"The Forest for the Trees should become a permanent part of any writer's or editor's personal library." -The Seattle Times Quickly established as an essential and enduring companion for aspiring writers when it was first published, Betsy Lerner's sharp, funny, and insightful guide has been meticulously updated and revised to address the dramatic changes that have reshaped the publishing industry in the decade since. From blank page to first glowing (or gutting) review, Betsy Lerner is a knowing and sympathetic coach who helps writers discover how they can be more productive in the creative process and how they can better their odds of not only getting published, but getting published well. This is an essential trove of advice for writers and an indispensable user's manual to both the inner life of the writer and the increasingly anxious place where art and commerce meet: the boardrooms and cubicles of the publishing house.
It's a useful read, but I admit it didn't resonate with me as much as Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Still, it's a solid read and a recommended book for any writer who is just starting out or has become disillusioned along the way.
In part two she looks at the publishing side of writing: dealing with rejection, "What Editors Want," "What Writers Want," and what to expect as the date of publication draws near. Reading this for the second time, I still think this in one of the best books of advice for writers, if not THE best. I see a little bit of myself in all the different kinds of writers, and I take great comfort in her chapter on rejection. If I ever am lucky enough to be published, then I feel as if I've gotten a pretty good idea of what to expect from this book. Her best insight though is on the subject of why writers write: it's not for money, because those who write for fame and fortune get discouraged pretty quickly. Writers write because the want to be loved.
The book is divided in two sections, one about writers, and one about the publishing process. Her insight on writers is humorous and incisive. She is a writer herself, so she has that inside perspective, yet she has worked with so many other writers as an editor and an agent that she can also step outside and show what the world sees. The six chapters detail different types of writers, from the self destructive addict to the neurotic megalomaniac. Her point was that all writers tend to share some of these traits, to greater or lesser extent. And, in truth, I found many truths that applied to my own writing life, even though I am a far cry from a professional, nor have I devoted my faith and love to writing to the same extent as others, even Lerner herself. The second portion was also fascinating, as she details the many trials and tribulations that face a book after being accepted but before the physical copies hit a bookstore shelf. To be honest, the thought of all a writer and her work has to face before the book is an accomplished fact is daunting, but if I ever even reach that stage I'd be grateful. I enjoyed this read, and I think it helped spur me in my own writing ambitions. Highly recommended for all readers and writers out there.
From her account of the publishing process, I get this sense of potential books swimming upstream like salmon to spawn, of which many get eaten, or just end up dead in the water. Yet amid the Darwinian carnage authors do get discovered and books do get published, because enough agents, editors, publishers and sales staff continue to care about writing.
This is a well written book, which provides interesting insights into the dynamics of relationships between authors, editors, agents, publishers, publicists, and the public at large - including other authors. There are many references to anecdotes and quotes from authors both famous and unknown. These are backed up by an impressive bibiography which it seems that the author has actually read.
What kept me reading was the refreshingly honest and open advice that Betsy Lerner offers. She deals with some quite intense issues, such as author's relationships with their parents - including outright hatred - and the correlation of alcoholism to arty types such as the novelist. The honesty and personality of the author - the voice of this book - make it a refreshing and interesting read which I would recommend to anyone who is seriously considering seeking publication for their own novel.
This book has a new edition out now that I'll be tracking down; this is one of my perennial rereads for refreshers when tackling a manuscript or just to fire up the inner writer.