Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop:
Writing Resources

Go back to McKitterick's Spec-Fic Workshop page, or Johnson's SF&F Novel Writing Workshop.

Here are the various and sundry resources McKitterick shares in his workshop sessions during his short talks, plus some more. Some are web pages (converting as I go along!), others are .doc files, and a few are .rtf or .pdf, and some link to other sites. Much more to come over time - stay tuned! Let me know if you'd like to see something I shared in one of our sessions, and I'll make sure to add it here ( cmckit.SF@gmail.com ). These are for educational use only; please don't share things that are attributed to others unless you use proper citation.

Most sections also have a couple links to relevant tags on McKitterick's Tumblr writing-tips blog - lots of great reblogged content, a bunch of commentary on those, plus some original posts. Lots more at the bottom of the page.

First up, here's how you need to format your manuscripts so editors will take you seriously (and so we don't get bogged down with minutiae):

Manuscript Preparation (pdf), by Vonda McIntyre.

Proper Manuscript Formatting, by William Shunn.

Lots more resources (including market lists and related tools) linked from the my Web Resources page.

Advice, Rules, and Tips

7 Tips for Writers, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

60 Rules for Short SF (and Fantasy), by Terry Bisson.

"Gunnisms" - James Gunn's rules for writing.

Heinlein's rules for becoming a professional writer (and some discussion). A deconstruction of said rules by Charlie Jane Anders of io9. And Patricia C. Wrede's excellent discussion of Rule #3.

How to Write, by David Ogilvy.

"Master the Rules (then break as needed)" - from my Patreon (free to read, thanks to generous patrons). Part of an ongoing, multi-part "Writing Workshop" series.

Neil Gaiman's Advice to Writers.

Pixar's 22 Rules for Phenomenal Storytelling.

Vonnegut's Rules for Writers.

William Gibson on "The Art of Fiction," an in-depth interview from the Paris Review.

  My Writing Rules, Quotes, and Writing Tips tags on Tumblr.

Plot and Narrative Structure

Algis Budrys' Seven-Point Plot (doc) - from Writing to the Point.

"Four Undramatic Plot Structures" (jpg) - by Tom Gauld.

Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey - only one version of the mythical hero story structure, but an interesting analysis tool.

Kishōtenketsu - an alternative, conflict-free plot structure common in China, Japan, and Korea. Two great articles on the subject: "The significance of plot without conflict," and "Kishōtenketsu for Beginners: An Introduction to Four Act Story Structure."

"Plot & story structure, Part 1: Classic architecture" - from my Patreon (free to read, thanks to generous patrons), several-part series goes into greater depth on the subject. Part of an ongoing, multi-part "Writing Workshop Handbook" series.

"Plot & story structure, Part 0: WTF is plot, and who needs it?"- the second (yet zeroth) entry in my multi-part "Patreon Writing Workshop Handbook" series.

Plots and Story Structure - overview of lots of types, structures, and shapes here.

Vonnegut Explains Drama. - in his inimitable way

  My Story Structure, Suspense, and Plot tags on Tumblr.

Point of View

"Point of View," by Rob Sawyer

  My Filtering (aka using character POV as awkward exposition), POV, and Point of View tags on Tumblr.

Character and POV

"Creating Characters," by Kij Johnson.

"25 Reasons I Hate Your Main Character," by Chuck Wendig.

"25 Things A Great Character Needs," also by Chuck Wendig.

"The Nine Archetypal Heroines," by Tom Gauld.

Show, Don't Tell - creating characters, by Chris McKitterick.

"We're losing all our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome," by Tasha Robinson. Rules for writing good female characters.

"Writing Women Characters," by Chris McKitterick. Women have long been neglected or mistreated in speculative fiction... and, to be fair, all our cultural artifacts. Here are a some tips on how you can be part of the solution instead of the problem.

  My Character, Characters, Character Development, Point of View, Villains, and Antagonists tags on Tumblr.

Workshopping and Critiquing

Critiques and discussions: How to get the most out of the Workshop, by Chris McKitterick (.doc version, if you prefer). Here's another in-depth critiquing page I created for my KU writing students, which goes into greater detail - perfect if you've never done workshopping before.

Critiques of Ideas and Where to Start, by James Gunn and Chris McKitterick.

How to Give and Get Good Critique, by Randy Henderson.

How to Be a Good Critiquer and Still Remain Friends, by James Gunn.

The Writing Workshop Glossary - by Amy Klein.

  My Critiques tags on Tumblr.

Openings and Endings

"Crafting Science Fiction Openings," by James Gunn.

Examples of Great Openings (especially for hooking and immersing the reader).

"The MICE Quotient," based on the concept by Orson Scott Card.

"Openings and Hooks" - by Young Gunn (Workshop alum) Kathy Kitts.

  My Openings and Endings tags on Tumblr.

Dialogue

Dialogue, by Kij Johnson.

  My Dialogue tag on Tumblr.

Ideas

Don't Write What You Know: Authors Explain Why to Discard the Old Adage.

"How Do People Get New Ideas?" by Isaac Asimov.

Me and Alfie, Part 3: Ideas and The Demolished Man - from Frederik Pohl's wonderful "The Way the Future Blogs" site.

  My Ideas tag on Tumblr.

Writing Better Sentences

The Science Fiction Sentence - overview, examples, Delaney, i09.

Self-Editing for Writers - series of articles by author and editor Bridget McKenna - useful stuff!

"'Turned' and 'Began': 2 Stammer Verbs to Avoid in Your Fiction," by Jessi Rita Hoffman.

  My Language and Punctuation tags on Tumblr.

Setting, Scene, and Senses

"Scene - the Smallest Dramatic Unit," by James Gunn.

Senses - a pretty complete list, by Kij Johnson and Chris McKitterick.

"Sequels," on the sequel-scene, by Jim Butcher.

Van Vogt on the Scene.

"Writing the Perfect Scene," by Randy Ingermanson.

  My Senses, Setting, World-Building, and Worldbuilding tags on Tumblr.

Show Vs. Tell and Exposition

Don't Write What You Know.

Exposition, from a Workshop talk by Barbara Webb.

Showing vs. Telling, by James Gunn, short and to the point.

Story-development talk - from Alpha Writer's Workshop (high-level notes), by Chris McKitterick.

Thought Verbs, by Chuck Palahniuk: A brilliant analysis of "show, don't tell" with lots of great examples of both.

  My Exposition, Filtering (aka using character POV as awkward exposition), and Show Don't Tell tags on Tumblr.

Writing Process and Professionalization

"Copyright and Writing Contracts: An Introduction" - from my Patreon (free to read, thanks to generous patrons). Part of an ongoing, multi-part "Writing Workshop Handbook" series.

Find The Thing You're Most Passionate About, Then Do It On Nights And Weekends For The Rest Of Your Life: The Onion's brilliant exposition about how not to become a successful [insert your passion here].

"Getting started writing" - another entry in my ongoing "Writing Workshop Handbook" (free) Patreon series.

The Heinlein Maneuver - Theodore Sturgeon wrote to Robert Heinlein, bemoaning his writer's block. Heinlein responded with this fabulous letter, in which he offered his colleague tons of great ideas. If you ever get stuck, find some inspiration here!

How to be a writer editors want to work with, by Camille Gooderham Campbell.

"'Once Upon a Time...' a story-structure-prompt writing exercise" - another entry in my ongoing "Writing Workshop Handbook" (free) Patreon series.

"Shitty First Drafts," by Anne Lamott.

"Rethinking the Shitty First Draft," by George Dila.

Think About Your Story exercise - 14 questions to ask that will help you focus your story. By the Clarion Foundation.

Thoughts on Book Tours, by John Scalzi.

"Work-school-writing life balance" - another entry in my ongoing "Writing Workshop Handbook" (free) Patreon series.

Writing time - who has it? and Writing Experiment: Day One Report, wherein yours truly seeks a way to actually get writing done while working too damn much. You can, too: There's no magic to getting more words on the page; it just takes time and discipline. If you have almost no time, and writing is important to you, you need to make time! Just 30 minutes/day, every day, will yield a story in short order, or a novel in a year. By Chris McKitterick.

Write a cover letter that sells your book - by Victoria Strauss.

  My Professionalization and Writing Process tags on Tumblr.

About Science Fiction

Defining "Science Fiction," by Chris McKitterick.

The History of Science Fiction Infographic, by Ward Shelly 

More Writing References

Story lengths - important when publishers only accept one type! Also relevant for awards. By Chris McKitterick.

Writing tips - McKitterick's Tumblr collection, full of great articles, commentaries, infographics, and so forth for writers. I add new items (mostly reblogs of great stuff) here almost every day, so check back every so often for additions. Some of these are just gifsets people put together just for fun but which offer useful insights, examples, and advice, while others are massive collections of hardcore writer-reference materials. Most are just filed under the general tag, but I often add specific tags, too; if you want to go straight to a specific topic, check out these sub-collections. These are a few tags I use most often, in addition to the general writing tips tag:

Don't miss the variety of super-useful material for writers you can find linked from my Web Resources page. For example, here's the recently updated short-fiction market list, though many more SFWA-recognized markets continually appear. Let me know if I'm missing something!

Particularly note Submission Grinder, a fantastically useful (and free) resource for writers looking for markets: "The Grinder is a submission tracker and market database for writers of fiction (non-fiction and poetry coming soon!). Use our extensive and powerful search engine to find a home for your work. With new features being added periodically we hope to provide a permanent and stable home for your submission tracking."

Here's another useful source of information on markets, including response times.


On a related note, here's a page listing local museums, theaters, and such.

Writers need to stay tuned to what's happening in their field; SF writers should be familiar with "A Basic Science Fiction Library," the ever-growing, go-to list of important and influential science fiction novels that began in 1988 as James Gunn's list of 100 books every SF library needs, and which Chris McKitterick has continued to expand over the decades since.

Stay tuned - TONS more coming as I continue to write up my workshop-talks notes in readable format!

I believe strongly in the free sharing of information about science fiction, so you'll find a lot of content - including course syllabi and many other materials from my classes - on this site as educational outreach. Feel free to use this content for independent study or adapt them for your own educational and nonprofit purposes; just please credit us and link back to this website. I'd also love to hear from you if you used my materials!

This website and its contents are copyright Chris McKitterick except where noted, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. (Feel free to use and adapt for nonprofit purposes, with attribution.)

Creative Commons License
Works on this site are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Updated 11/3/2021

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