Wonderbook Reflections (thus far)

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I’ve been thinking more about craft in the last two weeks than I probably ever have, on a variety of levels. I’ve both been investigating the intersections of creative writing and ethnography (anthropological writing) and powering through Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer, an amazing tome on writing SFF.

It lives up to its name. Full of interviews, guest essays, art, and diagrams, it’s a fascinating and exceedingly useful read on the organism called a story. It’s also making me realize that even though I’ve been reading fairly nonstop since I acquired the ability, I have a long way to go! My to-read list grows with every piece of writing Vandermeer dissects. I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Wonderbook comes with built-in writing exercises that prompt you to interrogate things like structure, tone, characterization, etc. It’s a blast. My primary viewpoint while reading  has been my goblin novel (henceforth referred to as “Wynn”), of which I have a first draft and am wrestling with the actualization of a second. In a way, Wonderbook came to me at just the right time, because I’ve been facing some conundrums concerning just those things Vandermeer deciphers (characterization, pacing, structure, penguins with guns, etc.).

Some of the most interesting thoughts Wonderbook has provoked for me are matters of time and urgency:  when to cut things, when to introduce elements of conflict. Vandermeer suggests experimenting with opening and ending a story closer and closer to critical points: how close to the climax can you end your story? How close to the inciting incident can you start it? What happens when you move things up in a story that you had planned to happen down the road? These are some of the thoughts I’m taking with me into the second draft of Wynn.

Writing and writing and writing

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^^^ Was given a Star Trek mug at the cafe this morning…an extremely good sign.

I totally thought this post would be a week late, but it turns out that’s just because I was so relaxed and productive the last two weeks it felt like longer! I spent my vacation hanging with family, reading seven books, and, oh yeah, WRITING LIKE THE WIND.

I wrote four drafts of my queer minotaur retelling feat. Theseus’ lesbian sister Aristomache back to back. As in, I finished one, opened another document, and started to tell it again. I’ve never had a story seize me like that, like “no rest til perfection” intense, like Aristomache herself would leap from the screen and beat me over the head if I didn’t get it right. After a week and a half of non-stop drafts, I finally arrived at something close to the best version. My initial issue had been a question of tone: to go formal or casual. I wrote both of them, then wrote another combining their best points. Then I sent it to people to read and haven’t so much as glanced at it.

Then, though my soul called for me to write yet another draft, I cut myself off and started worldbuilding for the first scifi story I’ve ever written. I can still hardly believe it’s happening–it’s SO much fun. Something clicked for me when I read the Binti series by Nnedi Okorafor a few months ago, and this world has been percolating ever since. It takes place in the year 2639, includes a way cool gender system, satellite nations orbiting the earth, and a lot of fun wordplay. It takes place in Venice, which obviously means I must go to Venice for research, right? Right.

To all the writers out there, I wish you an equal surge of productivity and inspiration!

(Also, I’ve made an instagram @evgiaconia if you’d like to see a billion pictures of my computer and tea.)