Science fiction is one of the most popular and best selling genres. We all know the classics of this form: Space Odyssey, Foundation, Star Wars, Star Trek, The Expanse. The leading authors such as Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke are amongst the most respected writers. But is it hard to write sci fi?

Writing science fiction is not harder than writing other genres. If you master the basics of story telling, then you will find the sci fi genre as accessible as any other. Every novel will require specialised knowledge, and sci fi rewards a knowledge of scientific concepts!

If you are a scientist this genre might be perfect for you. If you know a scientist who can help you with the technical details then that can be a huge help while you are working out the rules of your interdimensional travel or alien life forms.

How Much Does a Sci Fi Author Make?

Science fiction authors earn approximately a dollar a book which is published traditionally. Authors who self publish are paid more per book because they keep all of the profit, but it is difficult to find readers to buy books through a non traditional model.

The received wisdom is that very few science fiction writers really make a living from selling fiction. Of course at the big end of town the money is huge. Look at this list of best selling novels, and search for ‘science.’

How Long Does it Take to Write a Science Fiction Novel?

Writing a science fiction novel can take longer than writing a novel based on your own experiences, as you may have to learn about scientific concepts. This problem also arises in historical fiction – unless you already know the subject area you may have to research!

As a general guide, you should try writing a single chapter of your novel. The average novel is about 70,000 words long. If you write a 7000 word chapter, you should be able to work out that it will take approximately ten times as long to write the entire novel.

Remember that much of the research will need to be conducted before pen is ever put to paper. And also remember the classic writers’ technique of writing the final page before you start writing anything at all!

Do You Need to Know Science to Write Science Fiction?

You do not need to know science to write science fiction. However, if you want to write sci fi that features innovative science then having some scientific knowledge will help. You don’t need to know any science before you begin writing, because you can research as you write.

There are many online forums that will be thrilled to give you advice on the science in your story. If you have a friend who is a scientist or an engineer, then don’t hesitate to reach out to them for advice. They will likely be happy to be involved and remember you can thank them at the front of the work.

Science fiction is ultimately about the human experience, rather than the science itself. So if you write a compelling human story, you can simply borrow common scientific elements that are accepted in the genre, like the generation ship, to tell a deeply human story.

How Long is the Average Science Fiction Book?

Fiction books including science fiction have an average length of between 50,000 and 150,000 words. Readers and publishers expect novels to be at least 70,000 words in length. Anything shorter is seen as moving towards the novella, and anything longer must justify its length.

How Long Should a Science Fiction Chapter Be?

The average science fiction chapter is between 1500 and 5000 words. It can have as many scenes as you like.

Chapters help to shape your narrative, and also give the reader a sense of achievement as they progress through your novel.

Try to write chapters that are a ‘satisfying’ length.

Often chapters are used to group together events that are related, such as events occurring on a particular world, or character who are dealing with a particular problem.

Chapters can be used to organise the progression of narrative tension.

Tension may rise and rise until the end of a chapter, and then you can ease off, allowing your reader to breath, as you reduce the tension again at the start of the next chapter.


Oliver Adams

Letter Review was founded by Oliver Adams, who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, casual academic, and guest lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Oliver Adams has had short stories published in leading literary journals such as Overland, Southerly, Seizure, and TEXT. He has had novels long listed for major awards such as the KYDUMA, has received government funding to produce plays from Create NSW and screenplays from Screen NSW, and has performed / produced professional work at major theatrical venues such as the Sydney Opera House.