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Lawrence Block
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Telling Lies For Fun And Profit

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  770 Ratings  ·  79 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

Published (first published 1981)
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Dan Schwent
Feb 10, 2010 Dan Schwent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
The articles that compose this writing guide are all, happily, nicely written – but there's not much new here, I'm afraid, and not much applicable to my particular situation … Larry Block – as he tells the story a couple of times in this collection of essays – has basically always written. Motivation can be an issue for him, as it is for all writers, but for the most part the driving force that made him apply butt to chair and fingers to keyboard has been that he enjoys eating, and what puts foo ...more
Eustacia Tan
Sep 13, 2012 Eustacia Tan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Andrew Smith
Jan 13, 2013 Andrew Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Tracy Krauss
Dec 30, 2016 Tracy Krauss rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a gem! I literally laughed out loud at some points. The author has a very unique, albeit dry sense of humour that makes this book a pleasure to read. It’s a must for any author: successful, aspiring, or otherwise. In fact, after reading it through once, I wanted to go back and reread some chapters just for the enjoyment of it! Some chapters were more applicable to my current situation than others, but each one had at least one nugget of wisdom, from very practical writing ‘how-to’ kind of s ...more
Feb 21, 2012 Gabriel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-read-again
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
Steve MC
Jun 06, 2013 Steve MC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 27, 2014 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
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
Vanessa Grant
Sep 25, 2011 Vanessa Grant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Benoit Lelièvre
Sep 01, 2015 Benoit Lelièvre rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Writing advice books are a dime a dozen and they're kind of a mandatory passage in every writer's existence. There will be a time where you start finding them undoubtedly cool and where you will read as many as you can get your hands on. That time eventually passes and the only type of advice you'll seek advice only from people who you know have walked the walk.

People like Lawrence Block.

TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT is a quirky writing advice book as half of it deals with breaking the myths o
Margaret Pinard
Aug 28, 2013 Margaret Pinard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-writing
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.
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
Eric Beaty
Jun 15, 2015 Eric Beaty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Writers, Authors, Fiction, Non-fiction
Almost finished reading this awesome, informative book after only a few weeks. (Would've been sooner if I weren't reading so many other writing books!) I've already read Block's previous book on writing "Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print" and was very impressed with his style and advice, so I decided this book was likely to be a good read as well; I haven't been disappointed.

So far I'm nearly to the 3rd section of the book which deals with writing as "Fiction as Craft," and my favorite secti
Mark Victor Young
Jun 14, 2009 Mark Victor Young rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 23, 2009 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Randy Lander
Jan 04, 2009 Randy Lander rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 18, 2009 Sonja rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 04, 2010 Yeva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 06, 2012 Norris F rated it liked it
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
Creative A
Jan 10, 2011 Creative A rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Craig Childs
Jun 20, 2015 Craig Childs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lawrence Block wrote a monthly column for Writer's Digest magazine for 14 years in the 1970's and 80's. They have all been collected now into 4 books:

1. Telling Lies for Fun and Profit
2. Spider, Spin Me a Web
3. The Liar's Bible
4. The Liar's Companion

No subject is off limits for Block. From lofty questions (how do writers get their ideas?) to the mundane (how many pages should you write every day?) to the personal (how often should writers exercise? how should writers budget their money?), the ad
Jan 20, 2011 Ellie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 24, 2012 Tom V rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 13, 2013 Lois Browne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2013 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
Lawrence Block has been writing novels for close to six decades, so believe me when I say that he knows everything about everything. He covers so much ground that I defy anyone not to find something useful here. What I appreciate most is that for a guy who most likely has had his own set way of doing things for a long time now, he's quick to acknowledge that everyone will have their own favored way (don't like outlines? Ditch 'em). Particularly like his tips on using other works as inspiration w ...more
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
Evie Woolmore
Aug 21, 2012 Evie Woolmore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Lea Wait
Jun 07, 2014 Lea Wait rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.)
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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
More about Lawrence Block...

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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.” 5 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.)” 2 likes
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