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Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction

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This all-new definitive guide to writing imaginative fiction takes a completely novel approach and fully exploits the visual nature of fantasy through original drawings, maps, renderings, and exercises to create a spectacularly beautiful and inspiring object. Employing an accessible, example-rich approach, Wonderbook energizes and motivates while also providing practical, This all-new definitive guide to writing imaginative fiction takes a completely novel approach and fully exploits the visual nature of fantasy through original drawings, maps, renderings, and exercises to create a spectacularly beautiful and inspiring object. Employing an accessible, example-rich approach, Wonderbook energizes and motivates while also providing practical, nuts-and-bolts information needed to improve as a writer. Aimed at aspiring and intermediate-level writers, Wonderbook includes helpful sidebars and essays from some of the biggest names in fantasy today, such as George R. R. Martin, Lev Grossman, Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, Catherynne M. Valente, and Karen Joy Fowler, to name a few. Praise for Wonderbook: “Jammed with storytelling wisdom.” —Fast Company’s Co.Create blog “This is the kind of book you leave sitting out for all to see . . . and the kind of book you will find yourself picking up again and again.” —Kirkus Reviews online “If you’re looking for a handy guide to not just crafting imaginative fiction like sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, but to writing in general, be sure to pick up a copy of Steampunk Bible author Jeff Vandermeer’s lovingly compiled Wonderbook."  —Flavorwire “Jeff Vandermeer and Jeremy Zerfoss have created a kaleidoscopically rich and beautiful book about fiction writing.”  —Star Tribune “Because it is so layered and filled with text, tips, and links to online extras, this book can be read again and again by both those who want to learn the craft of writing and those interested in the process of others.” —Library Journal


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This all-new definitive guide to writing imaginative fiction takes a completely novel approach and fully exploits the visual nature of fantasy through original drawings, maps, renderings, and exercises to create a spectacularly beautiful and inspiring object. Employing an accessible, example-rich approach, Wonderbook energizes and motivates while also providing practical, This all-new definitive guide to writing imaginative fiction takes a completely novel approach and fully exploits the visual nature of fantasy through original drawings, maps, renderings, and exercises to create a spectacularly beautiful and inspiring object. Employing an accessible, example-rich approach, Wonderbook energizes and motivates while also providing practical, nuts-and-bolts information needed to improve as a writer. Aimed at aspiring and intermediate-level writers, Wonderbook includes helpful sidebars and essays from some of the biggest names in fantasy today, such as George R. R. Martin, Lev Grossman, Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, Catherynne M. Valente, and Karen Joy Fowler, to name a few. Praise for Wonderbook: “Jammed with storytelling wisdom.” —Fast Company’s Co.Create blog “This is the kind of book you leave sitting out for all to see . . . and the kind of book you will find yourself picking up again and again.” —Kirkus Reviews online “If you’re looking for a handy guide to not just crafting imaginative fiction like sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, but to writing in general, be sure to pick up a copy of Steampunk Bible author Jeff Vandermeer’s lovingly compiled Wonderbook."  —Flavorwire “Jeff Vandermeer and Jeremy Zerfoss have created a kaleidoscopically rich and beautiful book about fiction writing.”  —Star Tribune “Because it is so layered and filled with text, tips, and links to online extras, this book can be read again and again by both those who want to learn the craft of writing and those interested in the process of others.” —Library Journal

30 review for Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    Writing is something I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember. I’m sure every bookworm in the world has considered it at some point. I won’t dwell on why it hasn’t happened yet; there are plenty of reasons, both good and bad. What matters is that I have decided that procrastinating on such a long-held dream has gone on long enough, and that I need to give myself the tools to turn the ideas I have been accumulating for ages into the book (or books!) I always wanted them to be. Enter Jeff Writing is something I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember. I’m sure every bookworm in the world has considered it at some point. I won’t dwell on why it hasn’t happened yet; there are plenty of reasons, both good and bad. What matters is that I have decided that procrastinating on such a long-held dream has gone on long enough, and that I need to give myself the tools to turn the ideas I have been accumulating for ages into the book (or books!) I always wanted them to be. Enter Jeff VanderMeer’s “Wonderbook”. I’m not even sure where I first heard about it, but I bought It immediately. This illustrated guide to writing creative fiction called to me for many reasons, among which: 1) I love Jeff VanderMeer's work. While “Shriek” is my favorite book of his (so far!), “City of Saints and Madmen” is the sort of work that truly pushes the envelope of fiction, and a book that inspired me tremendously. When a writer that inspires you wants to share his writing tips, paying attention is the logical thing to do. 2) The book targets people who are interested in writing speculative fiction, which is what I have always been interested in writing. Sci-fi and weird fiction works are the ones that always end up exciting and inspiring me the most, because they often tackle topics and ideas I am particularly interested in, and because there are no real restrictions with those genres: they can be political, personal, serious, silly, anything they want! But there is a knack to doing that well, and my structure-loving mind wanted a good understanding of the process. 3) It's gorgeous, in a really bizarro way (though editors take note: spiral bound would have been so freaking convenient with a book like this). VanderMeer takes the process of writing, from stimulating the imagination all the way to writing a good conclusion, by way of exploring the necessary elements of a good story, such as world-building and character development - but also revising, re-writing and many different ways to sharpen one's writing skills. This is really a nose-to-tail creative writing manual. The artwork scattered through the book is very noteworthy: the map of the history of science fiction is such a fascinating drawing, and I could spend hours just looking at it, following the strands. But his other unique diagrams (such as the one about the life-cycle of a story) are wonderful: sure, he could have just used PowerPoint shapes and arrows, but what fun would that have been? Because the creative process should be fun, and if the book that helps you through that is boring, how does that make any sense? Most books about writing will tell you about the importance of discipline, of making writing a habit (just like working out or meditating), and those are certainly important. But so is keeping the inspirational compost pile well fed, to write mainly to please yourself, while remembering not to do things that could annoy a reader. A lot of it seems like common sense to a voracious reader, but I can see how once one is in the process of writing, a few of these things could easily be forgotten... at the would-be writer's detriment! A wonderful guide for anyone interested in writing! Very recommended!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Leonard Gaya

    “Wonderbook”, at first glance, looks like a nice coffee table volume about fantasy and science-fiction, heavily illustrated with weird and nightmarish pictures. It is in fact a rather thorough handbook on creative writing, essentially aimed at would-be fantasy or SF writers. Jeff Vandermeer, who is an award-winning novelist in these genres and a creative writing teacher, covers quite a few topics, such as: inspiration, descriptions, dialogues, voice, POV, plot and structure, beginnings, middles “Wonderbook”, at first glance, looks like a nice coffee table volume about fantasy and science-fiction, heavily illustrated with weird and nightmarish pictures. It is in fact a rather thorough handbook on creative writing, essentially aimed at would-be fantasy or SF writers. Jeff Vandermeer, who is an award-winning novelist in these genres and a creative writing teacher, covers quite a few topics, such as: inspiration, descriptions, dialogues, voice, POV, plot and structure, beginnings, middles and endings, characterization, world-building, revisions, etc. Apart from being a rather graphic work in nature and layout, this book also includes a lot of illustrations and diagrams. I like the pictures representing stories as diversely formed fishes or dinosaurs. An image I like in particular is the blobby "History of Science Fiction" (for those of you who like this genre, try to find you favorite books or authors in there!). There are also quite a few essays by guest writers (some are GR authors on here) such as Lev Grossman, Karen Lord, David Anthony Durham, but also Joe Abercrombie, Ursula K. Le Guin, and last but not least, George R.R. Martin who gives a lengthy interview on his writing process at the end of the volume. I have been sipping the chapters of this book for the last few months. In fact, it is a rather hard one to read from cover to cover in one go, not only because of the sheer volume of it, but mainly because the many illustrations, essays, workshops and exercises are very interrupt-driven (there is also a companion website). In the end, I found it to be a very entertaining book to read or flip through; not so much actionnable, though, when it comes to working on a specific project. To conclude, here is a short video presentation.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jessie Verino

    Amazing! Yes, there are some nuts & bolts writing how-tos such as POV, sentence structure, hooks, etc. However, where this book shines is in its presentation. The artwork is simply stunning. See, it's not so much a writing reference book as it is an experience. It's goal is to not only spark the imagination, but to keep the flames smoldering and burning. The essays on creative process by the various contributors are entertaining as well as informative. I haven't checked out the companion Amazing! Yes, there are some nuts & bolts writing how-tos such as POV, sentence structure, hooks, etc. However, where this book shines is in its presentation. The artwork is simply stunning. See, it's not so much a writing reference book as it is an experience. It's goal is to not only spark the imagination, but to keep the flames smoldering and burning. The essays on creative process by the various contributors are entertaining as well as informative. I haven't checked out the companion website yet, but based on the book's content, I have high expectations.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lucy Banks

    A wonderful, imaginative exploration of creative writing! After hearing many recommendations of this book, I recently caved in and treated myself (it didn't take much persuasion). The rave reviews proved to be very well deserved. The book is loosely organised into sections, covering key aspects of creative writing, such as structure, characterisation and so forth. However, it's so much more than a 'how-to' guide; it actively seeks to fire up the imagination and force writers to question their A wonderful, imaginative exploration of creative writing! After hearing many recommendations of this book, I recently caved in and treated myself (it didn't take much persuasion). The rave reviews proved to be very well deserved. The book is loosely organised into sections, covering key aspects of creative writing, such as structure, characterisation and so forth. However, it's so much more than a 'how-to' guide; it actively seeks to fire up the imagination and force writers to question their techniques. The illustrations are a joy, and the interviews with famous authors are also highly thought-provoking. If you're serious about writing (or even if you just love the act of writing as a hobby), this is a key book for your shelf!

  5. 5 out of 5

    K.H. Vaughan

    Wonderbook is a comprehensive examination of the writing process from inspiration to revision, written by award-winning writer, editor, and teacher Jeff Vandermeer. There are many good books on writing, but high-quality books aimed more specifically at writers of genre fiction are much rarer. Vandermeer does not suggest a single “correct” strategy or style, but describes a variety of alternatives and their advantages and pitfalls. He clearly knows his history and theory but is in no way pedantic Wonderbook is a comprehensive examination of the writing process from inspiration to revision, written by award-winning writer, editor, and teacher Jeff Vandermeer. There are many good books on writing, but high-quality books aimed more specifically at writers of genre fiction are much rarer. Vandermeer does not suggest a single “correct” strategy or style, but describes a variety of alternatives and their advantages and pitfalls. He clearly knows his history and theory but is in no way pedantic or dogmatic. If anything, he makes a willful effort to offer ideas that run counter to advice just given, recognizing that the ultimate benefit to the writer is not to be found in following advice, but in struggling with it. The text is jam-packed with strategies for attacking different aspects of writing. It unpacks the nuts and bolts of the process, offering a wealth of general guidance and specific techniques for creating better fiction. In addition to Vandermeer’s insightful discussion, there are frequent sidebars and essays from some of the best writers of imaginative fiction in the business. The text is rich in detail and generously enhanced with a variety of exercises and appendices. You could spend years mining the ore within and that doesn’t even touch the in-depth online content at the companion website wonderbooknow.com. The book exudes a sense of whimsy and humor. A central thesis of the work is that although writing is hard work, it requires a core of play. Wonderbook is pervaded with a strong philosophical commitment to the unconscious as a critical aspect of creativity. Vandermeer encourages the writer to nurture that aspect of self, and to cultivate a working relationship with the powerful intuitive forces that underlie the process. The brain must be filled with interesting contents and given room to experiment with them. The finished product must ultimately be analyzed, polished, and edited, but the effective writer explores the absurd and unexpected freely. The book also stands out because of its unique design, which features gorgeous illustrations by Jeremy Zerfross. The art is sumptuous, idiosyncratic, and beautifully intertwined with the text across the span of the volume. The illustrations serve to illuminate and expand upon the ideas in fascinating and effective ways. Writers spend a tremendous amount of time with the written word, and the most common advice offered to aspiring writers is to write and read. This makes good sense; you don’t learn the craft without hands-on practice. But most guides to writing are written in plain text, and no matter how good they are, they necessarily engage the lexical brain. Thus, our efforts to change our approach are filtered through the very process that we want to change. Wonderbook stands this model on its ear. People often suggest editing in a different format than the one you write in as a way of breaking frame: editing on hard-copy if you use computer, changing fonts, even doing the editing in a different location. Anything to break set and allow you to see the work differently than you did when creating it initially. It is impossible to approach the content of Wonderbook in the same way one might simply read another book on writing. By engaging the brain in a more holistic fashion, and relating the linguistic to the visual, it creates a richer experience that should allow writers make new discoveries and see their work in a new light. Wonderbook is the only book on writing I am aware of that employs this technique to break set when thinking about the writing process itself. The luxurious and absurd imagery forces you to process the ideas in different ways than a more conventional presentation ever could. It is a brilliant and effective strategy. Taken as a whole, Wonderbook leaves all others far behind in both its scope and in its commitment to a unique philosophy of pedagogy. This is a book that a writer will want to spend a long time with, rereading, tagging, and playing. There should be a copy in every middle and high school library, and it should be considered for college writing courses. Is it possible that part of my reaction is because this is the right book at the right time for me, personally? I suppose, but I doubt it. Although aimed at beginning and intermediate writers, even seasoned professionals who have enjoyed success will find something of value within. (Review originally published on Hellnotes.com.)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Greendale

    An eclectic array of artwork to inspire creativity, unusual writing prompts, advice from myriad successful authors, and the usual info typically found in writing guides. As an added bonus, Wonderbook is an unexpected treasure trove of reading recommendations.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nnedi

    I don't have time to gush about the incredible-ness of this book. It's a great big ode to creativity. Every creative writing instructor should put this on the syllabus.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Madly Jane

    Absolutely wonderful, dear Wonderbook! Every writer should own this. It's also clever in design and has some gorgeous artwork. A Keeper. Always on my writing desk. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Reread comments. I just reread this, well it took me a month of serious reading to do it. Making notes, etc. 1) Writing is so organic, think of your book as a living organism that is constantly evolving. 2) You gotta learn techniques. No way around this one. You can't master something if you don't even know what it is Absolutely wonderful, dear Wonderbook! Every writer should own this. It's also clever in design and has some gorgeous artwork. A Keeper. Always on my writing desk. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Reread comments. I just reread this, well it took me a month of serious reading to do it. Making notes, etc. 1) Writing is so organic, think of your book as a living organism that is constantly evolving. 2) You gotta learn techniques. No way around this one. You can't master something if you don't even know what it is and how it works. Try it all. 3) Writing is really revising. REVISION is messy and eternal and will go on, even five years after your book is published! The mind never stops, really. 4) READ IT ALOUD. Lots. 5) Cut and trim all the time. 6) One day the imaginative writer must meet with the thinking writer. 7) Make lists of things to revise, you can't do it all at once. 8) Finish things. Even if they don't get published. But finish them. They might make a comeback in another book, etc. 9) Forgive yourself and work hard. 10) Develop habits. Don't wait for the muse! LOVE THIS BOOK! Lots of wonderful stuff about writing in any genre. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and it's funny and smart and beautiful, too.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Eygló Karlsdóttir

    I must admit I bought the book because of the pictures. Of course I had read several books by the author and was excited to read any advice he’d have on writing and he delivered. I have the feeling this book will be with me for a long time. I’ll be reading it again and again, highlighting, scribbling and taking notes. It’s a great book with sound advices. What stole my heart however was the artwork. The artwork and outlay of the book is outstanding. My almost four year old likes to sit down with I must admit I bought the book because of the pictures. Of course I had read several books by the author and was excited to read any advice he’d have on writing and he delivered. I have the feeling this book will be with me for a long time. I’ll be reading it again and again, highlighting, scribbling and taking notes. It’s a great book with sound advices. What stole my heart however was the artwork. The artwork and outlay of the book is outstanding. My almost four year old likes to sit down with it to make up stories about the artwork in it… and I can’t imagine there being a better use for this book! This isn’t just a useful book for any writer (fantasy or weird or whatever genre you might be hiding behind) but it’s a beautiful book no matter who you are!

  10. 4 out of 5

    David

    This is like a writers' workshop in a book, and much of the allure is the visual elements — this is one of those books that just wouldn't work as an ebook, you need the physical copy. (For such a heavy book on high quality paper, printed in full color, I was rather surprised at the relatively low price.) It's hard the summarize the contents without referring to the visuals. Vandermeer and his contributors (who include a veritable Who's Who of modern SF and fantasy authors - Catherynne Valente, This is like a writers' workshop in a book, and much of the allure is the visual elements — this is one of those books that just wouldn't work as an ebook, you need the physical copy. (For such a heavy book on high quality paper, printed in full color, I was rather surprised at the relatively low price.) It's hard the summarize the contents without referring to the visuals. Vandermeer and his contributors (who include a veritable Who's Who of modern SF and fantasy authors - Catherynne Valente, George R.R. Martin, Ursula Le Guin, Kim Stanley Robinson, Lev Grossman, etc., in interviews and excerpts and little mini-chapters) don't entirely omit the 101-level advice, but they don't belabor it much, and when they do talk about having your character wake up from a dream or headhopping, they talk about why it's bad. There was not a lot of actual information about writing I gleaned from this book that I hadn't heard before, but it did prompt a lot of thinking and a fair amount of inspiration. Every chapter has writing exercises, from the brief single-paragraph type of exercise to some quite in-depth ones that, if you did them all, would have you just about writing and rewriting an entire novel by the time you're done. Aimed explicitly at speculative fiction writers, it's nice to see a book that delves deeply into the mechanics of text and narrative, POV and setting, pacing, prologues, conclusions, metaphor, and all that, but takes it for granted that your novel might have talking penguins, occur in another dimension, be non-linear and involve unusual prose and unconventional storytelling, and treats these things as elements to be handled with as much seriousness as anything else. So there is some familiar material about the parts of a story, narrative design, beginnings and endings, the revision process, and so on, but it's all wedged into a brilliant kaleidoscopic visual package with glimpses at how professional authors handle these things. Colorful, chaotic, sometimes overwhelming, this book a piece of art in its own right and should be acquired by any genre writer, and will probably be of interest even to non-writing genre fans.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Aleksandr Voinov

    One of the prettiest books I've ever seen. Couldn't resist. Addendum: Couldn't get into the writing. Still very pretty. Grade: 2.5 stars for prettiness.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    This is a beautiful book. I was very excited when I found it, and upon first flipping through it, I though it was just the book on writing I have always been looking for. Now that I have finished it, I have to say that while it is well done, it also doesn't contain a lot of meat. I see some reviewers really liked the sidebar articles by various writers, for the most part I found them superfluous, not really adding to the overall structure of the book, and more like glossed up articles for This is a beautiful book. I was very excited when I found it, and upon first flipping through it, I though it was just the book on writing I have always been looking for. Now that I have finished it, I have to say that while it is well done, it also doesn't contain a lot of meat. I see some reviewers really liked the sidebar articles by various writers, for the most part I found them superfluous, not really adding to the overall structure of the book, and more like glossed up articles for Writers' Digest. At times the examples were far too surreal for me to have any connection to. Perhaps the most interesting section to me was toward the end, dealing with revision. If you have never read any books on writing before, and you have a special interest in the fantastic, than this would be a good book to start with, but if you are looking for something more in depth, this is probably not the book you want. I wasn't looking for writing prompts and exercises, I was more interested in the physical process, which has been glossed over here, with too little focus on the day and day out requirements of being a writer.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    A difficult book to rate. Parts were great. Parts were average. Parts were confusing. The art was kooky - some people love it so obviously the cliched phrase "art is in the eye of the beholder" still holds true. What I liked and thought was valuable was the insight from the other authors. Great stuff there.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sinéad

    Generally, I am not a fan of non-fiction, but I read this for the Reddit r/fantasy 2017 Bingo and I wasn't disappointed. I assumed I would struggle getting through this book, as I usually do with non-fiction, but I actually found this interesting and fun to read at times. I'll admit, the lovely ilustrations helped a lot. So did all the in-between essays and interviews of authors we all know and love such as George RR Martin, Ursula K Le Guin and Neil Gaiman.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rachel (Kalanadi)

    The title says it so I don’t have to: Wonderbook is about how to write fiction – specifically aimed at writers of ‘imaginative’ fiction, e.g. fantasy, science fiction, new weird, surreal, horror… ‘genre’ fiction. VanderMeer gives you chapters on the basics: beginnings, endings, plot, structure, narrative design, characterization, worldbuilding, etc.VanderMeer’s chapters read more like essays or discussions on these parts and how they fit together, or points to think about, rather than a The title says it so I don’t have to: Wonderbook is about how to write fiction – specifically aimed at writers of ‘imaginative’ fiction, e.g. fantasy, science fiction, new weird, surreal, horror… ‘genre’ fiction. VanderMeer gives you chapters on the basics: beginnings, endings, plot, structure, narrative design, characterization, worldbuilding, etc.VanderMeer’s chapters read more like essays or discussions on these parts and how they fit together, or points to think about, rather than a step-by-step ‘how to’ guide. He brings in other writers to contribute essays, inserts ‘spotlights’ on certain works or authors or ideas. It’s heavily, heavily illustrated with original art by Jeremy Zerfoss and reproductions of other artwork. And there are writing prompts – most of which are at the very end in a ‘writer’s workshop’ or referenced on the companion website (which I haven’t seen and isn’t part of this review). Cool Things I love that VanderMeer chooses to dissect the writing process of one of his own novels, Finch. This features heavily in one chapter. Overall, I think the real-world examples – like other authors discussing their work, or analyzing a famous short story, or diagraming the structure of a sci fi novel (Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks!) – were what I appreciated the most. Lev Grossman’s essay on revisions and drafts (and crappy first drafts) was one of my favorites; I’ve read The Magicians so hearing him reference it was great and made the discussion ‘stick’.And the illustrations: the artwork is meant to be ‘visual stimuli’, and it works! This whole book is chock full of crazy, weird, beautiful images, that illustrate points, or are writing prompts. I wouldn’t mind framing some of them and hanging them in my living room! Things That Didn't Click So Much (with Me) VanderMeer comes from a more outlandishly fantastical, surreal, or ‘new weird’ genre. Even though I’ve read and loved his Southern Reach trilogy, I have no desire to pick up Finch right now. I’m not a true fan of the surreal, disturbing, or weird. And many of VanderMeer’s examples, made up on the fly, made me scratch my head and go ‘huh? That’s not really interesting to me’. E.g., the whole ongoing example of the woman and the penguin and the gun and hiding behind the potted plant (or whatever it was). Um. I preferred the real examples a lot more, especially of the stories that were more my thing, like Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312. This is just a personal preference, but if you’re not on board with the surreal, Wonderbook might fall flat. On the other hand, if you love the most fantastical of genres and that’s what you want to write, this is the book for you and you will fly through those writing prompts!My next gripe is just a pet peeve because I’m a nitpicky person, but because of the surreal tone and some of the crazier graphic design, many of the ‘instructional art’ pieces by Zerfoss confused me so much! There are many lushly designed charts, diagrams, and flowcharts demonstrating processes, life cycles, and parts of the whole. But they contain a lot of moving parts, a lot of illustrations and characters, and I sometimes could not figure out where the start was. The flip side: You can spend a lot of time comfortably ensconced on a couch tracing your way through the beautiful graphics. Contemplate them more than I did and it might make sense. I come from a background and training that strives for simple, coherent, and concise illustrations, especially in charts and diagrams. And that is not the point of this book at all. Back to the Good Stuff Overall, this was a very enjoyable read, and the illustrations made it unique. My approach to this book is simply that I enjoy reading the occasional book about writing. I’m not a fiction writer and don’t have any plans to be any time soon (of course I thought about trying again while reading this though!). I find that knowing how a story is put together and understanding the work that goes into crafting it can help me later in analyzing and reviewing books. And as a fan of SFF, it was great to see tidbits in this book where authors I love illuminate their process or decisions. Artists talking about their work is fascinating!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Beth Cato

    Many writers I know praised this book greatly when it came out last fall. I asked for it as a Christmas gift. It's a beautifully designed book, though very heavy and unwieldy; I wish it had been bound in spiral to make it easier to hold and to withstand its own weight. The back pages are already feeling weak like they could come loose. The content is well-organized and very friendly. This would be an ideal textbook for a creative writing class--it's certainly a hundred times better than the dull Many writers I know praised this book greatly when it came out last fall. I asked for it as a Christmas gift. It's a beautifully designed book, though very heavy and unwieldy; I wish it had been bound in spiral to make it easier to hold and to withstand its own weight. The back pages are already feeling weak like they could come loose. The content is well-organized and very friendly. This would be an ideal textbook for a creative writing class--it's certainly a hundred times better than the dull book I had at college ages ago. The illustrations are lush and often strange. The full thing is in color and uses odd graphics to depict various stages of the writing process. Overall, though, it didn't do anything for me. I like it. I can see why so many others raved about it. It simply didn't resonate for me personally. I do think I'll pass it along to my teenage niece, who is an aspiring writer and an artist. I think she'd enjoy it for the visual angle alone.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    By far the most imaginative and entertaining book on the craft of writing that I've ever read. I agree with other reviewers that much of the advice in Wonderbook isn't new. (Once you've read a lot of advice on characterization, plot and structure, etc., it starts to sound the same.) But the presentation of that information is what makes Wonderbook a true delight. The graphics, charts, and illustrations are vibrant, thought-provoking, and (in many cases) hilarious. Seriously. I lost track of the By far the most imaginative and entertaining book on the craft of writing that I've ever read. I agree with other reviewers that much of the advice in Wonderbook isn't new. (Once you've read a lot of advice on characterization, plot and structure, etc., it starts to sound the same.) But the presentation of that information is what makes Wonderbook a true delight. The graphics, charts, and illustrations are vibrant, thought-provoking, and (in many cases) hilarious. Seriously. I lost track of the times Wonderbook made me laugh, and that's not a bad thing. That sense of humor, along with the intelligence and sheer creativity of its delivery, is what makes this a must-have for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and other speculative genres.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    Hands down the best, most genuine and helpful book on the creative writing process I've ever read. Inspiration on every other page. Not so much a writing "guide" (can there ever really be such a thing?) as an all-out attack on the creative side of your brain, forcing you to look at the whole creative process in a seemingly endless array of incredible ways. I'd recommend this to ANYONE who has even the faintest interest in making the ideas in their head become something on a scrap of paper Hands down the best, most genuine and helpful book on the creative writing process I've ever read. Inspiration on every other page. Not so much a writing "guide" (can there ever really be such a thing?) as an all-out attack on the creative side of your brain, forcing you to look at the whole creative process in a seemingly endless array of incredible ways. I'd recommend this to ANYONE who has even the faintest interest in making the ideas in their head become something on a scrap of paper somewhere. Mind blowing.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lew

    Jeff VanderMeer does a stellar job in going over the fundamentals for writing good stories. There are plenty of examples, and I enjoyed the guest essays that provided more insight (except "The Zero's Relapse" by Michael Cisco -- read it twice and still have no idea what the hell he's talking about). I also like how Wonderbook focuses on genre fiction -- there aren't many craft books that do so -- but the advice is applicable to any style of fiction. More advanced writers may find some of the Jeff VanderMeer does a stellar job in going over the fundamentals for writing good stories. There are plenty of examples, and I enjoyed the guest essays that provided more insight (except "The Zero's Relapse" by Michael Cisco -- read it twice and still have no idea what the hell he's talking about). I also like how Wonderbook focuses on genre fiction -- there aren't many craft books that do so -- but the advice is applicable to any style of fiction. More advanced writers may find some of the material elementary, but I thought it was a great refresher course. The worldbuilding chapter was especially useful. Wonderbook is a resource I'll probably refer to again and again in the future. The appendix had additional essays showing how larping and gaming can be used as writing tools. They didn't really catch my interest. The interview with George R.R. Martin about craft was great, and the additional writing exercises looked like fun. The artwork and illustrated exercises/guides are stunning. Kudos to Jeremy Zerfoss and the other contributing artists.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gea

    Brilliant! Exhilarating! Inspirational! Wonderbook is full of sumptuous, fantastical art and all sorts of imaginary creatures to guide or challenge you on your story telling adventure. One of my favorite things about this book, besides the art and the incredibly inspirational layout, is all the fantastic essays and interviews by other writers laced throughout. This, along with Stephen King's On Writing, is one of my favorite books on writing. I highly recommend it, especially for any artist that Brilliant! Exhilarating! Inspirational! Wonderbook is full of sumptuous, fantastical art and all sorts of imaginary creatures to guide or challenge you on your story telling adventure. One of my favorite things about this book, besides the art and the incredibly inspirational layout, is all the fantastic essays and interviews by other writers laced throughout. This, along with Stephen King's On Writing, is one of my favorite books on writing. I highly recommend it, especially for any artist that reveres imagination. Jeff VanderMeer is brilliant.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Masha Harris

    Although I loved the illustrations, I had a really hard time getting into this book. Ultimately I got about halfway through, then just said forget it, this is taking too long, I'm gonna spend the time working on my novel instead.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Blythe

    It's been a long while since I've read a book on the craft of writing. Although I've often found such books valuable, in a way, I had grown out of them, focusing more on the act of writing instead of reading about it. But Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction byJeff VanderMeer was recommended to me recently with such fervor that I immediately picked it up — and discovered one of the best books on writing craft that I've yet to read. Wonderbook is aimed at writers of It's been a long while since I've read a book on the craft of writing. Although I've often found such books valuable, in a way, I had grown out of them, focusing more on the act of writing instead of reading about it. But Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer was recommended to me recently with such fervor that I immediately picked it up — and discovered one of the best books on writing craft that I've yet to read. Wonderbook is aimed at writers of speculative fiction, but is valuable to writers of any genre. The main chapters of the book cover the full range of the writing process, including Inspiration and the Creative Life, The Ecosystem of Story (point-of-view, dialog, and other story elements), Beginnings and Endings (with VanderMeer's novel Finch as a main example), Narrative Design (plot, structure, etc.), Characterization, Worldbuilding, and Revision, along with a few interesting appendices. The chapters discuss the theory and practice of writing, while also providing inspiration, prompts, and writing exercises. I particularly appreciate that VanderMeer does not prescribe The One Way to Write Them All, but rather cites a multitude of sources and examples to present the many sides of any method and, in fact, many sidebar items either question or direct contradict the view of the main text. In addition, the book offers essays and interviews in which fantasy authors — such as Neil Gaiman, Catherynne M. Valente, George R. R. Martin, and Karen Joy Fowler, among others — each with their own viewpoints. In this way, Wonderbook offers a toolbox of approaches to writing that the writer can pull from in order to discover what works best for them. The illustrations, maps, charts, and artwork throughout Wonderbook, provided by a number of artists but primarily Jeremy Zerfoss, are a key way that it guides its readers through the murky waters of writing terminology, methods, and advice. They provide playful visual diagrams or inspirational asides that are valuable in and of themselves, making specific  aspects of the writing process more memorable. To sum up I'll say, this excellent and would be a welcome addition to almost any writer's shelf. (One of the many fantastic illustrations in Wonderbook by Jeremy Zerfoss.)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Rooyen

    What a gorgeous book! The illustrations are fantastic and the art is brilliant - it's awesome seeing writing methodologies and theories depicted in graphs, charts, and novel illustrations. If you're looking for a 'how to' book on writing, this isn't it. This book steers firmly away from formulas for writing in favour of stirring the imagination and getting the individual author to think more deeply about their own process and how to use the building blocks of story-telling (character, pacing, What a gorgeous book! The illustrations are fantastic and the art is brilliant - it's awesome seeing writing methodologies and theories depicted in graphs, charts, and novel illustrations. If you're looking for a 'how to' book on writing, this isn't it. This book steers firmly away from formulas for writing in favour of stirring the imagination and getting the individual author to think more deeply about their own process and how to use the building blocks of story-telling (character, pacing, plot, world-building) in their own unique recipes. I loved this approach! I have often felt frustrated by other writing books with prescriptive models for plot structure and character arcs because those formulas don't always feel natural or organic to the stories I want to tell. Wonderbook was liberating in the sense that it made me appreciate how different approaches can still produce excellent books and that not following an established formula is sometimes for the best. I strongly recommend this book to anyone looking to evaluate their own approach to story-telling, particularly SFF story-telling, and develop their own way of tackling the writing process.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Candice

    This is a must-read book for writers of any type of speculative fiction, and authors of literary fiction can learn a lot from this book as well. Vandermeer pairs weird illustrations with writing advice on worldbuilding, plot, character, and revision (among other things), offers excellent writing exercises, and got some amazing SF/F writers to contribute essays and short passages. It's easy to get lost just in the appendix, where talk of LARPing, gaming, and Game of Thrones will make you lose This is a must-read book for writers of any type of speculative fiction, and authors of literary fiction can learn a lot from this book as well. Vandermeer pairs weird illustrations with writing advice on worldbuilding, plot, character, and revision (among other things), offers excellent writing exercises, and got some amazing SF/F writers to contribute essays and short passages. It's easy to get lost just in the appendix, where talk of LARPing, gaming, and Game of Thrones will make you lose sight of the fact that you're reading a book about writing. I found this book immensely helpful and fascinating, and I highly recommend it to all writers if you're looking to improve your craft!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Anna (lion_reads)

    Not bad, but very erudite and I wasn't feeling it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chris Vanjonack

    God, do I wish I read this book when I was 17.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Angie on Books

    I'm going to start off by telling you that I didn't finish this book; I'm also going to ask you to read through this review because this book is so awesome, and so good at what it does, that I've had it to review for months and I'm still not done. It deserves a review, especially considering it was published somewhat recently, in 2013. For those of you not familiar with speculative/imaginative fiction, here are some examples of genre's that all under that phrase: There's Steampunk, an alternate I'm going to start off by telling you that I didn't finish this book; I'm also going to ask you to read through this review because this book is so awesome, and so good at what it does, that I've had it to review for months and I'm still not done. It deserves a review, especially considering it was published somewhat recently, in 2013. For those of you not familiar with speculative/imaginative fiction, here are some examples of genre's that all under that phrase: There's Steampunk, an alternate history type of scifi/fantasy/horror fiction like Boneshaker by Cherie Priest or Gail Carriger's Soulless series; we've got soft/hard science fiction (think: Star Wars and Arthur C. Clark, respectively); fantasy and horror. If you have any other examples, leave them in the comments below! The Good: Pretty much everything. There are the inspiring images perfect for the speculative fiction writer; images that are educational; and they are all entertaining. From the very first page you're hit smack in the face with SO. MUCH.GOING. ON. that you can't hear a thought in your head. You're bombarded by creatures and graphs that are readable while a few aren't. But the reason this didn't deter me is because it made it fun. Like, really fun. The author is one I'm familiar with. He's written several non-fiction/fiction-y books on Steampunk that were very fun to read. There were lots of pictures and, as you've noted up above with my CAPS on, the pictures in this book are creative and complement the book. The craziness of the illustrations are very fitting for speculative fiction. When I read speculative fiction I expect to get carried away. I don't want to think about life, that's why I shy away from realistic fiction (I live it often enough, anyway). As much as I enjoy reading books on writing I'm often bored, or it can't keep my attention. Not so with the Wonderbook (except when I came across exercises--though that's their doing!). Reading Wonderbook was like reading science fiction, I was transported out of my world and into VanderMeer's world, where creatures had one eye, five eyes, and were the colors of the rainbow. This was a fun book to read. The writing exercises, craft advice, author shout-outs and the exciting way these are all delivered are reason enough to buy this book. What makes this book even better is that it can totally be of use to fiction writer's of any genre, though it caters to imaginative fiction. I want to touch on the quality of the book. The binding is nothing special but it's sturdy. What's really cool are the pages. Each one is somewhat glossy and of a thicker material than the average $9.99 paperback book and is in full color. No, it's not $10 but the price is pretty darn good taking into consideration all the elements of the book that I just raved about. The online price for both Amazon and Barnes and Nobel is about $17. Well worth the monies, I assure you. Why I didn't finish the book... (see the rest of my review on my blog, Angie on Books, at http://bit.ly/1BR0YRJ

  28. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    I've only read one other book on writing besides this one, which was one I liked called On Writing by Stephen King. This book was very different from it in both style and emphasis, with the Wonderbook being an illustrated guide to writing. Since many creative people are visual learners, this beautiful book with its impressive artwork may help aspiring writers better retain some of the guidelines that the author presented. Personally, I liked the illustrations, but sometimes, I found them to be I've only read one other book on writing besides this one, which was one I liked called On Writing by Stephen King. This book was very different from it in both style and emphasis, with the Wonderbook being an illustrated guide to writing. Since many creative people are visual learners, this beautiful book with its impressive artwork may help aspiring writers better retain some of the guidelines that the author presented. Personally, I liked the illustrations, but sometimes, I found them to be either distracting when it came to a lesson or merely entertaining, instead of being helpful in driving home the writing suggestions concerning things such as characterization, narrative style, and world building, to name just a few points of interest. I actually wished that there had been more text with more examples given in the fantasy genre for me to explore further on my own so I could learn by example. But that's my own style of learning and may not reflect what works best for someone else. What I liked most about this book were the interviews with notable fantasy authors who shared some of their suggestions or generously offered their encouragement. While this book concentrates mostly on the principles of fantasy writing, it can be used by writers in any genre. It is linked to a website of the same name which offers further information and writing exercises besides those provided in the book. But like any guidebook on writing, it is only a tool that can't really teach someone how to write. What it can do is help steer a beginning writer in a direction to where he won't get lost when struggling to complete his novel.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    This is a brilliant book - I will not deny it, ok its bright its gaudy and at times a little too "busy" for its own good - there is just so much going on in its pages i can see myself having to go back and read it again as key images and comments finally fall in to place. The book really is what it says it is - a guide to creative imaginative fiction. At first glance it can appear rather basic and even patronising in its approach with cartoon style characters being used to emphases certain key This is a brilliant book - I will not deny it, ok its bright its gaudy and at times a little too "busy" for its own good - there is just so much going on in its pages i can see myself having to go back and read it again as key images and comments finally fall in to place. The book really is what it says it is - a guide to creative imaginative fiction. At first glance it can appear rather basic and even patronising in its approach with cartoon style characters being used to emphases certain key comments - a bit like the dummies guides but with nightmare inducing characters who in many cases appear to have had a run with a childs paint box. But when you start to dig a little deeper you start to see that this is actually all part of the plan. You see if there something of importance what better way than to link it to some visual image, a pictorial stimuli which makes its message not only easier to understand (well for me at least) but also to remember and most importantly - refer back to later. So to me at least this is a clever and entertaining tool to help nurture and kick start that reading urge. My only criticism is that it really is too interesting to read and I struggled to put it down and get on with the whole - being creative process.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    I've been reading through this book for the past few months and found it incredibly helpful as an aspiring author. I'm rather selective on "how to write books" I'll read but this is one of the better ones I have come across. This book is filled with a lot of great advice and suggestions to improve your writing. It is particularly geared towards speculative writers but would be helpful to all. There are very thorough chapters on character, plot, worldbuilding, revising, etc. - all the essentials I've been reading through this book for the past few months and found it incredibly helpful as an aspiring author. I'm rather selective on "how to write books" I'll read but this is one of the better ones I have come across. This book is filled with a lot of great advice and suggestions to improve your writing. It is particularly geared towards speculative writers but would be helpful to all. There are very thorough chapters on character, plot, worldbuilding, revising, etc. - all the essentials to constructing a novel. The guest interviews/essays from other authors were invaluable and showed a piece of their writing process. The illustrations and artwork added another dimension to a "how to write" and allowed you to absorb information in different ways. Highly recommend picking up if you are a new writer or perhaps have been writing for awhile and still trying to break into publishing. There is a lot here and plenty to pick up in repeat reads, which I plan to do in the future.

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