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7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Jane Borden

Categories: 7 Things I've Learned So Far, Breaking In (Writer's Digest), Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog.


This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Jane Borden, author of I TOTALLY MEANT TO DO THAT) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.


 Jane is excited to give away a free copy of her memoir to a random commenter. Comment within one week;

winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Elisa won.)


Jane Borden is the author of the humorous memoir
I Totally Meant to Do That (March 2011; Broadway),
a story about a Southern girl who moves to New York.
Amy Poehler called the book “The classic story of country
club mouse meets city mouse.” See Jane’s website here,
or her Twitter here.


1. You don’t know what a story is going to be about an until you start to write it. And I write nonfiction! Even if the plot can’t change, that doesn’t mean the metaphors won’t.

2. Don’t write a book unless you have a lot to say. This sounds obvious, but it was a much bigger undertaking then I had anticipated it would be–and I had anticipated it would be huge. But I didn’t want to reach my page count with filler and fluff. It took a lot of soul-searching, journal mining, and ultimately time to produce as much as a full book requires.

3. If you are keeping your chapters in separate Word documents, combine them all into one well before the due date.
I discovered the night before my manuscript was due that it was only two-thirds long enough.

4. If you see a problem, a gap, or a leap in logic, everyone else will too. There are no magic tricks in writing. Stubbornness never wins.

5. Don’t get tendinitis. I had just begun the post-proposal manuscript when I contracted acute tendinitis in my shoulders from my day job. I had to talk the rest of the book via dictation software. “It was a pain …  exclamation point.”

6. Don’t write about a topic or incident if you can’t be 100% candid.
No one wants to see you hedge, or shy away. Either go in all the way, or don’t go at all.

7. Jokes are worth the time they need. One good joke can take as long to produce as a full page of sincere prose. Part of the reason it took me almost three years to write this book is because I wanted it to be funny. Hopefully it is question mark exclamation point question mark.



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26 Responses to 7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Jane Borden

  1. Candice says:

    As soon as I saw the title and synopsis of your book I immediately searched for it at the library. Unfortunately, living in a small southern city means newer titles don’t appear on library bookshelves fast enough! Such a cute title and such a true saying! Looking forward to reading!!!

  2. Kay says:

    As a Southern girl myself who loves creative nonfiction, I plan to read this, even if I don’t win. :-)

  3. Debra says:

    I’d love to read your book and would be honored to win it. Memoirs are my favorite genre.

  4. Bharti Legros says:

    Great tips. As a wannabe writer, I would love to read this book. I often find myself reciting good prose at the moment when your mind is waking up but the rest of you still wants to sleep. Then I forget everything when I’m fully awake to write it down. Also, I’m always looking for good humor for my book clubs!

  5. Mary Crocco says:

    I moved from New York years ago! Looks like a great story! The things we learn.

  6. Krysten H says:

    WOuld love to win this as I write humor myself. Too bad I already have chronic tendonitis tho, but mostly in my knees, so that shouldn’t stop writing progress ;)

  7. Heather Schick says:


    Your book’s title caught my attention right away. I say this phrase quite a bit in my day-to-day life too so naturally I was interested. I read a review from our local bookstore about your memoir and thought it would be a terrific read as did the reviewer. I appreciate the chance to win a copy. I can’t wait to read it.

    Thank you!

  8. Marijan Jett says:

    I would love to read this book! Looking forward to winning ;)


  9. Jamie P. says:

    Your book sounds delightfully hilarious. As a fellow southern girl, I love reading the thoughts of my soul sisters. I’m also very thankful for your tips, especially the one about tendinitis! I’ve been looking into dictation software to help speed up the writing process a little bit, but your experience has convinced me otherwise. Dictating every bit of punctuation? No thank you! Best of luck with your book, and, win or lose, I can’t wait to read it!

  10. Ooh! I’m a girl from NY who moved South! I’d love to hear the flip side of the story! Sounds hysterical! Loved the 7 pointers, too! Thanks for the chance to win!

  11. Keetha says:

    This book sounds right up my alley! I’m a southern girl who used to daydream about moving to NYC and living the high life.

  12. sonya says:

    Thanks for posting. The book sounds funny and like something up my alley. Take care!

  13. H.E.Saunders says:

    I think we both have a very similar sense of humor. I’m intrigued by your book.

  14. Aura says:

    #2 really resonates. I’m halfway through writing a novel and I’m finding it’s just as relevant to have something to say to make my story meaningful as well as entertaining. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Sue Escobar says:

    The title of your book really caught my eye… I’d love to win, but you know, I’d pick up a copy of your book anyway. I am in the process of writing a memoir myself, and after reading your list of 7 things I’ve learned so far, I completely agree.. especially with no. 6. It’s the idea of being real. Transparency is a good thing. Readers can see through the fluff and filler; they want the meat, organic, raw, real food to chew on. Forget the processed, I am all about the natural, real deal, and your list confirmed that for me. Thanks for writing this! Looks like an awesome read, and as I said, whether I win or not, I’d like to get a copy anyway.

    Best wishes to you for great success! By being and writing your Truth, you’ll go far, I”m sure :)

  16. Crystal says:

    As an avid reader I get frustrated when books are largely composed of filler and fluff so I need to make sure I don’t make that mistake when writing my book. Thanks for the reminder!

  17. I think this has been said quite a few times now, but I really love your book title and cover. I feel that way, being a Texas girl in California (even if it is the Central Valley), so in a weird way just the title had me hooked.

    The one thing I’ve learned from fiction and non-fiction is exactly like #1: it’ll always change on you because there’s so many ways to describe one thing, fixed or otherwise. I think that’s why writing is, well, complicated.

    Hope your tendinitis is better. No clue how that works, but I know that speaking your book to a computer must feel weird, haha. Unless your computer talks back. Then you’ve got a spiffy computer.

    Good luck! Hope your book does well.

  18. Evelyn says:

    "Either go in all the way, or don’t go at all." Thank you for saying that. I’ve had to curb myself sometimes because I’m afraid an agent or publisher will say, "Oh hell no!" and then I’ll be in the dog house! :(

    I’ll be a little braver, I think. :)

  19. Stacy says:

    I totally needed to hear No. 6 today. Thanks.

  20. Alicia says:

    Sounds like an awesome book. Can’t wait to read it.

  21. I love your point about facts don’t change but metaphors do. I’ve found that out in writing my memoir, that how I look at the circumstances changed over time and rewrites. Your book sounds like a fun read, hoping your tendonitis is better


  22. I would love to read your book. It sounds as a great book to read and review. I also like the 7 tips you gave. I can see myself in them.

    Deborah @ThirtyCreative

  23. Kristy says:

    I’d love to win… I mean, read your book. Does this count as a comment? Or do I need to be wordier? You’ve inspired me. I’m going to write the ten things I’ve learned as a writer and post it on my blog… tomorrow. (I won’t be talking about procrastination.) You can check out my blog at http://kristystories.blogspot.com/.

    I really hope I win your book.

  24. Lynda says:

    Love the title of your new book – it used to be one of my favorite sayings when I was growing up & trying to fit into a social group. I faced some uphill challenges, coming from a very abusive home (& trying to hide it) while trying to fit in with other teens who had no chores or baby sisters to look after & who had money while I had none.

    Also thanks for the tips, I will take the one about enough content to heart since I always want to trim & trim & trim.

    Good luck with your new book!

  25. Jessica Titchenal says:

    Love the idea of journal mining! Sounds like a great book!

  26. Jen De Groot says:

    This book looks hilarious. I want to win! You can reach me at debittergroot at gmail dot com.

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