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Telling Lies for Fun & Profit

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4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  590 ratings  ·  61 reviews
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 F
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Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 25th 1994 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1981)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,187)
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Dan Schwent
Telling Lies for Fun & Profit is a collection of some of Lawrence Block's columns from Writer's Digest.

Most of the time I see books on writing, they're by people I've never heard of and I pass them by. Stephen King's On Writing has been my favorite book on writing for years... but now he has competition.

I picked up this book because Lawrence Block has become one of my favorite writers in the past few years and because I felt like I have more in common with the esteemed Mr. Block than I do St
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Tracey, librarian on strike
I have reviewed this book; the review can be found here, on Booklikes, and here, on my blog. (also, go check out Leafmarks - it's going to be terrific.) However, I will no longer be posting reviews on Goodreads, due to its recent changes to terms of service and, far worse, the boneheaded and incomprehensible way it is proceeding with the new policy. Deleting content, almost randomly, and without warning (whatever they may have said) is wrong, and a half-hearted apology later doesn't make it all ...more
Eustacia Tan
As part of NaNoWriMo preparation (and just because I like reading and writing), I decided to read Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block, nevermind that I've never even heard of him before. And I realised that even if you've never her of this pulp fiction author, you should definitely read this book if you're interested in writing!

The book sounded boring at first. The first few chapters had stuff like "Setting your Sights" (about how to "discover your options as a writer"), "Studying
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Gabriel
Plain and simple, one of the best books for fiction writers that I've read. Great for neophytes and veterans. Sometimes, it gives you the push you've been looking for; there's a chapter on quite a few different aspects of writing and one of those you probably have a question on.

I would have appreciated more exercises in this book (especially since it started out in column format, I would have thought there was something that Block could have written at the end that would have been a basic exerci
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John
Lawrence Block is the writing teacher I wish I had back in college. I often find books on writing to be dull and repetitive, but TELLING LIES hits upon a lot of useful topics that commonly get ignored--plus, Mr. Block always provides a fresh perspective, and his essays are as fun to read as they are informative. And if you are a Lawrence Block fan, this book will provide a lot of insight into the first half of the man's vastly prolific career.
This book will not tell you how to write the Great Am
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Andrew Smith
I've long been a fan of Lawrence Block. I've read about 40 of his books and I'm still buying more on virtually a daily basis to top up my new Kindle. He's a prolific writer and has written well over 100 books. I've long admired the infinite variation in his work and his skill as a wordsmith. This aid for those wishing to turn out a tome of their own was written about 30 years ago, way before he wrote much of the material I've since spent long nights absorbing. It's a humorous but hugely informin ...more
Steve MC
This is one of the best books I've found on the discipline, craft, and profession of writing. I first read it twenty years ago, and just read it again and enjoyed it just as much.

Block not only has the experience to write from – dozens of novels and plenty of awards – but he has that knack for teaching that makes reading this book such a delight. He also doesn’t hold back on the rough parts of the profession, but tells it to you straight.

Each of the chapters were first published in his fiction c
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Vanessa Grant
Sep 25, 2011 Vanessa Grant rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: writers, prospective writers
I read Telling Lies for Fun and Profit in the early 1980s, a couple of years after I'd decided to put aside my attempts to write a publishable fiction novel for a while.

I knew I wasn't done with writing and that I would give it another try sometime, but it wasn't until I picked up Block's book of essays about writing that I decided it was time to write again. In friendly conversational style, Block gave me glimpses into a writer's world that seemed accessible and answered many of my questions be
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Mark Victor Young
A lot of great and useful stuff in this pretty old book on writing. It is a series of articles that Block wrote for Writer's Digest and he has adapted them and put them in themed sections and provided some continuity between each. Very light and entertaining, but useful for anyone who likes to think about making his or her writing better. Of particular value to me were the twin aphorisms "First things second" and "Spring forward, fall back." I have applied things that he suggests to better effec ...more
Roger Hyttinen
“Don’t begin at the beginning; first things second. Spring forward in storytelling and fall back with backstory.” ~ Lawrence Block

This post might be more of interest to my writer friends or for folks who are thinking of starting a writing career. An author friend recommended a classic book entitled Telling Lies for Fun and Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers by Lawrence Block. Block, who has written over 150 novels, leads us by the hand through the process of being a novel writer. If you’re loo
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Nick
Aug 03, 2009 Nick rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Writers of any kind
A collection of columns written for Writers Digest, this is one of the best books I have read - covering both some interesting points of the business of writing (why should I or not use a penname?) and the finer points of the writing itself ("Why shouldn't I write this way?" he ejaculated.)

Chuckle-out-loud funny in places and always engaging, this is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the craft of fiction writing.
Margaret Pinard
A little old-fashioned humor never hurt anyone... and the tips and advice given by Lawrence Block in this writing classic far outweigh the groans that will be coaxed forth at his puns and gags. Some of them are enjoyable, actually. And he does a great job of using his own experience, giving examples, comparing for illustration, and showing why some things work and others don't. Highly recommended for those writing fiction.
Sonja
All good advice and worth a read, though most of it was fairly intuitive. I supposed I should be GLAD that I knew most of it intuitively already! Anyway, it was good to read it all put into words, so I'd recommend it. Block is entertaining to read, even if you don't learn anything earth-shattering.
Randy Lander
This is a fantastic book on writing structure and style, but it's also just a really good read, Block is funny and breezy and entertaining. Probably my favorite book on writing that I read back when I was trying to hone my craft a little for the purposes of reviewing and casual writing.
Yeva
The bomb went off, and I lost my digital way, but fortunately the library system if forgiving and I was finally able to finish this book.
Marie-Claude Bourque
Awesome book. Love the writer's prayer at the end! Strangely comforting.
Norris F
I've seen Telling Lies for Fun and Profit on many aspiring writer's reference lists. I stumbled across a copy at Half Price books and decided to give it a whirl. I've read some of Block's fiction: books from the Scudder series and a few Kellers. I found his work to be diverting, but a little dry(I'm more a fan of his contemporaries Donald Westlake or Elmore Leonard). This isn't the worst book I've read on writing, nor is it the best. The book is divided into 4 or 5 sections. Telling Lies is a co ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
An editor once told me that if you're going to take advice on writing, take it either from name-bestselling writers or gatekeepers such as acquiring editors or agents--not necessarily anyone who writes for Writer's Digest or has taught a writing class. Well, Lawrence Block is at least a published writer--and an Edgar-award winning one at that. But unlike Stephen King and Elizabeth George, both authors of books on the craft of writing, he's not an author I've personally enjoyed. Moreover, this is ...more
Lea Wait
Recommended by my writing friend Kate Flora ... it's not new .. but Lawrence Block's book on writing, both the professions and techniques, was excellent. I've had 13 books published, but I still especially appreciated his chapters on techniques -- especially the examples he used to demonstrate. But, because it's Block, his sense of humor makes reading great fun. Definitely recommended. (And a lot of his ideas would be great for someone teaching writing.)
Victor Whitman
I've found most books on fiction writing to be pretty dull and some just awful(for example, I remember one book where a so-called master of dialogue splatters page after page of crappy dialogue to illustrate his grand thoughts on the subject). Lawrence Block has been a good writer for nearly 50 years. This book offers practical advice, and was excellent. Recommended for would-be writers like me, and experienced ones too.
Creative A
I really enjoyed this book and found it quite helpful, despite some of the bunny trails the author takes us down on. It's not the kind of book that has a section for "Plot" and then one for "Character Development" and so on. Instead, it's the kind of book you read in bits and pieces, gleaning as you go. Lawrence Block has a great sense of humor and also appreciation for his craft.

One of my favorite quotes:

"Wodehouse rewrote intensively. He pinned pages of his current manuscript around the walls
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Ellie
I just love the way Block writes: I've followed all his series, with an especial fondness for the Burglar (although I'll admit that sometimes it verges on the cutesy) and the Scudder which is one (if not THE) most favorite detectives/series going: smart, hard-living, drinking/sober AND New York City/Hell's Kitchen-my old neighborhood [how COULD they have moved 8 Million Ways to Die to Los Angeles? It's like erasing the major character in a story. It's like Romeo and Buffy. It's like Tristan and ...more
Tom V
Lawrence Block is one of my favorites, and I've been reading about Scudder, Bernie, and Keller (and Tanner, too) for a great many years. But LB in this case is no fictioneer, but rather the cool prof you wished you'd had back in the day. This collection of mini-essays from his days writing columns for Writers Digest is just one treat after another if you're looking for advice from a master on the how-to of creative writing. It's not going to put plots in your head (maybe), or instructions on rea ...more
Lois Browne
I would recommend this book to any writer. It's based on Block's columns for Writers' Digest.

Block's very easy to read. I like the fact that he is an unpoetic writer. There's very little I am tempted to skip.

He covers a lot of issues that writers deal with like naming characters, naming stories, working to a schedule, developing ideas, leaving ideas to stew in your subconscious until they're ready for the paper/computer screen.

Block writes a number of series and he has interesting things to s
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Kay H.
I found the first section of the book to be interesting, if not useful. The other three sections seemed to be thinly veiled advertisements for Lawrence Block's books, however, and I was both bored and annoyed by that.
Jennifer Zartman
I own a hardback edition from 1981 in which all of the how-to-publish information is out of date, so I'd recommend a newer version. I really liked Mr. Block's humility--he recognized that his way is not the only way to write, and he encouraged others to follow their heart and write their own book. That point helped me finish his book, as I differ on many preferences and on world view. Reading it didn't generate any "A-ha!" moments for me, but the writing style is fluid and witty, the insights ar ...more
Alice Allan
Entertaining, insightful, liberating.
Evie Woolmore
This is one of the best books about writing craft, precisely because it isn't teaching you but it is helping you learn. I've used very little either directly or in a conscious way over the years that I have been writing, but this book helped me understand one fundamental lesson about writing anything, from homework to job applications to literary fiction. That to do it well is about sharing with your reader. Block does it brilliantly and even if you aren't a writer yourself, it's still a great r ...more
Matthew Arkin
Jan 01, 2014 Matthew Arkin added it
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to be a writer.
This book was incredibly inspiring to me as I started down the long and daunting road towards trying my hand at my first piece of long fiction. Although I think the written word is indescribably precious, I abhor preciousness in the teaching and description of craft, and Block's direct, no-nonsense approach and advice set me firmly on my path.
Jan Kellis
This is actually a collection of article Lawrence Block wrote for Writer's Digest, but they are well-presented in a logical order so they read as a cohesive whole. Block addresses many writing issues, including dialogue, approaching editors and agents, and writing habits. His humor is woven throughout, giving the reader a sense of his personality.

An inspiring study of writing as craft, hobby, obsession. If you want to write fiction, this is a great place to start.
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Received the Shamus Award, "The Eye" (Lifetime achievment award) in 2002.

From his web site:

I'm told every good author website needs a bio, so here's mine:

"Lawrence Block's novels range from the urban noir of Matthew Scudder (A Drop of the Hard Stuff) to the urbane effervescence of Bernie Rhodenbarr (The Burglar on the Prowl), while other characters include the globe-trotting insomniac Evan Tanne
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More about Lawrence Block...
The Sins of the Fathers (Matthew Scudder, #1) Eight Million Ways to Die (Matthew Scudder, #5) Hit Man (Keller, #1) When the Sacred Ginmill Closes (Matthew Scudder, #6) Burglars Can't Be Choosers (Bernie Rhodenbarr, #1)

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“As a friend of mine, herself a writer, says, “People who spend the most meaningful hours of their lives in the exclusive company of imaginary people are apt to be a little strange.” 2 likes
“—And I won't deny your neighbors will take you more seriously if you tell them you've written a novel. (Of course if that's the main concern, just go and tell them. You don't have to write anything. Just lie a little. Don't worry—they won't beg to read the manuscript.)” 0 likes
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