Thursday, 13 September 2012

Telling Lies for Fun and Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers by Lawrence Block


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 the Market" (the "mechanics of market analysis") and so on. It sounded like a boring book that only had the aim of turning people into publishable writers. I'm so thankful I skipped the content page and summaries because I might have given up on the book.

Because from the first page onwards, the book is engaging and humorous. While it isn't one of those "follow your heart and everything will be ok", it does have emphasise on writing what you like. The difference is that book also insists that you have to know your strengths as a writer and then follow it.

In addition, the book also covers things like motivation (raising the very valid topic of Sunday Writers) as well as nitty gritty details like narrators and plot. Each chapter is fairly short but has a lot of content and entertainment value.

Speaking of Sunday Writers, the book spends a chapter discussing them. You see, in other arts, it's perfectly fine to carry it out as a hobby. You can be an ammateur painter, pianist (ok, maybe not pianist in Singapore), knitter, etc and not expect to make a living/acheive fame. But for some reason, if your hobby is writing, you have the urge to make as many people as possible read what you have wrote (and ideally, praise it).

I suppose that things like NaNoWriMo are there to just make writing fun. I was having a conversation with my friends and one of them was complaining about how it's going to be near impossible to reach the 50k word target recommended. And in one of my wittier moments, I replied "draw deep from the well of bs (bullshit)".

And you know what? That's true. Writing is fun because you can to write all sorts of things you'll never think of writing otherwise. Most of the time, the things we write are boring - reports and such (I mean, we do tend to stop writing fiction after we leave secondary school). So this is when we can indulge our over-active imaginations and write whatever we want.

That's the fun part, and well, we should be happy that we are writing. There's no need to get published/an agent.

Coming back to the book - I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for more books by Lawrence Block