• Here’s the Story

    I wrote a book called The Forest for the Trees and it’s an advice book for writers. For four years, I blogged every day about the agony of writing and publishing, and the self loathing that afflicts most writers. A community of like-minded malcontents gathered and thus ensued a grand conversation. Now, the most popular posts are gathered in Greatest Hits ( a work in progress) Gluttons for punishment can scroll through the archives. If I've learned one thing about writers, it's this: we really are all alone. Love, Betsy
  • Archives

You’re Wearing Out Things That Nobody Wears


No shit. Sebastian Junger shows up on The Affair. You know, the program I’m watching because I’m still in love with McNulty. Junger has a cameo. He plays himself and he says he claims to use reiki to help him write. Really? Let’s talk about this. I’ve never tried any alt methods to help with writing. On the contrary, I’ve always felt that writer’s block is god’s gift to man. I’m old school: the only thing that produces writing is writing. Plus, I love my demons way too much to release them. Plus, I’m ticklish.

What about you? Massage, meditation, yoga, long walks with a stick? What helps?

You’re Just to Good To Be True

I read this story by Ben Marcus on the way home from the city. I don’t really like short stories all that much, but I loved this one. In part because it was like a novel in a nutshell. Partly because I felt tense the entire time I was reading it. I also thought that the details had god in them; the narration so assured I did’t need to worry. And most of all it felt real.

Is is real or is it Memorex?

Tell Me Something Good

When do you take revision too far? When does your work start unraveling? When does writing become finger painting? Some people feel that revision is where the “real” work of writing gets done. Maybe. But there’s nothing like cracking a new piece of work out of your ass. Here’s my advice: Get lots of rest. Drink lots of water. Clear your desk. Trust your editor or readers. Keep a separate document for sentences you delete. I call mine: fragments. Do you have to kill your darlings? Execution-style.

Revision advice? Anyone?

Check the bassline out, uh-huh

One good paragraph today. Where is my Nobel? My Oscar? My Captain, O Captain. Is that the soundtrack to Chariots of Fire I hear in the background? Oh, the sweet feet of young, gorgeous Englishmen. I need a shower. I need a brace for my back. I need a teeth cleaning, someone to pull the burrs from my back. This writing is whack. The world is burning and tap tap tap. More valleys than peaks, more praying mantises and saddle shoes. When the balls goes crack. Keep your head down. Don’t try to kill it. Don’t get cocky. Follow through. 

More bad sports metaphors welcome! 



Don’t Cry for Me Argentina

You’ve heard the expression, “no tears for the writer, no tears for the reader.” What do you make of it? I kind of hate it. But you know I’m a feelings fascist. On the other hand I know it to be true. I have cried while writing shit down. I guess the question is: does that make it good. Just because you can stir yourself, will the reader be stirred. Does “authentic emotion” produce great writing. Or “true” writing. All of these quotation marks are a little sickening. What am I trying to say? If I make myself laugh, will I make the reader laugh? If I fall asleep at my computer? If I eat green eggs and ham? How do you really create feeling in the reader, by having the feelings yourself or manipulating language to be evocative?


LAST CALL to WIN a FREE copy of SAVAGE GIRL. Who is your favorite monster in literature. Author Jean Zimmerman will select her top three picks at the end of the week. 

The sound of a midnight train, wearing someone’s ring, someone calling your name (for H.G.)

A writer and a douche bag walk into a bar. Hi guys. Is anybody still out there? I miss you. I know a few writers whose mouths are filled with sand. This is the winter when five writers packed a lunch and hiked the foothills of Long Island. This is when a poem got unwritten. You are always in a mitten. This day started. A girl fell to her death from a building she didn’t know was there. I saw a play that seemed true. First you hear the sentence in your head. Then a girl steps up to the bar. You are easily awakened and fitful. A bowl of applesauce sounds awfully nice right now. Will the fiction writers please stand up. Will the choir do the preaching? One chapter a month. One page a day. One sentence in front of another. And then the sky goes dark and the lights come up and two girls in Speedos stand before lockers, talking trash.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

I Know This World Is Killing You

The results are in! Rosemary Mahoney has kindly judged our contest: what do you see in front of your screen or when you open a notebook?  First place goes to Donnaeve: “Initially I see a room full of strangers, by the end, old friends old enemies.” Rosemary writes: I understand this completely and have experienced it every time even after six books.  The silver goes to MSB: “I see the ledge.” Writes Rose:  The ledge is what I see most days when I think about what it takes to be a published writer. And the Bronze goes to Mari, “I see the scene I’m writing. What the room looks like, where everyone’s standing, the subtle expressions of their faces, the furniture in the room. I can’t even write the scene unless I know the colors of every single thing everyone’s wearing”

Prizewinners please send me (askbetsylerner@gmail.com)  your address for a copy of FOR THE BENEFIT OF THOSE WHO SEE. Thanks to everyone who left a comment. And here’s a link to Rosemary’s  website with rave reviews and beautiful slide show.. I kid you not: this dog can hunt. She makes you see and feel blindness. Imagine that. Love, B


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