Aurum, out now
The illustrated guide to creating imaginative fiction…
The subtitle for the book – quoted above – sums it up, perhaps missing out a few of the superlatives which are required to explain just how good this book is. It seems a little daunting on first opening, but the stunning designs draw you in, and by the time you reach pages xvi and xvii of the introduction, where you meet the characters who will help to guide you through the book, you’re going to be hooked.
The author suggests that this is a book to read through from start to finish “for the most immersive experience”, and certainly that’s something that you’re going to want to do, but once that’s done, you’ll need to come back and wallow in the various pieces along the way. Rather than dry text, VanderMeer has provided a plethora of illustrations to explain the points he’s making – the lifecycle of a story on pages 70 and 71, for example, uses pictures that would be more commonly found in a biology textbook to show the many routes that a story takes. This spread also demonstrates the humour that permeates the book, which is used to good effect.
VanderMeer always remembers that everyone has to start somewhere, and there’s never a sense of some grand god imparting knowledge to lowly worshippers, more a desire to pass the torch and keep the flame burning. There are multiple sidebars, contributed by many well-known names from veterans such as George R.R. Martin and Neil Gaiman to the more recent Lauren Beukes and Joe Abercrombie, who show that every writer faces decisions and problems along the way – despite what some may think, writing for a living isn’t a sinecure!
Even though I switched from writing fiction to non-fiction nearly twenty years ago, the lessons and advice in here (and the words of caution) still chime, and prospective writers would do well to read this – even if they don’t heed all the advice, they’re going to come away with a much better understanding of the process.
Verdict: Whether you’re a novice writer wanting to get that story out of your head onto paper, or a seasoned author, you’re going to find much to consider in this. Highly recommended. 10/10