Friday, January 24, 2014

Working Through WONDERBOOK part 1


If you're thinking of buying this book,
be sure to lift with your knees.
This year is the year I reclaim my fiction career. In addition to committing to writing 500 thousand words in a year’s time, I’m making a conscious effort to broaden and expand my scope. Since I no longer live in an area of Texas that allows me access to regular workshops, writer’s groups, and a literary “scene,” I’m going to create my own. This is my first step in that direction.

Wonderbook, the Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, is written by Jeff Vandermeer and profusely illustrated by Jeremy Zerfoss. In addition to these guys, there’s a slew of guest writers and artists featured in the book.

My plan is to go through the book at a reasonable pace. I want to read each chapter and then blog my responses or show my work, if I’m asked to do something along those lines. I am hoping that by the end of the project, I’ll have some new tools in my utility belt, and I’m hoping to learn some things, or maybe have a different perspective on writing that I didn’t have before.

You may be asking, “Why this? Why ‘Wonderbook?’” I won’t say that I’m creatively stagnant, per se, but it’s been a while since I’ve workshopped anything, or had a peer review group to keep me honest. I believe in trying to creatively better yourself, especially when it comes to something that requires input and exercise, like writing. I don’t usually like books that tell you how to write, because it messes up my own process, but Jeff’s book is something different in that there’s not a How To component. Instead, it’s more about theory and approaches.  

I’m hoping, then, to have a sort of ongoing conversation with Jeff’s process, because he and I approach writing from very different places. Maybe after it’s all over, I’ll find what Jeff uses won’t, in fact, work for me. That’s okay. Learning about that process may lead me to other insights that neither he, through his book, nor I, through the ongoing conversation, could have possibly predicted. Okay, let’s get this party started.

General Impressions and Introduction

I’m actually proofreading two books right now, and I’m nearing the end, but I really want to jump on this, so I read the introduction and did a cursory inspection of the book itself.

First of all, this is a dense, heavy tome of a book. It’s a doorstop, it really is. That’s good value for a couple of reasons. The full-color interior pages are printed on a nice heavy glossy stock that will stand up to abuse and spine-cracking. And you’re going to want to crack the spine to see all of the amazing artwork contained therein. It’s a gorgeous book, and it’s very inviting.

The introduction is little more than an explanation about what is to come, and an explanation about the picture codes that will be used in the book. Jeff recommends reading the book straight through (done!) and offers up a little advice about what to expect. The artwork that you’re going to want to spend the most time with is the two page arterial map of the History of Science Fiction. It’s stunning. And if this is what the rest of the book holds, it’s going to be a fun ride.

The pictograms that denote extra information, sidebars, and dissenting opinions are named things like “Mister Odd” and the “Distraction Dragon” and are full of whimsy, a Vandermeer specialty. Despite the light tone, one gets the impression that he is very serious about his subject.

This is a good start, and really makes me want to power through to Chapter One. Perhaps this weekend!


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