In the midst of a third lockdown without sight of any sort of relief on the horizon, things have felt a lot more grim lately. I didn’t think that I’d be missing parties and my bookselling job all that much, and yet, here we are, and all I really want is to actually hang out with humans other than the Boy. Don’t get me wrong, the Boy is wonderful, but if variety is the spice of life, then we’re kinda looking forward to at least another two months of blanched cauliflower. No salt.
That said, there have been a few good things while we’ve been in lockdown. This past Tuesday, I gave a webinar for Jericho Writers on developing speculative elements for fantasy and science fiction for their Genre Month series of online events. I must admit that my anxiety was well through the roof for at least three days beforehand, but once I actually started presenting, it was an amazing experience that I would love to do again. Anyway, I didn’t get a chance to answer all of the questions that came up during the presentation, so I thought I might as well take the opportunity to share a few more insights here.
Question: How would you differentiate between fantasy, sci-fi, and speculative fiction?
Genre is its own minefield (more on this in a future post!), but in general, the main difference between fantasy and sci-fi is that sci-fi tends to build on the laws of reality as we already know them. In short, sci-fi usually takes what we already know to be true and adds things on top, whereas fantasy tends to change the basics and build entirely new frameworks for understanding the story. Finally, speculative fiction is an umbrella term that contains both sci-fi and fantasy, as well as more subtle forms of reality-defying work, such as magical realism or dystopian fiction without a spec element.
Question: When submitting, how do you describe your book’s genre accurately, especially if it crosses traditional genre lines?
In this case, comp titles are your best friend. If you can find something that mixes stuff up and breaks down the boundaries in a similar way to what you’re working on, then you should lean into that when you’re querying. The other option would be to think really hard about which types of readers are most likely to appreciate your particular style of worldbuilding and storytelling, and pitch it as appealing to that audience.
Question: What tools do you use for writing and worldbuilding?
I’m a great fan of Scrivener for multiple reasons, but if you’re at all scatter-brained like me, it is an absolute godsend for getting your manuscripts into some kind of order, all while being super flexible, so you can still skip around in your process. As for more arty world-building focused stuff, It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that I love maps. I’ve recently discovered Inkarnate for map-making, and it is SO FUN.
Anyway, hopefully it’s just a couple more months of cauliflower before we get to add some more spices back into the mix. Until then, I’m wishing all of you the best February possible under the circumstances.
We got this.