In these times of turmoil, when the definitions of words such as “marriage,” “employed,” and “publishing” are all in flux, we fiction writers must unite and find a leader.
I nominate Jane Friedman.
For the past several years, I have called myself a writer. Truth be known, I am a “retired” art dealer who picked up a laptop and tapped out a novel, then a second, a third, and now a fourth novel. I wasn’t an English major. I don’t have an MFA. I guess you could say I’m trying to sneak in the back door of publishing—and I’m holding out for a traditional publisher. But, I have read a mountain of books on WRITING. I have read a mountain of GOOD LITERATURE (and some not so good). I have attended a WRITERS’ CONFERENCE in the mountains. And I have read blog post after blog post after blog post on query letters, blogging, publishing, networking, grammar … You name it, I’ve tried to absorb it. I am that determined to teach myself the art of good writing.
Then, about a year ago, I had a long conversation with my son, Elliott, about sifting through all the contradictory advice that’s out there. (Did I mention he is getting his MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop?) He suggested that I stop reading everything I can get my hands on, and narrow myself to two or three trusted sources. Huh. Not bad advice.
The name Jane Friedman popped to the top of my list.
Jane Friedman is the straight-talking, walking-Wikipedia of publishing. I trust what she says above just about anyone else in the industry.
[For the record, I am crossing my fingers that Ms. Friedman—if she reads this—considers me a fan, not some creepy stalker. I did meet her once, at a Writers’ Digest Conference, but she wouldn’t remember me. I tried to make some ice-breaking joke about Bourbon (which she loves, and I know absolutely nothing), so she probably thought I was a little odd, but really I was just nervous about making a good impression. Yeah, no.]
My current campaign was inspired by one of her latest blog posts on Writer Unboxed, another helpful writing source. Friedman writes, and I happily quote: “If you’re a totally new, unpublished writer who is focused on fiction, memoir, poetry, or any type of narrative-driven work, forget you ever heard the word platform.” Yes, that’s right. She tells writers who are working to publish their first book of fiction to STOP BLOGGING. I might be inclined to say she buried her lead by sticking this gem in the center of a long post, but the article is chock full of great advice.
(Stop blogging? Okay, logically, I would end this post here, but because I call myself a writer, I have the uncontrollable urge to type out another 200 or so words.)
After I finished my first novel, I followed the rules and sent out beaucoup query letters. I got one request for a partial, but now I am grateful that it didn’t get published. It was crap. I did learn, however, that I had “no platform.” Any agent who tried to look me up would have seen a lot of dead links to my former art gallery, but nothing about me as a writer. So I started a blog. Then I wrote my second novel, and joined Twitter and Goodreads. I had one request for my complete manuscript, but no offer. Next, I wrote my third novel, and started a Facebook Author Page. Still—not quite there. I now have hundreds of blog posts, 676 Twitter followers, 379 Goodreads friends. A modest but decent platform. My numbers are not staggering, because I always felt lost when it came to blogging.
As a non-published fiction writer, what the heck was I supposed to blog about? My fictional characters? My struggle to get published?
The blogging experts say, Keep a tight focus. They say, Offer advice. They say, Blog three times a week. They say, Above all, don’t whine!
I suppose a lot of great coaches never made it as superstars of their chosen sport, but still, I felt a bit like a fraud offering advice as an unpublished fiction writer. Yes, I know a good book when I see one, but wouldn’t most of us rather take advice from someone who has succeeded? Exactly.
More importantly, as Ms. Friedman says, imagine how much more I could have accomplished if I had spent all those blogging hours writing. I might be published by now!
And so, dear followers, I will keep blogging—sporadically, as always (I’ve never been good at that three times a week rule)—but from now on I will NOT feel guilty about NOT blogging! I am getting closer and closer to my dream of being a published author. (The details are a secret; you’ll just have to trust me on this.) (Okay, I can give you this hint.) Until then, I will dedicate my time to writing unputdownable stories.
Meanwhile, Jane Friedman for President of the United Fiction Writers!