Along with Block's _Telling Lies for Fun and Profit_, this is a book I've found indispensable over the years. It's not only tremendously helpful and encouraging for me as a writer, but it's also, like all of Block's work, sheer fun to read. Block's writing on writing is particularly engaging because he gives the impression of addressing a friend and colleague, offering the benefit of his experience for what it's worth, without talking down to his audience or intimidating with a judgmental list of must-dos and must-nots (like some tyrannical authors of books on writing). Block never condescends, and he always acknowledges that writers work in different ways (sometimes, in fact, different books work in different ways), so that the would-be writer feels free to take away only what works for him or her, without obligation to learn to write The Block Way.
While I find _Telling Lies_ even more helpful during the writing process, _Spider_ offers a fuller menu for the writer: not only does Block address specific tools of writing like foreshadowing, mining life experiences, and background information, but he also tackles some bigger issues about writing routines, marketing one's work, what to expect from editors, and the best ways to become successful. He also gives solid practical advice on more "advanced" writing issues for those who have established themselves and may be facing specific dilemmas regarding ghostwriting, living on a writer's income, and other realities of the writing life (not forgetting the harshest reality: rejection). And for those in a philosophical mood, he looks at the writer's mindset: how to set a writing goal, how to achieve it, and even how to determine what kind of writer you are.
Altogether, _Spider_ is a refreshing combination of down-to-earth conversation about the nuts and bolts side of writing and serious thoughts on the more elusive questions liable to bedevil the writer. It's a great resource whether you need a pep talk to get started, find yourself bogged down during your writing, or just want to get the perspective of a lively mind on the whole writing life. I advise every fiction writer to keep a copy on her desk.