge character, and others.
  • How to Write Flawed Characters & Antiheroes, by David Corbett. While a great novel (in any genre) doesn’t need to have a flawed protagonist, they can often make for a fun read and more convincing and endearing character. In this article, Corbett shares his advice on creating these characters in fiction.
  • Putting the Heart in Science Fiction, by Dustin Grinnell. In this post, Grinnell analyzes a recent trend of science fiction putting heart over technology and world building, which includes putting characters over ideas, emphasizing internal struggles over external struggles, and more.
  • Writing Dystopian Fiction: 7 Tips, by Roderick Vincent. Vincent looks at what works in other dystopian works to help give a sort of checklist of things to consider and possibly include in your own dystopian fiction.
  • The Dos and Don’ts of Novel Endings, by James V. Smith. In this piece, Smith shares very practical advice on how to successfully finish a novel (regardless of genre). These includes dos like “resolve the central conflict” and “enmesh your reader deeply in outcome,” as well as don’ts like “introduce any new characters or subplots” and “resort to gimmicks.”
  • The Five Types of Novel Endings, by Scott Francis. In this brief post, Francis shares the five common novel endings available to writers, including “the lead sacrifices his objective for a greater good” and “the lead gains his objective but loses something more valuable.”

How to Finish Your Science Fiction Novel (and Beyond)

Since I included the “The Dos and Don’ts of Novel Endings” above, you may have guessed that by finishing your science fiction novel, I’m thinking more in the sense of finishing the writing process, which includes typing “The End” (even if not literally) and revising the manuscript. Plus, there’s the whole possibility of turning your one science fiction novel into a series of novels.


Improve Your Novel With a 2nd Draft Critique!

Ensure your manuscript skips the slush pile and lands on the desk of an acquisitions editor or literary agent and — get a 2nd Draft critique! When you send in at least 50 consecutive pages of your manuscript for review, you’ll get an overall evaluation on your manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses.

Writing fiction? You’ll receive comments on your plot, characterization, dialogue, and setting. You’ll also get feedback on your proposed target market and audience. Plus, a professional critique editor will point out (but not correct for you) any consistent issues within your manuscript pertaining to grammar, mechanics, spelling, or style.

Click to continue.


Here are a few posts on finishing and beyond:

 

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