Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Book Review - Wonderbook – The Illustrated Guide to creating Imaginative Fiction #amwriting

I like to read books on how to write, like many writers, no matter how much I write, I always figure there’s something else I can learn from others.  More importantly, like most writers, I always believe that whatever I’m writing isn’t imaginative and any time now, the teachers are going to come along and tell me to pack it in and start doing something that’s going to earn a real living…


The other thing is that a lot of the books that I’ve read have very similar advice in them, so much so that sometimes I gloss over the words as I’m going over them, and I know that that’s a great sin when it comes to reading, but if I’ve read the same thing a hundred times before, telling me one more time won’t make it sink in any more than it already has…


So when a book comes along with the legend that it’s a guide for creating imaginative fiction, so not just fiction, but imaginative fiction, well, get a lighter and call me petrol…

A word on the various books that I’ve read before I come to the book itself, I have a rule when it comes to books about writing, they have to be written by someone who’s actually written something other than the book about writing.  In todays age of self published books and everyone who ever thought they were any good giving advice about everything that their family ever told them they were good at, I tend to veer towards those with a proven track record rather than those who believe that because they have Internets, they must automatically be an authority on whatever they write about…


The author of this particular book is Jeff Vandemeer, three times winner of the World Fantasy Award and a variety of other things that I could spend some time on explaining, but suffice it to say that he’s done enough to be taken seriously, which was the first reason for buying the book.

The second was the front cover…

Shallow?

Maybe, but that’s what we start with, and you never get a second chance at a first impression, so the cover is something that’s got to get your attention.



It got mine…

When the blurb on the book says that it’s illustrated, it’s really not kidding, there’s artwork on every second page at the bare minimum, and it’s not the usual sort of thing where it’s an image immediately recognisable as being something that you can associate with the topic at hand, but instead something that takes the concept of what’s being talked about and expresses it in a way that compliments the subject being talked about.

As an Example, the lifecycle of a story…


And so it is with most of the book, there’s a colossal amount of artwork in here, articles from a number of very well known writers, and a whole bunch of exercises in writing as well as explanations of different styles and finding the narrative voice that you write with, rather than trying to force you into copying the style of those you read.

Now here’s the point where it gets interesting, if you read it as an occasional dip in to get inspiration or find a way to get around what you’re stuck with at the moment, it will fail.  This book is designed to be read and read properly, in the way that many writers don’t do because they’re too busy trying to write. 


So if you don’t read, don’t pick this book up in the first place, it’ll give you a few ideas, but the meat of the subject matter will be lost, particularly when you get to the last section that gives you things to do that require that you’ve actually read the entire book before it…


If, however, you do read, the book is divided up into a number of sections, each of them geared towards a particular aspect of writing.  I’m not going to list them, because there are some out there who’d do exactly what I do in these matters and go “Ah, but I’ve got a book that talks about them already, so I don’t need this book.”, and to do that would be to forgo the pleasure of this particular book, and that is the colourful way in which it presents the issues and answers the questions.

Colourful?


Yes, because the key here is that most writers see things in words.  If you put a wall of text in front of us, we’ll eat it for breakfast, never once wondering about the words that we’ve eaten and not giving further thought beyond the meanings of the individual words. However, give us something that presents words as something other than a thing to be read and it engages the rest of our non-text head, which in turns engages the creative wheels that a lot of us don’t use because we see everything as words.  That’s what I got out of this book, more than anything else.

Someone else’s perspective…

I’ve read On Writing by Stephen King, I’ve read How to write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card, both books that were excellent in their advice and told in a no nonsense manner that gave me the building blocks on how to get writing in the first instance when I’d previously had no discipline, but this book gave me the impetus to reach beyond my normal inspiration and look to things that previously I’d had no interest in.  To see beyond my normal perspectives and consider why I write the way I write, not just how I write, has been a very interesting exercise and one that I have every intention of continuing with…


The only proviso about this book is that it’s easy to get lost in, and while that may not seem to be a bad thing, remember that it’s a book for writers, and while it’s good to read…


It’s better to write…

No comments:

Post a Comment