Telling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers
by Lawrence Block
Telling Lies for Fun & Profit
by Lawrence Block
reviewed by Earl Merkel
Very simply, anyone who wishes to write professionally should read --and preferably, commit to memory-- every page of Telling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers (Harper Paperbacks) by Lawrence Block. This masterwork is a collection of both practical how-to advice and sage philosophizing on the art of storytelling.
His book focuses on the hands-on how-to side of becoming a successful author. As a result, Telling Lies For Fun & Profit remains, after almost three decades in print, the go-to source for aspiring writers as well as a guide for established best-selling authors.
For instance, Sue Grafton --who has sold millions of her Kinsey Millhone /alphabet mystery series (her latest: 'S Is For Silence')-- confesses that she re-reads 'Telling Lies' before starting each of her new books, just to refresh herself on the writing techniques and how-to tips that Block details in it. Better advice would be hard to come by for anyone who dares to commit fiction-writing.
I stumbled on Block's book as I was writing my first two novels, FLU SEASON and LIKE DISTANT CITIES BURNING (subsequently published as FINAL EPIDEMIC and DIRTY FIRE, respectively; marketing departments, not authors, determine book titles--another point Block's book makes).
It's no stretch to say he probably deserves a co-byline on both these books (though I'll deny everything if he takes me to court). Still, I'll testify under oath that 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 coping 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 over a four-year period 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. For instance, Block notes "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?"
As a side note, a few months ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Larry for a radio program I host; the occasion was the publication of his then current book, HIT PARADE. Telling Lies For Fun & Profit continues to sell well, Larry reports; and I can assert that its author remains one of the most prolific --and compelling-- novelists working today.
The proof is, as always, in the pudding--and Larry Block produces a lot of pudding. It's just about impossible to find anybody who hasn't --at one time or another-- read something written by this living mystery-suspense legend (he is a celebrated Mystery Writers Of America Grand Master).
It's not just because the guy is amazingly prolific --you expect a lot of books from someone who virtually popped out of the womb determined to be a professional writer, and sold his very first piece to Follett Publishing while still a teenager. Rather, one reads Block for the same reason most writers write: once you've been exposed, it hurts if you try to stop.
He's that good.
So why try to reinvent the wheel? Telling Lies For Fun & Profit is a book that lays out the secrets of how to become a successful author. Read it today--and get back to your own writing first thing tomorrow morning.
You'll be amazed at how much better you'll be at it.
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