The Writer's Mailbag: Installment One-Hundred and Thirty-Four

January Fades from View

It seems the older I get, the less I like winter. When I was younger I loved winter…up until 2006, my one year in Alaska…then I stopped thinking winter was really neat. Anyway, I really feel it this year. The gray is getting to me, and that’s why I’m ecstatic that January is coming to an end. February signals springtime to me, even if the calendar doesn’t agree. Hey, I’m all for self-deception if it makes life easier. J

So here I am, self-deceived but not self-medicated, bringing you another Mailbag.

Let’s get to it!

Welcome to the Mail Room
Welcome to the Mail Room | Source

Using Family Members in Stories

From Ann: “Don't know if this is a new question but if you use a family member as the basis for one of your characters do you ask his or her permission, or do you disguise them in some way, apart from giving them a different name?”

Ann, I am definitely talking from experience in answering this question. I’m going to give you my opinion, based on a painful lesson, so just remember this is simply an opinion. There are no rules with regards to this.

I used real family members in my very first novel. I was naïve and I simply did not think before doing it, and to this day, seven years later, there is one niece who will not talk to me. As the kids like to say, my bad!

I would counsel asking for permission or simply not doing it. It opens up a can of worms you may never be able to cover up again.

It’s almost funny when I think back, because that’s probably the only one of my novels any of my family has read, and wouldn’t you know it was the only one I used family members in. LOL Lesson learned.


From Rasma: “This question I guess is not really for a mailbag but for just plain advice. I wrote quite a few articles on my dad, his own memories and memories from friends. People enjoyed reading but I think that now that they have been sitting around I would like to find a new audience. I wanted your opinion on how it would be to rewrite and publish the memories on NIUME I guess in Literature or should I put them on Creative Exiles in Memoirs. Have a great week.”

I hope you don’t mind, Rasma, but I decided to include this in the Mailbag anyway.

I’m going to tiptoe on this one because I’ve got friends on Creative Exiles.

I guess it depends on your purpose in rewriting those memories. If your goal is to reach out to as many people as possible then, objectively speaking, I think NIUME is your best bet. It is the more established and widely-viewed of the two sites you mentioned.

However, if your goal is to republish to a site where positive support will be instantly given, then I would go with the Creative Exiles.

How was that for diplomatic?

But then I can toss a monkey wrench into the whole mess by saying no matter which site you post on, your memories will still head out into the cyber world, so the viewing of those memories would depend, mainly, on your expertise with SEO and not one bit dependent upon the site you choose.

Confused yet?

Dawn is my best time for writing. What's yours?
Dawn is my best time for writing. What's yours? | Source

Time Is on My Side

From Bryce: “What’s the best time to write, in your opinion?”

That’s an easy one, Bryce. The best time for you to write is the best time for you to write.

Don’t you just love riddles?

Look, the best time for me is early morning. I’m on fire, creatively, from seven a.m. to noon. After that my productivity takes a sharp decline.

But I know writers who are dynamite at eleven at night. They can stay up and pour out the words in the wee hours of the morning. That works for them. It doesn’t work at all for me.

So, back to my answer, the best time for you is the best time for you. I’m sticking with that one, thank you very much!


From Louise: “You’ve mentioned stop words in other Mailbags, but I’m still confused by them. Would you please write a Hub about them?”


Maybe! Maybe not! It depends if I can find the time, Louise.

Listen, let me try to break this down to basics. Stop words are words that are either totally useless in a Google search, or may confuse a Google search. Words like “the,” or “it,” or “can,” or a hundred other words like that, can confuse the heck out of a Google search. There may be a difference when someone does a search between “Best sports cars” and “What are the best sports cars?”

Why is this important? Because when you write an article, if you don’t pay attention to this, you might be shooting yourself in the foot with regards to SEO. If making money on your articles is important to you, then giving your article the best chance of being found on searches should be important, so stop words should also be important.

So, how do we know if the stop word affects the search? Run a test. Do your own Google search for the title of your article, and then eliminate the stop words from your article and do another Google search. Where do those two searches take you? If they take you to a search area you want to be in, then that’s the title you should use.

Easy peasy, right?

I’ll try to write that article, Louise, but I make no promises.

Freelance writing is a job....treat it as such!
Freelance writing is a job....treat it as such! | Source

Daily Practice

From Mary: “I have been listening to an audio book called Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. She emphasizes continued daily writing practice. I was wondering if this is still something you do as you seem so busy producing work which is either published here, on Amazon or working for clients. Do you still have time to just practice or do you feel that you have cut your teeth and it is no longer necessary?”

Mary, thanks for a great question. I’ll tell you the first thing that came to my mind when I read this: if I think I don’t need to practice my craft, then I’m doing the wrong thing with my time by writing.

My goal is to become the greatest writer I’m capable of being. I jokingly sign some of my stuff “the greatest unknown author,” not because I think I am, but because I want to at least be that, and I’ll never make it if I quit trying to grow.

To answer your question, I practice my craft five days a week, and my answer will be the same next year, and the year after that, and…..


From Brie: “I’m just starting out as a freelance writer. What’s the one piece of advice you can give me to get started on the right foot?”

Sheez, Brie, why don’t you start out with an easy question, he said facetiously.

Okay, listen, I’m going to give you a whimsical answer, and then I’m going to give you a serious answer.

First, the whimsical: don’t quit your day job. Freelance writing, for a living, is not an easy gig, and it is very hard when you first start out. The money will be hard to come by for the first six months to a year…and that’s being optimistic. So make sure you have another source of income coming in while you build your business.

Next, the serious answer: do as much research as you can, and then do more research. Learn the SEO game. Learn about marketing. Learn about social media. Learn how to build a writing platform. Learn all of these things, and then learn more. Knowledge is power in the freelance game, so don’t short-change yourself when you are starting out.

A Short One Today

Yes, a short Mailbag, but that’s your fault, right? LOL I love it when I can’t take any of the blame.

Have a great week and I’ll catch you later down the literary road of life.

2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

More by this Author

Comments 62 comments

Janine Huldie profile image

Janine Huldie 4 weeks ago from New York, New York

Bill, I am with you on winter and the older I get the more I dislike it, too. Seriously, I am counting down to spring right now. But still just happy that January is almost over if nothing else. Happy Monday and as always thank you for your sage writing advice here ;)

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 4 weeks ago

I feel exactly the same way about winter this year. It seems that I am constantly cold. I haven't been out of the house for 2 days. This is ridiculous! As for writing everyday, once you start you can't stop.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

It's nice to know I'm not alone, Janine. Bring on Spring!!!!!

Happy Monday my friend, and thank you!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Pop, I need warmth soon....please....please....please!!!!!

Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 4 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

Bill, I have daffodils that are up 3 inches already and the hellebores are starting to pop up. I promise that Spring (or something like it) is just around the bend.

Short mailbag? Not really, but I'll take quality over quantity any day (haha). And, I do hope that you write that article about stop words.

jo miller profile image

jo miller 4 weeks ago from Tennessee

I still like winter, cold days and snow and hot chocolate and a good book to read by the fire. But along about February I begin looking for the first bulbs to start piercing the ground.

I've still so much to learn about marketing and I'm still so unmotivated to learn, but I learn a little every time I come to your mailbags. Keep them coming.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Linda, the daffodils are terribly confused. I promise another cold snap before this is over, and snow still wouldn't shock me. I sure hope I'm wrong. :)

Thanks my friend. Stop words? Sheez, pressure, pressure, pressure!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Jo, I don't know of any writers who like marketing...not have a lot of company, my friend.

PAINTDRIPS profile image

PAINTDRIPS 4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

Hey Bill,

Maybe it is the extremes in weather we don't care for as we get older. The winters are mild here in CA but the Summer!... Oh baby! I can't take the heat anymore, not like I used to. Anyway, another great mailbag full of interesting questions and thoughtful answers. Very interesting reading about using family members. I'm tempted in my writing knowing none of my family read what I write no matter how often I post it and invite them to read it. Still, the one time I use a family member in fiction, sure as death and taxes, that will be the one time they would read it I bet. So I take the advice of the master. Thanks.



Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 4 weeks ago from Hyderabad, India

The mailbags are always interesting with new questions and new answers. I am quite enjoying this series apart from growing my knowledge each week.

I am also thinking in the same manner as you about nearing the end of winter. From February middle it will be offspring here all around although there will be shedding of leaves and trees standing bare for some days.

Using family members or referring to their names is a very bad thing and I myself, experienced problems as some of them stopped talking for some days with me until I cleared their feelings.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Denise, I can't handle the heat, either, and I used to love it. I'm a 70 degree kind of guy. LOL Unfortunately, that means I'll be happy about two months out of the year. :)

The master? Just a guy who has already made that mistake and doesn't want to see you do the same.

Thanks a bunch and Happy Monday to you.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Venkatachari M, thanks for sharing your thoughts about family members. In my humble opinion, it's a practice that is best left untried. :)

Blessings my friend

heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 4 weeks ago from Chicago Area

Happy Next to Last Mailbag Monday in January!

Re: Family Feuds. Good advice to get permission AND legal advice on family stories BEFORE publishing... even BEFORE writing! Hard to take back once it's out there and you've invested time and energy in writing it. Family members and friends can also sue you for such things as defamation.

Re: Republishing on Other Sites. There's always the question of duplicate content when republishing on other sites. While it's your work and you can do with it as you wish, the Google gods don't always look favorably on content that's on multiple sites. You may get dinged for duplicate content which could hurt your work's place in search results.

Have a great week!

MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 4 weeks ago from South Africa

Interesting and relevant questions, and excellent advice from a Pro!

I should pay more attention to those stop words!

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 4 weeks ago from Oklahoma

Always enjoyable:-)

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 4 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas

Winter blues got you down? It's sunny here in Texas and brisk but beautiful. Spring is around the corner and armed with this sage advice and great answers from your column, I'm heading off to write some more. You inspire me.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 4 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

Short but sweet this week, Bill. If I use family members it is only in factual writing like the Cackleberry Farm, never in fiction (though they'd never read it anyway :)

Thanks for mentioning The Creative Exiles. Any publicity is good publicity. We aren't trying to compete with Nuime, HubPages or any other sites like that, and couldn't anyway as we are specifically for creative writing but I am happy with our progress and the site has just undergone some revamping with more categories etc which should get us more outside views, though the hard part is getting established with Google in the first place. Stay warm, and keep the mailbag rolling along.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thanks Heidi! Great information as always. I, for one, have learned my lesson. No more using family members in my books. :)

Happy Monday to you!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Martie, in truth, we all should, but what would be the fun in that? LOL Thanks so much!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Larry! It wouldn't be a Monday without your visit.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Peg, thank you! Sunny and brisk is not a phrase I associate with Texas. It's nice to know it's not always 100 there. :) Have a great week of writing.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

John, I pretty much knew that was your purpose, and I salute you for it. Hopefully there will always be demand for what you offer writers. Thanks for your efforts.

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 4 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Wasn't it Billy Chrystal -- Marvelous.

I am sorry to let it be known that I really do not care about half these issues --- but I love how you handle them. What great talent.

shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 4 weeks ago from Texas

HP baffles me. I left you a comment and it's nowhere in sight, yet I am somehow still automatically following this hub now.

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 4 weeks ago from Massachusetts

Hi Bill. The winter blues are in full swing here also even though it's been a fairly mild winter so far. It's dark, gray, windy, and now it's sleeting outside. Bring on spring. A great week for the mailbag, especially the question and answer on using family members in stories. Have a great week.

mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 4 weeks ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hi Bill - I will surely know when any of my family read what I write - they are all in there. They are named and unnamed. It never even occurred to me to ask, or even let them know. Yikes.

Great mailbag. It has rained for days here in SoCal. Enough is enough, already with this whole winter thing.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

It was Billy Crystal, Eric, and to tell the truth, I don't care about half of them either, other than the fact that to answer them helps other writers.

blessings buddy

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Join the crowd, Shannon! I've been baffled by HP for five years now. :)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thanks a lot, Bill, and may we both experience some warmth in the near future.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Mike, I hear ya on that rain thing. There's a reason we don't have a population explosion here in Olympia. As for family members, you've been lucky, my friend.

Buildreps profile image

Buildreps 4 weeks ago from Europe

The Winters seem to get shorter every year. In my opinion one of the good things of global warming. :) Google is still a mystery to me when it comes to stop words, it seems to make not much of a difference. Wish you a great week and lot's of sunshine!

mpropp profile image

mpropp 4 weeks ago from Minnesota

Happy Tuesday Bill! I can't believe I wasn't able to take a break yesterday and enjoy my mail!! But, luckily your mailbags are always evergreen. :)

I almost spit out my coffee when I read that February signals spring! Not in Alaska or Minnesota, I'm afraid...

Have a great and productice week!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Buildreps, I like what you said about global warming. Great, positive spin. LOL As for stop words yes, most times, they make no difference, but the one time you really need views, that's the time the stop words will hurt you. :) Thanks my friend.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

No chance for you, Melissa, but hey, it doesn't hurt to say it, does it? LOL Keep the coffee in your mouth, my friend, and stay warm and safe. Thank you!

annart profile image

annart 4 weeks ago from SW England

I have some info regarding body metabolism and times of the day which are best for certain activities. If I remember rightly, generally the best time for study or production of work is 10-12am, then 3-4pm but I'll look up the article on it and let you know. It probably doesn't work for everyone, as you say, but it's supposed to fit most people. Then you wonder, so what happens with GMT versus Summer time? Yes, well.....

Thanks for answering my question; I guess family members could get upset one way or another so it would be best to steer clear! Most of them don't understand why I write, so why would they want to be involved?!

Have a tumultuous Tuesday, bill! Mine has been catching up with girlfriends - LWL (Ladies what Lunch!) and that's always fun.

Ann :)

phoenix2327 profile image

phoenix2327 4 weeks ago from United Kingdom

Re: Using family members in your writing.

A member of my writers' group and I were having this very discussion at our last meeting. We decided, should the occasion arise, our best defense was a good offense. We would point out that their character traits are universal and they must have quite the ego if they believed the character in question couldn't possibly be anyone else but them. Then we roll our eyes upward, tut loudly and saunter away. If you're really committed, they will soon question themselves. If you're really good, they'll even apologise. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.

Seriously, we will deny any resemblance between the characters in our stories and any persons, living or dead, till the cows come home.;)

Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 4 weeks ago from Brazil

Hi Bill,

Thanks for the answer to my question.

Interesting story about using family members. I can see how a problem can occur but most families are the best sources of frustration, entertainment, and love.

Best to tread carefully.

Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 weeks ago from Riga, Latvia

My greatest inspiration definitely build from late afternoon into the wee hours. Thank you for your reply. You have made me take this into consideration. I think what I shall do is go with NIUME and see what happens and how the response is and of course sharing to social networks but the articles that I have written which offer his poetic words translated I might put on CE. Well I will see how things progress once I gather them together, redo and start posting. With that comes another questions. For a long time I have wanted to translate some of dad's poetry and I believe that I would definitely post to CE. Anyway even though you and poetry are not the best of friends let's include novels and stories in this question too. What is the best way to translate novels, stories and poetry from one language to another? Do you really have to know the person and his actual thoughts? I believe I could translate dad's poems quite well but I guess I am a bit scared to try.

Suzie HQ profile image

Suzie HQ 4 weeks ago from Dublin, Ireland

Hi Bill, What an interesting selection this week, I think the family issue of using or not for characters is best left alone to avoid any future problems. Looking at your stats on articles published followers etc you are truly the guru of this site, wishing you a fabulous week from this little corner of the globe. xx

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Ann, I hope you had fun at that lunch. I know I'd have fun if I was along for the ride.

Thanks for the info on metabolism. Great stuff...that's what this forum is all about, the sharing of ideas and information, so thank you again, and may your Wednesday be filled with adventure.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Zulma, I love your attitude. A little charade never hurt anyone, right? LOL A good liar is a person who is so convincing they have you questioning your own truth. :)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

True words, Mary...treading carefully is the catch-phrase of the day when writing fiction. Thank you for the question and Happy Wednesday to you.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Wow, Rasma, congratulations! A new question, one never asked before, and one with some serious substance to it. I'm looking forward to answering that one. Thank you!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you, Irish! I smile every single time you comment. What a great friend you are, and I mean that sincerely, Irish!

bodylevive profile image

bodylevive 3 weeks ago from Alabama, USA

Billybuc, I like the writer's mail bag. I found it to be interesting! Personally, I don't care that much for winter being a warm weather person. I look forward to Spring coming. Spring and Autumn are my favorite seasons. You've presented some great advice here and I'm soaking it up! Best to you.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Bodylevive, so good of you to stop by. Don't be a stranger. Now I'm on my way to your site to see what's up there. Thank you!

annart profile image

annart 3 weeks ago from SW England

Strictly the girls I'm afraid, though I'm sure you'd add valuable input!!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Oh, Ann, I make it a rule never to interfere in a girls only meeting. LOL

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 weeks ago from Shelton

I do miss these mailbags.. learned a great deal and enjoyed the answers to the questions.. I will try and catch up going from latest to previous.. take care :)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Frank, good to have you back. You were missed.

simplehappylife profile image

simplehappylife 3 weeks ago from United States

Great installment Bill :) I found the "Stop Words" portion particularly useful and Appreciate Louise and You for taking the time to address this and share it with us. I had never thought much about "stop words", nevermind knowing that there is an actual term for them. This information will definitely come in handy for me! Thank You Again!

rdsparrowriter profile image

rdsparrowriter 3 weeks ago

Hi Sir Bill, thank you for this interesting article. I hope your neice would speak to you. I suppose people react in different ways. Take care and may God bless you!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

SA, I'm glad found it helpful. It's one of those seemingly little things that can make a huge difference in views. Thanks for stopping by on a Sunday. You are always welcome here.

simplehappylife profile image

simplehappylife 3 weeks ago from United States

:) Thank You

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

And may God bless you, Sparrow! Thank you!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

You betcha, RA!

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 9 days ago from Central Florida

Bill, have any of your articles that offer invitations to your blog been hit by the HP gremlin? The other day I went through my account and saw the Violation Gremlin next to many of my titles. Each one contained an invitation and link to my (now defunct) website. Once I removed those capsules the gremlins went away.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 9 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Sha, this will probably not come as any surprise, but I don't know. I don't check the HP list to see if any were could be they are, but I just haven't bothered to find out. :)

lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 4 days ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


Great information here, I especially identified with the last comment.

I was reading a post by Jerry B Jenkins the other day, he said he didn't quit his 'day job' until his writing was earning three and a half times what the 'day job' paid, and before you ask, he reckons he wrote around 90 books before he got to that stage!

Sounds daunting, but for me, that means I can relax and have fun writing and learning to write while not feeling like I'm failing if I haven't got the sales I want!

What about that for a question though, do you think we put too much pressure on ourselves 'hoping that others will LOVE what we write?'

I mean I know we want them to enjoy it, but do you think there's pressure there, and what can we do about it?

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

It's a great question, Lawrence, and I'll have the answer for you tomorrow.

Thanks my friend. I hope you had a great weekend.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 days ago

I find I write better when I can see outdoors and early in the morning. Funny how the time of day and place inspires writing.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

It really is, Dee. it's raining this morning and I am ready to go,energized and excited to meet my muse.

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