I recently caught sight of one of my favorite books on writing, sitting on my book shelf, and on a whim decided to re-read it.
Yes, I know the book I’m showing you was published in 1988. I bought my copy from a used bookstore when I was in college, and I have kept it ever since.
And still, after all these years, it is one of my very favorites. (Did you know they came out with a Kindle edition a few years ago? Neither did I! If you click on the picture, it should take you to it. I’m getting a copy for my Kindle, right.now.)
Lawrence Block writes mysteries–at the time, I didn’t even read mysteries. I read a few of his novels, but only after reading his books on writing. I read his books on writing after getting hooked on his column that ran for many years in Writer’s Digest–I still have a stack of old issues that I pull out sometimes.
You will find books of genre-specific writing advice. Lawrence Block’s books are not those books. His advice transcends genre. He takes on some of the more esoteric topics others don’t often talk about, like foreshadowing that can be done after the fact, the large role of intuition in writing, and the simple fact that the way words look on a page is important. A lot of this is not nuts-and-bolts advice (I have other books I’ll recommend for that!)
But it is timeless. I was thinking about it this morning, after one of my kids wondered aloud why I was reading such a old book. I could find something newer to read, but I doubt I could find something better to read.
The simple fact is that, while genres and writing styles may come in and out of fashion, the techniques of putting words on the page don’t really change. This book was written when writing was done on typewriters, when Kindles didn’t exist, when the world was a different place. And it doesn’t matter at all. The advice is still sound. Lawrence Block’s entertaining, humorous, engaging style works as well today as it did in 1988.
If you’re in the mood for some good reading (and some good thinking) about writing, give this one a shot.