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Telling Lies for Fun & Profit

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  997 ratings  ·  113 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
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 25th 1994 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1981)
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Jeffrey Keeten
”Let me always remember that I’m not in competition with other writers. Whether they have more or less success has nothing to do with me. They have their stories to write and I have mine. They have their way of writing them and I have mine. They have their careers and I have mine. The more I focus on comparing myself with them, the less energy I am able to concentrate on making the best of myself and my own work. I wind up despairing of my ability and bitter about its fruits, and all I manage to ...more
Dan Schwent
Feb 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 Stephe
Jason Koivu
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Crime writer Lawrence Block's book on writing is one of the best I've ever read. By being specific and giving practical advice from long experience, it's much more helpful than many others.

Telling Lies for Fun & Profit is like a 47 chapter course on how to write like a pro...well, hold up! It doesn't propose to turn you into the great American writer. You won't necessarily become a rich and famous novelist because of this book. What I mean is, Block gives you a career's worth of tips on how to h
Oct 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfic
I'm gonna be honest here: I really don't get what all the hype is about with this book.

It's got some solid advice, all very basic. It scratches the surface of a broad range of topics, which is nice, but so shallowly and vaguely at times as to be relatively useless. It's also a book from the eighties. There might be newer editions out there that are revised and updated, I don't know, but my copy wasn't, and it felt pretty out of touch at times, which I suppose I can't fault an approximately fort
Andrew Smith
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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 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 rated it it was amazing
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 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 rated it it was amazing
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.
Carrie Daws
Mar 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
I enjoy a touch of snarky, tongue-in-cheek, partially dry humor, and this book is full of it. Mr. Block doesn't shy away from the uncomfortable or ugly truths of the publishing world, but he shares them with both humility and fun offering mindset-shifting wisdom that writers will need to survive longterm. Full of broad stroke tips and practical thoughts for new and flailing authors, as well as for those who've been around the block a while and could use a reminder or two.
Roger Hyttinen
Feb 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“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 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Craig Childs
Jun 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Mark Victor Young
Jun 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Awesome book. Love the writer's prayer at the end! Strangely comforting.
Ted Curtis
May 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I don’t read a great many non-fiction books these days – I’m getting old now, life seems too short to wind myself up with information that’s likely to confirm my jaded worldview. But I’ve had Telling Lies for Fun and Profit for a while, and recently it jumped off the high shelf at me. I’m a great admirer of much of Lawrence Block’s fictional work, particularly the Matt Scudder mysteries: he has a real conversational gift-of-the-gab that immediately immerses you in his (usually NYC) milieu and ma ...more
Cindy Wynn
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've had my eye on this book for a while and when my children gifted me with a bookstore gift card for Mother's day, accurately measuring how much more valuable than flowers I would find it, one of my acquisitions was this manual. I have admired Block for quite some time and the addition of a forward by my favorite author, the late and dearly missed Sue Grafton, made this book an obvious addition to my TBR list. The book did not disappoint.

Block's book bears many similarities with other writing
Lee Hopkins
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
First bought this two decades ago when I had an idea to become a writer. Lost the book in numerous house moves, now reunited with Block's thoughts about the game.

This book has helped immensely, by giving me a real-life insight into life in the trenches of a novelist, and I put to immediate use a framing device he suggested (instead of having one of my characters write a letter to explain their motivations, I am using a journal a character keeps in Evernote, that shows the other side of their beh
Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teaching-myself
Any aspiring or current author should get a copy of this book and read it at once. Rather than give concrete "rules" to follow, which may or may not work, Lawrence Block uses his experience as an author of both short stories and novels to give friendly and encouraging advice on how to decide things for yourself. He can't make your decisions for you, but he can show off a wide range of options an author has and give advice on how to decide which decisions might be best for you and your story.

Rich B
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
Was interested to read this after hearing it had been endorsed by Sue Grafton and on the whole it was a worthwhile read. As it wasn't written as end to end book, but as a collection of columns from a magazine, each 'chapter' is not consistently good, but there are way more well-written pieces on writing with only the odd dud. And there were definitely a few chapters that I would rate as 5 star and should be obligatory reading for any new authors in the crime / mystery / thriller space.

It is wort
Bobby Keniston
Feb 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
"And let me always be grateful, Lord, that I am a writer, that I am actually doing the only work I've ever really wanted to do, and that I don't need anyone's permission to do it. Just something to write with and something to write on."

Lawrence Block has written over 100 books, and, along the way, learned a great deal about the craft of writing. This collection of columns he wrote for "Writer's Digest" should be on every aspiring writer's shelf. Yes, they are a little dated in terms of modern me
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Lawrence Block has been writing crime, mystery, and suspense fiction for more than half a century. He has published in excess (oh, wretched excess!) of 100 books, and no end of short stories.

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., LB attended Antioch College, but left before completing his studies; school authorities advised him that they felt he’d be happier elsewhere, and he thought this was remarkably perceptiv

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13 likes · 1 comments
“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.” 6 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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