Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Review: The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner

First of all, I love any writer who shares a first name with me. Betsy Lerner and I are also writers. Beyond that, I doubt there are many similarities.

Lerner divides her book into two main sections: writing and publishing. She makes clear that these are not the same, although no one is published without writing first. She explains that there are different types of writers. The ambivalent writer has so many ideas for projects that few if any are begun, let alone finished. The natural writer, a rare beast, perhaps even an endangered species, seems to have all the right words in all the right order without having to learn the craft of writing. The wicked child uses her family as the jumping off point for characters and plots. Right or wrong, often she trashes her family all in the name of art. Others are the self-promoter, the neurotic and those touching fire. Most writers will find themselves in one if not more of her types.

In the second half of the book, publishing, Lerner gives terrific advice on seeking and landing an agent (she herself is one and knows of what she writes), handling rejection (even Stephen King garnered a stack of rejections before his first sale), knowing what editors are looking for, knowing what you as a writer wants, working on the book with your editor and marketing your work after publication.

I recommend this to anyone who is starting out as a writer. Lerner pulls no punches yet leaves you laughing at some of her lessons. They serves beginning authors well. Those of us who have published a book or books already can still learn from this book. It's a reference book full of common sense and oft overlooked advice on how to behave as a writer.

It should be on every writer's bookshelf -- after the writer has read it.

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