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Jane Friedman's Electric Speed newsletter

A note from Jane

It is amazingly hard to get the right feedback at the right time.

And I say this as someone whose job most days is to offer feedback.

Many years ago, at a conference, I agreed to meet one-on-one with writers to talk about their projects. In advance, I received their first pages so I could be prepared to offer feedback on their work.

These situations generate a lot of anxiety for writers. They can be seen as a verdict not just on the merits of the work, but the writer. The person offering feedback is sometimes put on a pedestal (especially in the case of agents) or seen as an oracle.

My final conference appointment was with a children’s writer. I had limited knowledge of children’s writing and publishing, but I was the only person available to meet with her. Still, when I read her pages, I could tell immediately that she wasn’t familiar with the conventions of her category. She was at the beginning of a long journey.

Her question: Am I wasting my time? Should I keep going? She had only received form rejections. But here I was, finally: an expert (sort of) who could tell her what to do.

I did not feel like I was the right person to guide her. I was not even 30 years old at the time and I felt out of place offering a verdict, even though I could identify the problems in the work. Most important, I had not yet developed the tools to turn these yes-or-no questions into productive conversations.

I can’t remember my exact response, but I was not encouraging about the project she showed me. I knew it wasn’t likely to go anywhere until she learned more. And she didn’t seem interested in pursuing writing any further if she was going to continue to be rejected. Later on, I found out that I had more or less crushed this person’s spirits, and so I’ve never forgotten that meeting.

It took me years to realize many people who end up at my door aren’t seeking the right feedback. The problems they have to solve aren’t problems they yet recognize. These days, sometimes I can productively redirect the conversation, but it’s not easy.

Have a great weekend,

Jane's signature

P.S. The most popular blog post at my site this month:
3 Traps That Subvert Our Ability to Accept Feedback

P.P.S. There is more to this newsletter—keep scrolling!
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Jane’s Electric Speed List

Here are some of the latest things I’ve discovered. (I have not been paid to mention any of these resources.)

Spreadsheet lovers and project planners, rejoice!

SheetPlanner (MacOS only) is a spreadsheet-style tool that helps you manage projects and organize information. Consider using it for book publishing timelines, marketing and promotion plans, or goal setting. My thanks to Electric Speed reader Cheryl for bringing this to my attention!

Record, transcribe, and share highlights from Zoom events

This will be appealing for anyone who’s ever hosted a lengthy Zoom session (author talk, book launch event, expert Q&A) and would like to pull snippets for social sharing or marketing and promotion at your website. Grain allows you to create highlight clips directly from your Zoom transcript. On Grain’s free plan, you get five transcribed recordings per month.

Learn how to mine social media—for geeky journalists and authors

If you’re not scared off by a little bit of coding, the book Mining Social Media by Lam Thuy Vo is available to read online at no cost. It teaches you how to download data archives and look for insights, inspect HTML on websites, create data visualizations, and much more.

Animate your photos

This made the rounds on social media a couple weeks ago, but just in case you missed it: Deep Nostalgia, created by a DNA testing company, attempts to create a moving picture of any photo you upload. The results can be magical or creepy, depending on the results. I tested it with an old B&W photo of myself and found it amusing, but—yes—weird. Note that using this tool essentially starts an account for you at MyHeritage (the testing company).

Get Better Critiques Now with Lisa Cooper Ellison. $25 class. Wednesday, March 24, 2021. 1 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. Eastern

Next online class: Get Better Critiques Now with Lisa Cooper Ellison

On Wednesday, March 24: At multiple points in the writing process, all writers need feedback on their manuscripts. But not all feedback is equal—and some can be downright detrimental. So, how do you know when to ask a friend, take a workshop, or work one-on-one with a pro? Lisa Cooper Ellison will show you how to navigate the feedback landscape, figure out who to contact, ask for what you need, and—most importantly—make the most of each revision to your work-in-progress.
Learn more and register

Your turn: USB microphones

In the last issue, I asked for your USB microphone recommendations. Here’s what you said:
  • My recommendation is the Audio-Technica ATR2100. It connects both via USB or standard mic cables. It’s a cardioid mic so it filters out some (not all) extraneous sounds and results in much better recording quality. I use this mic both in my in-office podcast setup as well as on the go, like when I record live-at-conference interviews. (Remember when conferences were a thing?) Finally, it’s about 30% less expensive than the Blue Yeti, and much lighter too, making it it my go-to recommendation. —Gabriela Pereira
  • Don’t go Yeti! They pick up too much background. They’re like the cute, sexy mic and people like them for that reason (or reasons they don’t know, but that’s my guess). You’ll have a much better post-production with the ATR2100 which is less cute and sexy and also picks up less background noise, so less stuff to edit out in the end. Plus it’s cheaper. —Kirsten Oliphant
  • I swear by my RØDE NT-USB mic. I just wish it played nicely with Zoom on my PC, because it keeps dropping out. But it’s lovely quality for podcasts and other audio uses. —Lee Hopkins
  • I use a Blue Yeti for my podcasts. But when I’m traveling and I don’t want to lug it but I still need to get the podcast out, I use an ATR2100. They’re similarly priced and the ATR is so much lighter to carry. When recording my audio drama last year while everyone was in lockdown, a lot of my actors ended up getting the ATR, for our show and for future voice over work. It’s nice and flexible. I still prefer my Blue Yeti, though, for most things. —Emily Davis
  • In the budget range, I’ve had great luck with the Sennheiser PC 8 USB headset. —Carol Saller
  • In my Toastmasters group, MAONO PM422 is gaining popularity. I get compliments frequently! —Robert Snyder
  • I have used the Audio-Technica AT2020 USB microphone for years. A reliable workhorse. —Dick Vacca
Next question: Tell me about an app you use (on your smartphone) that you think is underrated or mostly undiscovered by others. Just hit Reply to this email.

Upcoming online classes

👩🏻‍💻 March 21: How I Use Zoom in My Business with Jane Friedman (free!)

⭐️ March 24: Get Better Critiques Now with Lisa Cooper Ellison

📚 March 27: How to Get Published with Jane Friedman (with Midwest Writers Workshop)

✏️ April 15, 22 & 29: Advanced Self-Editing Master Class with Roz Morris

📡 April 18: The Art & Business of Author Platform with Jane Friedman (with Writers Circle)

👑 June 16: Query Letter Master Class with Critique with Jane Friedman

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Electric Speed is a free newsletter by Jane Friedman that launched in 2009. More than 36,000 subscribers receive it. You can support it by (1) sponsoring an issue or (2) sharing it with friends and colleagues.
“At electric speed, all forms are pushed to the limits of their potential.” 
—Marshall McLuhan
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