Neal Stephenson’s bestselling novels about science and technology have provoked readers for a generation. From Snow Crash to Seveneves, his fictional worlds pose fascinating thought experiments, such as: What would happen next… if California seceded from the United States? If nanotech and virtual reality became as “normal” as the Internet? If humanity suddenly had two years to save itself from Earth-melting asteroids?
We asked the creatively prolific Stephenson for his writing advice. Read it below.
“I have a pretty simple piece of advice to writers of science fiction or any other kind of literature, which is to just keep writing.”
“Sometimes people are led to believe that writing is a kind of fine art, where some mysterious inspiration strikes and magic happens. I think it’s more like cabinet making or soccer playing, where if you do it a whole lot you get good at it, and if you stop doing it you either stop getting good at it or you actually lose ability.”
“A classic mistake that I see people making is that they’ll put a lot of effort into writing their first book — and then they’ll stop and spend two years trying to sell their book, or trying to improve their book by tiny little increments, or both. And the whole time that they’re doing that, they’re wasting time that they could be spending writing their second book. What they should do is write their second book, and when they finish their second book, write their third book. One does actually get better, and I think the improvement is noticeable. Eventually, it pays off.”
“Don’t fall prey to the belief that it’s magic. It’s just a craft.”
Interested in improving your own fiction writing? Watch the TED-Ed Animated Lesson: How to build a fictional world.