Capital Parent, March 2001
...takes readers from understanding the genre to reaching the published stage...section on "craft of writing" is particularly detailed.
- Learn how to get the science and the magic right - Develop believable fantasy worlds - Challenge your readers imagination - Written by a successful novelist
From the Back Cover
Whether youre writing science fiction or fantasy, your basic theme is power and how to use it. Your plot is always a political one: who should have the power and on what terms? Maybe your heroes pay a high price for their power; maybe they abandon their power for the sake of love. If power is your basic theme, your story -- whether a 500-word short-short story or an epic trilogy -- is anecdotal evidence for your particular mythic vision of the world. As a writer of science fiction or fantasy, you tell the reader how your imaginary world works in human terms, what kinds of values best inspire good behavior, what kinds of hazards and personal flaws can subvert such behavior. Your story may take place in a gaudy world of demons and elves or on the satellite of a giant planet 50,000 light-years from here but it is still a comment about here and now. Written by the successful author of more than ten science fiction and fantasy novels, Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy takes an in-depth look at these two best-selling genres. Discussing the elements of a successful story, Kilian delves into the conventions of science fiction and fantasy; the heros quest; and subgenres, including nanotechnology and sword and sorcery. He also offers expert advice on how to prepare your manuscript for publishers and market it to editors. With this book as a guide, both novice and experienced writers can learn how to get the science and magic right to make their work both a literary and financial success.
About the Author
Crawford Kilian teaches writing and communications at a community college, where he is chair of the Media Technology Division. Kilian has also written more than 18 books, including science fiction and fantasy titles, and is a regular contributor to both print and electronic media.
Excerpted from Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy by Crawford Kilian. Copyright © 1998. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Part I Knowing Your Genre 1 Hard Facts for First-Time Novelists You're better off understanding the challenge before you get into this business, rather than being disappointed later. So let's look at the obstacles you face as an unpublished writer trying to break into a very tough market. What follows is a chronology of an extremely lucky first novel, from inspiration to final royalty check. October 13, 1998: You get a brilliant idea for a novel and begin writing at the rate of 1,000 finished words a day (about four double-spaced manuscript pages). You call the novel Dragonstar. January 13, 1999: Now, ninety days later, you complete Dragonstar. The manuscript runs to 90,000 words (about 350 typed pages). January 14 21, 1999: You carefully proofread before mailing the manuscript to a publisher on January 21. January 28, 1999: Dragonstar arrives and happens to catch the eye of a senior editor as she passes the slush pile, where unsolicited manuscripts usually await scanning and rejection by a junior editor. Your first page hooks her; she drops her other projects and takes your manuscript home with her. February 1, 1999: The editor phones you, says she loves Dragonstar, wants to publish the book, and will send you a confirming letter. February 15, 1999: The letter and contract arrive by courier. The letter is flattering but lists a lot of changes you should make. The offer is an advance of $5,000 against royalties based on 10% of list price of hardback edition, and a 50-50 split on sale of paperback rights (if any). You read, sign, and return the contract by courier the same day. February 16 March 30, 1999: You revise Dragonstar according to the requests in the editor's letter, and courier the revised manuscript back to her. April 30, 1999: First installment of advance arrives: $1,666.66 (one-third of advance payable of signing contract). July 1, 1999: Second installment of advance arrives: $1,666.66 (payable of receipt of acceptable revised manuscript). December 31, 1999: This is the earliest possible publication date -- too late for the Christmas market. Your publisher postpones Dragonstar to fall 2000 and schedules further editing and production accordingly. Meanwhile the publisher is trying to find a paperback house willing to buy the rights. So far, no takers. April 1 4, 2000: Happy new millennium! The page proofs -- the photocopies of the book's typeset pages -- arrive. You proofread quickly, marveling at how much like a book your story now seems, and you return corrected pages by courier. May 1, 2000: Your publisher holds a meeting with his sales reps to discuss the new fall catalogue, which mentions Dragonstar. As a first novel, your book doesn't draw much interest. But the sales reps will mention it when they talk to booksellers. At about this time you see the cover art and dust-jacket blurb, but you have no say about them as you signed, as only very big-name authors can influences their books' appearance. Fortunately, you like both. October 1, 2000: Dragonstar's publication day! Books have been off the press for weeks; the "pub date" is the day by which copies should be in all the stores that have ordered it. You receive ten copies free. You can buy more at a 40% discount. October 15, 2000: You receive the final third of your advance: $1,666.67 (payable on publication). By the way, your publisher has one of the fastest accounting departments in the history of Western literature. April 1, 2001: You get your first royalty statement: between October 1 and December 31, Dragonstar has sold 300 copies at $30 each. Your royalty is $900, applied against your advance. October 1, 2001: You receive your second royalty statement: between January 1 and June 30, your novel has sold another 2,200 copies. Your total royalty so far is $7,500: you receive a check for $2,500. Congratulations! You have not only "earned out" your advance, you have made additional money -- a remarkable achievement for a first novelist anywhere, in any genre. October 15, 2001: Good news! A paperback house offers $12,000 for your novel. December 1, 2001: You and your original publisher sign the contract for the paperback. Your share is $6,000, payable half on signing the contract and half on publication. [aq] February 1, 2002: You receive a check for $3,000. April 1, 2002: The latest royalty statement on the hardback edition tells you your novel has sold 33 more copies. You receive a check for $99. April 15, 2002: Your publisher takes the hardback edition out of print, selling the remaining copies to a jobber for $1 each; you don't receive any money from this remaindering, but you will be able to buy copies at the same price. On the remainder table, the book will sell for $4.95. September 15, 2002: The paperback edition appears. You hate the cover. October 13, 2002: Exactly four years after you got your inspiration and began writing, you receive a second check from the paperback house, again for $3,000. This is the last money you will see from the novel. The paperback publisher hasn't even printed enough copies to earn out your advance -- she'd rather wait and see if booksellers reorder. They don't, and your novel is out of print by Christmas. This is a very optimistic scenario for a first novel by an unknown writer. Your own experience is likely to be much tougher and more protracted. You have this consolation: your publisher is likely to respond very quickly to your next novel, and if it's a good one, you can look forward to considerable editorial encouragement. You may even sell it on the basis of just an outline and some sample chapters. If your first two or three books sell reasonably well, advances for later ones will improve. Paperback advances may also be more generous. The publisher may even budget for serious marketing.
Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy
FROM OUR EDITORS
Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy by Crawford Kilian offers everything from tips on proper grammar to an exploration of world mythology. Kilian, whose background includes experience in fantasy, science fiction, education, and children's literature, walks through the entire writing process from conception to completion. This book is fun, practical, and chock-full of useful information.