The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 167
Fall Is Upon Us
Not officially but still, you can feel it, you can see it, you can even hear it if you listen attentively, so it must be so.
After the winter and summer we’ve had here in God’s Country, I’m definitely looking forward to the moderation and changes of fall.
One thing, though, that hasn’t changed in over three years, is the Mailbag.
So let’s get to it!
Characterization in Short Stories
From Shannon: I’m going to paraphrase Shannon’s question because, for whatever reason, I was unable to copy and paste it. Shannon mentioned an earlier answer I gave about describing characters gradually in a novel and not all at once. She then pointed out, correctly I might add, that that approach is practically impossible for the short story writer. So what is a short story writer supposed to do about developing characters?
Shannon, the very nature of a short story prevents us from developing characters the way we would in a novel. In short stories, a writer is much better off “showing” who the characters are rather than “telling” who they are. We don’t have the luxury of writing several paragraphs with character traits for each character, so we are left to describing character traits through their actions in the story.
Physical descriptions can obviously be accomplished in a couple sentences, but the moral core of the character will have to be illustrated through their actions . . . what they do . . . how they react to adversity . . . how they treat others . . . that sort of thing.
What’s in the Future?
From Robert: “Hey, Bill, just wondering, do you know what you will be working on next month, or the month after that? I don’t have a clue, and I’m beginning to think maybe I should.”
Robert, I’m anal, so yes, I know what I’ll be working on. The fact that you don’t does not mean you are roaming through the wilderness lost; it just might mean you approach writing in a different way than I do.
I’ll be publishing my next novel, “Shadows Fall On Rosarito,” in the next month. Immediately after that I’ll start work on the next novel in that Shadows series. I’m actually half-way done with that novel, so it will be a matter of completing it. At the same time, I want to publish another coloring book, so by spring of 2018 I want two new novels published and one coloring book. And of course I have my freelance customers who keep me fairly busy each week.
But that’s just me . . . I’m anal that way!
If you feel you need focus then I suggest you write down your immediate-and-long-range goals. They will help you to focus on what is important. Then it will just be a matter of putting together some sort of writing schedule which incorporates those goals into a weekly plan.
No Money at Hubpages
From Stan: “My earnings are horrible after two years at HubPages. What am I doing wrong? Do you have any quick tips on this topic since you’ve been at HP for so long?”
Stan, I’m torn between giving a funny, sarcastic answer and giving a serious, totally worthless answer.
Oh heck, let’s do both!
Of course your earnings are horrible after two years, Stan. You write for HubPages! Duh!
Okay, now to the serious, worthless answer.
Use the three-step plan:
- Write quality content following the guidelines given to you by HP
- Keep writing quality content
- Revise that quality content from time to time.
Or I could sum it up with the title of a favorite book of mine: “Write, Publish, Repeat.”
And why do I feel this is worthless advice?
Because earnings on HP are capricious at best, up and down, all around, a roller-coaster ride, and sometimes you can do everything you are instructed to do and your earnings will still suck.
My best advice: write for the love of writing and stop worrying about HP earnings. It will drive you crazy if you keep worrying about HP.
From Adrienne: “I’m new to HP, about six months now, and I just received an email announcing the Hubbie Awards. Are these important? I don’t know anything about them.”
Are they important, Adrienne?
The Pulitzer people don’t pay any attention to them, if that’s what you’re asking. They don’t equate into more earnings for you, if that’s what you’re asking. Outside of HP, they don’t mean a damned thing, if that’s what you’re asking.
But for some writers, me included, they do mean a measure of respect gained from your peers, so in that sense, they have some importance. All you have to know about the Hubbie Awards is you should vote for me.
Seriously, show some support and respect for your favorite HP writers, and take the time to vote.
Same Book Title as an Earlier Book
From Paul: “I was at the library the other day and noticed, in the “new release” section, a book with the same title as a book I read a long time ago. They were completely different books, different genres, and different authors. I guess my question is why would an author do that? Why use a title that has already been used? And is it even legal to do so?”
Paul, I’ll take your second question first since it’s the easier of the two. Yes, it is legal to use the same book title. Book titles are not protected under U.S. copyright laws, so feel free to write a new “To Kill A Mockingbird,” and good luck with that!
Now, as for your first questions, I can think of several reasons why people would do that. One is purely innocent: they simply didn’t do a Google search in advance and they had no clue they were doing it.
Secondly, they may be trying to ride the coattails of the previous book on the search engines, hoping to catch some of those views by some random search engine spillover thing. I don’t think that will work but hey, stupid is as stupid does.
Third, maybe they just don’t care, and they think the title is perfect for their book and that’s the only title which will work for their book.
Personally, I would suggest going for unique with no competition. Why would you want your new book to go head-to-head with some pre-existing bestseller in a Google search? People would never find your book with a random Google search. You spent six months to a year writing that book; don’t you think it deserves the time it takes to think of a brand new title?
Social Media Tools
From Alexis: “What do you think of Twitter as a marketing tool? Is it better than, say, Facebook?”
Alexis, I rarely use Twitter, but I always use Facebook. That answer does not mean I think Facebook is better than Twitter; it simply means I’m more familiar and comfortable with Facebook, so that’s what I choose to use for my marketing.
And that’s my suggestion to you!
I don’t even know how many social networking sites there are . . . twenty? Thirty? Forty? A writer who is serious about writing doesn’t have the time to use all of those sites, so pick three or four and make them work for you. Spread yourself too thin and you’ll see diminished marketing results.
See Ya Next Week
I’m done! Are you done?
Well then let’s go write something. That is, after all, what we are . . . we are writers and we write!
So get to it!
2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”