The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 164
Influx of New Questions
I don’t know what it is, but lately we’ve been getting questions never-before asked on the Mailbag. That’s good news for all of us, as repetition makes us all weary and bored.
September is almost here, and that means, for me, more writing time. My urban farming chores and daily duties will be drastically cut by the end of September, and then I can concentrate on publishing some new books, and that always excites me.
On a completely unrelated matter . . .
There is a lot of hate in the world right now. You’ve probably noticed. Lots of frustration in reaction to that hate . . . what can you do . . . what can I do?
We are writers! We can do a great deal. We chronicle the reactions and feelings of our generation. We open up Pandora’s Box and we do not back away in horror or fear.
We are writers!
From Rasma: “Now a bit off topic. Just heard from an online friend and since I am very interested I wanted to know what you think. They started posting on Virily.com and apparently they pay over there for original content. If I knew that this was a good site to join I would and perhaps this could be an outlet for some of my dad's stories. I still post on NIUME but of course it is just for my love of writing now. Please let me know.”
Rasma, I’ve never heard of Virily, so I went off to look for myself.
It looks like quite a few other content sites. They pay, you say? Hopefully they have found the winning formula whereby they can pay writers a decent stipend and still stay in business. If not, they will go the way of NIUME and the payments will stop. I wish I knew more, but I don’t. I suspect this is just one of many sites with great intentions, and we’ll just have to wait and see whether they flame out or not.
As for your dad’s stories, my suggestion, and you can take this with a grain of salt, is to publish the book of his stories/poems, and not waste time on sites like Virily. As you can probably tell by now, I don’t have much confidence in these content sites.
Best wishes! And may I offer my sincere condolences for your very personal loss.
From Mary: “I have a question for you, do you think an 'Author's Page' is always necessary in a book?”
Mary, I don’t think an author’s page is necessary, but I do think it’s a damned good idea. Honestly, I can’t think of a single reason not to have one in a book you publish. A self-published book is, by its very nature, part self-promotion. Most writers don’t get rich from self-published books, but they are part of the overall writer’s platform and as such should be heavily self-promoted. By all means include an author’s page.
More on Copyright
From Bill: “Another great week, Bill! Concerning your last question regarding copyright. Occasionally, I come across a website that contains very familiar material (like mine). Is there a way to know if someone steals your material? I just don't have the time to search thousands of websites.”
Bill, very familiar material like verbatim, or just a similar storyline? I think that’s the big question. There are very few truly unique and one-of-a-kind storylines, and most stories center around a handful of central themes, so it is pretty common to find stories which are “similar’ to ones you write.
I yield to Stephanie Morrow, college professor and somewhat of an expert on plagiarism:
“Although proving plagiarism isn't always easy, there are electronic sources that can help combat plagiarism. Search engines on the Internet can be used to discover and fight plagiarism by allowing authors and professors the ability to search suspicious phrases or passages. There is also anti-plagiarism software available, such as Wcopyfind and EduTie.com, as well as on-line prevention services like Turnitin or iThenticate.”
Stephanie also mentions that proving plagiarism is not easy, and that is the truth one must always realize. The internet has opened the jail cells, so to speak, and made it quite easy for less-than-reputable people to take our ideas and words and claim them to be your own.
Bottom line: was your work stolen? It will take some work to find out and then prove it. And plagiarists are counting on the fact that you don’t have the time to check thousands of websites. J
Choosing a Genre
From Paige: “I was downloading my book on CreateSpace recently, and I reached the point where they asked me under which genre my book belonged. I was stumped. I’m not sure if it is an action, a thriller, or a mystery. It is actually part of all three. What should I do?”
Paige, this is actually a pretty common problem for writers, and the three genres you named often overlap and cause confusion. It is quite possible that your book is a little of all three. My paranormal thrillers are often a little of all three.
A mystery specifically has to do with the solving of a crime. Thrillers primarily elicit feelings of suspense. Action novels are centered around an almost non-stop flow of events which almost always go at breakneck speed.
As mentioned earlier, there can be some serious overlap depending on the book. My best answer to you: choose the one which you think most closely represents your book. What were you trying to achieve when writing your book? What was the central theme of the book? In the end, I’m not sure the choice of a genre is a game-breaker, and you aren’t going to kill sales by picking one over another. Write a good book, a high-quality book, and people aren’t going to care which genre you choose.
From Pam: “Bill, could you read this and tell me why you think it’s boring?”
Pam included a chapter of her latest book, which you obviously cannot see. For the information of all, I wouldn’t use the word “boring” to describe it, but I would say it was stilted and in dire need of resuscitation. (By the way, Pam said I could include this in the Mailbag)
The problem with the passage Pam sent me was pretty obvious: the dialogue rambled on and on and on without a break in it. I know why it happens. The writer gets all wrapped up in the fictional conversation, and the voices can be heard in her head, and she’s just typing like crazy to get it all down . . . but . . . it ends up reading like “he said, she said, he said, she said, blah, blah, and more blah.
Long conversations need breaks. You can insert a break by describing how one of the people feels during the conversation….how they react internally to words said to them….you can describe background noise going on during the conversation….you can insert a disruption of some sort…but for the love of God please insert something. Long dialogues can kill a story faster than an editor in a bad mood.
NO MORE FOR THIS WEEK
Great questions but few in number, so we’ll stop right here and let you fine people go do something else with your valuable time. Thanks so much for spending some of that time with me. Remember, if you have a question for the Mailbag, you can either include it in the comment section below, or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2017 William D. Holland(aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”