I’ve been mentioning over the last couple of months how inspired I’ve been while reading Telling Lies for Fun & Profit by Lawrence Block. I’ve read more books about writing than I could hope to remember, and while many have been solid and given me advice I’ll always carry with me, Telling Lies is proving a step above that.
Block explains in short, digestible ways (which I can already learn from) how he became a writer — and with no little success; if you’ve got a few minutes, check out the jaw-dropping list of his published books — and what he learned from the experience. This led to a regular monthly column on writing where he’d opine about one aspect or the other of writing and publishing and would reply to specific questions he had received about such subjects. That material was sifted through and categorized and collected and slightly modified to suit as a book of advice and insights, which is what became Telling Lies.
One part of the book covers why he believes that writing novels is a better idea than writing, say, an equivalent volume of short stories. I discovered my love of writing with short stories in early grade school and have always continued doing so, even as recently as last week. For decades, I’ve believed that it’s a good default for me, because I have a head overstuffed with ideas and demonstrably not a ton of patience for getting myself to write a novel-length story, so writing shorter material allowed me to work out a lot of the ideas quickly and thus get to more of them. Block’s cons about writing short stories — not against them, as he grants he still writes them himself at times, but just noting the downsides of the realities of publishing them — and pros about writing (even short) novels has given me cause to completely re-think my approach to writing prose.
So, where for a couple of months I’ve been somewhat on the fence about how to approach this new idea of mine (definitely longer than a short story and perhaps worthwhile writing as a screenplay, but man, writing my first novel was a battle), I’m now confidently plowing ahead with it as a novel. I can’t say it’ll be a fast turnaround, but I’ve definitely never felt this good, this certain, about writing something (again) that length.
And did I mention that all this has come about quickly, because I’m only about half-way through Telling Lies? Only half-way in and it’s already had this much effect on me? That’s never happened with any book on writing advice I’ve read.
I’ve got plenty keeping me busy, but thanks to this book, I’m looking refreshingly forward to getting to sit down and keep writing, what I can finally say with pleasing certainty, will be my next novel.