Friday, January 13, 2012

Writing Lessons: Now Under $5.00

The review below is a reprint of a book that may be out of print, but despite changes in the publishing industry, it contains timeless advice. Find like-new copies for under $5.00 from several online book sellers.

A review of The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers
Author: Betsy Lerner
Publisher: Riverhead Books
pp: 284

Irresistible. When I saw the name "Skrunk" used as a verb on the front cover of a library book, I had to pick it up. Who had the audacity to poke fun at a venerated grammarian that way? Was the coined verb a ploy to gain notice, to help sell the book? I leafed through it.

Delightful. The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers deserves notice, if nothing else, for its humor in observation of writers. Author Betsy Lerner quips, "the great paradox of the writer's life is how much time he spends alone trying to connect with other people." I was hooked--compelled to borrow the book. It is a slender volume you can put on your nightstand and enjoy like a bedtime novel. Its true tales about authors entertain as well as a storyteller's yarn, but without the agitation of plot turns to disrupt sleep later.

Delectable. If you collect quotations, end-of-chapter zingers, or examples of grammatical usage, Lerner's prose is writing worth citing. You can be certain she didn't say "nor will I Skrunk you over the head with rules about style," because she lost her thesaurus. Her 284 pages offer a feast of everyday language seasoned with uncommon words and a bouquet of informal expressions.

Commendable. It is a how-to book that reads like fiction, but The Forest for the Trees is not fluff. Every anecdote serves a purpose, every tickle delivers more than humor. Do you want to feel comfortable the next time you meet an agent or editor? Are you curious about what happens to a book between manuscript and manufactured product? Would you like to know about the one thing that will probably assure your success? Betsy Lerner answers your questions.

Memorable. There's an intimacy in Ms. Lerner's writing. You almost feel like you're sitting with her, exchanging a lively conversation about being an author, her experience as an editor, and sharing your common interest--books. You can memorize a bulleted "do and don't" list for writers, or you can simply relax and imbibe Betsy Lerner's book. If you read it only for the tidbits about John Gresham and others, expect to absorb cleverly interspersed advice.

Indispensable. Early in her carer, Betsy Lerner "began to understand the cyclical nature of the publishing business, the brutality of the media, and the vagaries of the market place." Today, an unknown writer's ride from manuscript to marketing is even tougher. Few succeed. Despite the odds, however, two decades of editorial experience tell Ms. Lerner that a draft for another classic is gestating in Somewhere, USA. Is that your baby? Lerner's book can bridge Project Plausible to Goal Achievable.

(c) 2012, Bernice W. Simpson

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