5 Books to Read When You’re Writing Science Fiction or Fantasy

Put these on your list of references

We know King’s On Writing and Lamott’s Bird by Bird, that exist to guide and inspire us through our masterpieces. In fact, every time I find myself showing up in front of my laptop and blanking out on what to write, my favorite thing to do is pick up a book or memoir on writing, or a reference book on certain aspects of writing. I thumb through them and and they never fail to nudge me back to my own work-in-progress.

Today’s list aims at speculative fiction, specifically on sci-fi and fantasy. If I’ve missed one, one that’s really helped you, do let me know in the comments and I’ll include them in the list.

Buy at Amazon

Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop

Kate Wilhelm

Kate Wilhelm, winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, and the co-founder of the Clarion Writer’s Workshop, definitely knows her craft. The book doesn’t just guide you through Kate’s own journey as a speculative and mystery fiction writer, but also her journey as she mentors other young writers and on honing the delicate craft of writing. This is one to have in your bag.

Buy at Amazon

Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction

Jeff Vandermeer

A couple of months back, I was working on the outline of my own book and came across Vandermeer’s guide. Needless to say, the fun and extremely thoughtful of way his instructions have been designed helped me work out the knots in my own plot. The book can take a little getting used to, let me say that upfront. But it’s a valuable resource to crafting science-fiction or fantasy. Or even children’s adventure books. Vandermeer’s excellent book is a visual feast, while also providing plenty of fundamental advice and guidance, with input from established SFF writers like George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Lev Grossman, to name a few.

Buy at Amazon

Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy

Adam Roberts

One of the most prolific speculative fiction writers is Adam Roberts, from whom comes a guidebook that details out the steps and nuances that go into creating a sci-fi or fantasy novel. The guide is aimed specifically at someone who’s never attempted a novel before, it contains a treasure chest of great startup info and inspiring advice that will help you at every step of the way.

Buy at Amazon

How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy

Orson Scott Card

“The Hugo Award-Winning Reference”. Come on. It says just that right there on the cover. How can this be not good? In all seriousness, if you’re looking to write a sci-fi or fantasy book, this book is laser-focused on those genres, and written by one of the most successful writers in the field. The book focuses on the stuff that only SFF writers generally have to worry about, like magic systems, fictional societies, language and world-building from scratch, and Card builds the case studies from his own successful works.

Buy at Amazon

Words Are My Matter

Ursula K. Le Guin

This one comes straight from the master. Le Guin’s manual on writing isn’t exactly what it seems, much like her fictional works. There’s no practical nuts-and-bolts advice to be had here, but there is a lifetime of wisdom on offer, and plenty of insight into what makes a story work. If you want to get into the mindset of a writer who has dedicated her life to producing incredible work, and thought deeply on the big-picture aspect of writing in the modern age, this is the book for you.

If you own any of the above or are planning to buy some, let me know in the comments. Are there any references I’ve missed that you’ve found helpful?

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