The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 152
The Pages of the Calendar
Is it just the fact that I’m getting older, or does this world, and time, seem to be moving faster than it once did? Maybe I’ve just taken on too much for me to do. Whatever the case, this boy is busy, and the newfound sunshine isn’t helping matters a whole lot. I keep longing to get outside and usually do exactly that by one each afternoon.
Oh well, we do what we can do.
One thing I did accomplish was this Mailbag, so let’s check out this week’s questions.
Can Familiarity Be a Bad Thing
From Bill: “151 and counting - great job, Bill! I just got done reading the latest "Into the Unknown" and have to agree with Frank. You've made it all so lifelike. Thanks for sharing your secret. I'm working on a story now set in my local area, and it all seems so "corny." I know the area well, but maybe too much familiarity is also a bad thing. Any thoughts?”
Bill, it’s an interesting question. I’ve thought about this for a couple days before answering. I honestly can’t think of a situation when too much familiarity is a bad thing. Authenticity is important, I believe, or at least the illusion of authenticity and familiarity. Perhaps, if one is writing about a particularly painful situation, being too close might be a hindrance, but then I fall back on the fact that touching our readers on an emotional level is, or should be, one of our goals as fiction writers.
So my rather labored answer is no, I don’t believe it is a bad thing. One thought I did have, however, is that perhaps, because you are so familiar with a particular situation, you fail to see the uniqueness of it. Maybe a fresh set of eyes would help you to see, in a new light, something that is right under your nose. I know living in the Pacific Northwest, I often take the beauty of this area for granted because I’m so accustomed to it….just a random thought for you to ponder.
From Linda: Hi Bill – “I have never attended/participated in a "book signing", and now I have been asked to consider DOING a book signing. Can you provide any insight as to what to expect? This is brand new territory.”
Linda, book signings are pretty standard affairs. They usually go something like this: you get set up at a table, spread out your books, have seating of course, and then spend maybe fifteen minutes talking to the audience and giving a few readings. Then have a question and answer session followed by the signing. The whole thing should take about an hour.
Now that doesn’t mean you can’t stray from that formula. In your case, with a cookbook/history of cooking book, perhaps you could give out samples of one of the recipes that is in your book….word of caution…don’t get in trouble with the Health Department by doing so. Check on local regulations regarding that particular practice.
And good luck! By all means do it! It is great exposure.
How Many Mailbag Questions
From Bill: “Three years is an amazing achievement Bill. Here's a question for you. Do you have any idea how many questions you have answered through the weekly mailbag over the last three years? I'm sure everyone is curious? I can probably figure out a pretty good estimate with some easy math but do you keep track of the question count? I suspect knowing you as I do that you don't and you probably don't care :) If you answer on average 5 questions per week then that would put you somewhere around 780 questions expertly answered. Well done.”
Bill, thank you! Honest answer, I don’t have a clue, and I’m too lazy to go back and count them. Your estimate is as good a one as I could come up with. Let’s just round it off to 800 and be satisfied, which I am. Thank you my friend.
From Asking: “Asking this because I've received a couple of awful comments that have nothing to do with my writing apparently. I don't want to reveal myself, but I read your mailbag regularly. On a couple of my articles I have received a few hateful generic comments such as "Go kys" (go kill yourself) and even though they are trolls it sticks with me. The topics are not opinion or controversial topics but that would not give them an excuse to act like that.
“Do you sometimes get terrible comments like that? How do you handle it? Does it bother you at all? On a related topic, How do you sort out negative comments that have valid criticism of your work from the riff raff?”
My goodness, Asking, people have actually written “go kill yourself” in the comment section? Whew! It would surprise me more, I guess, but I hang out on Facebook quite a bit, and I’ve seen similar comments on that social platform. The cruelty of human beings no longer surprises me, I’m sad to report. Of course their comments stick with you. I don’t know how they couldn’t? Anyone with a pulse would be upset by that sort of comment.
Have I received them? Not that hateful, no, but I have received some pretty nasty comments and yes, they bother me. I don’t get caught up in a tit for tat, and I try not to give them any chance to continue. I thank them for their opinion, no matter how warped it might be, I tell them they are no longer welcome on my site, and then I delete their comment and continue deleting them if they reappear. Eventually they lose the will to continue and go find someone else to bother. I’m sure there is a way to completely block them and ban them, but I haven’t taken the time to do that.
Early on in my career, I wrote quite a few articles about alcoholism, me being a recovering alcoholic, and I received a few nasty comments at that time, and it hurt, and I still remember them . . . but it didn’t stop me from continuing.
How do I sort out valid criticism of my work? I will listen to anything that is presented in a respectful manner, and I mean that sincerely. It would worry me if everyone agreed with everything I wrote all of the time. My goodness, I’m not God or anything close to God, so why would I expect my writing to be perfect? But the criticism has to be presented respectfully or I trash it.
Now I will say this too: I have quite a bit of confidence in my writing and I have a certain degree of respect for myself. I do not deserve to be treated like that. I am a loving and gentle person, and life is too short to let trolls attack me. I also know I’m a good writer, so I have to have that confidence before I ever go public with anything I write. I’m not saying you have a thin skin, but I am saying it helps to have supreme confidence in your abilities, which in turn thickens your skin for the attacks to come.
I really hope you get a break from that kind of crap. It really annoys the hell out of me that it is happening to you. These are petty little people with a whole lot of sadness deep inside of them; it’s a shame they feel the need to drag others down with them.
I guess we’ll end with that. Remember , all of you, that you are writers. Once you make the decision to go public, you are open to attacks. Don’t let the critics and trolls prevent you from doing what you were meant to do.
NIUME UPDATE: NIUME sent out a notice stating they were no longer paying their writers as of the end of this month. Just wanted you updated on it since I introduced many of you to that site a year or so ago.
Could HP be next?
2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”