It's not often that I review a non-fiction book on my blog, and even rarer that the book be about the writing craft. But I figured, what good is a list of books about writing without a review of books about writing every now and then. I read The Guide to Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy a few weeks ago, after a compulsive buy of it. I swear, neither the dragon breathing fire nor the buxom girl on the front cover had anything to do with the purchase. I was looking for education. Of a sort.
So, was the book of any use?
Well, I'm yet to apply it directly to anything, but in terms of specifying certain aspects of the craft of writing science fiction and fantasy, it certainly helped. It goes through everything in terms of world building, character building and telling a story using these elements. It helped me pick up on some key features of stories I was planning and expand on them, and pointed out the major flaws with the very first book I ever wrote, in that the fantasy worlds weren't all that great (nevermind the quality of the writing... we'll leave that one sulking in the shadows).
What did you think of the book's style?
The book is many things, and complicated is not one of them. All the details, of which there are many, are given in a friendly manner from a guy who really knows what he's talking about. He's also funny as hell. I literally laughed out loud at some of his examples. This is a rare thing to do when reading a book about writing. Non-fiction is not usually laugh-out-loud funny. His wit and humour certainly help to make the book a more enjoyable read. It's very straightforward, follows a pattern and with that handy contents page at the front, you can locate exactly what you need when you need a refresher - I advise actually reading the whole thing, first.
Who would the book be of benefit to?
Okay, obviously writers. That one goes without saying. It has some stuff that would be helpful to writers as a whole, but this book is mainly specific to the genres in its title. If you plan on writing anything in the genre, you ought to read this book. The insider information is truly remarkable, and while it won't help you with the business of writing - for that, see books such as The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook or Writers' Market. This book covers a whole range of things you need to know, and even if you're focusing on short stories rather than novels, it helps to get some tips. You're not just writing a story, you're making a world. Or changing one, at the very least.
What makes this book different from other books?
Nothing I've read to date has been specific to a genre in fiction. Nothing. All the writing books assume you're doing one thing and one thing only: writing. Many branch off into Drama, Plays, Articles, Novels, etc. You'll find them everywhere. Getting a genre specific book means you can hone your skills. Most general books about writing don't get genre specific. You need to get genre specific, especially if you feel like you could do with a bit of an education.
So, what's next?
Very simply: I keep on reading, and I keep on writing. I'm almost finished another non-fiction book - a travel/biography book. That'll be my next review. And for writers reading this... well, all I'll say is, when you've read this book, you then have only one thing to do: write. There's nothing that will hone your writing skills better than actually writing. Books can teach you things about the genre, sentence structure, grammar, etc, but nothing can teach you your writing voice. You'll find that by writing. That's my advice for the day. Write and write some more, maybe take a break to go to the bathroom, get a drink and, if you really feel like it, take a sleep, then write more. After all that, maybe then you'll have made a dent into your 100K word high fantasy novel set in a realm where the world is made of sandpaper.*
Good luck and happy reading!
*If anyone ever writes a book where the world is made of sandpaper, I will read it. Definitely. Without a doubt. When I get time. If I'm not dead.