Lawrence Block’s sort of new book about writing recently found its way to my Kindle app. I say “sort of new” because it’s a second edition and includes updated information for today’s writers.I was more than just excited to read this book about writing books. I was downright jubilant. Never have I read a book about writing books that was written before the nineties. The first edition of the book, Writing the Novel from Plot to Print, was published, originally, in 1978, a time before Kindles were even a thing. It was a time when a lot of the authors I enjoy reading today, Lawrence Block included, were putting out some of their best works.
Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel is the second edition, which will be released next month. The book begins with an introduction to the 1978 edition. The best way I can set the tone of this tome is with a quote from this intro.
“One thing you won’t find in this book is an explanation of the way to write a novel. Because I don’t believe there is one.”-Lawrence Block.
So, now you know what to expect, right? It’s explained simply and that’s how I like things—no need for flowers and candy, just take me to the theater.
The book moves quickly, too, which I also like, be it fiction or non. In chapter one, Block discusses why one would choose to write a novel in the first place. Comparing short story writing to novel writing, and the bells and whistles attached to each, Block says:
“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.”
The second chapter discusses how one might choose which novel to write. This is an important chapter, as I don’t know a single writer who doesn’t get flooded with novel or story ideas and has to choose which one comes first. It’s a system of triage, if you will, and if you struggle in this area, I would definitely recommend buying this book to see what he has to say.
Each chapter discusses, ponders, and argues every single bit of the process involved in taking a simple notion to write to the ultimate goal of publication. There is even a chapter on a topic in which I fear I need to read more about before I write my next anything. I do outline my books to a certain extent, but I feel like I could benefit from writing outlines that are more thorough, so chapter six was of a particular interest to me.
The most exciting part of this book, however, is not any chapter in particular. It is the order in which the topic of a certain chapter appears. The chapter title “Getting Started” doesn’t appear until chapter eight. After chapter eight, there are chapters discussing snags and dead ends, style, length, rewriting, and getting published (respectively). To keep with the ever changing times, however, Lawrence Block has also included chapters arguing for and against self-publishing and how to be your own publisher.
I didn’t find anything in this book to be too difficult to understand, so I would assume that even a high school student could easily navigate the chapters. I would have loved owning the 1978 edition when I was a teenager, so I can imagine this book (either edition, honestly) would make a wonderful gift for a young writer as well as a well-seasoned one. After all, no matter how long you’ve been in the game, the rules may change and you might find yourself standing in the dark. A good book could very well prove to be your flashlight.
On a more personal level, I feel I need to mention that the chapters are so easily laid out that one doesn’t have to thumb all over the book if in search of help in one particular area. If I needed help figuring out how to develop a character, there’s a chapter for that. If I need help deciding whether I should self-publish or not, there are a few chapters for that, too. In no way does Lawrence Block ever say that THIS is how you write a book, there is NO other way. On the contrary, this is just an informational guide, subjective and simple.
I enjoyed reading this book on my Kindle so much that I even thought to invite Mr. Block out to Starbucks, but in the chapter called Staying In Touch With LB, section Things I Won’t Do, it says that he won’t do that. It also tells you where to find him on the internet and where you might find his books. Cheers, Mr. Block. And, thank you for writing such a wonderful guide.
Obviously, not all readers are interested in writing, so for those of you who are not writers and have no interest in becoming one, I’d like to suggest another one of Block’s books, The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes, which is his latest release. Isn’t that cover something? It is available on Amazon (in the link above) in hardback, Kindle, and paperback as well.
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