The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 149
Happy May to You All
And as the rain falls on our urban farm, I welcome you back to the Mail Room. Evidently we had our two days of spring and now winter has returned. The old joke, “if you don’t like the weather, stick around five minutes” certainly applies this spring in western Washington.
I’m starting to sound like I’m obsessed with the weather. Heaven forbid!
But I am obsessed with writing, evidently, and proud of it, so let’s talk about my obsession, shall we?
From Lawrence: “Dickens wrote twenty novels, almost all were serialised in newspapers before they were in print, apparently he would change the characters as people commented on them! Maybe that could be a question, how do you feel about serializing a novel, and how much should we leave out?”
Lawrence, I feel fantastic about serializing novels, which makes sense since I’m currently working on the fourth in my paranormal-thriller Shadow series. Do some research on this and you’ll find the pros agree that sales are generally higher for serial novels rather than stand-alone novels, so there you go, the pros agree with me.
My work is done!
AMATEUR VS PRO
From Eric: “Most wonderful on this May Day and International Workers Day to hear you are overloaded with work. And this brings me to a question that only an expert like you can answer. Are "amateur" writers in general as good as professional writers. What I mean is; does the impetus to write as a full time job make writers better? Your case exempt as you clearly write for passion and the money falls into place. Maybe I am asking if I turned pro, do you think it would make me better at writing? I could do it for that reason, but not for the money as my impetus in that regard is sorely lacking.”
Eric, I waited to answer this one for a couple days because I was hung up on the term “turned pro.” I’m not exactly sure what that means, and I’m really not sure what an amateur writer is. To me, I guess, we could differentiate “amateurs” from “professionals” by using “making an income” the sole criteria but see, that doesn’t work for me. I know quite a few writers who don’t make money and who are, in my opinion, pros all the way, and I know some writers who make money who really suck at writing. LOL So where does that leave us?
To me, the key factor in determining amateur vs pro is the same as the factor separating novice and journeyman craftsman, and that factor is experience based on working on your craft. I’m a big believer in the 10,000 hour rule in determining a high level of proficiency at something. Don’t get hung up on the precise number 10,000, but rather concentrate on the “experience” factor.
To answer your question, I don’t think the impetus to write as a full-time job makes a writer better; I think the drive to become the best writer possible is the determining factor.
But hell, Eric, what do I really know?
From Rasma: “What two sites are best for unsure self-publishers like me? Is it possible to add photos to my poems or will the site tell me this? How do I keep my hand from trembling when I am done and what happens next? How do I let everyone know I have done this and where can they take a look at my creation? You see I have so many more questions and practically no real answers.”
Rasma, I’ve only used two sites, so those are the only two I’m qualified to speak about, and they are CreateSpace and Lulu. I found both to be satisfactory and easy to navigate. I prefer CreateSpace but only because I’ve used them a dozen times now.
Yes you can add photos to your poems, and CreateSpace will take you through that process. Regarding your hands trembling, good luck. LOL A stiff drink might help. How can you let everyone know you have done it? That’s called marketing, and that’s a whole new ballgame. Here’s the deal, Rasma: write the book first, get that traumatic experience out of the way, and then you can concentrate on guerilla marketing.
Good luck! I really hope you do this.
From MizB: “Bill, you know what a "bah, humbug!" I am when it comes to writing contests, however, I just got an email for one that I would like to pass along. The Long Ridge Writers Group is sponsoring a contest for short fiction for children ages 6-8, 750 words max. What makes this different is that after the winners are declared, the group is offering a free webinar to participants to critique their writing. Now that is the way a contest should be conducted. You are the best route I know of to pass this along to other writers. I just hope this isn't deleted as a commercial post. Regardless, feel free to include this in your next writers mailbag (if you choose, no pressure from me, my friend).”
Well there you go, folks! Miz B has just pointed you in the direction. Check it out. MizB is one of the more reliable people I know online, so if she recommends this contest it must be a dandy.
From Patti: “I have this idea for a novel in my head, set back in Victorian England. I’m debating whether the dialogue in that novel needs to be authentic for the time, or if I can use language more easily understood in today’s world. What do you think?”
This is a tough one, Patti. The purists will say you need to be true to the times, and I’m 75-25 in favor of that way of thinking. The only reason I hesitate is because you run the risk of turning off many of today’s readers if the language is too hard to understand.
Still, and I mean this seriously, I’m tired of this tendency we have, in the U.S. and in other countries, of dumbing things down to meet the current level of learning. I would rather lose readers and be true to the times than bastardize it to gain a few more readers. It will be interesting to see how others feel about this topic, so I’ll turn it over to everyone else. I’m fully aware, as an old teacher, that I have some biases about learning . .. I believe in teaching up to a higher level rather than teaching down to the level of the underachievers.
THAT’S ALL WE HAVE
It’s been a total enjoyment for me, as always. The questions are always great, and I love that this series is still popular after almost three years. Keep ‘em coming!
Another old-timer, Rolly, left HubPages last week. It saddens me when that happens. I don’t blame the writers. I understand why they do it. I do blame HubPages for not doing more to make veteran writers feel wanted on this site. There are a lot of writers who have given a great deal, for mere peanuts in pay, and helped to form a very welcoming and interactive community; it seems the least HP could do is make those writers feel welcomed, but evidently that is asking too much.
Anyway, Rolly, you will be missed on this site. We are poorer because of his leaving us. You can find Rolly at his new website, Fireside With Rolly. I have no doubt that you will be welcomed if you stop by. The fire is always blazing.
2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”