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Telling Lies For Fun & Profit [Paperback]

Lawrence Block
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 8 1993
"I would urge other writers, at whatever point in their careers, to take the time to read this indispensable handbook....Telling Lies for Fun & Profit should be a permanent part of every writer's library."-- From the Introduction by Sue Grafton

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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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

A Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, Lawrence Block is a four-time winner of the Edgar Allan Poe and Shamus Awards, as well as a recipient of prizes in France, Germany, and Japan. The author of more than fifty books and numerous short stories, he is a devout New Yorker who spends much of his time traveling.


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
A COUPLE of months ago I returned to Antioch College to teach an intensive week-long seminar on fictional technique. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very inspiring collection of essays Feb. 20 2002
Format:Paperback
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but-- Sept. 20 2001
Format:Paperback
Block is a good writer, excellent in fact. This is a good resource, but I've read better. The gist of content, is study the market, and write steady until you are finished.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writer's Block You Can Use... Nov. 28 2001
Format:Paperback
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great yarns and experience June 8 2001
Format:Paperback
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
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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