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The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction: 6 Steps to Writing and Publishing Your Bestseller!

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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 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!


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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 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!

30 review for The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction: 6 Steps to Writing and Publishing Your Bestseller!

  1. 4 out of 5

    Philip Athans

    Oh, 5 stars all the way, man!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Love of Hopeless Causes

    Don't let's start. Let us never speak of this. Waited a week to see if my feelings changed, they didn't. Don't let's start. Let us never speak of this. Waited a week to see if my feelings changed, they didn't.

  3. 5 out of 5

    James

    Very well done! The cover's promise of "6 Steps to Writing and Publishing Your Bestseller!" might lead one to expect a more plug-and-crank-formulaic production than this is - it's not a cookbook. The "steps" are general, more "what" than "how", although there is plenty of useful information and guidance on aspects of story creation it would otherwise be easy to overlook, ways to make the story's world richer and more fascinating (often by examining the aspects of one's own culture/subculture and Very well done! The cover's promise of "6 Steps to Writing and Publishing Your Bestseller!" might lead one to expect a more plug-and-crank-formulaic production than this is - it's not a cookbook. The "steps" are general, more "what" than "how", although there is plenty of useful information and guidance on aspects of story creation it would otherwise be easy to overlook, ways to make the story's world richer and more fascinating (often by examining the aspects of one's own culture/subculture and considering alternatives, rather than reflexively creating characters whose values, manners, and political ideals are the same as one's own.) I'd recommend this to other aspiring writers of science fiction and/or fantasy; I see ways it will help me write deeper and more vivid stories.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mysti Parker

    This book was full of some very helpful pointers for anyone wanting to delve into the sci-fi or fantasy writing genre. I wouldn't say it was THE guide, but it gave me some decent instruction. What I liked most were the examples (even if they were a bit silly) that really brought the tips to life. There is also a superb short story by R.A. Salvatore at the end--what a treat! I'd recommend this to anyone for adding to their "how to write" bookshelf. This book was full of some very helpful pointers for anyone wanting to delve into the sci-fi or fantasy writing genre. I wouldn't say it was THE guide, but it gave me some decent instruction. What I liked most were the examples (even if they were a bit silly) that really brought the tips to life. There is also a superb short story by R.A. Salvatore at the end--what a treat! I'd recommend this to anyone for adding to their "how to write" bookshelf.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hannu Venesperä

    Basically tells all the must-know stuff for new authors.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Paps

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I feel like I learned a lot. I appreciate how brief and to the point each chapter is and how blunt (and often times hilarious) the author is. The main take away I got from this is how important it is to keep asking questions and to only write whatever is necessary to move your story forward. Some other points he makes were ones I had never thought of before, which made this book valuable to me. It's not an in depth guide, but it gives you a road map to I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I feel like I learned a lot. I appreciate how brief and to the point each chapter is and how blunt (and often times hilarious) the author is. The main take away I got from this is how important it is to keep asking questions and to only write whatever is necessary to move your story forward. Some other points he makes were ones I had never thought of before, which made this book valuable to me. It's not an in depth guide, but it gives you a road map to work with, a skeleton to get yourself going in the right direction. If you're intelligent, observant and creative enough, I believe this is all you need. The only chapter I found lacking was the last about business because it seemed outdated, having been written in 2010. Ten years is a long time in any artistic driven industry. Also, the only thing I disagree on is the idea that great storytelling cannot be taught because it is an inherent talent in someone. Personally, I believe that ANYTHING can be taught and you can train yourself to do anything well as long as you have the drive and patience. Your brain is a muscle and never underestimate what you can train it to do even if it might take you much longer than someone who seems to be a natural born talent, but that's just my two cents. This guide is still very much worth the read for any aspiring novelist and I already know I'll be referring back to it constantly.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mateo

    As a would-be creator if I was smart, this was a good book. Brought up interesting points and wasn't dull. As a would-be creator if I was smart, this was a good book. Brought up interesting points and wasn't dull.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Carbunkle Flux

    This was more of a book for absolute beginners, so a rating feels almost unfair. The advice the book gives is functional, I'm just not at that level. That said, I will stick to my 3 star rating because the book is too long, covers too much and only scratches the surface on most of it. I feel like this would have better served writers by covering a more specific aspect of the process in detail, rather than trying to cover everything insufficiently. This was more of a book for absolute beginners, so a rating feels almost unfair. The advice the book gives is functional, I'm just not at that level. That said, I will stick to my 3 star rating because the book is too long, covers too much and only scratches the surface on most of it. I feel like this would have better served writers by covering a more specific aspect of the process in detail, rather than trying to cover everything insufficiently.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

    OK - I have read a few books, and this book has it all laid out - there are no guides for outlining and structuring - there are no comments about 3 act vs 4 act or sequences - this is about the writing of Fantasy and Science Fiction - they are going with the tools that you already know the basics of writing - interestingly enough, there were a few sections within this book, that had I read it 2 weeks ago, I would have saved myself a few hours of needless world building - one of my favorite secti OK - I have read a few books, and this book has it all laid out - there are no guides for outlining and structuring - there are no comments about 3 act vs 4 act or sequences - this is about the writing of Fantasy and Science Fiction - they are going with the tools that you already know the basics of writing - interestingly enough, there were a few sections within this book, that had I read it 2 weeks ago, I would have saved myself a few hours of needless world building - one of my favorite sections in the book is when it has a sample paragraph and it illustrates how changes to the world affect the story - it starts with a basic fiction version, and evolves into a more extreme fantasy version - YMMV on your opinion of the changes, but it showed me how I was working too hard at making my world too different and how uncomfortable it would be to read, when Elf and Dwarf were renamed, and Height and Weight had a new system - it is the kind of book that I wish that I had read before I made my failed attempts all those times before - I have world builders disease to be sure, but now that I have seen what happens when you let your building run away with you, I feel that I will be able to start and finish a much better and believable piece of work - My only negative thing is that I felt the book did not provide enough examples, but what was included was very well illustrated - this will not show you how to turn your idea into a book without work on your part, but it does show good examples of what to do and what not to do, and a starting point is all that you can get for Fantasy and Science fiction, as everyone's ending point can be miles away from everyone else's examples.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ash

    I actually wanted Writing Monsters by Athans but my library didn't have so I made due with this one. I don't read a lot of Science Fiction and/or Fantasy. However, the titles I have read, I have greatly appreciated it. Also, because of that, I was afraid that this book was going to be boring. Thank goodness, I was wrong! I actually kind of love this book. Philip Athans' The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction: 6 Steps to Writing and Publishing Your Bestseller! is a very practical guide to I actually wanted Writing Monsters by Athans but my library didn't have so I made due with this one. I don't read a lot of Science Fiction and/or Fantasy. However, the titles I have read, I have greatly appreciated it. Also, because of that, I was afraid that this book was going to be boring. Thank goodness, I was wrong! I actually kind of love this book. Philip Athans' The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction: 6 Steps to Writing and Publishing Your Bestseller! is a very practical guide to all things Sci-Fi Fantasy. Athans did a great job with distinguishing between Science Fiction and Fantasy. Then, further breaking Science Fiction into sub-catergories. Athans also explains different types of writing, like novelizations or tie ins. He also give practical advice on the realities of being writer. Mainly, write because you love it, not because you want to be wealthy. As a bonus, famous Sci-Fi author R.A. Salvatore put his never published short story, Hugo Mann's Perfect Soul and writes his feelings about it after 20 years since he wrote it. I found The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction endlessly fascinating. I was greatly surprised that I did. It made me think, and I write this in the most respectful and lovingly way, that I am a closeted Sci-Fi Fantasy nerd. Athans definitely made me want to explore more aspects of this genre more.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emmanuel Arriaga

    This book has been a very good read. Although many of the lessons taught in the book I had learned through other channels, it is a good step by step guide on how to begin the process of putting together a novel. I think if I had this book many years ago it may have helped speed along some of the things I ended up learning through trial and error. There were also some good nuggets that I got out of it that were new to me, a good amount of time spent on each topic without overwhelming the reader w This book has been a very good read. Although many of the lessons taught in the book I had learned through other channels, it is a good step by step guide on how to begin the process of putting together a novel. I think if I had this book many years ago it may have helped speed along some of the things I ended up learning through trial and error. There were also some good nuggets that I got out of it that were new to me, a good amount of time spent on each topic without overwhelming the reader with unnecessary detail. If you are a writer, or have an interest in becoming a write of fantasy or science fiction, I would recommend picking up this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    This book has a lot of the same tips and tricks as other how to books I've read. What is really nice about this book is that the chapters are nice and brief; time isn't wasted blathering on and on. And I did pick up a few tidbits to keep in kind for my own writing projects, so I'm glad I read this. This book has a lot of the same tips and tricks as other how to books I've read. What is really nice about this book is that the chapters are nice and brief; time isn't wasted blathering on and on. And I did pick up a few tidbits to keep in kind for my own writing projects, so I'm glad I read this.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    This was well on its way to being a three-star book, the reason being it's a very surface-level flyby of how to write speculative fiction. Chapters are rarely longer than three to five pages, and the information given, while standing on firm claims, seldom delves into the nitty gritty details and exploration that new writers might be hoping for. For the record, this is only the second book of its type I've read, the first being The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy Volume 1. That book had a lot m This was well on its way to being a three-star book, the reason being it's a very surface-level flyby of how to write speculative fiction. Chapters are rarely longer than three to five pages, and the information given, while standing on firm claims, seldom delves into the nitty gritty details and exploration that new writers might be hoping for. For the record, this is only the second book of its type I've read, the first being The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy Volume 1. That book had a lot more meat on the bone. If I had to make an analogy, it's the difference between eating bread fresh from the bakery or buying it in the evening once it's cooled off and maybe hardened a bit. Both are good, but one is just a little more satisfying. Like I said, this book covers the basics. You get a few sentences on the different fantasy sub genres, some more on the types of themes you can include, and more on how to avoid anachronisms in your work. It's good. As a quickie reference guide with just the bare essentials, it does the job. If you want a quick reminder on what goes into world building and you don't want to read five hundred pages on religions and period clothing, this is the book for you. It's probably a nice supplementary book to keep on your pile of other writing books, which is what it's meant to be, I think. So why four stars and not three? The answer is R.A. Salvatore. Not only does he provide a very inspiring foreword about the power of fantasy and why he writes it, the short story included at the end of this book is absolutely wonderful. I was reading it on the bus and my heart was tingling, as I totally bought into the concept that there is only a finite number of soul energy in the world and that the larger our population gets, the less soul energy there is to go around...and the harder it becomes to find people with perfect souls. Salvatore even manages to make Hitler sympathetic (to a degree), which is both frightening and incredible. I absolutely love love loved this story, and the pages of follow-up and analysis after it. I felt like it took an otherwise competent resource into the realm of a very good one. The other reason for the favourable rating is the amount of guest voices that Athans was able to get to help him with this project. Names like Terry Brooks, Kevin J. Anderson, and the aforementioned R.A. Salvatore all play major roles in helping to fill the pages between the covers with information straight from people who have done this for a while and who know what it takes. My only complaint on this front is the lack of female contributors. I'm sure that Philip Athans could have found someone, right? Maybe? Anyway, I'm glad I read this, as it reinforced much of what I'd read before on these subjects, and it gave me an appreciation and a desire to jump into the works of R.A. Salvatore, as well as the works of a bunch of other authors who are sprinkled throughout the text.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    Although I’ve written and published mystery novels, working on my first urban fantasy feels like starting over in some ways. The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction made me rethink certain strategies and consider things I hadn’t thought of. Above all, this book reminded me of the importance of plausibility, continuity, and great storytelling in speculative fiction. This book is especially helpful for beginners as it provides useful definitions of some of the subgenres in fantasy and scie Although I’ve written and published mystery novels, working on my first urban fantasy feels like starting over in some ways. The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction made me rethink certain strategies and consider things I hadn’t thought of. Above all, this book reminded me of the importance of plausibility, continuity, and great storytelling in speculative fiction. This book is especially helpful for beginners as it provides useful definitions of some of the subgenres in fantasy and science fiction. I especially liked the chapter on composing log lines (a single-sentence description of a book) and giving serious thought to what one’s novel is really about. Other topics include the importance of having something to say and on plot development. There are general writing tips like using all five senses and point of view. As the author states, though, more detailed how-to writing tips can be found in other books. There are great insights on world building in this book, but not enough information on developing an urban fantasy novel. Merging real places and events in a contemporary setting while incorporating magical or supernatural components can be tricky, and specific pointers would have been welcome. Still, as mentioned, this book is a great beginners guide. Also the short story by R.A. Salvatore at the end of the book is fantastic.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    Very enjoyable read. Philip Athans touches on lots of subjects in the science-fiction/fantasy genre including the journey of the hero and the villain, creating supporting characters, how much is too much, and what makes a villain tick. The book is not just a guide to writing, it also has great information concerning the industry - a bit about finding an agent and a publisher. I flew through this book as I was on a plane trip, but it would be better suited to take the book in increments - read a Very enjoyable read. Philip Athans touches on lots of subjects in the science-fiction/fantasy genre including the journey of the hero and the villain, creating supporting characters, how much is too much, and what makes a villain tick. The book is not just a guide to writing, it also has great information concerning the industry - a bit about finding an agent and a publisher. I flew through this book as I was on a plane trip, but it would be better suited to take the book in increments - read a chapter, then do some writing exercises. I highly recommend this not only for writers, but avid readers of the genre as well, as it dives into the heads of some of the biggest names in fantasy such as Terry Brooks, R.A. Salvatore, Paul S. Kemp, Robert E. Howard, and more. There is also a short story with insightful commentary by R. A. Salvatore at the end of the novel, which is more of an "Outer Limits/Twilight Zone" type-story than Salvatore's usual sword and sorcery.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Peter West

    Great advice for writers in these genres I highlight sections as notes when I read books like this, marking things that I shouldn't forget in the months and years ahead. Usually I'll have maybe ten sections hoghlighted at the end of the book, but in this case more than half of the book was highlighted by the time I had finished with it. That's a lot of useful content! Great insights from an experienced author, provided with clear examples to emphasize the points. Well worth reading for any science Great advice for writers in these genres I highlight sections as notes when I read books like this, marking things that I shouldn't forget in the months and years ahead. Usually I'll have maybe ten sections hoghlighted at the end of the book, but in this case more than half of the book was highlighted by the time I had finished with it. That's a lot of useful content! Great insights from an experienced author, provided with clear examples to emphasize the points. Well worth reading for any science fiction or fantasy authors.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hene

    While the book had lots of good ways to put your research, planning and writing in order AND a lot of agreeable statements, the heteronormativity in the examples paired with a few mentions of same-sex relationships felt like a slap in the face. Also the fact that romance was made to seem like such an integral part of scifi and fantasy put me off completely. The book does have a section about the publishing system in the United States. Someone who lives in the States might find it more useful than While the book had lots of good ways to put your research, planning and writing in order AND a lot of agreeable statements, the heteronormativity in the examples paired with a few mentions of same-sex relationships felt like a slap in the face. Also the fact that romance was made to seem like such an integral part of scifi and fantasy put me off completely. The book does have a section about the publishing system in the United States. Someone who lives in the States might find it more useful than I did, as someone living in Finland.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ben Kirk

    Though written in 2010, the book is relevant to today's writer. One thing you can add for today is the ability to self-publish and the availability of editors for hire, which is easy enough to do through other outlets. Being a writer who doesn't read the work of my own genre, I enjoyed going through this as a checklist and for sharpening my writing. Philip brings in some great authors, and being one himself, provides useful perspectives on how to write Fantasy and Sci-Fi. This will be a book I re Though written in 2010, the book is relevant to today's writer. One thing you can add for today is the ability to self-publish and the availability of editors for hire, which is easy enough to do through other outlets. Being a writer who doesn't read the work of my own genre, I enjoyed going through this as a checklist and for sharpening my writing. Philip brings in some great authors, and being one himself, provides useful perspectives on how to write Fantasy and Sci-Fi. This will be a book I return to regularly as markers for my own work.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Katia M. Davis

    Useful This was a very useful collection of topics to help those who want to try their hand at science fiction or fantasy writing. It doesn't pull any punches, it tells it how it is in regard to the amount of work someone will have to put in in order to create something worthwhile. It then sets about telling you how to do that with plenty of examples (including 6 drafts of a paragraph to show how it develops). Some parts were a little tedious, but you can't really make the discussion around devel Useful This was a very useful collection of topics to help those who want to try their hand at science fiction or fantasy writing. It doesn't pull any punches, it tells it how it is in regard to the amount of work someone will have to put in in order to create something worthwhile. It then sets about telling you how to do that with plenty of examples (including 6 drafts of a paragraph to show how it develops). Some parts were a little tedious, but you can't really make the discussion around developing a socio-economic framework for a society super interesting.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    Lots of handy hints, and good advice, along with a short story by RA Salvatore to top things off. I went through the book over the past few years, and just finished. I don't have a clear recollection of every part of it, but I've made lots of useful notes as a result of this book, so that counts for something. Lots of handy hints, and good advice, along with a short story by RA Salvatore to top things off. I went through the book over the past few years, and just finished. I don't have a clear recollection of every part of it, but I've made lots of useful notes as a result of this book, so that counts for something.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tristan

    This is a rather light and breezy whizz through the business of writing speculative fiction. It’s to the point, short on detail as well as on bullshit, pleasantly readable, and most reassuringly didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. A good read, but not a reference I’d turn to again and again.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Means

    An interesting read on the skill and follow through on the writing experience. I learned just what my genre/subgenre is with this book and I will be adding it to my library as soon as possible. Philip Athans does draw things out a bit with some wordiness and plenty of examples but all in all, a good book for readers who are seeking to join The Craft.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Baker

    Wow, information overload, but in an awesome way! This is better than Orson Scott Card's book on the same subject. There was more focus and details on the aspects that I wanted to learn more about. More later! Wow, information overload, but in an awesome way! This is better than Orson Scott Card's book on the same subject. There was more focus and details on the aspects that I wanted to learn more about. More later!

  24. 4 out of 5

    James Cooper

    A good guide to writing Fantasy (not so much Science-Fiction). Full of examples that you can riff off when writing your own work. Also, stick around for R A Salvatore’s “Hugo Mann’s Perfect Soul”, it is a well written short story with a great premise.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Andi_banandi

    It had some interesting points, mainly of how much of descriptions to add in, but I feel like I've learned more from other sources about world building. It didn't go into the depth I was hoping for on subjects like magic and cultures. It had some interesting points, mainly of how much of descriptions to add in, but I feel like I've learned more from other sources about world building. It didn't go into the depth I was hoping for on subjects like magic and cultures.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Stan

    An Iinformative b book on writing fantasy an Sci Fi the author provides plenty of examples. The information is sometimes broad and general. He does not go into detail to explain hius examoles. Here it would have been better to tell instead of show.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Day

    The story at the end was good until I read the author's intent and thought process behind it. The rest of the book, and story at the end by itself is good, just that final last page or so just bothered me. The story at the end was good until I read the author's intent and thought process behind it. The rest of the book, and story at the end by itself is good, just that final last page or so just bothered me.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nirupa Umapathy

    Educational. Comprehensive. A good manual for those starting off in this genre. With a classically kindly incisive and encouraging voice. I used this as a great complement to Philip's Course on World Building. Educational. Comprehensive. A good manual for those starting off in this genre. With a classically kindly incisive and encouraging voice. I used this as a great complement to Philip's Course on World Building.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Pål

    Bloody brilliant. Lots of good advice here.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Neuravinci

    I learned A TON from this book on how to write. Recommended for anyone who writes.

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