• THE FOREST FOR THE TREES

    I wrote a book called THE FOREST FOR THE TREES. It's an advice book for writers, though it's more about what makes writers tick. 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. I post less frequently now, but hopefully with as much vitriol. Please join in!

    Gluttons for punishment can scroll through the archives. If I’ve learned one thing about writers, it’s this: we really are all alone. Thanks for reading. Love, Betsy

  • Follow me

  • Archives

Hey There You with the Stars in Your Eyes

 

sue-lyons-as-lolita

This is going to be pet peeve week (and just fyi, the term “pet peeve” is a pet peeve). What drives me nuts is when fiction writers use eye signaling to stand in for story or emotion. She looked at him, she glared, she glanced, she stared, she lowered her eyes, she batted her eyes, she looked away, she looked beyond him, she looked right through him, she smiled with her eyes (how the fuck, but never mind), she looked around, she looked down, she closed her eyes, she half-closed her eyes, she blinked, she rapidly blinked, she saw right through him, she looked inside him. Her eyes surveyed the room. Her eyes met his. She furtively looked. She locked eyes. She saw the world as if through a silver platter.

Can you add to the list?

Everybody Sees You’re Blown Apart

nc7859n-lg

How do you write about pain? Hurt, loss, betrayal? How do you write about those experiences that gut you without going all cliche on your ass? How to retain control  of tone when everything is out of control? How do you bring to life a slight, a thousand tiny cuts, a snub? You must write, you must breathe. You get out of bed and wonder that you are out of bed, dragging a toothbrush across your teeth. Do you want to write a screed, a rant, an angry letter addressed to god?

How do you write about pain?

The Words She Knows the Tune She Hums

 

Hi-res Safety Pin , isolated with clipping path

I know people write diaries for themselves, but I still feel there is something vaguely performative about it. For instance, you don’t just write without any attention to style, word choice, tone, narrative. Sometimes I even use asides and dialogue. I don’t want anyone to read my diary, but I still give it some shape, some wit, some beginnings, middles and ends. Will someone find it after I’m dead? Toss it in a Hefty bag and that is that? Whenever I read the diary of a famous writer, I always feel as if he or she was writing it for me.

Who is your diary for?

It Wouldn’t Be Make-Believe if You Believed in Me

 

marigold-frances-choice_lrg

Writer is not even on the list. If you ask me what I do, I say literary agent. I say I work in publishing. I say I put out fires, I dash hopes and dreams, I makes wishes come true. I’m an editor. I’ll always be an editor. I do dishes, I iron, I clean and organize. I collect buttons. I enjoy fishing. Marigold are my favorite flower. If I was an animal, I would be an animal.

When people ask you what you do, how do you answer?

Get Out While We’re Young

 

194327-004-60511886When I was young, I only wrote when I was sad. I wrote a lot. Now, I mostly like to write out of anger and revenge and competition. Some people don’t think that’s healthy. I have no use for them. Writing is not: therapeutic, healing, consoling or cathartic. Writing is not a hobby. I recently asked if I would give a “journaling” workshop. NO. It isn’t even a word. Okay, here’s my journaling course: buy a notebook and write mean things in it. Every day.

Are you moody?

I Felt All Flushed With Fever

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is about being in the homestretch, seeing the end, the pieces falling into place, the yolk hitting the pan, the sizzle, your eyes ringed and dry, your fingernails bloody, your legs alligator handbags, pencil, pencil, pencil. You used to have eyebrows, you used to have friends, you used to answer your phone, you used to sleep. The last three pages, the last page, the last line of dialogue, the last touching image. Fuck all.

What’s it like finishing your project?

Good Times Never Seem So Good

b6804a3179ba40a1bd11b50bbf688193-white-baby-shoes-baby-pictures

Spoiler alert: I continue to hate, including to hate the term, “spoiler alert.” I hate the barista at Starbucks near my office (and I hate the word barista). Every morning when I ask for decaf, she says, it will have to be a pour over the way the salesman at the shoe store used to squeeze my foot and say extra wide like it was my fault. I haven’t been blogging for a few reasons. I’ve been writing in my diary every day and that’s a time suck. I’ve weaned myself of late night television. I’ve been making a valiant effort to go to the gym. I can’t stop cleaning like in the old PMS days. And I’m lost.

Does the lord help those who help themselves? Spoiler alert: