- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (October 15, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1419704427
- ISBN-13: 978-1419704420
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 161 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction
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And then you spot "Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction". Whoa, just what you need, right? Another writing book! *facepalm*. But, gosh, it looks pretty and didn't you love "The Third Bear" by Jeff VanderMeer and don't you always want the anthologies (The New Weird,Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded ) edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer over at Tachyon Publications (coolest books ever)! And, wow, is that one pretty looking book and check out the website, wonderbooknow.com.
So, you get the book. You have to, right? But you don't read it right away because, c'mon.
Then, one day, the writing maybe isn't flowing so well and you're feeling discouraged, but, hey, pretty book. Cheered up. And, wow, is the best book ever? It is! Just what you need. And, was it mentioned? Very pretty.
So, yes, a lot of this information sounded familiar (and no matter what, you always have a tendency to read the chapters about fun stuff like character carefully and then skim the ones you really need like point of view), but it was presented in new ways (and sometimes it's hearing something just in the right way, at the right time that makes it click). It uses examples from some of the most interesting writers (Karen Joy Fowler, Ursula K. Le Guin, Rikki Ducornet, Elizabeth Hand) and it gets you adding to your to-read list wildly. And if you like writing prompts, it's got those. Fun ones.
It's also unique among craft books in that it actually generates creativity as well as giving writers the info and tools. It does not bore. It does inspire.
For a new writer (who maybe has not read every other how to writing book under the sun) and particularly those interested in fabulist, spec fic, sf, fantasy, wild, surreal, audacious, wonderful, imaginative fiction (American realism *yawn* so last week) this is a slam dunk.
And it really gets the "read this for all writers" recommendation because it's entertaining and inspiring as well as delivering the goods. And, it was mentioned: very, very pretty. If Jeff VanderMeer is not your editor *alas*, here's the next best thing. Happy writing.
I've taught creative writing for 20+ years, and have books published in another genre. But I am new to writing speculative fiction, and am a bit stuck on a novel I'm working on, so I hoped to be "jump-started" by this book, or at least get some help on plotting and what to do when you get stuck in the middle. This book, unfortunately, did not help me with that. In fact, my only real criticism of the book (leaving aside for a moment that this was simply not aimed at someone like me, which is really more my mistake than the author's) was the section I most looked forward to, Middles, was virtually nonexistent. As in there was a cool image, but then it seemed to be over. A page or two which seemed more about endings but did relate to middles too, and then, nothing. I actually went back several times to see if I had missed something, but I did not. This is probably my most serious criticism of the book--what happened to the "middle" section, the section I suspect most new novelists struggle with?
If you're an experienced writer or have had good basic creative writing classes, a lot of the information in this book is going to be old hat for you. It explains scenes and exposition, use of dialogue, what constitutes a good opening, etc. There is some information on plotting which was too basic for me, but was well done. In fact, all the information on scene, exposition, etc. was succinct and well done, so I applaud the author for his ability to write about the basics of craft and to do it well and also, to apply it to speculative fiction, because he's absolutely correct--there are few basic books that go over this but use examples from speculative fiction. In other words, the basic information in this book is very strong and engagingly presented, and I was delighted to see all the concerns I have as a teacher covered in this book. If I ever get to teach a class in writing speculative fiction--which I'd love to do someday!--then I would use this book in heartbeat. It really is quite good in that way.
It's also a beautiful book. I sat down with it last night and basically went through it straight through, not reading everything, but most of it. I enjoyed reading it--which can't always be said of regular guides to creative writing. The images are lovely, and while I didn't actually think having visuals of some of the information in the text was necessary, it certainly was enjoyable, and perhaps more visual learners would find some of the diagrams very useful for them. (By then I was reading as teacher, not writer, because it was clear the book would be of more use to me using that lens). I also loved the brief interviews with a variety of writers, and I got a bunch of new names of writers to read, which is always a plus for me. I also really liked that Vandermeer used part of his own novel, Finch (which I must read!), as an example. I find it very useful to have writers talk about the choices they made, and why, and he dissected his own work very well. This was also a part that was useful for me as a writer (rather than a teacher) and some of the discussion on revision did, I think, work well for more advanced writers. Some readers may think the book is worth it just for the parts written by George R.R. Martin and Ursula Le Guin, and I did very much enjoy those parts!
I see that the book is aimed at beginners/intermediate writers. I'd say it's more for beginners, but there are gems to be found for more advanced writers as well. It also would be an excellent book for teaching creative writing, and it is so beautiful a book, so that anyone who collects guides to writing or who loves speculative fiction might find it an enjoyable book to have, even if you are not a beginning writer.
If, however, you already know the basics of fiction, and are looking for more of a "how-to" aimed at more advanced writers, this probably is not going to be the book for you. However, I applaud the author for doing something so different, and so beautiful, and I think a lot of people will really enjoy this book!