Book Review: The Forest for the Trees, by Betsy Lerner

I've reviewed quite a few books that give advice on how to write. This book is different. In The Forest for the Trees, Betsy Lerner uses her experience as a writer, editor, and agent to give advice on the publishing industry, but more importantly, the psychology of writing.

Understanding ourselves. As writers, we are often our own worst enemy. Lerner divides writers into five groups, and analyzes their motivations and fears so expertly, you may suspect she's been peeking over your shoulder. Our different personalities deeply affect our writing and whether or not we get published. Lerner grasps these varied types of writers for two reasons: she's a poet herself, and she's worked with so many writers over the years.

Here's a quote from the introduction: "There is no stage of the writing process that doesn't challenge every aspect of a writer's personality. How well writers deal with these challenges can be critical to their survival."

If Lerner had stopped writing after the first half of the book, it would still be worth the purchase price. Understanding ourselves is a huge milestone in a writer's goal of publication.

Understanding the business. Once we wrap our minds around the way we tick as writers, we need to grasp the dynamics of the business we are attempting to become part of. Through stories and anecdotes from her career, Lerner shares the inside scoop on how to get an agent, what to do about rejection, and what editors want.

Lerner does not sugar-coat the publishing industry, and readers will learn both the wonderful and not-so-pretty aspects of this complex world. But who better to lead writers through it, than someone who has been on both sides of the desk?

For more on Betsy Lerner, check out her agent website, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner, or  spend some time on her excellent blog. Some time ago I featured Betsy Lerner on my Agent Friday post. That post is the most searched-for post on this blog. She's one amazing lady.

So, what writer personality are you? Ambivalent, neurotic, a self-promoter, wicked, or natural?

Want more writing book reviews? Click here.


  1. Can't really see myself in any of those categories--got any others to choose from? Maybe (teeth gritted here) doggedly-determined, can't-shake-it-loose personality? Ha. Don't have all the answers yet, but having fun exploring the questions--and the craft.

    Requested Betsy's "Forest for the Trees" on my Christmas list this year. Hope Santa brings it :-)

  2. Once you read her descriptions, you might be able to choose one. Doggedly-determined sounds like a great writer quality. Hope you find the book in your stocking!




Related Posts with Thumbnails