The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction

Many years ago, when I began toying with the idea of writing my own material, I purchased Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy. To this day, I feel that it was a waste of money. So when Phil Athans contacted me about the possibility to read and review his own how-to book The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, I wasn't necessarily enthused by the thought of doing so.

But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to read it. Things have changed for me since I read the Card book. I now have an agent, I've worked with an independent editor to polish my first manuscript, I've compiled and edited my own anthology, and I've been reviewing books more or less seriously on the Hotlist for nearly six years. Hence, I'd approach Athans' work with a different perspective. So in the end, I caved in.

Here's the blurb:

Science fiction and fantasy is one of the most challenging--and rewarding!--genres in the bookstore. But with New York Times bestselling author Philip Athans and fantasy giant R. A. Salvatore at your side, you'll create worlds that draw your readers in--and keep them reading!

Just as important, you'll learn how to prepare your work for today's market. Drawing on his years of experience as one of the most acclaimed professionals in publishing, Wizards of the Coast editor Athans explains how to set your novel apart--and break into this lucrative field. From devising clever plots and building complex characters to inventing original technologies and crafting alien civilizations, Athans gives you the techniques you need to write strong, saleable narratives.

Plus! Athans applies all of these critical lessons together in an unprecedented deconstruction of a never-before-published tale by the one and only R. A. Salvatore!

There are books on writing science fiction and fantasy, and then there's this book--the only one you need to create strange, wonderful worlds for your own universe of readers!

I must say that, though I don't necessarily agree with Phil Athans on everything, this is a very good book. If you are an aspiring SFF writer, The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction will help you analyze and improve your material. It will not make you a master storyteller, yet the book will help you avoid a number of pitfalls that will make your work all the more stronger for it.

Although most facets of this book apply to basically all the SFF sub-genres, given Phil Athans' background it focuses more on sword & sorcery. Still, regardless of the fact that you write urban fantasy or space opera tales, the advice found within the pages of this book will invariably help you become a better writer.

And though Phil Athans' credibility cannot be put in question, he nevertheless relies on the advice of several other pros such as Terry Brooks, Lou Anders, R. A. Salvatore, Kevin J. Anderson, Mike Resnick, Paul S. Kemp, and more.

The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction is divided into 6 steps to help you publish your own bestseller:

- Storytelling (Ideas, Plot Development)
- Characters (Heroes, Villains, Supporting Cast, Giving them a voice)
- The World (Worldbuilding, Setting, Geography, People)
- Details (Languages, Magic, Technology)
- Nuts and Bolts (Action, Romance, Humor)
- Finishing Touches

There are also parts on the genres and the business of writing, as well as a short story by R. A. Salvatore.

As I mentioned, though I don't agree with everything, The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction remains a treasure trove of good advice for anyone aspiring to one day see their SFF manuscript published. Here's a quote:

Don't spend any time suffering over whether or not your book is realistic -- if
it's science fiction or fantasy, it isn't -- but suffer a lot over whether or
not it's plausible. Plausibility is built from consistency. Set your own rules,
and once you've set them, follow them.

If you are toiling in obscurity, hoping to one day make it and become an established SFF author, then this book is for you!

For more material and advice, head on out to

For more info about this title: Canada, USA

4 commentaires:

Steve MC said...

Thanks for the recommendation.

I'd heard Card's book was good, but I picked up what I didn't know just reading through it for ten minutes at the store.

Later I read Terry Brook's book of advice, Sometimes the Magic Works, but it had very little do with actual writing.

I'll give this one a look.

Jamie Gibbs said...

This sounds pretty good. I agree with your verdict on Card's book, I took it out of the library a few times and couldn't follow any of the advice. This sounds like a much better book for aspiring fantasy writers. Thanks :)

Cecrow said...

After reading a couple books like this, and feeling discouraged, I stumbled by accident upon the field of literary criticism and found a gold mine in "The Rhetoric of Fiction" by Wayne C. Booth. If anyone can point the way towards making genre fiction more literary, it's his book. He didn't have genre fiction in mind when he wrote, doesn't even mention it, and yet so much of what he has to say is applicable. I'm also a bit admirer of Dan Simmons' web site, specifically his "Writing Well" essays.

Phillip H. Tang said...

I too didn't get much from Card's book.