Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction First Printing Edition
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About the Author
- Item Weight : 2.38 pounds
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1419704427
- ISBN-13 : 978-1419704420
- Dimensions : 7 x 1 x 10 inches
- Publisher : Harry N. Abrams; First Printing edition (October 15, 2013)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #70,024 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I actually found this book on a list addressing that topic, I think it was BuzzFeed, about 19 reasons books wouldn't die due to the popularity of eBooks. I found the article by chance and Wonderbook was the first book listed. The article was definitely right on this one, and this is a purchase I will not regret. I am surprised the book is so reasonably priced considering what an amazing treasure it is. As I said, everyone has their own preferences when it comes to learning styles, but I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Don't be fooled by the whimsical cover; much like attempting to describe with gorgeous precision the inner workings of a fantastic setting for a novel, what is going on on the inside is much deeper and more complex than you might think.
I've read a lot of books on writing at this point in my life, but most of them haven't addressed the questions that linger with me while I'm sitting down to write. So many choices that a writer can make seem to 'depend' on one thing or another that it's difficult to set out examples with hard and fast rules (or, if it isn't, a thousand other books already exist which contain those few inviolate rules, and therefore those aren't the questions that stick with me). It's a difficult beast to wrangle, especially in useful specifics. On top of that, I think that many of the processes involved in describing those choices or the results of those choices from a reader's perspective are abstract, more a question of what is sensed than something easily articulated.
Wonderbook comes the closest of any instructive book I own to digging down into the nitty-gritty of those many abstract questions. It exhaustively discusses the particulars of a written work's moving parts, and does this from many different angles whenever possible. If a novel is a deck of cards, Wonderbook seems to spread the deck all around the floor into the thinnest layer, so that you can see everything clearly, shuffling things around to have a look at the particulars in as much detail as you'd like.
For me, the 'wonder' is that doing this so acutely and with such precision did not make the book any less a joy to read. It is stunningly gorgeous to look at, but the art is not superfluous to the learning. It's often very funny. Jeff VanderMeer is a master at expressing clearly the nebulous feelings and impulses that come along with both reading and writing stories, and thoroughly examining their place and scope, and relation to everything else.
tl;dr: Wonderbook is a comprehensive, intuitive look at the craft of writing. It's gorgeous to look at. (I don't actually watch Dr. Who (please don't kill me), but that catchphrase about the Tardis does come to mind. "It's bigger on the inside." So I think it goes with Wonderbook.)
Top reviews from other countries
Enter Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer (and friends).
A list of its contents might sound like the same old same old, but a quick flick through its pages shows immediately that this is something different – it’s a wonderful looking book, with lots of colour, diagrams, and fantastical illustrations. Do a Google image search and you’ll see what I mean. It’s frankly beautiful in places, and the pictures and photos are designed to be a spur to your creativity as well as illustrating the idea being discussed. The idea being that pictures stimulate a different part of your brain to words.
But enough of the style, lovely as it is – what of the substance?
Wonderbook doesn’t disappoint; it’s a kaleidoscopic but perfectly-structured journey through all aspects of writing, from the initial inspiration, via scene-setting, characterisation, and world-building, to finding the right beta-readers and beyond. Although it’s broken into sections by necessity, Wonderbook is keen to stress that stories are organic wholes, rather than something you can pull apart to see what the bits do, and then reassemble. You can read it all in order, but you’re probably better flicking back and forth, finding your own route.
Rather than dogmatically asserting how he writes, VanderMeer discusses different approaches and counter arguments on the various topics, and invites guest authors (including Neil Gaiman, Lauren Beukes and George R R Martin) to give their own point of view as well. In addition, a series of surreal characters offer their own advice during the book, sometimes Devil’s advocate-style down the sidebar of the pages.
You don’t have to agree with the points VanderMeer makes, he seems to be saying, but you do have to think about them. You do have to engage.
And really, that’s what you want from a book about writing – not to be told what to do and then blindly follow, but to react, to nod or shake your head at what is being suggested, to be stimulated and confused and maybe even annoyed. And to use those feelings and thoughts to understand what you want to write, what distinguishes you from a VanderMeer or a Beukes or the weird alien creatures populating Wonderbook. To be spurred, goaded or propelled into writing something better than you ever have before.
And then you’ll read it again, and change your mind, and write something even better.
Because ultimately, this book treats learning to write as a journey (one VanderMeer admits he’s still on), a process of constantly refining and rethinking your approach. For that reason, although the blurb says its aimed at new and inexperienced writers, I imagine even old hands would get some benefit from it. Similarly, although the book mainly explores speculative fiction, most of its lessons and ideas apply equally to ‘realistic’ fiction.
This won’t be the only book on writing you’ll ever need, but I suspect it will be the one you’ll return to the most often – not to look up some dry point of grammar, but to feel enthused all over again about the journey you are on.
As a professional writer, I read a lot of writing manuals, and probably will continue to do so. But most of them deal with literary fiction and discuss technique rather than creativity. There are manuals out there on creativity and inspiration, but they usually read a little like self-help titles.
Wonderbook, then, is great precisely because it combines the two and focuses on more fabulous and fantastical modes of writing. As well as essays and guides to the mechanics of writing, there are inspirational pictures, exercises, tips and a whole lot of focus on creativity as a way of thinking. This, I think, is absolutely important. I think writing can be taught, but many people don't. I think the reason many people think writing can't be taught is because many teachers of creative writing don't quite know how to establish creativity as a mode of being. Jeff absolutely excels at this. Reading Wonderbook is like discovering the Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory of writing practice. There's loads you'll love here, whether you write 'literary' or genre fiction, or even if you just want to be inspired.
However, I can see how, people who prefer lists and bullet points might not find this book to their taste. Then, people who prefer a linear, reductionist approach, probably wouldn't buy this book anyway.
I don’t do well with instructions, normally and I can’t stand the idea of writing – which I consider to be a form of art – taught like math or physics would be. Honestly, I don’t even know how writing could be taught, or even if it could be taught.
Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook doesn’t aim to teach you. Rather, with colorful illustrations, quirky ‘guides’ and insightful essays, the book tries to show you of the multitudes of ways that you can make your writing better. With repeating illustrations of large fishes (I don’t understand the stylistic choice either, but it is quite funny), it shows you to tighten your narrative, your plot and improve it considerably.
The essays in the book too are very well written and are entertaining to read and everyone has more than one tip and trick to offer to you, the reader.
In addition to all this, the book is wonderfully bright and is brimming with colors. There are many other books out there that are good and useful to a budding writer, but the fact that Wonderbook manages to be colorful adds another layer to it’s usefulness to anyone who writes. You will no doubt, while reading this book, be hit with inspiration simply because of one of the illustrations.
Top it all off, it doesn’t hurt that the book is surprisingly cheap for something so densely packed with material and overflowing with the potential to kickstart a writer’s creative process and carefully guide it in the right direction.
This is just my opinion, but; Whatever you’re writing, Wonderbook is one that will definitely be of great use to you.