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Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  3,561 ratings  ·  495 reviews
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, ...more
Paperback, 332 pages
Published October 15th 2013 by Harry N. Abrams
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Average rating 4.35  · 
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 ·  3,561 ratings  ·  495 reviews

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Leonard Gaya
Jan 13, 2014 rated it liked it
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 an ...more
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Spencer Orey
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really great and inspiring in a ton of different imaginative ways.

I'll be coming back to this one a lot.
Jessie Verino
Oct 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Sep 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Lucy Banks
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 tec
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
Hannah Greendale
Aug 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
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.
K.H. Vaughan
Nov 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Aleksandr Voinov
Nov 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: creative-writing, own
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.
Rachel (Kalanadi)
Aug 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction

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-

Eygló Karlsdóttir
Nov 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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 ...more
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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, Ge
Feb 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
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 Writer ...more
Apr 26, 2022 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2022, nonfiction
I am not sure anymore why I got this book, but I suspect that I saw some of the illustrations somewhere and liked them. I do not plan to write imaginative fiction any time soon. But this has the potential to improve understanding for what I read and it would probably be a great resource for those who do want to improve their writing.

“This all-new definitive guide to writing imaginative fiction takes a completely novel approach and fully exploits the visual nature of fantasy through original draw
Jun 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2016
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.
Apr 11, 2017 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Nov 13, 2013 rated it liked it
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 ei
Beth Cato
Jan 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014, nonfiction, writing
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
Oct 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 somewh ...more
Masha Harris
May 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfic, 2015
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. ...more
Johan Haneveld
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I had this book gathering dust on my TBR-pile for four or five years now. I bought it after reading several raving reviews and leafing through it in the shop seeing lots of beautiful illustrations. And then I let it rest, because I thought reading a book about writing would be a waste of time (lots of writing advice is stiffling in the way it prescribes very rigid 'rules' like show, don't tell, or don't use adjectives). But lately I found myself needing a bit more background in writing, I felt I ...more
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: craft-books
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 mate
Dec 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
J.F. Penn
Dec 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
Fully gorgeous illustrated book. Must buy in print to fully appreciate. A 4 dimensional creative experience. Buy for your inner child
Andrea Blythe
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 s
I think I'm finally giving up on this book. I've been reading it for like two years, and I'm not even halfway through it. It's not a bad book by any means. All of the artwork is stunning, and the writing is helpful. I love the chapters specifically about like finding inspiration in the world to incorporate in stories. I think this book would have been a lot more helpful to me as a writer if I had actually read it a few years ago like I intended. At this point, I think a lot of the advice in this ...more
Xan Rooyen
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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, plo
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 sig ...more
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NYT bestselling writer Jeff VanderMeer has been called “the weird Thoreau” by the New Yorker for his engagement with ecological issues. His most recent novel, the national bestseller Borne, received wide-spread critical acclaim and his prior novels include the Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance). Annihilation won the Nebula and Shirley Jackson Awards, has been translat ...more

Articles featuring this book

  It's almost November, which can mean only one thing in the writing community: It's time to get ready for National Novel Writing...
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“Imbuing fiction with a life that extends beyond the last word is in some ways the goal: the ending that goes beyond the ending in the reader's mind, so invested are they in the story.” 3 likes
“The world is filled with people who have too much imagination solely because the people around them have too little.” 3 likes
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