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Jane Friedman's Electric Speed newsletter

A note from Jane

When I was in graduate school, I decided to make a short film for one of my final projects. Even though it was a literature class, the professor was open to creative presentations. Being creative, though, has its costs.

First, I had to obtain a camcorder (these were the days before smartphones), which a classmate’s parent was willing to lend me. Then I needed someone to drive me around town while I shot B-roll and also play the part of The Grim Reaper. And finally, I had to find a computer with film-editing software.

This last bit was the toughest. My university didn’t have such resources, and neither did my workplace. (I worked in publishing even then.) But my husband at the time was a graduate student at a large public university that did have a multimedia computer lab.

The night before my deadline (of course I waited until the last minute), we walked together to the lab, where I sat for several hours putting together my film. He helped me with the technical bits of getting the footage loaded and showing me how to use the software—because he was a computer scientist, already degreed in IT.

Then, when everything was ready to be compiled into a final cut, the software just threw error after error. We were in the early hours of the morning by this point and I was near meltdown. My husband, who was accustomed to late nights in front of troublesome machines, took over. He told me to go home and get some sleep. In the late morning, he arrived home with the final cut of my movie on a VHS tape.

I got an A on my final project.

Recently on a listserv, some of my colleagues were discussing the innovation and genius of a CEO like Jeff Bezos—someone who has few peers aside from maybe Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. I don’t deny the singularity of such figures, but when reflecting on the remarkable moments of my own life, I notice how much my success has involved others. And that becomes all the more evident when support is withheld. In the last traditional job I worked, I had no support from my boss, and I could only last two years before calling it quits.

Joshua Wolf Shenk wrote a book, Powers of Two, that argues the real driver of human creativity isn’t the lone genius, but the partnership. In an interview, he says, “So much of the creative exchange gets hidden. It happens offstage, and isn’t a part of history. Sometimes that’s due to prejudice, or ignorance, and sometimes it’s because, if things go well, you just don’t hear about the second person.”

Here’s to all those second persons out there.

Have a great weekend,

Jane's signature

P.S. The most popular blog post at my site this month:
Understanding Third-Person Point of View: Omniscient, Limited, Deep

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.)

I ditched Chrome for Brave

While I’ve been a devoted Chrome user for many years, I finally decided to try a different browser in the hopes it would speed up my machine. I chose Brave, a free, open-source solution that is based on the same framework as Chrome and can support Chrome extensions. It works perfectly and my computer no longer sounds like a jet engine waiting to take off as Chrome saps all of its resources.


Read the screenplay alongside Netflix

For film nerds and screenwriters: you can stream your favorite films through Netflix with the screenplay, side by side, in sync. It works as a browser extension for Chrome or Firefox. You’ll see when dialogue is improvised, what scenes are omitted, or when certain actions get emphasized. Try ScreenplaySubs.


Avoid link rot in your published books

My most recent book, The Business of Being a Writer, was released in 2018, and the links in that book are starting to go bad—a phenomenon referred to as “link rot.” I’ve even had a reader write to me, searching for a new and updated link to an article I mentioned in the book. Next time around, I’m going to consider a solution like Permanentlink, which helps authors maintain the URLs in their books.


How do your emails appear to others? Are they at risk of being marked as spam?

Some email marketing services offer inbox preview or other tools for testing how your emails look across a variety of softwares and platforms. Unspam Email is another tool you can use to quickly see if you have significant problems with your marketing emails. No account or signup needed!

Master Point of View to Strengthen Your Storytelling with Tiffany Yates Martin. $25 class. Wednesday, February 10, 2021. 1 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. Eastern

Next online class: Master Point of View with Tiffany Yates Martin

On Wednesday, Feb. 10: Having strong point of view in your manuscript is about more than whether to write in first person or third. Whatever your chosen voice, the key to an engaging, vivid story is to bring readers directly into it, rather than leaving them on the outside looking in. Instructor Tiffany Yates Martin will clarify the different types of point of view, and show how to strengthen character, deepen reader engagement, and bring a story to life by developing a strong, clear POV and perspective.
Learn more and register

Your turn: Best black tea (supermarket edition)

In the last issue, I asked for strong black tea recommendations and boy, did you all deliver! Because so many people responded, I’m breaking up the recommendations over two issues. This first list rounds up tea I’ve seen available at supermarkets and coffee shops. The next issue will focus on special tea purveyors or teas ordered online, plus I’ll share a compilation of all suggestions, at my site, for reference.
  • PG Tips was suggested by several writers, including Joe Roper, Phyllis Nichols, Sarah M. Peterson, and Valerie Brooks. Kimberly Fakih said, “A London friend calls it ‘the bog standard,’ and he’s right.”
  • Yorkshire and Yorkshire Gold was also recommended by Dr. Barbara Ellermeier, Keith Murphy, JS Savage, and Sharon Wagner. Claire Johnson advised, “Yorkshire Gold. Hands down the ‘meanest’ and best. Don’t pick up the Yorkshire tea with the red stripe. It needs to be the gold brand.”
  • Harney and Sons was a favorite, mentioned by AM Scott, Laurie Lisle, J.M. Elliott, Paula Chaffee Scardamalia, Nicole Pearce, Kathleen O’Neil, and Jennie Nash. Barbara K. Lane said, “I tried Harney’s Scottish Morn and it’s my favorite so far: brisk and flavorful, yet not highly tannic, and stands up well to milk and sugar or honey.” Several mentioned their devotion to Hot Cinnamon Spice.
  • A couple people were enthusiastic about Trader Joe’s Irish Breakfast, including Victor Daniels and Judith Andersson.
  • Finally, Barry’s Tea was mentioned by a few, including Anjali Kapoor-Davis, who said it was the strongest tea she’s had.
Other suggestions:
  • Twinings Irish Breakfast black tea. I use two bags to a cup and nothing else. As long as you don’t steep more than 5 minutes, you’re good. —Carole Troxler
  • I have been quite pleased with the selections from the Republic of Tea. I like the organic Assam Breakfast and the Downton Abbey teas. —Sharon Dooley
  • Typhoo. It’s an Assam tea, also known as an English breakfast tea, and it’s one of the few teas suited to tea bags. When we were stationed at the Military Academy at West Point, the wife of the English exchange officer told me about it. —Margaret Ashburn
  • I have been liking Numi’s Breakfast Blend the best. You can order 50 tea bags at a time which is much cheaper than getting it in the stores. —Jennie Nash
  • Welsh Brew is a good strong tea. Lifeboat is even stronger. —Pat Valdata
  • My go-to teas are Bewley’s Dublin Breakfast Tea, Bewley’s Irish Afternoon Tea and now the awesome Lyons Irish. Treat yourself with a little cream and mini touch of sugar. So delicious. —Judith Briles
  • When I lived in Ireland I was introduced to Lyons Original Blend (aka Green Label) tea. It was drunk morning, noon, and night. I got hooked. To this day nothing else gives me such a pleasant creative buzz in the morning. —Gesine Schulz
  • For a really good cup of Earl Grey tea, try Taylors of Harrogate. —Carol Michel
  • An easily available, very good and very strong black tea is the Tazo flavor Awake. —Jen Darnell
  • At the top of the heap, for high-octane plus traditional English tea flavor, would have to be Ahmad’s English Tea No. 1. Both of Twining’s Irish and English Breakfast Teas are very good as well. For sheer orange and spice flavor goodness, though, I would have to go with Bigelow’s Constant Comment. —Michael Sirois
  • My absolute favorite tea is pu-erh tea, which is aged over months or even years to give it a rich flavor. It is high in caffeine. As a lifelong coffee drinker I’ve come to appreciate the way the pu-erh wakes me up without leaving me jittery. Numi sells a fair trade, loose-leaf version that comes compressed into little bricks like a chocolate bar. I just break a piece off, brew it in a tea strainer, and finish with some almond milk and maple syrup. I swear it’s a little bit of heaven. —Elisabeth Staub

Upcoming online classes

👁 February 10: Master Point of View to Strengthen Your Storytelling with Tiffany Yates Martin

💡February 24: Who Am “I” Really? Finding Yourself as an Engaging Character in Memoir with Dinty W. Moore

💻 March 11: Blogging Strategies That Work in 2021 with Jane Friedman (with Writer’s Digest)

⭐️ 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

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Electric Speed is a free newsletter by Jane Friedman that launched in 2009. More than 35,000 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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