"Writing the Novel" Lawrence Block

Posted on Sat 30 August 2008 in ClubReading

Lawrence Block is certainly a very successful writer. He currently has 178 books listed on Amazon.com. The introduction starts with Mr. Block telling us why he wrote this book:

This is a book designed to help you write a novel. It contains the distillation of my own experience of twenty years as a published novelist, plus a considerable amount that I've learned from other writers. My goal throughout has been to produce the sort of book I might have found useful when I set out to write my own first novel.

And he does just that. This is a very entertaining and insightful book. Mr. Block shares many experiences with us as well as much hard learned knowledge. The opening paragraphs sum up these thoughts:

If you want to write fiction, the best thing you can do is take two aspirins, lie down in a dark room, and wait for the feeling to pass. If it persists, you probably ought to write a novel. Interestingly, most embryonic fiction writers accept the notion that they ought to write a novel sooner or later.

The book goes on to tell us why we should write a Novel. The book frequently gives specific advice regarding technique, but more often than not, the book reminds us that there is no right or wrong way - an author must decide what works best for him. In fact, Mr. Block repeats this two sided answer so often, that by the end of the book it's almost annoying. But he gets the point across - what writers do is write.

The list of Chapters shows how the book develops:

  • Why Write a Novel?
  • Deciding Which Novel to Write.
  • Read . . . Study . . . Analyze.
  • Developing Plot Ideas.
  • Developing Characters.
  • Outlining.
  • Using What You Know . . . and What You Don't Know.
  • Getting Started.
  • Getting It Written.
  • Snags, Dead Ends and False Trails.
  • Matters of Style.
  • Length.
  • Rewriting.
  • Getting Published.
  • Doing It Again.

There is a great deal of information tucked in the 200 pages. There is also an excellent section at the end of the book listing several pages worth of More Great Books for Writers.

While this isn't a technical study on any given topic, would be writers should consider this a 'must have' in their library. The book provides great objectivity and motivation.