Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel by Lawrence Block

Cover_Ebook_Writing the Novel

WRITING THE NOVEL FROM PLOT TO PRINT was the book that jump-started my career as a novelist and remains my favorite how-to book. In my review of the original edition, I rated it four stars, which would have been a perfect five if the book weren’t a bit outdated. (It was written in the 1970s.)

Earlier this year, I emailed Lawrence Block to ask him if he would ever update the book. He emailed back and said it was something he’d like to do. In the acknowledgements of WRITING THE NOVEL FROM PLOT TO PRINT TO PIXEL, he very generously gives me credit for giving him the idea, but I believe my email was simply the tipping point for him, since writers have been asking for a new edition for years.

WRITING THE NOVEL FROM PLOT TO PRINT TO PIXEL isn’t an update in the strictest sense. It’s an expansion. Block has reproduced his original text as-is, while adding commentary to reflect the new world of writing. In other hands, this could be clunky, but Block makes it work. It helps that he is one of the authors who has successfully made the leap from traditional to self publishing. He still has a foot in each world and is able to take a clear-eyed view of the modern writing landscape.

The section on publication is where Block did the most updating. The craft of writing novels hasn’t changed, but the way we get those novels into readers’ hands has changed tremendously. Block has added three new chapters—one each on the pros and cons of self-publishing and one on the nuts and bolts of doing it yourself. He wisely recognizes how quickly things move in today’s publishing world and points readers toward websites with up-to-date information.

The other chapters have much less commentary added to them. My beloved chapters on plotting, characters, reading like a writer, and developing solid work habits are as helpful as ever, and the commentary is sprinkled in with a light touch. Block offers a cautionary tale here, a bit of insight there, and a joke as often as he can get away with it. As I was reading, I got the delightful sensation that I was reading my own dog-eared original edition while Lawrence Block himself sat next to me offering witty asides.

WRITING THE NOVEL FROM PLOT TO PRINT TO PIXEL is like having a pocket-sized mentor you can consult any time. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.

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rating: 5 stars

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pie slices: 8 slices craft

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This book is best for: beginning and intermediate writers

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I recommend this book

16 thoughts on “Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel by Lawrence Block

  1. This is one of the first books on writing I ever bought, and still one of the best, particularly for that same “pocket mentor” feeling you mention. When the ebook came out many years later, I bought that too. An updated edition is very good news indeed.

  2. I’ve got mine pre-ordered. No fair getting an ARC! :p

    Like many others, this was one of my first how-to-write books. Between this and the copy of A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES I happened upon at the library many moons ago, I have Block to blame…er…thank…for my writing compulsion.

  3. Alex,

    I’m in total agreement. I discovered Block in the ’70s when I had a subscription to Writer’s Digest. Years ago I recycled all of my copies except those with Block columns.

    I purchased the collections in the ’80s and have gone back to them time time and time again for sources of inspiration and to whack myself on the side of the head when I hit a rough spot. The books have also proven invaluable at workshops in helping to guide my students.

    I ordered my copy of the update as soon as I could. Block is a treasure.

    Jeff Hess
    Have Coffee Will Write

  4. Of course I snapped it up at Amazon. Have the original, much thumbed, often loaned, but I’ve been waiting for the update. This one stays on my desk. Let the rest of them buy their own!

  5. Helpful review, of P2P2P. Neat and beautiful site. I think you stated the theme of No Plot? No Problem! a touch better than its author, actually (though maybe that comes under the heading of Reader’s Advantage).

  6. Come to think of Reader’s Advantage again, I know of two cases – The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich, by William L. Shirer, and Carrying The Fire by Apollo astronaut Michael Collins – where the author says one or two things more clearly in an abridgement of his work for children than he did in what he abridged.

    • Thanks for stopping by the blog, Dan. And thank you for the kind words.

      I don’t know why, but it’s always easier to sum up someone else’s book, rather than our own.

      • Actually, what you say about the ease of summing up someone else’s book compared to your own work is probably a psychological principle. Ever read Michael Crichton’s autobiographical “Travels”? A girlfriend adept in negative salesmanship sold him on seeing a shrink, and after five sessions of all talk (by him) and nothing else but old homilies (from the therapist) – “three hundred dollars down the drain so far” – the therapist, after all of the complaining C. had done, summed it all up by having to say – since C. couldn’t see it himself – that Crichton was tremendously insecure. This was after the blockbuster “The Andromeda Strain”. C. said that it felt as if someone had just said that he had a third arm growing out of his chest – there all the time, hidden from him or not. “After that, I never kept track of the money again.” Others see us as we can’t.

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