Please download FREE app NOTES STORY BOARD v2.2 – with images and a lot of clip art and free templates, advice files etc.
This is a top story boarding app used by writers, scriptwriters, many creatives. Flexible, powerful, check it out now.
Please visit the new site for latest offers, many free.
What’s in a name?
This prize is organised by The Fiction Desk website. They have had some successes with winners getting book deals, such as The Killer You Know by S R Mastrantone which is due from Sphere in 2018. Very exciting.
This year’s competition deadline is midnight (UK GMT) on 31 May 2017. The first prize is £500, second prize £250.
Cixin Liu Remembrance of Earth’s Past SPOILER ALERT!
This is not much of a spoiler given the name of the series. But the slow build in The Three Body Problem, and the other two books, is very well done, mounting tension and fear towards the end of part one. If you might read it, DO NOT READ FURTHER!
Cixin Liu’s recent blockbuster best-selling trilogy Remembrance of Earth’s Past (1/ The Three Body Problem, 2/ The Dark Forest, 3/ Death’s End) is amazing, and startlingly original, which is very hard in a meme-saturated SF world.
But one comment. Cixin’s view of the rest of the Universe and the future is utterly negative, with aliens removing competition by annihilating (in spectacular and mind-bending ways) any new civilisation or solar system that happens to be noticed. Not even actually space-faring, just noticed by their monitoring systems. Even the more local aliens who get latterly get quite friendly are actually despicable fiends when it suits them.
Now China is called locally Zhonggou, the Middle Kingdom, the area under the control of whichever current Emperor (previous to unification the Middle Kingdom was a smaller area). They have always had invasions throughout a long history. Hence the Great Wall of China. So this mindset of fear about barbarians, destroyers, outside of home are deeply entrenched.
I say Chinese not Asian as there is only one Middle Kingdom!
In Star Trek, or any other colonising empire-style SF, basically, there might be challenges but by using reason, progress will be made. It is always the fiendish aliens and their alien ways that upset the human ‘progress’ or more accurately expansion. Or sometimes they invade (briefly) to get our raw materials, which even includes our minds.
This is obviously a Western mindset. Achieved by ignoring what happens to indigenous peoples (such as native Americans, Australian Aboriginals etc).
Of course this is a massive simplification, but there you go! SF is always of its time and culture. Only a retro-obsessed culture like Britain could think up Doctor Who! And their British Robots (Daleks).
We are about to do a Notes Story Board app with SF and Android files. But since that is taking a while, I read some other how to write books. The best by a long way is by one of my favourite SF authors Adam Roberts:
Get Started in Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy: How to write compelling and imaginative sci-fi and fantasy fiction (Teach Yourself: Writing)
That’s quite a long title. The text is in the usual Roberts style, witty, erudite, slightly challenging. He provides breakdowns of what makes SF and Fantasy different. And even includes a plotting system at the end, to help you think up new ideas and stories. So it is very good on analysis and practical matters pertaining to writing about warp drives, time travel, magic, matrices, and all that. And why you might want to do that in the first place!
You can get the book on Amazon or Ebay for quite a reasonable price.
This seems to in the news almost as much as Trump and Brexit. AI, artificial intelligence, self-driving cars, robot wars, all that, everywhere. I suppose the invasion of smart phones has raised the profile of an old field. Robots are hardly new. I just finished the book Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson, which was a very good read (it is a epistolary thriller) with a number of vast plot holes. And an unpronounceable title. It was due to be a film, rights bought by Steven Spielberg, but has been dropped recently. I wonder if that is related to industry insiders not wanted to rock the boat, start panics, etc. Or the rather contradictory thesis – super intelligent killer AI mind takes over all domestic and military robots, but fails in war with a few scattered human gangs.
Ivy Ngeow is a writer with many successes behind her, including winning international prizes and having her work read out on the BBC World Service.
Extract: Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes sure. The block is not a hard block. It is a semi-hard sponge. You squeeze it very hard regularly and daily and with luck, each word will come out like a drop of blood.
Ivy’s first novel is now being (almost) published by Penguin/Random House, via their new Unbound crowdfunding pre-selling platform. It is now 61% funded, with ‘pledges’ from £10 (ebook, your name in all editions) to £125 (personal visit to your writing group, name in editions, and 5 hardback copies). This is a way of reducing the publisher’s risk, as a high target figure is required – £4000 in Ivy’s case. Money is traditionally never mentioned by writers – because they earn so little! Unless you are J K Rowling of course. If you want to investigate, have a look at her videos and the site in general, visit Unbound writers site – Ivy Ngeow – Heart of Glass >
Interview with Ivy Ngeow 3rd February 2017 by Brian Jones of Top Writing Courses
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Doing a Masters of Arts (MA) in Writing. It cost 3200 pounds but I won the prize of 1000 pounds. Had I not done the MA I would not have taken my writing to a professional level and needless to say would not have won the Middlesex University Literary Prize.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try to give readers what they want. My aim is to be a popular writer. I want to write to make myself happy and to make others happy. This does not mean I am not being original. Everything I do has originality because I have created it and did not base it on anything. I am already an architect and designer and everything I create is already original. Similarly, I see writing as in the service industry.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Sure. You don’t have to have cancer to write about cancer. You don’t have be old to write about being old. Writing is very much a conjuring skill, a performance art. You just have to be skillful enough to perform believable magic tricks on your audience, and not only will they believe it, they will continue to suspend disbelief and they will enjoy your show.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I try to research after beginning a book, not before. It can be distracting and time-wasting. Before beginning a book, it is still at the sketchy ideas stage and ideas for fiction do not require research until the point where it needs to be written.
Brian: I agree. Research can be a big distraction, a way of putting off writing. Even for genre writing, say a Submarine Thriller, you can add the details later – everyone knows the basics of any scenario, enough to write the story out. Get on with the writing now! You can add the engineering detail later – if the story works.
What did you read when you were a kid?
I loved adventure stories. I loved reading Nancy Drew mysteries, Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven and Famous Five, some classics like Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Catherine Lim’s Or Else the Lightning God and Other Stories.
When did you start writing?
I started writing when I was 8 years old. At first it was to entertain my younger brothers who were only toddlers then and could not read. Then later, I was writing for myself because I could not help it and I enjoyed not writing for them (the toddlers).
What is the first book that made you laugh, and cry?
Nothing made me laugh. The first book that made me cry was Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers (I forget which one). It’s not a sad book so I don’t remember why I cried except because of a kind of girlish hysteria where I was delirious and could not stop crying for many hours.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I am on several forums on FaceBook such as the Unbound Social Club, where authors like me are funding or have funded their books. I am finding it useful to know and make friends with other writers as they go through exactly the same struggles. I have learnt from their tips and advice and hopefully I have given them tips and advice too along the way.
I was in a great Writers’ Club at the City Lit when I first came to London. This included several successful writers such as Penny Faith of Made Up Theatre and Keith Charters of Strident Publishing. We were all beginners then and twenty years later, we are still in touch.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
Brian: Yes, writing is a pleasure and an escape. What happens when it becomes a full-time job? That is the conundrum!
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It energizes me. I am already a creative person, when I have completed a design or drawing or illustration, I get the same thrill or buzz. I have a high standard and instinctively know when something is really, really completed to the highest possible quality.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
I find keeping up a creative routine or discipline hard.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I have already started on another novel during NanoWrimo 2016 and I am 24,000 words in. This is a standalone novel. However I am interested in planning a prequel and sequel to Heart of Glass.
Brian: Publishers seem to go for trilogies. If you haven’t planned that, even if everyone dies at the end, you can go ghost/zombie/time travel. Or, as in Dallas, use the power of dreams.
If you get bored thinking about – or dealing with – publishing, you could always part-publish via social media. In the olden days, hypertext fiction was briefly fashionable in academia. This was non-linear narrative via linked pages, with multiple exits and entrances, such that the reader could follow different routes.
Of course this undermines any narrative. Which is usually (but not always) the main point of a story after all.
Anyway below is a link to a long-form text being written on Reddit. It is fairly mixed up, multiple strands, interspersed with random links from other Reddit users (explore with care, these random links are more scary than the main story).
This means loads of comments from other Reddit users. There is no personal information about the author. How mysterious!
The writer is called _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9
That might be a pen-name. Or the title.
We are adding more free online SF and Fantasy how to write content over the next few months. To sign up for alerts, just go to our home page. This will include:
SF world building – world meaning context, and usually actual worlds
Fantasy world building
How to avoid – or disguise – Infodumps
FTL – faster than light travel – allowed or not?
Portals – journey to another world/dimension – from that wardrobe to the Cat in the Hat – they are everywhere
Differences between SF and Fantasy
Writing a series
Making a pilot for a TV or film series
Research – technology and concepts
Research the market – don’t rewrite someone else’s idea
SF Fantasy Characters
SF Fantasy Plotting
SF Fantasy Conflict
And last but certainly not least:
Finding new ideas
Some are specific to SF and Fantasy, as things are somewhat different – or are they?