Book Review: The Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction, by John Dufresne

Have you ever written a chunk of a new novel, only to toss it when it didn't meet your expectations? Pull that manuscript out of the trash. John Dufresne is ready to help.

Two weeks ago I reviewed Dufresne's Is Life Like This?: A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months, which gives writers a realistic time frame to their writing. This week is another offering from novelist Dufresne, titled The Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction.

If you want a book that not only tells you how to write, but gives you writing exercises that encourage you to actually put pen to paper, you've found it in Dufresne's guide.

The book is divided into three sections, The Process, The Product, and Other Matters. In The Process, the very first sentence of the first chapter is a writing exercise. How many writing books encourage you to put the volume down immediately in order to write?
 Besides multiple writing prompts, Dufresne offers a varitey of exercises that accomplish his purpose of getting writers writing every day, and helping blocked writers get unstuck. This is definitely a book that will motivate writers.

One of his main points is that the real writing is in rewriting. That's why you don't want to delete the writing that doesn't meet your expectations. In the second section of the book, The Product, Dufresne guides writers in the rewriting process, helping them with things like plot, character, dialogue, point of view, setting, and the beginnings and endings of stories.

The third section is reserved for Dufresne's writer's tools. For instance, he teaches writers how to learn by reading the writing of others.

Here's one of my favorite comments from Dufresne in the book. "Writing is a craft, and it can be taught and can be learned. I learned it. Writing is a skill, and none of us are born with skills. We work at them. What can't be taught, of course, is talent and passion. Talent is cheap, however. Passion is much more significant."

Do you have the passion to write?


  1. The quote at the end of your post alone makes me want the book. It sounds really helpful.


  2. I know. What a relief that it doesn't just depend on talent! He had a lot of encouraging quotes in the other book I reviewed, too. I like this guy.




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