I read this book about a year ago and enjoyed it. I learned some things about writing, but mostly I got to know Lawrence Block. He hits all the usual topics---Developing Plot Ideas, Developing Characters, Outlining, etc.---and illustrates these with examples from his own career.
He has had a remarkable career beginning with writing paperback originals in the 1950s and continuing through the present. In 2014, Liam Neeson played Matthew Scudder in A Walk Among the Tombstones, a book from his most successful series.
Two weeks ago, I found myself thinking about this book, so I decided to read it again. This time, I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time, but I also saw that he gives answers to most of the practical questions writers ask, if you pay attention.
For instance, in his chapter on rewriting, he recalls his experience writing in the 1950s, and says, "When you're turning out somewhere between twelve and twenty books a year . . . you may never rewrite a line."
What he is saying about rewriting is obvious, but there's a further point. He began his career churning out short novels at a furious rate and pouring them into a marketplace newly opened by the introduction of paperback originals. It was a marketplace that required formulas and demanded quantity rather than quality. This was his paid apprenticeship.
Similarly today there is a vast online marketplace for ebooks, including formulaic genre novels. The beginner can pound them out and get paid a little while learning the fundamentals of the craft.
Of course, he can also spend years revising a unique personal novel and hope that someday a publisher will recognize his genius.
It's good to have choices.