Jeff Vandermeer ‘WONDERBOOK’ + writer pep talk

I started writing a novel when I was around 19/20 years old, back when I was doing my BA in Film Studies. Having become disenchanted by the process of film-making thanks to the lecturers who presided over the practical aspect of the degree, I decided to write a stage play for my final dissertation piece. During the process of writing I came upon a few ideas for a book and started writing them down and putting them to one side in order to concentrate on them after I finished my degree. By the time I finished the degree my focus had drifted towards music production almost completely and, encouraged by the success of getting my music released on various labels, the writing was pushed onto the back-burner. Over the years I’ve done bits and pieces on the novel, but it has never been my primary focus; lately that has changed somewhat and, for whatever reason, I’ve been massively consumed by the urge to really invest significant time and energy on writing. For anyone interested, the word count is now around 17,000 and I feel like I’ve moved somewhere towards the end of the beginning, but none of this is really related to the content of this post. 

When I was writing my stage-play I was doing so within the structure of a regular scriptwriting class, which meant I was encouraged to carry out various activities which I, as the clueless student know-all I probably was to some degree, initially questioned the value of. This didn’t last long. I found that, despite my trepidation, any and every bit of assistance I could find to spur me on in my writing and force me to ask questions of my work and my characters helped immensely. Fast forward a decade and a half and I have none of the support a regimented writing class offers, but I do have two things now which I didn’t have then:

1) The internet;

2) Jeff Vandermeer’s ‘WONDERBOOK: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction’ 


It’s pointless trying to sum up what WONDERBOOK offers, so I won’t be bothering. Instead, allow me to point you towards the absolutely superb accompanying website, and to quote the piece Jeff Vandermeer wrote for the NaNoWriMo website (which is itself an excellent resource, irrespective if whether you want to write your novel in a month or, as I clearly opted for, over a couple of decades). The above image is from Scott Eagle’s blog (also it appears on his tumblr site) and shows one of the pieces he did for the book. It’s a pretty good indicator of how seriously it takes the “illustrated” part of the subtitle.

Genuinely, I can’t recommend WONDERBOOK highly enough. There are a load of excellent resources for writers of all types around and I’m not suggesting that I’ve done some kind of exhaustive study of them, I just picked this up because: I have a lot of time for Vandermeer as an author; it includes excellent input from the likes of Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin etc.; it’s a truly beautiful piece of work.

As I said, attempting to write a novel in a month is something I’m unlikely to be able to manage, but the following advice is still absolutely relevant to me and I figured it was was well worth sharing:


Pep Talk from Jeff VanderMeer

Dear Writer,

Writing a novel in a short period of time requires patience, balance, and tenacity. Examining your work process and maximizing your productivity while also making sure you have time to think about your fiction—the creative daydreaming you need to keep the novel alive in your head—will make success more likely. In keeping with that goal, consider these tips:

Give yourself permission to work on what is most pleasurable in the moment. If you’re inspired to write a scene out of order, do it. The scene may change later, but what you lose in rewriting time you gain in positive reinforcement and better energy on the page. This also applies to getting the essence of a scene down. For example, if you’re writing a scene that’s a conversation and it’s just the dialogue that inspires you, write it like a transcript and add description later.

During writing sessions where you are flat-out frozen, pick a different vantage point. Choose a non-viewpoint character and write part of an existing scene from that perspective. Or go back over what you’ve written already and change a decision; turn a character’s yes to no, or vice versa. You might only discover a few details about your characters, but something is better than nothing.

Take a moment when you reach the midway or two-thirds point to list each scene you’ve written in book order. Then detail, under each scene heading, every major action or moment of emotional resonance in that scene. Make sure what you have seems sound, and try to then either adjust your existing outline for the remaining scenes or, if there is no existing outline, map them out.

Don’t Panic. Part of not panicking is to focus on the day’s work—and that requires having a sense the night before of what you plan to work on the next day. Priming your subconscious for that task may mean you have more answers when you wake up, too. Early on in the month, get a firm sense of what you can reasonably expect to finish on an average day and don’t over-commit—which leads to disappointment and then to panic.

Capture inspiration as it comes to you. Always write down ideas immediately, and allow yourself to run with them, even if you wind up filling lots of pages. You may find that you’ve already done some of the hard work in the notebook, through the scene fragments, bits of dialogue, and description that you wrote in these short bursts.

Finally, position yourself to succeed by doing the other things in your life that rejuvenate you. Some form of exercise, for example, in combination with eating chocolate, or taking time off to watch part of a TV show. You can create little islands of time away from your novel that will help preserve your balance. Exhaustion will affect both your writing’s quality and your productivity toward the end of the month.

NaNoWriMo may seem like a sprint, but four weeks can be an eternity, if you prep properly. Sometimes, the only difference between success and failure is the set-up—and here that means making sure your conscious and subconscious minds have every opportunity to be of use to your writing. Good luck!



(originally published at

18 tips for comics artists by Moebius "brief manual for cartoonist "

  • My 8house collaborator and impressive dude, Xurxo g Penalta translated this Spanish Moebius list of advice for artists. I thought would be cool to post. (Thanks Xurxo)
  • http: //
  • 1. when you draw you must clean yourself of deep feelings (hate, happiness, ambition, etc)
  • 2 it's important to educate the hand, attain obedience, to full fill ideas. but careful with perfection, to much, as well as too much speed, as well as their opposites are dangerous. to much looseness, instant drawings,aside from mistakes, there's no will of the spirit, only the bodies.
  • 3. perspective is of sum importance, it;s a law of manipulation in the good sense, to hypnotise the reader. it;s good to work in real spaces, more that with photos, to exercise our reading of perspective.
  • 4.another thing to learn with affection is the study of the human body, the positions, the types, the expressions, the arquitecture of bodies, the difference between people. the drawing is very different when it come to a male or a female, because in the male you can change a little the lines, it supports to have some impressions. but with the female precision must be perfect, if not she may turn ugly or upset. then no one buys our book! so for the reader believes the story, the characters must have life and personality of their own, gestures that come from character, from their diseases; the body transforms with life and there's a message in the structure, in the distribution of fat, in every muscle, in every fold of the face and body. it;s a study of life.
  • 5. when you make a story you can start with out knowing everything, but making notes (in the actual story) about the particular world of that story. that way the reader recognizes and becomes interested. when a character dies in a story, and that character has no story drawn in his face in his body, in his dress, the reader does not care, there's no emotion. and then the editors say: "your story is worthless, there's only one dead guys and I need 2) or 30 dead guys for it to work" but that is not true, if the dead guy, or wounded guy or sick guys or whomever is in trouble has a real personality that comes from study, from the artists capacity for observation, emotion will emerge (empathy). In the study you develop an attention for others, a compassion, and a love for humanity.
  • it's very important for the development of an artist, if he wants to be a mirror, it must contain inside it;s consciousness the whole world, a mirror that sees everything.
  • 6. jodorwosky says I don't like drawing dead horses. it;s very difficult. it's very difficult to draw a body that sleeps, that's abandoned, because in comics you're always studying action. it;s easier to draw people fighting thats way Americans always draw superheroes. it;s more difficult to draw people talking, because there are a series of movements, very small, but that have a significance, and that accounts for more, because it need love, attention to the other, to the little things that speak of personality, of life. the superheores have no personality, all of them have the same gestures and movements (pantomimes ferocity, running and fighting)
  • 7. equally important is the clothing of the characters, the state they;re in, the materials, the textures are a vision of their experiences, of their lives, their situation in the adventure, that can say a lot with out words. In a drew there's a million folds, you must chose 2 or 3, but the good ones.
  • 8. the style, the stylistically continuity of an artist is symbolical, it can be read like the tarot. I chose as a joke the name Moebius, when I was 22, but in truth there's a meaning to that. if you bring a t shirt with Don Quixote, that speaks to me of who you are. in my case, I give importance to a drawing of relative simplicity, that way subtle indications can be made.
  • 9. when an artist, a drawing artist goes out on the street, he does not see the same things other people see. what he sees is documentation about a way of life, about people.
  • 10. another important element is composition. the composition on our stories must be studied, because a page, or a painting, is a face that looks towards (faces) the reader and that speaks to him. it's not a succession of panels with out meaning. there's panels that are full and some that are empty, others that have a vertical dynamic or a horizontal one, and on that there is intention. the vertical excites (cheers), the horizontal calms, an oblique to the right , for us westerners, represents the action heads towards the future, and oblique to the left directs action toward the past. points (points of attention) represent a dispersion of energy. something places in the middle focalises energy and attention, it concentrates.
  • these are basic symbols for reading, that exercise a fascination, a hypnosis. you must have a consciousness about rhythm, set traps for the reader to fall on to, and if he falls, and gets lost and may move inside them with pleasure because there's life. you must study the great painters, the ones that speak with their paintings, of any school or period, that does not matter, and they must be seen with that preoccupation for physical composition, but also emotional. in what way the combination of lines on that artist touches us directly in the heart.
  • 11. narration must harmonize with the drawing. there must be a visual rhythm from the placement of words, plot must correctly maneuver cadence, to compress or expand time. must weary of the election and direction of characters. use them as a film director and study all different takes.
  • 12. careful with the devastating influence of north american comics in mexico, they only study a little anatomy, dynamic composition, the monsters, the fights, the screaming and teeth (grin). I like them as well, but there are many other possibilities that must be explored.
  • 13. there's a connection between music and drawing. but that depends also on the personality and the moment. for perhaps 10 years I've been working in silence, and for me the music is rhythm of the lines (the music he listens to).
  • to draw is sometimes to hunt for findings, an exact (fair, just) line is an orgasm!
  • 14. color is a language that the artist (drawing artist) uses to manipulate the readers attention and to create beauty. there's objective and subjective color, the emotional states of the character influence the coloring and lighting can change from one panel to the next, depending on the space represented and the time of the day. the language of color must be studied with attention.
  • 15. especially at the beginning of a career, one should work on short stories but of a very high quality. there's a better chance to finish them successfully and place them on a book or with editors.
  • 16. there are times when we are headed to failure knowingly, we choose a theme, an existence, a technique that does not suit (convene) us. you must not complain afterwards.
  • 17. when new pages are sent to editors and see rejection, we should ask for the reasons. we must study the reasons for failure and learn. it's not about struggle with our limitations or with public or the publishers. it's more about treating it like in aikido; the strength (power) of the attack is used to defeat him with the same effort.
  • 18. now it is possible to find reader in any part of the planet. we must have this present. to begin with, drawing is a way of personal communication, but this does not imply that the artist must envelop himself in a bubble; it' communication with the beings near us, with oneself, but also with unknown people. Drawing is a medium to communicate with the great family we have not met, the public, the world.
  • august 18th 1996 compiled by Perez Ruiz

tumblrbot asked:


Anything you can create something with. Pens, pencils, paint, musical instruments - whatever your weapon of choice is. Right at this second mine would probably be a pencil.