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How to create a sci fi novel slideshare


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The experience of writing a sci-fi novel shared by S. Sorrel.

The experience of writing a sci-fi novel shared by S. Sorrel.

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  • 1. How to create a sci-fi novel - tips from the Outer Space.By S. Sorrel
  • 2. Hello, world creators! My name is S. Sorrel and I have recently published a Young Adult sci-fi book called Incomplete. Since then, I’ve been receiving lots of questions related to my creative process, book publishing and time management. So, I’ve decided to share some of my experiences with fellow world creators in this presentation. I hope it helps!!! Peace, force and joy!
  • 3. Foreword I’m not really into classifications... Therefore, they will not be the focus of this presentation. However, when it comes to publishing, it is important to know how your masterpiece will be seen by the market and the writing community. Some will say, for example, that my book is Fantasy, but not Sci-Fi. Others might say it is sci-fi, but not “hard” sci-fi (stories based on scientific research). I’ve classified it as Young Adult (aka YA) because my main character is in her teens and her story appeals to this age group. You may
  • 4. Introducing the topic with Thomas A. Edison "Genius: 1 % inspiratio n and
  • 5. I’m not saying that I’m a genius, but... • You should know that writing is not a linear process and it may take you a long time to finish your book. • It took me 6 years to write Incomplete: from decoding the original inspiration to publishing the reviewed book, which leads us to a very important question: Why is it that you want to write Sci-Fi
  • 6. A question all writers need to answer, really, because... • Maybe, you just like the genre and wants to interact with the books you’ve read somehow. In this case, you may want to check what fan-fics are all about. • Or, maybe, you’re dreaming about fortune, fame and a Hollywood contract... Fair enough, since it has happened to others and it may happen to you... =) • But you should really check the experience of well-known authors: they only got where they are after a long-term
  • 7. Since writing is such a lonely enterprise... Read about the experiences of other world makers. It will help you improve your writing, redifine your expectations and (what has really made a difference to me): • Feel that you’re not alone when facing a challenge. • Understand if this is the kind of life you’d like to have. My favorite book for that purpose is Stephen King’s “On Writing”.
  • 8. “Ok, I get it, I’m still a writer, let’s move on...” If you still feel that you’re meant to write, then you’re probably reading everything that comes to your hand... Maybe more in the sci-fi or fantasy areas, but you enjoy reading so much that you end up devouring pages and pages of novels, short stories and even newspaper articles in all areas... WAIT A MINUTE! YOU’RE NOT? THEN, CHECK THE OPTION THAT BEST
  • 9. I’m not reading a lot because... ( ) I watch lots of movies and movies are the new books! ( ) I want to make a new contribution to the genre. I’m trying to avoid being contamined by what’s “already out there”. ( ) I do not have the time – I’ll either write or read. ( ) I do not have the money to spend buying so many books.
  • 10. I’m not reading a lot because... (check my comments) ( ) I watch lots of movies and movies are the new books! Watching movies and series IS NOT the same as reading. How can you think about writing when you do not have the experience of enjoying a book yourself? And, about that, why would you even want to write a book if you consider them to be old-fashioned? ( ) I want to make a new contribution to the genre. I’m trying to avoid being contamined by what’s “already done”.
  • 11. DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!! If you have answered that you do not have the time or the money, you might as well figure it out! The money issue is easier to solve, since we have libraries (virtual too!) and cheaper e-book versions that you’ll help you stay tuned to the area. Consider reading as part of your training process – it’s cheaper than taking courses (even if it doesn’t substitute them). Teachers need to review their methodologies and do research, engineers have to keep up with new technologies and manuals and YOU
  • 12. One final word on your homework... I am a Cinema graduate and used to think that watching lots of movies was the path to success, since I wanted to be a screenwriter... Of course, I really had to do that! But one of my professors once told me something really interesting: while watching movies, you may get to know about editing, special effects and camera moves, but, while reading, YOU HAVE TO IMAGINE EVERYTHING BY YOURSELF
  • 13. Filmm akers have to read and
  • 14. “Ok, ok, I read a lot, Mum...” • Good! Let’s talk about the writing process, then... Writing, for me, is as much about self- discipline and permanence as it is about inspiration (check Uncle Thomas in slide 4). • Sometimes, knowing how to deal with the inspiration you have is more important than having the best ideas. Shocked? I know: we tend to have this concept about artists as people who do not work (at least not in the common sense appreciation of a 8-hour-a-day-
  • 15. How did I write Incomplete? Remember how I told you that the whole process took me 6 years? Well, then, let’s break it down in a realistic way... And try to see what we can
  • 16. The first year: identity problems and a child in an alley The process: I was thinking about people who change their personality completely only to please others and, sometimes, even forget who they really: people who are being held hostage of external expectations. I saw it as a worldwide social crisis... The inspiration: An image came to my mind – a 5-year-old girl in an alley changing shapes in order to please an unknown man, until he tells her that she could keep her original body and they leave holding hands. Reality: I worked a lot (teaching at courses and high school from 7 or 8 am to 10 pm most days) and had a child. I also wrote a lot (normally, late at night), but not only sci-fi, since I was taking a
  • 17. (1st year) Lesson One: Sci-fi is all about metaphors!!! • Ok, this may be a polemic concept, I know, but… • For me, sci-fi is not about escaping reality or living in a parallel universe... IT IS PRECISELY THE OPPOSITE. • Sci-fi needs an attachment to the “real world” (whatever that is) in order to mean something to its readers. Most of the really good sci-fi and fantasy books are about everyday reality (or its possible outcomes), but contextualized differently. The
  • 18. (1st year) Lesson One: Sci-fi is all about metaphors!!! • Therefore, my very first step is always considering: what could be a good metaphor for the concept I’m trying to understand if it were contextualized differently (a different planet, a different time, a different social configuration?) • We write because we feel we have something to say. We write fiction because we feel we have something to say through the voice of our characters. I write sci-fi because I feel I have something to say about our world through the creation of a different world (even if it is a different Earth), a different society with its own rules.
  • 19. (1st year) Lesson Two: Take your time, but keep writing!!! • You never know what the original inspiration will turn into: a short story, a novel, a screenplay... You may even want it to become a series (downsize the part your ego plays on it all, please!), but, at this first moment, you are a detective. • You are investigating your inspiration, trying to listen to it and understand its Destiny. It sounds silly, I know, but, for me, when the original idea arises, it already has a purpose and a huge part of your work is discovering what that purpose is. • About investigation tools: authors have different techniques to get to know their material - research, imaginary interviews with possible characters, and so on. For me, the only technique that actually works is writing. That’s why I’ve written the short story down. • Remember the Hollywood contract? Well, we need to keep our day jobs while waiting for it. So, there are only three rules for your investigation to keep running smoothly: keep writing, respect your material and respect yourself. Yes, you need to
  • 20. The second and third year: I see sci- fi characters The process: After writing the short story – in Portuguese, my native language – I kept having new visions of scenes related to the main character’s life, her teen years and felt that there was a lot more to say about my original metaphor. The inspiration: I started imagining myself in this girl’s shoes and gave her a name: Mariah. It came to my mind that mutants are normally discriminated and, one day, after a class, I thought: “what if she lost a memory each time she changed shapes? And what if she could only change into another person’s memory?” The metaphor was complete and I almost had a plot. Reality: I had changed jobs twice and my responsibilities kept growing (as well as my daughter). I started teaching at the university and had to read so many academic texts (something that I also like very much) that my time for writing and reading sci-fi was almost inexistent. The result: the first version of the book. I couldn’t stop
  • 21. (2nd and 3rd years) Lesson Three: Marry your characters • I have to be honest: I’m talking about one specific idea for educational purposes only. If you’re still reading, you probably know that ideas keep coming and they have their own time to blossom... • Sometimes, you’re investigating two or three ideas at the same time (always writing, because that’s what you do, right?) One of the other ideas I had at the time also became a book in Portuguese about my experiences as an EFL teacher (By the Way). Another one is still under development (a future sci-fi novel called Blueprints). • But, whenever an idea keeps coming back
  • 22. (2nd and 3rd years) Lesson Three: Marry your characters • My ideas always blossom when I start to get interested in the characters who live in them (that’s when we start dating). • Dating a character is starting to write about their lives: What do they do? When? Why? With whom? Some authors record their impressions on their characters, imagine their past or even draw them... As for me, well, you know, I write... • But dating also means caring: so, I start trying to put myself in my characters’ shoes
  • 23. (2nd and 3rd years) Lesson Three: Marry your characters • When do you know it’s time for an engagement? When all of the writing you’ve been doing starts to look like a plot... • And what is a plot anyway? It is the beginning of a story: when you feel that you can answer the questions about your character objectively and tell people what the story you’re writing is all about. • That is exactly the same thing we do when we are thinking about commiting to someone: we start telling about our prospect partners to
  • 24. (2nd and 3rd years) Lesson Three: Marry your characters • Engaged, then! It doesn’t really matter if people’s opinion about the story is good or not... You defend your story, you want to develop it further, you’re in love! • When you marry your characters, it works just like any real-life marriage: 1. The ceremony: you realize that you need more time with your characters and schedule writing periods; 2. Routine: if you arrive late at home (or at your office table), they’ll call (haunt) and you’ll have to hurry up. Otherwise, they’ll
  • 25. (2nd and 3rd years) Lesson Three: Marry your characters 3. Crisis: by now, you know your characters well and the honeymoon phase is over. You’d like to write one scene a certain way, but you know that your characters would never do that. You’ll need to compromise from time to time and, if you vouch for the “my way or the highway” strategy, your pages will rotten (they’ll feel dull and you may even end up forgetting all about why you wanted to get married – tell the story – in the first place). 4. Counselling: in order to deal with your partners (oops, characters) you may need to look for professional advice. As time goes by, you may find that you’re speaking different languages (lack of vocabulary: read more in the sci-fi area and take courses, if possible, some of them are free-of-charge) or that you need to know more about the reality of your mates (do research on book-
  • 26. The fourth year: it needs to end somehow... The process: I had almost all of my chapters written down and felt the book needed an ending. Not because the story had ended, but because I had just realized that one book would not cover all I had to say. The inspiration: I started daydreaming with scenes from a future that was really distant from what I was writing at that moment. Reality: I had more and more responsilities at my job (it never ends, really) and worked everyday (including Saturdays). The result: And ending to the book, but not
  • 27. (4th year) Lesson Four: Know how to recognize the end • In the case of Incomplete, after writing six more or less long chapters, I realized that the story was still very distant from its ending, but felt that the book needed to be wrapped up. It is not always the case: “Blueprints”, for example, will not be a series – I’m positive about that – and it is still sitting on my virtual drawers, waiting for closure. • The ending is always a delicate moment (almost as delicate as the beginning). You may ask me: how do you know that Incomplete is a series and “Blueprints” will not become one? The only thing I can say is that, while you’re writing, just like in any long-term relationship, sometimes you start imagining you and your partner as a couple of old loving fellows
  • 28. (4th year) Lesson Four: Know how to recognize the end • It doesn’t matter anyway: writing the final chapter of any book is difficult. • You’ll probably write more than one version until you feel you’ve reached the right tone. • For me, it happens when I finally feel that I have said what I wanted to say in the first place. • It may be a good idea to work on some of your parallel projects (ideas, metaphors...) for some time, while you try to understand your ending. • You’re also mourning the relationship you’re about to leave, so, be kind to yourself and keep writing (even if you have to write short stories, cooking recipes, poems, in order to get some perspective on the work
  • 29. The fifth year: reviewing and trying to publish The process: The book was finally finished, but work had just begun. I reviewed it and started thinking about how to publish it. The inspiration: I finally knew the story from beginning to end, understood its metaphor better than anyone else on Earth and wanted to prepare it for the world – just like you’d prepare your son. Reality: I had started working on my PhD project and, well, you know, responsibilities...
  • 30. (5th year) Lesson Five: Mother your book • Now, the metaphor is parenting. You’ll get sick of reviewing and reviewing, but worry about how other people will see your son. Each time you read your masterpiece, you’ll find problems (coherence, grammar, conceptual problems...) and may feel embarassed about showing them to the world. • Depending on the kind of problem you find, you’ll perform a literary review – related to character building, coherence, pace and so on – or a textual review – related to grammar, vocabulary and so on. • Most authors will say that they should be done in this order (dramatical and, only after that, textual), but it has never worked like that for me. The most important thing you need to do while reviewing is: start sharing your text.
  • 31. (5th year) Lesson Five: Mother your book • I personally like reading out loud to close friends (who suffer a lot when giving this final touches), because I feel that this is the most effective process for finding inconsistencies. • I do not have any particularly good experience with sending my text to trustworthy colleagues for them to read – people are busy, you know... But it is our responsibility to put the text out there somehow: you may start a blog and publish part of what you’ve done or send it in the body of e-mail messages (people hate opening attachments). Reading out loud works best for me... • You’ll probably pick up some fights as people start questioning things that your consider fundamental to your story: listen to your beta-readers, that’s
  • 32. (5th year) Lesson Five: Mother your book • If you have access to experts – Literature and Language teachers, agents, editors, reviewers – take advantage of that. If you’re insecure about your grammar, hire a professional reviewer (almost any book has a couple of mistakes, but you know you’ll be judged by that, so, do not get lazy!) • After that, you’ll need to start sharing your book with the professionals who can help publishing it and, in order to do that, you need to create some specific required documents: the query letter and the synopsis. • By now, if you’re like me at all, you’re thinking: hey, I’ve done my job... I’ve written the book, which is the most difficult part. Ok, writing is tough, but it’s also fun most of the times... The next step may not be as
  • 33. (5th year) Lesson Five: Mother your book • That’s the time when bullying starts: your son may be rejected. Don’t worry! You’ll find a lot of evidence on how many good books and even classic works of art have been rejected multiple times. • If you’re based in the US or in Europe, you’ll need to look for an agent, but if you’re based in Latin America, like I am, agents may not be very common. • The publishing market is changing a lot and self-publishing has become a valid career- building option, so you may want to consider
  • 34. (5th year) Lesson Five: Mother your book • Thinking about Marketing, may not be your cup of tea, but you need to do it, even if you mean to follow the traditional publishing paths – from the moment you write a query letter on. • In my case, I decided the best strategy was working on an English version of Incomplete in order to access the international market, since sci-fi is not a strong trend for Brazilian writers. • Frustration means receving 42 rejection letters from both agents and small publishing houses, when your book has been read by
  • 35. The sixth year: GOLD! In 2014, I finally published the Smashwords and the Amazon edition of my book. Lauching it as an e-book has proven to be the right thing to do: I’m being read, discussed and feel as a part of the sci-fi community. The most important lesson I have learnt from the feedback I have received so far is: sci-fi authors need to engage in
  • 36. I hope you have enjoyed the trip... Luckily, this presentation will help you somehow!!! And, if you want to know more about me, check this out. You can also visit my site, stay in touch on Facebook or send me an e-mail ( Peace, force and joy!!!