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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 167

Updated on September 11, 2017

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.

Happy Fall!

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!

Welcome back to the Mail Room!
Welcome back to the Mail Room! | Source

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.

Make sense?

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.

Best wishes!

No money at HP?
No money at HP? | Source

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.

Hubbie Awards

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.

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

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?

Go unique!

Your best social media tool is you!
Your best social media tool is you! | Source

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.”

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, truthfully, this may be the first year I don't vote for those awards. I'm still debating it.

      Thank you dear friend, and may you have a truthfully titillating Thursday!

      bill

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 4 weeks ago from SW England

      Well, bill, I finally got to this, despite the fact that my email notifications seem to have stopped! No idea why.

      I like the question and answer about the title and about HP awards. I find it very complicated going through all the categories and can't possibly choose my favourite hub among the hundreds I've read. However, I will vote for the main ones I think. Wasn't going to but you've made me feel guilty!

      I have another mailbag to catch up with so off I go to read that.

      Ann :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you DDE!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 weeks ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Your advice is always useful.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Welcome back, Bill! I'm so sorry we were unable to connect when you were out here. Next time, buddy!

      Thank you for the kind words. I'm a bit blown away by the fact that I keep winning on the Hubbies....it is humbling.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Mary! I guess I can add your question to the Mailbag, but the fast answer is yes, I do.

      Have a super weekend on that beautiful farm of yours.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. After a two week absence I am back this morning. I am tired but loaded with great memories from a visit to my favorite place.

      Some interesting questions this week. I agree with you concerning Twitter versus Facebook. I stopped using Twitter a while back as I just don't get it. I seem to have much better luck with Facebook and Pinterest. And when it comes to the Hubbie Awards I ALWAYS vote for you as you are the most helpful member of this community.

      Have a great weekend.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 4 weeks ago from Brazil

      An interesting collection of questions this week.

      Regarding Twitter versus Facebook. I think it depends on the type of writing the person does. On Twitter, I have authors as followers as I'm promoting my book covers to them.

      I see a lot of activity of sharing, retweeting but I don't see many people getting book sales because of their presence on Twitter.

      Do you see sales because of your presence on Facebook?

      Have a wonderful weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      It really does, Mona. It is fascinating and yet a bit daunting. :) Thanks for visiting me and blessings to you always.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Have a great weekend, Kristen!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 4 weeks ago from Dubai

      Write, Publish, Repeat - great advice. As writers we need to keep writing. Another great installment of question and answers, thank you.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 4 weeks ago from Philippines

      Dear Mr. Bill,

      I always learn something new from your Writer's Mailbag series. How wonderful that this series exists to help writers all over the world. It's pretty awesome. I was surprised to learn that people are writing books using the titles of classics. I know there are songs doing that, like there is a song called "Breakfast at Tiffany's". The internet brings out such a plethora of discoveries.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 5 weeks ago from Northeast Ohio

      Bill, I hear you my friend. I guess we have to go with the flow.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Kristen, I find myself with less and less patience with HP lately. I just wish they would stop with all the changes and just let us write, but I'm afraid that's a bit unrealistic of me.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Larry...as always, you are always appreciated.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Zulma, the quick answer is yes! I'll touch upon it more in the next Mailbag.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 5 weeks ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks Bill. Apology accepted--shame on HP.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Purple...glad I could supply a laugh in your day.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      It wasn't intentional, Kristen. When I approved your comment, HP hid the comment section. I tried for ten minutes to respond to you and then gave up....but here we are now, and I thank you!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 5 weeks ago from Oklahoma

      Always helpful!

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 5 weeks ago from United Kingdom

      Thank's for the advice on characterization for short stories. So you're saying that the characters need to describe themselves to the readers as opposed to us doing it for them. I supposed dialogue and actions would do that, yes?

    • profile image

      Tamara Moore 5 weeks ago

      Another informative Installment, Bill! Thank you :-) I thought the question & answer about 'Making $$ on Hubpages' was particularly funny..lol...lol.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 5 weeks ago from Northeast Ohio

      Bill, I think you've left me out in the thank you comments. :-(

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Rasma, that is a great description of what we do with social media and marketing....a perpetual poker game...I love it!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Bill! that picture of a toilet has come in very handy over the years....LOL

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Venkatachari M...the image you are referring to is a lady who was selling products at a local street fair. I loved her smile and engaging attitude towards her customers, so I captured her for future articles.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 5 weeks ago from Riga, Latvia

      You are right there are many social media sites. I keep to the basic ones like G+ Linkedin Twitter FB and now just added Tumblr I will see how it goes and if anything improves. I feel like I am in a perpetual poker game.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for sharing that, ChitrangadaSharan! That payment is great news and I'm glad your family supports your efforts.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, dear friend Audrey! I love this series...as for speaking directly to me, I made that decision early on, to have a conversational tone to my writing.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Good morning Michael my friend, and thank you for the smile you delivered this morning.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you always, Linda! You are a good friend and peer.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Mike! I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks using the same title is a bit silly, but Brian did have a great point.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Purpose...yes it is!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Congratulations on that new writing job, Dora! That's fantastic!!!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Flourish, that is exactly how I handle my works at an early stage. They sit on my desktop as either a title or a title and notes, until I'm ready to write the entire article. Thanks for sharing that.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 5 weeks ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Hi, Bill. What could be better advice than to "Write, Publish, Repeat." And I guess a picture is worth a thousand words. The toilet speaks volumes. Thanks again for another interesting mailbag.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 5 weeks ago from Hyderabad, India

      I am late here. But, the mailbag is as interesting as always and I could never afford to miss it. It gives me much to learn and much to enjoy also.

      Very nice answers to equally nice questions. I would like to ask a question about that image of social media tool above there. I find it in many of your posts and it fits well with all of your posts. But, whom do you highlight in that image? Is it that lady who is the icon for social media selling her products? I like the image very much. Thank you.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 5 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

      As always I enjoyed going through this edition of mailbag as well.

      Incidentally I would be getting my next payout this month and I am happy about it. Even a little bit of money , for something we all enjoy doing, that is writing and reading is welcome. I announce it to my family and they feel so happy and proud of me.

      Thanks for sharing another interesting installment!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 5 weeks ago from Nashville Tn.

      I sure like your answers to these questions. I like them for 2 reasons:

      1. Every answer you give helps me to be a better writer.

      2. You are entertaining. I feel as though you are speaking directly to me.

      We are so very fortunate to be able to bring you our questions knowing that the perfect answer will come. How I love the Writer's Mailbag...and you!

      Audrey

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 5 weeks ago

      Great answers as usual. Too great I supposed for me until I come to the point implementing them in "my writing" on HP especially after your practical quote I was waiting for from forever “It will drive you crazy if you keep worrying about HP." this is answering to my long lived constrains...

      ( however I will memorize to me a new quote “stupid is as stupid does.")

      Good night my friend .

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 5 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I always enjoy reading the mailbag and the comments. This edition was no exception. I hope you have a good week, Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Pop, some people have trophies on their mantel...we have mugs. :)

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 5 weeks ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Bill - HP and money - that does not compute. As always interesting questions and viable answers. Using someone else's title is like giving all your kids the same name. In the short run it is easier, but in the long run it works against you.

      Fall - what fall? It is 99 degrees here.

    • Purpose Embraced profile image

      Yvette Stupart PhD 5 weeks ago from Jamaica

      Hi MsDora, congratulations, that's great!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 5 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Great answers as usual. "No money at HubPages" but I recently got me a paid long-term assignment from someone who read me on the site; so Long Live HP! And Thank You, God!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 5 weeks ago from USA

      I also have a lot of my content pre-planned. I have a number of hubs that are partially completed. Some simply have a title and some notes whereas others are half done, just waiting for me to finish. I like to work that way because I can "save" ideas as they pop up and switch gears when one topic temporarily stumps me.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 5 weeks ago

      Dear Bill,

      I was hoping everyone would vote for me! I love my mugs, I really do.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Brian, I bow to your expertise and knowledge. Excellent point, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      As always, thank you Heidi! You may be correct about the network sites. Traction they are gaining; just not with my articles. :)

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 5 weeks ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Another reason that an author might give a work the same title as another author's earlier work is that the allusion will add symbolic meaning to the latter work. For an example, see the Wikipedia article "Ship of Fools". Plato in ancient Greece wrote an allegorical tale about a ship staffed by incompetents. That inspired a satirical book "Ship of Fools" by Sebastian Brant published in 1494, which inspired the Hieronymus Bosch painting "Ship of Fools". The title of Katherine Porter's 1962 novel "Ship of Fools" alluded to all of those works.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 5 weeks ago from Northeast Ohio

      Bill, I do love your weekly mailbag hubs my friend. It's always useful and insightful with your words of knowledge. Per the comment on titles, you're right. They're not copyrighted. I know two authors who have the same title as one of my books, Venom. Both are published. But anyone can do a search via Amazon to see if it's used or not. That's what someone told me to do years ago. It's up to the publisher to change the title, if they find a much-fitting title, don't you agree? I love that book title and kudos to you on your books.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 5 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      Just have to start Monday with the Mailbag! Lots today.

      Re: No Money at HubPages. Well, I'll concur. But that's not why I'm here. I love the community. Plus, hosting my blog here saves me money and time by not having to do a lot of the back end maintenance. That has value for me. That being said, my HP revenues have been picking up lately. I'm thinking that the network sites are started to gain some traction.

      Re: Twitter. I love Twitter and did very well with it... some years back. It's not the same type of platform anymore. Less conversational, more of a news channel. Again, I have to ask, what are you trying to achieve? Then we can talk about whether Twitter is a viable option.

      Have a great week!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Linda, that is a lesson we only seem to remember when we are in a state of catastrophe, but I share your prayer and reflection. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Happy Monday, Melissa! Kids are back to school, the weather is cooler....all of that adds up to more writing time. :) Thanks for always being here....and yes, the respect of my peers is all that's really important.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 5 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, great advice as always. Like you I am thankful for the cooling trend. Looking forward to not having to turn on the sprinklers every day (our property is so big that we can never do it all at once).

      I hope your readers take a moment to reflect on today, remember how for a while at least we were not a Nation divided. We were wounded but we struggled back to our feet. We loved each other, hugged strangers, wept together, and we were one.

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 5 weeks ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! Hard to believe fall is upon us already...but the leaves are turning and my apple trees are producing nicely, so that is definitely a sign!

      Good luck on the Hubbies! I think you've won for the last 6 0r 7 years in a row, right? I wish it came with a huge cash price, but alas--at least you know your peers all respect your work!

      Have a great and productive week!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Too funny, John! I'll do what I can....thank you!

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      John Hansen 5 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

      And the mailbag just keeps going on. Excellent questions and answers again. Good luck in thei years Hubby awards too. The handle just fell off my last one so I need to win another...hint hint.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Janine, Happy Monday to you, dear friend!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Well thank you very much, Honey,and Happy Monday to you!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 5 weeks ago from New York, New York

      Aw, Happy Monday and Fall to you, too Bill. Wishing you a wonderful week ahead now and thank you once again for the awesome writing advice this week :)

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      Honey Halley 5 weeks ago from Illinois

      Excellent advice and award winning delivery...well, may be award winning if people latch onto your hint. Seriously though, great advice, great flow, and humorous...what more could anyone ask for.