Orbit Presents: How to Write Your First SFF Novel

Always wanted to write a SFF novel but don’t know where to start? Want to improve your SFF writing skills? Watch Orbit’s one-of-a-kind FREE virtual event series that will take you from inspiration to planning to getting words on the page.

You’ll hear from bestsellers and major award-winners, authors who have been publishing for decades and authors whose debuts were just published (or are forthcoming)—working SFF authors across a variety of SFF subgenres, from space opera to horror to epic fantasy to romantic fantasy.

Register on Crowdcast to view recordings of each session through the links below, or find them on Orbit’s YouTube page.

October 11 at 5 PM ET
Ideas, Ideas Everywhere: How to Choose an Idea for Your Novel
Maybe you have one great idea for a novel… but maybe you have 2, or 4, or a dozen. How do you decide which one to write (first)? Here you’ll hear from several authors about how they evaluate and select ideas: the one they’re most personally passionate about? the one that seems most commercial?
Featuring James S. A. Corey, Fonda Lee, Rowenna Miller, and Devin Madson
Watch the replay below.

October 19 at 3 PM ET
Whose Story Is It?: Points of View
You’ve got an expansive world and a huge cast—so whose story is it? Should you write in first or third person? Stick to one perspective or rotate between several? The authors on this panel will walk you through everything POV.
Featuring Brent Weeks, Eliza Chan, Louisa Morgan, and H. G. Parry

October 23 at 7 PM ET
Plotters, Pantsers, and Plantsers: How to Outline (or Not) Your Novel
Some people plot out every page of their book in advance, while others write “by the seat of their pants.” There’s no right way to plan your book before you start writing! On this panel, you’ll hear from authors who use a variety of planning methods, including plotting, pantsing, and “plantsing” (a mix of the two).
Featuring Hannah Whitten, Vaishnavi Patel, David Dalglish, and Craig DiLouie

October 26 at 2 PM ET
Taking Inspiration from Classic Stories
Classic stories are classic for a reason—there’s something to these timeless tales that resonates with readers, even today. Whether you’re using elements of myth and history as broad influences or retelling a fairy tale beat-by-beat, the authors on this panel will talk you through how familiar stories influence brand-new ones.
Featuring Chelsea Abdullah, Sharon Emmerichs, Emery Robin, and Lucy Holland

October 27 at 6 PM ET
Creating Otherworldly Cultures
Many fantasy and science fiction series feature characters who are not humans from our world—whether they’re aliens, faeries, or simply humans who live in a world created just for the book. On this panel, several authors will discuss the process of building a new culture from scratch, building on real-world inspiration and making fictional cultures both authentically alien and relatable to readers.
Featuring Ann Leckie, Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Essa Hansen, and Davinia Evans

October 30 at 2 PM ET
The Good, the Bad, and the Subverted: Tropes as Writing Tools
Fantasy readers love our tropes—the chosen one, the quest, the wise old mentor, prophecies fulfilled and thwarted. We also love a trope that’s been turned on its head! At the end of the day, tropes are neither good nor bad—they’re tools in your writing toolbox, and these authors will talk about how they deployed tropes in their writing and how you can, too.
Featuring Rachel Gillig, K. S. Villoso, and RJ Barker

November 1 at 1 PM ET
A Method in the Magic: How to Develop Magic Systems
Does magic require painstakingly memorized spells, or candles and herbs? Is it powered by nature, by gods, by the wielder’s own life energy? There are as many kinds of magical systems as there are books that feature magic. In this event, you’ll hear about how these fantasy authors developed magic systems for their books.
Featuring Evan Winter, Andrea Stewart, M. A. Carrick, and Gareth Hanrahan

November 2 at 3 PM ET
Setting Your Story: From Real-Life Places to Imaginary Worlds
Whether your story is set in a real-life city, a distant planet, or an imaginary place, setting can be critical. You’ll need to know how your characters get around, how long it takes to get from place to place, and what they’ll see along the way. Authors whose stories are set in a variety of places—from early 20th century Paris to a confined spaceship—will speak on this panel.
Featuring Alastair Reynolds, Constance Sayers, Alex Jennings, and Django Wexler

November 7 at 1 PM ET
Love Triangles and Other Shapes
Romance can be a huge part of a novel, regardless of the genre. Whether you’re writing about an angsty love triangle or a happily-married couple, your characters’ relationships will have profound effects on their story. The authors on this panel will discuss some of the permutations romantic relationships might take, and how they affect characterization and plot.
Featuring Lyra Selene, C. L. Clark, Josiah Bancroft, and Melissa Caruso

November 8 at 5 PM ET
Building Your Crew/Team/Band/Fellowship
The farm boy, the wise wizard, and the battle-hardened warrior. Or, the single-minded captain, the wise-cracking pilot, and the flighty mechanic. Science fiction and fantasy are full of stories that revolve around a group of characters working together, whether they’re on a quest for a magical object or journeying through space. How do you build your team of characters? This panel will give you some answers.
Featuring Alex White, Leslye Penelope, Justin Lee Anderson, and Tara Sim

November 9 at 3 PM ET
Creating Compelling Heroes and Villains
How do you create a hero readers will root for, and a villain they’ll condemn (and sometimes also root for)? Authors known for their vivid, irresistible characters will talk about how they went from vague ideas to fully-fleshed people within their stories.
Featuring Tasha Suri, Django Wexler, Thomas D. Lee, and Bethany Jacobs

November 13 at 6 PM ET
Writing While Working or Caretaking
Let’s face it—few people are lucky enough to be able to write full-time when they’re starting out. Whether you work a full-time job or have caretaking duties, writing often has to fit in around other obligations. On this panel, authors will share tips and tricks—and trials and tribulations—around making time for writing.
Featuring P. Djèlí Clark, Megan Bannen, Richard Swan, and Jackson Ford

November 14 at 2 PM ET
How to Structure a Scene
Scenes may be long or short, but in most cases, a story and its characters have changed in some way by the end of each one. On this panel, authors will discuss how to structure several different kinds of scenes, from fight scenes to sex scenes.
Featuring Heather Fawcett, Georgia Summers, Kimberly Lemming, and Alexander Darwin

November 15 at 7 PM ET
Help! I Need More Words!
You thought your story was done—but now you need more words! How can you add characters or subplots to your novel once you’ve written the last scene? These authors have added significant chunks to their novels during the editing process.
Featuring Nicholas Eames, Aparna Verma, Megan E. O’Keefe, and Erin M. Evans