Tag Archives: Jane Friedman

My Favorite Fiction-Writing Blogs

Bloggers must spend time not only writing posts, but they must also read other fiction-writing blogs, Long before I created this blog in 2011, I followed other writing blogs sites. My introduction to fiction writing blog sites came when Writer’s Digest published its best 101 blog sites. I faithfully clicked on each and every site. I found most sites useful, but some have become “go to” sites for me.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Writer Unboxed. Started as a collaboration between budding novelists Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton, Writer Unboxed features a diverse number of writers who cover craft of fiction, inspiration, publishing, social media, and a host of other topics. It is by far my favorite blog site, in part because it is a warm and welcoming community of writers. Writer Unboxed held its first “Un-Conference” in November of 2014 and its Facebook group boasts 5,000 writers.

Rachelle Gardner. Literary agent Rachelle Gardner consistently offers solid, common-sense advice on publishing, working with agents, writing, and editing topics. Her site features a handy archive that allows readers to find posts by subject matter.

The Creative Penn. A leading expeert in self-publishing and marketing, Joanna Penn offers tremendous entrepreneurial advice to writers of all experience levels. She also makes available resources such as podcasts and her Author 2.0 Blueprint. She writes thrillers under the name JF Penn.

Nail Your Novel. Roz Morris is an author, editor, presenter, and writing coach. Author of a dozen novels as a ghost writer, Morris published two novels under her own name, My Memories of a Future Life, and Lifeform Three. She also wrote the excellent craft of fiction book, Nail Your Novel. Her blog features helpful tips on a variety of craft of fiction topics.

Helping Authors Become Writers. KM Weiland writes historical and speculative fiction. She is also the author of bestselling craft books, Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. I personally recommend her craft of fiction books. Her blog offers useful advice on a variety of writing topics.

Porter Anderson. One of the foremost professional critics covering the publishing world, Porter Anderson blogs at several sites. His insights on books and publishing are worth reading on a regular basis. His work with The FutureBook in London focuses on developing an international community around publishing in the digital age. He blogs at Thought Catalog and on http://www.thebookseller.com as well as on Writer Unboxed.

JaneFriedman. The former publisher of Writer’s Digest, professor and author, Jane Friedman is as knowledgeable a source as you will find on writing and publishing. Check out her blog and also her archive of posts on marketing, publishing, e-books, digital media, writing advice and much more.

Nathan Bransford. Former literary agent and author Nathan Bransford offers excellent, clear-eyed advice on writing, publishing, agents, marketing, and more. Check out his Publishing Essential links on his blog page, as well as Popular Posts.

The Book Designer. Joel Friedlander’s blog focuses on “practical advice to help build better books.” Friedlander’s experience in book design, advertising, and graphic design position him well to offer sound guidance to writers. This is a “must read” site for authors. Check out his Start Here links on his blog.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. There are other excellent blogs that I have not mentioned here, but if you follow these sites, you won’t be disappointed.

What are your favorite blog sites?



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Is Blogging a Waste of Time?

A recent post by L.L. Barkat published on Jane Friedman’s blog has generated a lot of discussion in the blogosphere. Entitled, “It’s Time for (Many) Experienced Writers to Stop Blogging,” the post described the 180-degree shift in Barkat’s view on blogging.

An inveterate blogger, Barkat wrote 1,300 posts in six years, generating 250,000 page views. Barkat’s blogging helped start a large blogging network for which she later became managing editor, test-marketed five books she wrote and sold, and assisted other blogging contacts in securing book contracts. “I was a true believer in the blog world,” she wrote. On Saturday, November 10, 2012, she stopped blogging.

In the post, Barkat argued both sides of the question. She didn’t recommend everyone stop blogging. “It’s an excellent way to find expression, discipline, and experience. But if writers already have experience, and they are authors trying to promote themselves and their work, I tell them to steer clear,” she wrote. “If they’ve already found themselves sucked into the blogging vortex, I suggest they might want to give it up and begin writing for larger platforms that don’t require reciprocity (an exhausting aspect to blogging and a big drain on a writer’s energy and time).”

In the Comments suggestion, Friedman offered a thoughtful response to Barkat’s post. She said, in part, “Blogging can help both new and experienced writers with discipline, focus, and voice development. But it is indeed a waste of time if you’re doing it because someone admonished you to (e.g., to build your platform), and it’s a forced chore. If you’re not enjoying it, neither are your readers.

“Established authors likely have more reason to blog than beginners for the simple reason that they have an existing audience who seek engagement and interaction in between ‘formal’ book releases (or other writings). It may take less effort to interest and gather readers if you’re known, and it’s valuable to attract readers to your website (via a blog) rather than a social media outlet since you don’t really own your social media profiles, nor do you control the changing tides that surround them. You DO, however, own your website and blog (or should),” Friedman said.

Here are my thoughts on whether to blog:

Have a purpose. As Barkat and Friedman suggest, if you are blogging for the sake of building an audience and have nothing to say or because somebody told you to blog, it’s going to show in the quality of your posts. The initial focus of my blog was to share with novice fiction writers the lessons I had learned over the course of many years as a self-taught fiction writer. My blog has morphed into something much more—featuring book reviews, author profiles, and my reflections on the writer’s journey.

Set limits. Decide how much time to devote each week to blogging versus writing and stick to it. Don’t let your blog infringe upon your writing time. If the blog becomes too time-consuming cut back.

Use it strategically. I don’t write sci-fi so readers are not going to see a lot of reviews or advice on science fiction. I write family sagas so I tend to read and write about that genre more than others. I also follow a number of excellent fiction writing blogs and I leave comments on posts, which has attracted like-minded writers to my blog, which brings me to my next thought.

Share, share, share. Blogging is a great outlet to share your knowledge and insights. In that regard, Twitter is a great vehicle for sharing. I always send out a link to my blog posts on Twitter and I have found followers who do the same and I follow those people as well.

Don’t let blogging take over your life. It’s tempting to blog at the expense of writing. I find it easier to bang out a 500-word blog essay than to write 500 words of quality fiction. Don’t fall into the trap of blogging instead of writing. Carve out appropriate amounts of time for both on a regular basis.

What are your thoughts on blogging?


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Avoiding the Social Media Time Suck

Writers blog about it–the amount of time they spend on social media: monitoring blogs, writing blog posts, tweeting, facebooking, leaving comments on other blogs. It’s a huge time suck, and yet writers still do it. Guilty on all counts.

I’m still trying to figure out how to spend less time on social media time and more time on my passion–fiction writing. I don’t have the answer yet, but let me share what I’ve learned:

Be selective about the blogs you follow regularly. At first, I was like the proverbial kid in the candy store. Every week I would discover a new writer’s blog and add it to my favorites. I spent hours on social media and my writing output suffered. Now, I follow a few blogs religiously: Writer Unboxed, Rachelle Gardner, Nathan Bransford, Kathryn Magendie, K.M. Weiland, Jody Hedlund, Joanna Penn, Jane Friedman. Well, I guess that’s more than a few, but you get the point.

Set aside time for social media and time for fiction writing. That’s an easy rule to set down and a much tougher one to obey. How many times have you said, “I’m just going to check my stats, respond to a few comments and check a couple of blogs and then I’ll start working on my work-in-progress?” Three hours later, you haven’t put a word on the page. It takes great discipline to treat these as separate activities, but the writer must.

Use technology to manage your blog feeds. There are a number of tools available. Subscribing to your favorite blogs through email is one that I find helpful. Getting your favorite blogs on Twitter is another useful way to keep up, while not impacting your writing time.

Devote large blocks of time to writing and use social media as a reward. I’m a binge writer. If I’m not feeling it, I will produce drivel, but when I’m on fire creatively, I can crank out 3,000 words in one sitting. OK, it might not be riveting prose, but in some cases I’ve done my best work while on such creative rolls. The trick is to tell yourself you are going to write for three hours, four hours, whatever, and stick to it. Then treat yourself to a couple of hours on social media.

Go someplace else to write. This is a sound strategy. Pick a place–your local coffee shop or the library. Find a quiet table. Sit down with your laptop, find some music that inspires you and plug in your ear buds, and write for two or three hours. Try it sometime. Do your social media at home or on a mobile device, but not at your writing place.

Is social media a time suck for you? How do you find the time to write?


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Why Twitter is Your Best Friend

One of the key lessons I learned during my first year as a blogger was that Twitter was my best friend. It wasn’t always that way. I resisted Twitter for a long time. I fell for the common perception that Twitter was all about telling the world what you ate for lunch, what you did five minutes ago, and what you were planning to do later in the day. There may be some truth to that, but Twitter offers so much more to those who understand and capitalize on its value.

Twitter is all about sharing and learning and learning and sharing. That’s the culture of Twitter. For writers, the real value lies in who you choose to follow. When you follow people like Porter Anderson, Mike Shatzkin, and Jane Friedman, you look through a window into the publishing world. If you approach Twitter in the right frame of mind (share and play nice), you will also discover people will follow you. Some might be looking to do business with you, but I’ve gained followers who simply stopped by my blog and liked what they read.

So how can writers get the most out of Twitter?

  • Share, share, share. Did I say that enough? And don’t just share your own content. Share links to other useful articles.
  • Follow thought leaders in your industry or profession. It is amazing what you will learn.
  • Retweet. If somebody sends a link to a useful article, retweet it. They will appreciate it.
  • Follow people for fun. I follow people as diverse as Robinson Cano, Spike Lee, and Thom Yorke.
  • Set up your blog so it automatically feeds into Twitter and Facebook.
  • Follow your favorite writer blogs and you will receive them on Twitter each day.

I use other social media tools, but I always find myself coming back to Twitter. There’s no end to the interesting things I learn each day on Twitter.

What do you think of Twitter? What’s your favorite social media tool?


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Guest Post on Writer Unboxed

It was an honor to be selected for a guest post on the popular blog, Writer Unboxed. My post was featured on July 7. Started by two writers, Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton, who wanted to share their journey as they each wrote their first novel, Writer Unboxed features a diverse group of contributors, ranging from agent Donald Maass to former publisher Jane Friedman. Make Writer Unboxed one of your favorites. It is a fantastic blog. Check out my post on writer’s block:

Read my post on Writer Unboxed


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The Decision to Self-publish: A Terrifying Leap

The blogosphere is rife with essays about the war between traditional and self-publishers and the internecine feud among self-publishers, who belittle other writers and publishers alike. Everybody is mad at someone. Public venting may make some people feel better, but it demeans us all.

I left a comment on one of these posts stating those who say self-published writers have a choice is a little like saying I chose the over-40 basketball league at the local gym over the NBA. The NBA wasn’t offering a contract, even when I was 21-years-old and in peak physical condition. Upon further reflection, this comment missed the mark.

Most self-published authors have four basic choices:

Option 1: Keep pitching your book to agents, knowing each rejection chips away at your self-confidence.

Option 2: Work hard to improve your manuscript and then renew your efforts to pitch your work to agents.

Option 3: Consider self-publishing on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or the other popular e-book platforms.

Option 4: Abandon your novel and move on to a new project.

Most writers pursue Options 1 and 2 with vigor, but as time stretches from months to years without success, they move from Option 2 to Option 3. Having been through that thought process, I found the self-publishing option terrifying to me. It’s like the feeling I got the first time I dove off the high diving board. Don’t look down. Take a deep breath and just do it. The idea that my work would be out there for anyone to criticize was scary enough. The stigma associated with self-publishing (though that is changing) also gave me pause. The lack of a strong platform was an equally daunting thought.

I agonized over my decision. If you are facing a similar decision, here are some considerations:

Age. For an older writer, the self-publishing option may be appealing because time is not on your side. If I was 20 years younger (or even 10 years younger), I would be willing to wait up to 10 years to secure an agent and a publishing contract. As a writer in my mid-50’s, I don’t have time to wait. I want to write more novels. I may decide to shop these novels to an agent, depending on the marketability of the story and the quality of the writing. Or I may self-publish.

Genre. If you are writing Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance, or Mystery, and you have a strong manuscript, you have a shot at publication. It’s a long shot, but an agent is going to pay attention to a strong pitch followed by an engaging sample. If you write family sagas like me, the odds are really against you.

Skill level. Some writers are ready for prime time, but maybe their book is the wrong vehicle or it doesn’t showcase their talents. These writers should keep at it and try to get published. Novice writers shouldn’t pursue traditional or self-publishing until they have honed their craft.

Tolerance for rejection. Writers must have a thick skin. Simply put, if you have no tolerance for rejection, traditional publishing may not be for you. However, that doesn’t mean you can take short-cuts in your desire to self-publish your book. Self-published books require the same level of editing, proofreading, outside review and due diligence as traditionally published books, if not more.

Marketing platform. Some self-published authors are not great writers, but they sell tons of books because they are expert marketers. Social media guru Jane Friedman has cautioned self-published writers not to publish their books until they have built a substantial platform. This calls to mind the axiom, “If a tree falls in the woods and there’s nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound?” A writer with a strong platform and lots of followers on social media is in a good position to self-publish.

Productivity/staying power. Are you a one-trick pony or do you have many novels in you? A lot of people wonder how Amanda Hocking achieved her astounding success at self-publishing. She worked extremely hard, pumping out novel after novel. She was prolific at writing and platform-building. Writers must ask: am I in this for the long haul? Am I willing to put my heart and soul into this? (Sorry, I must have turned off the cliche-checker today).

Self-publishing is a choice, but it is far from an easy one.

What considerations do you weigh when you are thinking about self-publishing?


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Do Book Sales Mean Anything?

Authors should care about their book sales. That’s obvious. Strong sales provide income to authors and validation for the work. The work must have value if so many people buy a writer’s books. But is the converse true as well? Does the work have no value if few people buy it? Not necessarily.

When I published my first novel, Small Change, in February through the Kindle Direct Publishing program, my expectations for sales were low. I was an unknown author with a blog, but no real platform. The redoubtable Jane Friedman, in an article in Writers Digest, advised writers not to self-publish their work until they had built a significant market for it. That makes perfect sense, but a writer could only wait so long. How long should a writer continue to dispense his alleged expertise and advice without delivering the goods? So I launched my novel before I built my market, even though I believed Jane Friedman’s advice was right on target.

Why did I do it? Writers must take the long view. Their first book may not sell. It probably won’t sell. Their second and third books may not sell, either. What’s most important in the early stages of a writer’s career is to produce the best work they can. The rest is in the readers’ hands, which begs the original question: do sales mean anything? For me, what was more important than the sales of my first novel was the feedback from readers—and not just friends and members of my critique group (though, to their credit, my critique group members are brutally honest and not afraid to tell the truth). Here’s what I want to know: does the average reader, who knows nothing about me as a writer, like my work? Why does the reader like my work? What are the strengths and weaknesses of my work?

If you buy the argument that sales don’t matter for the first-time author, then what should the writer expect? Here are a few suggestions. A writer’s first novel should:

  • Create awareness. Bob Mayer has blogged about the importance for new authors of creating awareness as an essential first step. A friend of mine enrolled his novel in the KDP Select program, in which Amazon can manipulate the price. During a free promotion day, readers downloaded 5,000 copies of his book. Though he didn’t realize any income, what an audience he has built. If half of those people pay $2.99 for his second novel, that’s a significant amount of income.
  • Build loyalty. When a reader has a positive experience with an author’s work, she will want to read the next book. And the writer needs to make sure the second book is much better than the first one.
  • Gain insight into your audience. Who bought your book? What else do they read? Engage in a dialogue with your readers. Get them to come to your blog.
  • Obtain feedback. Those reader reviews posted on Amazon are like gold. Read them. Take them to heart—not the mean-spirited, nasty ones, but the ones offering constructive advice. Learn from those reviews.

That adage, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” is the way I look at the writer’s career. Don’t get hung up on sales, especially if you are an unknown author who has just self-published a first novel. Do the work it will take to create awareness, build brand loyalty, and gain insights to help with your future work.

How important are book sales? Would you sacrifice sales to build a following?



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