Must Read: Publishing 101 by Jane Friedman

I give Publishing 101 5/5 stars.

The subtitle is “A First-Time Author’s Guide to Getting Published, Marketing and Promoting Your Book, and Building a Successful Career,” and that’s exactly what you get with this book — and more.

Written by the former editor of Writer’s Digest – and current editor of The Hot Sheet – this book is a practical, no-nonsense deep dive into publishing.

As the title and subtitle say, the book is marketed to first-time authors, but it’s a valuable resource for any level.

The last chapter (following the afterword), Recommended Resources, is worth the price of the book alone. But you’ll find value on every page. Author Jane Friedman has two decades of experience in the publishing industry, and she knows of which she speaks.

Be sure to check out her website (tons of advice there) and sign up for her free newsletter, Electric Speed. (I’ve been a subscriber for years and always look forward to reading it).

I Do Declare: A good opening line is like a siren call to the muse

typewriterSometimes it’s hard to get started. This I know all too well, having spent many a day staring at the computer screen, hands poised, waiting for inspiration to take over.

But let’s be honest. No self-respecting muse will dash to your side and start nudging and cajoling you into doing your own work. You have to get going first. Then she shows up.

This being the case, I am always on the search for ways to kick-start my writing. One effective way I discovered is to take an opening line and free-write for about 15 minutes. That quarter of a hour usually gives me enough forward motion to get into the story I need to be doing.

The cool thing is sometimes those warm-up exercises turn into stories themselves.

Try it out. Here are some opening lines to help propel you into your story:

  • The cure for seven deadly diseases sat on the shelf in the room across the hall, and no one could do a damn thing about it.
  • I’ve never quite gotten over my fascination with Milton.
  • There are three perfect ways to die, and by the time she was 23, Sally had learned them all.
  •  I never should have given him the code.
  • Henry happened to be there when the tide pulled a jon-boat past the dock, its hull empty except for a cast net in the bottom, full of shrimp.
  • At some point, all parents have to lie.
  • In the woods behind the house, Mary and Janet found a magic hat.
  • Lord have mercy, the sermon lasted so long I forgot I was still mad at the preacher and shook his hand on the way out without meaning to.
  • Voicing an unpopular opinion on Twitter is to face judge, jury, and executioner all at once.
  • No one could have predicted that three hours one afternoon would change the world.

If none of these are to your liking, you might try opening up a magazine or newspaper, grab the first sentence you see, and use that as your opening line.

Go write right now!

 

Let the work come to you

If you’re on the hunt for work, this is a good resource: Freedom with Writing

It’s free and delivered to your inbox several times a week. The email magazine includes:

  • Paid publishing opportunities
  • Case studies
  • Calls for pitches
  • Jobs for writers
  • Contest information, including upcoming deadlines

It’s well worth the time it takes to type your email address. I highly recommend.

I Do Declare: Alligators are perfect

gator1I love alligators.

To be clear: I don’t want to own one, and I keep a respectable distance from them.

My affinity for the creature is more of a metaphor. I think of alligators as a perfect example of being what God created you to be and being happy in it.

The thing is, I’ve always had a problem with this concept of being comfortable with what I am and being happy with what God created me to be.

I’ve spent time seeking after things I’m really not meant to do — certain jobs, careers moves, assignments — sometimes because of a grass-is-greener-over-there mindset and sometimes because I’ve made assumptions about what I “should” be doing and sometimes because I listen to advice that’s best ignored. And it ends up creating a lot of unnecessary friction in my life. This has been a struggle for some time.

gse_multipart28970One day, as I walked around a park, I watched an alligator swimming through a lagoon. And I was struck by the thought that God had created that creature to be exactly what it was: It cannot be domesticated, it can be found among groups but prefers working alone, it understands and fills its needs (sleeps when it’s tired, eats when it’s hungry, etc.) and when it’s not working, it lies around sunning itself on a bank.

And I thought, “Hey, wait – that’s me as a writer.” True story.

I was gripped by the insight that this is God’s perfect design for this creature, and it’s an illustration of His perfect design for me — to be what he created me to be and to be happy in it. Sure, I can strive for excellence in what I do, but when it comes to who I am, I should not strive for any more or less than to be the creative, passionate, inspired, excited, deeply joyful individual that I already am and to rejoice that I was put on this Earth to be one of His beloved daughters.

It was an exciting moment when I realized this. And since then, the alligator has been the inspiration of that designation of God’s perfect design. I’ve collected a lot of alligator memorabilia, because that insight — moving though it was — sometimes gets lost in the day-to-day minutia and I need the reminders.

I have several alligator necklaces, a pair of alligator earrings and several alligator nick-nacks, stuffed toys and what-nots around my office to remind me. I have a three-foot plastic alligator that sits outside my office. I named him Cicero, and he looks real enough to have frightened people. I like that. Who wouldn’t want a guard-gator?

The alligator is an amazing creature. It has an undeserved reputation as a monster-beast, but maintains the good grace to be exactly what God created it to be and to be happy in his own skin.

We could learn a lot from the example.

 

I Do Declare: Oil is good for us

Olive oilSometimes the questions can nag at us: What are we called to do? Are we actually doing what we were called to do? And the most distracting question of all: How do we know? (Along with its sequels: But how do we know that we know? And how do we know that we know that we know? – etc. until the cows come home.)

I used to torture myself with questions like that until I discovered this reasonable and reassuring way to know:

Check the oil.

 I’m sure that sounds a bit strange, so I’ll upack it for you.

When we’re inside God’s will, we’re anointed for the task. In Old Testament times, when people were anointed, the priest would pour oil on their heads, which signified God’s blessing.

Basically, they were oiled up.

So when we’re inside God’s will, we too are oiled up. Anointed.

Now, think of a car and what it means for the car to be oiled up. That means it runs smoothly, the pistons gliding inside the cylinders with ease, moving the vehicle down the road.

When the car has no oil – that is, when it’s not oiled up, not anointed – it’s basically metal against metal. Friction. Overheating. Sometimes complete engine failure.

In terms of knowing whether we’re doing what we’re made to do, here’s the clue: When we’re anointed for the task, even the struggles are easy to handle. When we’re not, even the easy things are a struggle.

So the next time the questions swoop in, screeching and shrieking and dropping doubts all around your work, don’t let them bury you under their weight.

Just check the oil.