Book Review · Nonfiction

Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction

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In addition to reading, I also enjoy creative writing. I’m nowhere near being able to publish anything I have written, but my favorite genre to write in would definitely be fantasy (surprised?). I have to admit that I am often skeptical of any sort of writing guide because many that I have read tend to not be very useful in practice or just plain dull. This book was written by Jeff VanderMeer, who is a pretty well-known author, so that made me pick it up and give it a shot. With any sort of book like this, I believe that it is important to review it with a range of experience levels in mind. So, without further ado, is this how-to-write-fantasy book any good?

To begin with, I would consider my own experience with creative writing to be moderate. I took a few creative writing courses during my undergraduate and graduate degrees, but creative writing was not my degree focus. I know some of the basic writing concepts, vocabulary, and have done a good bit of my own writing. If you have a similar amount of experience to me, or less than me, Wonderbook will definitely be useful to you.

Wonderbook introduces many basic writing concepts, so if you have very little writing experience, do not worry! In fact, if you know next to nothing about writing, I would still highly recommend this book. The chapter topics ease writers of any experience level into the writing process. The book begins with a chapter on inspiration and creative life, then there are chapters on stories as a whole, beginnings and endings, narrative design, characterization, worldbuilding, and revision. Throughout the book there are features with popular fantasy/sci-fi authors like Neil Gaiman, George R. R. Martin, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Nnedi Okorafor to name a few. Scattered around the chapters are writing challenges, author essays, and inspiring artwork and illustrations. The back of the book includes some extra writing exercises as well as more interviews from authors. Jeff VanderMeer writes in a very personable and conversational way. He is much better at explaining concepts and being encouraging than many writing teachers I have had! There is also a website that accompanies the book. If you want to know more about the book, or get a feel for what is inside it, check out the website first.

I really enjoyed reading Wonderbook. Since I have some writing experience and am very familiar with the fantasy/sci-fi genre, I was not too surprised by anything in the book. However, I still think it is valuable to read because of the collection of interviews and essays by other authors. Hearing other great writers talk about their writing processes, sharing some of the things they’ve learned in their careers, and getting a “behind the scenes” look at some of my favorite books was enlightening as both a reader and writer. I loved that the focus of the book was fantasy/sci-fi writing. There was actually a lot of good information that was specific to writing in this genre. It is also helpful to have a bunch of writing tips all in one place that can be referred back to as needed. If nothing else, the book itself is gorgeously illustrated with a ton of fun and informative content. A book like this is hard to give a rating to, but because I learned a few things and had fun doing it, 5 out of 5 starts to Wonderbook!

4 thoughts on “Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction

  1. This sounds like a fascinating book and pefect for strengthening sci-fi/fantasy writing skills–will add it to my TBR! Do you read a lot of writing advice books and, if so, do you have other recs?

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