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Telling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers [Paperback]

by Lawrence Block, Sue Grafton
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 25, 1994 0688132286 978-0688132286 Reprint

Characters refusing to talk? Plot plodding along? Where do good ideas come from anyway? In this wonderfully practical volume, two-time Edgar Award-winning novelist Lawrence Block takes an inside look at writing as a craft and as a career.

From studying the market, to mastering self-discipline and "creative procrastination," through coping with rejections, Telling Lies for Fun & Profit is an invaluable sourcebook of information. It is a must read for anyone serious about writing or understanding how the process works.

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Telling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers + Spider, Spin Me A Web: A Handbook for Fiction Writers
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Editorial Reviews Review

It's a good thing Lawrence Block is so friendly and generous with his writing advice. Otherwise, you'd just have to hate the guy. After all, it took him a mere two weeks to write his first novel. He was still a teenager at the time, and he promptly sold it to Fawcett, the first publisher to see it. What can a guy like that tell the rest of us about fiction writing that could possibly apply to our lives? Lots, actually. Telling Lies for Fun & Profit comprises four years' worth of Block's monthly fiction-writing column from Writer's Digest magazine. In it, Block turns his witty, welcoming prose to many aspects of the writing life, including collaboration, which Block maintains he does "largely as a means of avoiding work"; speed writing (surprise: "Sometimes a book or story will be better for having been written more rapidly"); the benefits of using strong verbs; and the importance of good character names.

As one might expect from a man who seems to have such a facile way with the typewriter, Block can make writing seem a lot easier than it does in real life. "If you write one page a day," he says, "you will produce a substantial novel in a year.... Don't you figure you could produce one measly little page, even on a bad day? Even on a rotten day?"

Still, just because he's published about, oh, 50 books, don't think Block considers novel writing to be all fun and profit. "Those of us who are driven to produce great quantities of manuscript don't necessarily get any real pleasure out of the act," he says. "It's just that we feel worse when we don't write." --Jane Steinberg

About the Author

Lawrence Block is one of the most widely recognized names in the mystery genre. He has been named a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America and is a four-time winner of the prestigious Edgar and Shamus Awards, as well as a recipient of prizes in France, Germany, and Japan. He received the Diamond Dagger from the British Crime Writers' Association—only the third American to be given this award. He is a prolific author, having written more than fifty books and numerous short stories, and is a devoted New Yorker and an enthusiastic global traveler.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (February 25, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688132286
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688132286
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #263,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very inspiring collection of essays February 20, 2002
There are two books on writing that I always keep on hand: this one and Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. I can always depend on them to inspire me to write more when my momentum has flagged for whatever reason, usually insecurity.
I really like Block's conversational style. I know this is cliche, but I often feel as if he could be speaking directly to me and addressing my own problems. I find this, among other things, to be very comforting, thus allowing me to let go and just write.
He presents simple solutions to common problems, also inspiring me to go try them out, having never approached the problem in that way before.
I find this book to be very useful in my quest to be a writer, as he seems to have had the same problems I do. This sends the positive message that these problems are universal, and all you have to do is work your way through them, because ALL writers have the same issues to deal with. Also very comforting.
I would recommend this book to anyone struggling with the need to write but not finding the nerve to just settle down and do it; and also for anyone else just needing a little boost.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great yarns and experience June 8, 2001
I bought this book at the advice of a successful writer friend, who said it was the best book he'd read on how to write a novel.
And it does have good advice on writing a novel. But I found it was more about being a writer writing a novel than on the actual contents of the novel. Hmmm. That may not be very clear. This book is loaded with wonderful, practical, inspiring anecdotes and snippets of experience on writing. But it does not tell you about story construction, which was what I was looking for.
Reading the book did help keep me motivated and added some clarity to my impression of the novel writing world. But I found books by Frey, McKee, Vogler, Lew Hunter, Syd Field and James Bonnet much more helpful when it came to the nitty gritty of creating stories.
So.... if you are looking for practical information about the writing life, about the process of writing-- this book is a gem. If you want details on story structure, character development, etc., check out some of the above mentioned authors.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book even if you don't aspire to be a writer January 21, 2003
This book is a collection of monthly columns that Block had written for a writing magazine. They fit perfectly together to make a book that is easy to recommend to anyone who treasures books, especially fiction.
I loved this book, even though I am more of a reader than a writer. You will learn techniques that an actual writer uses when devising plots, character names, and even titles. Don't expect a cookie-cutter approach to producing a story. Block instead gives you many chapters that are filled with actual examples of work written not only by himself but by other writers. The discussions that accompany these examples are both educational, easily read, and highly entertaining.
I believe the book has made me a much better reader. I can now often sit back and understand just why I didn't like a particular book.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book you'll turn to again and again June 23, 1999
By A Customer
So you're at home, sitting in front of your computer or typewriter, and you're stuck on what to write next. No problem. Just grab your copy of "Telling Lies For Fun and Profit" to get your juices flowing. Or maybe you're confused on how to proceed to the next step in your writing career, and maybe you're not sure about genres, writing groups, Sometimes I wish that I had a veteran writer friend to have a talk with over coffee or a drink. With this book, I always feel like I do. Every writer should read this.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writer's Block You Can Use... November 28, 2001
Very simply, anyone who wishes to write professionally should read --and preferably, commit to memory-- every page of this collection of both practical how-to advice and sage philosophizing on the art of storytelling.  Sue Grafton
says she re-reads this book before commencing work on her next novel; better advice would be hard to come by for anyone who dares to commit fiction-writing.
I stumbled on the Block's book as I was writing my first two novels, FLU SEASON and LIKE DISTANT CITIES BURNING
(...)It's no stretch to say he probably deserves a co-byline on both my books, though I'll deny everything if he takes me to court. Still, Block provides any writer with advice and insight one can actually USE.
To quote from the jacket: "Characters refusing to talk? Plot plodding along? Where do good ideas come from, anyway? In this wonderfully practical volume, two-time Edgar Award-winning novelist Lawrence Block takes an inside look at
writing as a craft and as a career.
"From studying the market to mastering self-discipline and 'creative procrastination' through copying with rejections, Telling Lies For Fun & Profit is an invaluable sourcebook of information..."
The book itself is a collection of the fiction columns Block did for Writer's Digest in between penning more than 30 books, many of them bestsellers.
I learned something new on almost every page, and something valuable even more often.
--Earl Merkel
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This is simply a great book. LB takes several points from various chapters and teaches you about the many ups and downs of writing; all with his usual wry sesne of humor.
To date, I have read this book three times and every time I go through it, I learn something. Used to be working on screenplays but changed to novels recently. Out of my 15 books on novel writing, this was the first one I picked up for review.
Learn why the short story should be tossed out for writing a novel instead; how to deal with rejection; what qualities you need for writing fiction; how to work at your book (this is several chapters), how to whip yourself into state even when you don't want to write and so much more. Great quoutes, too.
First book you should get on teaching yourself to write novels. Runner up would be WRITING AND SELLING YOUR NOVEL by Jack Brickam.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars First off I have a complaint but it is about the printing of the...
The last page of the book has a bar code and the words, "Made in USA San Bernardino, CA March 26 2014" So they apparently wait for an order and then run off a copy. Read more
Published 25 days ago by Victoria J. Faust
3.0 out of 5 stars More memoir than writing aid
It's a fun memoir from a storied writer, but not as great a writing aid as I'd hoped. I recommend it as a light read rather than as something to charge your writing.
Published 3 months ago by Robert A. Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars Immensely helpful and well-written.
The best almost 5 bucks I've spent on a book about writing. Now I don't feel ashamed when I only write 5 pages in a day, overuse adjectives and adverbs, or procrastinate. Read more
Published 3 months ago by heidiB
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking, Inspiring,Useful
Block's advice is well articulated and makes sense. After reading the first 5 chapters, I decided to read one of his books. Read more
Published 5 months ago by G. Arbo
5.0 out of 5 stars advice from an old friend
...At least it feels that way!

Mr. Block talks to the reader like an old friend, sharing his secrets in a fun, easy-to-understand and often extremely entertaining way. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars No article, book or class has helped my writing a much
Reading Telling Lies for Fun & Profit is what got me working on my manuscript again after six months of not touching it. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Brett Engetschwiler
3.0 out of 5 stars A loose collection of essays
While I enjoyed this book and found many useful tips that I can apply toward writing my first novel, I was a little disappointed in one aspect of the book. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Nadine Slavinski
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Bad
I found some tips in this book helpful, but it wasn't exactly earth-shattering or eye-opening. It's basically Block describing his process and how he writes.
Published 9 months ago by Angel Peters
5.0 out of 5 stars Much to be Learned from this Book
As I'm a beginning writer, Lawrence Block's book, "Telling Lies for Fun and Profit" was very helpful. Throughout the book Mr. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Barbara
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite writing book ever.
This is the one book any writer should read. Each chapter gives you in site into the craft. And a lot of the time the very next chapter tells you why that won't work for you.
Published 11 months ago by justin hall
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