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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Chasing Jane

As contributing editor for Writer’s Digest, a visiting assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati, full-time professor at College-Conservatory of Music in its e-media department and --yes there is more-- chair of the award snagging There Are No Rules blog Jane Friedman is publishing’s cool authority.

Tanya Yvonne:  Prior to the start of a writers’ conference I am nervous (really nervous) yet optimistic, what are your emotions?
Jane Friedman:  I'm usually speaking at writers conferences, so I look forward to meeting or networking with the other speakers, as well as seeing writers who I may know only from their online personas.  It's an excellent time to get out from behind the computer screen, and be present with people.

TY:  How important are Blogging, Facebook and Twitter to the new crop of wannabe writers?
The No. 1 priority for new writers—especially fiction writers—is to read and to write (practice).  After that, you should be getting feedback on your work from trusted peers or mentors.  The social media must be a part of every writer's career, of course, but sometimes I worry that writers get too distracted by the Internet to focus on the real work of writing.

TY:  What was the one moment professionally that made you doubt yourself? What pulled you out from it?
JF:  There were a couple months, after I was promoted to publisher of Writer's Digest, that I worried about my ability to grasp the financials of the business, and to put together credible forecasts and budgets.  I really had no one to train me on these duties, and I don't have a business background. However, if you sit in enough meetings where these issues are discussed, and ask the right questions of people who are willing to help, you learn the game.  It's no different than anything else in life. Persist and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

TY:  I am aware of Beginning Writer’s Answer Book yet have you written any fiction? If not what would the Friedman novel read like?
JF:  I wrote some fiction in college, but it's a genre that doesn't interest me any longer.  If I did write fiction, it would probably be like an Alain de Botton or Milan Kundera novel.  Heavily philosophic and pondering.

TY:  Quick, we are in a crowd about to be separated and there is one bit of key advice you wish for me to pass on to other aspiring authors what is it?
JF:  It's about determination, not talent.

TY:  What form does procrastination take for you?  For me it is munching on Spicy Doritos dipped in fat free cream cheese while watching Sex and the City reruns. You?
JF:  I tend to cycle through TV series. Right now, it's Firefly and Six Feet Under.  In a couple months, it'll probably be Deadwood.

TY:  Should the yet to be published be troubled by the demise of traditional books and Borders' bankruptcy filing?
JF:  I wouldn't be troubled.  I would just realize that the model for successful authorship is changing. These days, you don't necessarily have to be selected by a traditional publisher, or have your books distributed in print form, to sell books.  You can do it on your own if you know how to reach your audience.

TY:  Should self-publishing even be on an authors list of options?
JF:  It's a more viable option than ever. Just read JA Konrath's blog to see why.

TY:  Is it wise to post chunks of an unpublished novel online?  I often wonder why writers do this when my first instinct is to keep my work close to me.
JF:  It depends. First you have to ask: What you want to accomplish by sharing or posting your work online?  Posting your work online isn’t going to lead to a traditional book publishing deal—at least not by itself.

But: You're not killing your chances of traditional publication when posting your work online, no matter what the reasoning behind it.  But you might be wasting your time.  There’s not much point in posting it unless you have a strategy or goal in mind, and a way to measure your success.  If you have no interest in marketing your work and connecting with readers after posting your stuff online, don’t do it.

TY:  Freelance work, I know you cover this in your book, is it a good way for newbies to build publishing credentials?
JF:  For fiction writers, freelance work isn't unlikely to make a difference in getting a novel publishing, aside from giving you writing practice.

TY:  How could one use available technologies to find good opportunities for such work?
JF:  Several sites are helpful in identifying freelance opportunities:,, and are a few good places to start.

TY:  Moreover, does it necessarily have to be a paying gig? For instance through your blog I discovered, Words with Jam which welcomes work from new writers but offers no pay.
JF:  Every writer has to make that decision for themselves.  Sometimes reaching a new audience is valuable enough that you'll want to put the time and energy into it.  As you gain experience and credentials, then it's wiser to save your time and energy for paying opportunities.

TY:  Every frustrated writer should read your post, You Hate Your Writing? That’s a Good Sign!soooooo true.  I stopped working on my latest manuscript because I could see how I was forcing the story just to stay within a time frame.  But reading through it I could literally spot the sentence where the forcing began. Therefore, I walked away from it not sure if I would go back to the story.  Fast forward a few weeks and the words, the right words, came to me and I have resumed work.  The next day there was your blog post on spotting crap.  During those few weeks I had panicked unsure of what was happening.  I knew it was not writer’s block because I was still able to write but that it was something else.  Do you think my reaction is a common one?  Now that I know what it is and how it feels I must admit that I dread another such episode.  I want the story to just flow from me like the others.  The ones that were not published, oh, okay now I get it.  

Your ability to spot crap in other’s work is that how you got one of your nicknames, Dream Crusher?
JF:  Your reaction is very common.  Try not to dread its arrival, just don't be surprised when it happens, and know that it will pass.  This is really why success is about determination, and not talent.

The nickname, Dream Crusher, arose out of a conversation I had with my landlord.  When he learned that I worked in publishing, he asked if I rejected a lot of people.  I said that I did, that I was regularly crushing people's dreams.  Next time I saw him, he introduced me to his friends as the "Dream Crusher."

TY:  Blogging for me is a form of writing exercise that tightens my craft.  Do you agree with this sentiment?

JF:  Anything that pushes you to write more often will help you improve your craft.  So yes.

TY:  While attending a writers’ conference I witnessed one person storming off and at least two others nearly brought to tears during their novel pitch critiques. In the beginning, we authors seem to have such an emotional attachment to our works.  Isn't it true that for most of us publication will not happen until we learn to let go and think of it as a product we are trying to market?
JF:  You are exactly right. I could not have said it better myself!

TY:  I always like to end with looking ahead so what is next for you?
JF:  I am working on a new book for writers, to be released by Writer's Digest in 2012.