The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 159
Life Marches On
Up here in Western Washington, we feel the change in seasons quicker than some of you might in the lowers states. I can already feel the loss of heat at five, six in the evening, and it is a very subtle reminder that summer is waning and fall is slowly approaching.
Such is life. I am approaching sixty-nine years of age. When I was twenty I firmly believed that sixty-nine was ancient, and if I lived that long it would be as an invalid. LOL Now I may be a bit slower today, but an invalid I am not. My mind is still sharp, I can still do physical work, and I am still very active . . . so the changing of my seasons is without a doubt happening but it, too, is very subtle.
I love my life. There was a time that was not true. In 2005 I wanted to die. Today, if death were imminent, I would go out kicking and screaming, because I’m having far too much fun.
Such is life!
Thank you for being on this journey with me.
Let’s read some mail!
Organizing a Book
From Eric: “But on a serious note. Bill I gather that when you are writing to publish a book in goes page one through page....I am trying to get ready to publish and my pages will go ???? Because my stuff isn't what my son calls a "chapter book". Can you give me a suggestion on how to organize just so that I can get organized? Maybe you could at least organize my question into a better question ;-)”
I’ll do that, Eric, after I finish laughing about your organization comment.
Organizing a reflective book is a bit trickier than organizing a standard novel . . . maybe “trickier” isn’t the right word . . . it’s just a different process. If it’s a “how to” book, then the process is pretty straightforward. You are teaching people how to do something, so you start with the baby steps and move on to proficiency.
But if it is a reflective piece, like a compilation of your “sermon” pieces, then you really start where you feel you should start. Make a list of the topics covered by all of the pieces you are going to include. Then shuffle those topics around into some sort of logical flow. Heck, there may not be a logical flow to it all. If one piece is about listening, and one piece about loving strangers, and one piece about raising children, there really is no correct way to determine which should go first.
If your book is about what I think it is about, then begin with an introduction explaining why you felt it was so important that you publish that book. Explain what the purpose is of that book, that it is a mishmash of different topics about life, and then just start putting it together.
Don’t get bogged down by the small stuff…..and if you want me to look over your list of topics and help you with the sorting, I’ll do that too.
From Natalie: “I’m really struggling with this writing business. I’ve written three novels and have sold a total of twelve books over two years. I don’t know what to do. A part of me is angry because there is so much junk out there now, it seems like the market is flooded with substandard work, some of it actually published by real publishers, and I can’t get anyone to read mine or be interested in it for publishing. What am I doing wrong? Any advice you might have would be appreciated.”
Natalie, I read your question with equal parts of sympathy, empathy, and humor. I do not mean to be snippy when I say that but damn, girl, two years????? Are you kidding me? You want to know why you aren’t successful after two years?
I’ve been doing this for eight years. Am I where I want to be? Not even close, but I’m doing better than I was six years ago, so there is my answer to you . . .
Strap on your big girl panties and get to work. There are no “get rich quick” paths in writing. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
Having said that, I do have empathy and understanding for you. You are correct when you say there is a great amount of junk out there. It annoys the hell out of me at times, that some writers actually get picked up by a real publishing company, and they don’t have an ounce of my talent . . . but that’s me feeling sorry for myself, and I won’t do that for long.
My job is to be the best writer I can be. After that my job is to market my work to the best of my abilities. I may never be famous, but if I’m not it won’t be because I felt sorry for myself. I refuse to be a victim.
I love writing. It is that love which carries me forward day after day after day. I do not need purchases of my books to feed that love of writing. Heck, I may turn out to be one of those writers who becomes famous after he dies. That’s fine with me, because prior to my death I was having a blast doing what I love to do.
How cool is that?
Who Do You Write For?
From Olivia: “Bill, can you tell me who you write for? When you sit down to write a book, or a story, do you have a particular audience in mind?”
Olivia, the answer to your second question first: NO! I have no particular audience in mind when I write my novels. Now that I have that out of the way, let me tackle your first question.
I’m a storyteller. I think I have been for a very long time. I told a lot of stories when I was a teacher, and I’m still telling them. I remember, as a kid, sitting around at family gatherings listening to my dad and my uncles and grandparents talk about life back when they were younger. I learned about war that way, about hard work that way, and about responsibilities that way. My next door neighbor, Mister Witherspoon, came across the Oregon Trail as a young boy, and I remember listening to him tell me stories about coming west on that Trail.
So I’m a storyteller. I don’t particularly care who my audience is when I write. The only time this topic enters my internal conversation is when it is time to market my books. Then I need to be aware of who might read a paranormal thriller and market accordingly.
So to answer your first question, I write for myself, and I write for all of those relatives who took the time to tell a young boy stories, and I write for the future storytellers, who will hopefully be inspired by my stories and will become storytellers themselves.
LET’S WRAP IT UP
Only three questions but they were great questions. Thanks to those who asked, and thanks to those who stopped by to read.
Have a great week of writing, a great week of living, and a great week of storytelling.
2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly”