Sunday, May 29, 2016

Wonderbook (Jeff Vandermeer)

Jeff Vandermeer
Abrams Image
Nonfiction, Writing
****+ (Good/Great)

DESCRIPTION: Writing, particularly speculative fiction writing, is an inherently creative and exploratory venture. So why are so many books about fiction writing full of cookie-cutter ideas? In this, "the world's first fully illustrated creative writing book," author Jeff Vandermeer offers writing guidance, advice, and exercises augmented with numerous illustrations. Also included are essays and remarks from a broad spectrum of notable authors.

REVIEW: This is one of the most unique books on writing I've ever come across. It leans toward the fantastic, pushing into surreal territory (particularly with the pictures), though the advice and exercises can be applied to most creative writing ventures. It also allows a broad variety of working styles and methods, rather than a strict formula that some writing books prefer (likely because it's easier to teach a single point-by-point method.) The numerous pictures, essays, and side-notes sometimes add color and texture, but can intrude on the flow of ideas, becoming more of a distraction than a help. While the core information can be found elsewhere, Vandermeer presents it in an interesting way, with visual aids and metaphors, while attempting to quantify some of the more esoteric and difficult to define aspects of successful (and unsuccessful) fiction. Several exercises throughout the book, plus more games and exercises in the lengthy appendix, reinforce the ideas presented. More material is supposed to be available online, though I haven't explored that aspect yet; I still need time to digest what was just in the written book. While occasionally jumbled and overwhelming, almost demanding a second (or third or more) read to integrate and absorb, Wonderbook never lacks in imagination or inspiration. I expect to be returning to this one quite often as I wrestle with my own monstrous fictional creations.

You Might Also Enjoy:
The Art of War for Writers (James Scott Bell) - My Review
Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror (Laurie Lamson, editor) - My Review
The Fire in Fiction (Donald Maass) - My Review

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