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Telling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers Reprint Edition
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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
"Lawrence Block is a writer's best friend. He is wise, he is funny, and, to tell the truth, he is damn helpful. When best friends and mothers fail, read this book." -- Martin Cruz Smith
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Top customer reviews
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So far I'm nearly to the 3rd section of the book which deals with writing as "Fiction as Craft," and my favorite section thus far has been the first which deals with "Fiction as a Profession." Reading this book has been as if Block was teaching me one on one; like we're sitting across from each other in comfy high-back chairs just having casual conversation about the ins and outs of writing.
Block has great wit and I found myself rolling with laughter at certain portions of the text. I particularly like the way he uses the "frame" of a classroom, addressing the readers as his students—even calling them by name at times.
If you like books on writing, you'll definitely benefit from Block's "Telling Lies for Fun & Profit." I know I'll be going back to it more than once as I continue my journey on the fiction path.
P.S. The introduction by Sue Grafton is a great addition since it gives us an insight into the woes of even the most professional writers.
P.P.S. This is a steal of a deal in paperback; keep in mind the book is a bit large and clunky compared to normal paperback sizes.
The result? Block definitely hits it out of the park with this book. Lots of great tips on visualization, characterization, creative plagiarism, procrastination, how to submit your work to publishers, framing, distancing--the list goes on at great length, not to mention at a great service to all would-be writers. Block touches on so many aspects of the writer's life--including, infamously, his comments on how many writers don't actually enjoy the process of writing, but are pulled along at the thought of the finished product--that it's hard to think of what Block DIDN'T cover in this book. Sure, some of his advice seems to be cliché by now, and no doubt it can be found in numerous other writing books. But when you consider that Block wrote this book in 1981, you realize that he was ahead of the game just that much.
Very funny, very insightful, and coming from a wizard of the genre, TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT didn't disappoint a bit. And while Block is a mystery writer, TELLING LIES isn't exclusively for those looking to write mysteries; it's good enough for every genre. Pick up this and DON'T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY and see your writing improve.