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on 27 March 2014
Wonderbook is a book I'd wanted to pick up for ages. Jeff Vandermeer was taunting his readers for quite a while on Facebook, so it seemed this was a long time coming. But it was certainly worth the wait.

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.
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on 6 December 2016
Like most writers I’ve accumulated a good few books on writing over the years: from the stern, didactic Elements of Style to the comfortable, baggy, and ubiquitous On Writing. But it’s been a long time since I’ve read a book or a blog-post on writing that seemed to be trying to do something different, that felt new.

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.
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on 24 February 2017
Writing as a visual thinker, this book suits me. Though the structure (of the book) is essentially logical, the eclectic composition ensures readers do not drift or become bored. I love the mix of images, vignettes and conversational narratives. It suits me and, I guess, it would suit many people like me, who tire of formulaic books that tend to treat the creative process of writing in a mechanistic way. This book sets out to inspire and to promote creative thinking and, it does just that. The intertwined, tangle of ideas presented in this well-written and well-conceived book, ebb and flow with the gestation of an idea, the fluid, myriad thoughts that writers somehow strive to capture and make sense of and transform into prose.

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.
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on 12 August 2015
The book is creative, interesting, gets the writing juices flowing and all of that but, it's just too clever for its own good when it comes to design. Parts of it are next to impossible to read and while I'm sure it looked great on the Mac when they were laying it out, once ink hits paper there is always the tiniest amount of bleed and that's all it takes with this. Which is a real pity, because much of what the other authors have written are a bit more interesting than VanderMeer who has a habit of wandering all over the page in need of a edit.
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on 6 April 2018
A quite unique world building book, living a lot off images, colors and visual queues. For visual learners, or people who struggle to get a mental image, this book is a must. It's a big one, over 300 pages long, but reads very well, not bulky at all. Kudos do Mr VanderMeer's idea, hits it right out of the park.
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on 5 March 2014
Its just not like any other book on writing. If you want to write out of the box, this is the book. It advises the reader to use the book chapter by chapter, but i found that was not possible. Too much to process, too many ideas come to you. I have used the book as and when. dipping in more or less where i left off to get my own ideas flowing again and avoiding traps. But, if i had started with no real idea of what to write, i would have used the book as advised. Great book! As an artist and writer, this book is unique.
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on 26 May 2016
What can I say about Wonderbook?
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.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 6 April 2015
Overall I recommend this. It offers many interesting points from different perspectives. It contains contributions from different people which adds to its range but also means it is a unfocused (or, to be less charitable, it's a bit of a mishmash). That makes it ideal for dipping into and not so good for systematic study.
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on 8 September 2014
Excellent, but some of the diagrams and pictures do distract from the text.

And occasionally it goes off on really weird tangents, but I guess this is to help get the imagination working. Also it mentions many books I have not read, so have no real anchor-point for.

Worth the money though if you are thinking of converting some of your ideas into writing.
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on 5 June 2015
I have several books on writing and whilst they are all great I particularly love this book.
Fantastic advice mixed with great illustrations. The link to the website for even more advice is great too.
This will be referred to regularly.
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