Monthly Archives: Sep 2015

Book report: The Forest for the Trees

The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner

When I’m not reading middle grade or young adult novels, I’m reading books on writing. Studying the craft of writing is almost as much fun as a nap… no, I’m not being facetious, I love naps, and I love studying the nuts and bolts of novel writing.

Betsy Lerner’s book, The Forest for the Trees isn’t a technical how-to-write book, it’s simply a book full of advice for writers from a seasoned editor, and I really enjoyed it. The first six chapters have to do with the personality and emotions of the writer, and it was fun to find myself in the pages (I’m an ambivalent writer). The second half of the book delves into more of the nuts and bolts of the publishing process: how to find an agent, your relationship with your editor, and what to expect when your book is published.

It’s those first six chapters where I feel this book really shines, though the whole book reads like a very good friend with a lot of publishing experience is giving you intimate advice. It’s a keeper.

But I also believe there is enormous value in the piece of writing that goes no further than the one person for whom it was intended, that no combination of written words is more eloquent than those exchanged in letters between lovers or friends, or along the pale blue lines of private diaries, where people take communion with themselves.

Chances are you have a deep connection to books because at some point you discovered that they were the one truly safe place to discover and explore feelings that are banished from the dinner table, the cocktail party, the golf foursome, the bridge game. Because the writers who mattered to you have dared to say I am a sick man. And because within the world of books there is no censure.

There is a necessary gestation period during which a writer should protect his work, because the minute he sends it out, or joins a writing group, or enrolls in an MFA program, he engages the part of himself that is focused on the result more than the work.

Make Good Art

And so it begins.

I always figured I’d set up an author website for myself once I was, well, an author. As I am yet unpublished (haven’t even tried submitting anything), I can’t call myself an author yet, but I am coming ’round to admitting — at least to myself — that I am a writer.

I know, I know. In this world where everyone and their dog is a blogger, there probably aren’t many people left who aren’t calling themselves writers. But for me it was a big step. It’s probably about time. I’ve been writing for decades at this point.

So (deep breath) here I am. I’m a writer.

Just another writer in a teeming sea of hopeful would-be authors, but let’s not go down that dark and dreary path of potential failure. Today, I hope. Today I admit to myself that this unceasing drive to write is not going to go away. I’m going to embrace it. I’m going to make good art.