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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 174

Updated on October 30, 2017


One of my guilty pleasures is an online game called SimCity. Admittedly, I don’t have a lot of time to play it, but when I do I find it comforting.

What I like about the game is the creation of my city. In fact, almost the entire game is about creating your own city. There are no deaths, no wars, no crimes . . . players just build cities from the ground up, and keep those cities functioning at a high level.

Which brings me to writing . . . I’ve written six full-length novels now, and I think five novellas, and after all that I can definitely say the part about writing a book I like most is the creation of the story. I love building the plot line; love developing the characters; and love walking them through that plot line. What I don’t love is the end result. When I finish a book I’m left with a hollow feeling, and I can hardly wait to begin the process again . . . to feel the high of creating!

I’m sure some of you can relate.

Let’s do this! Installment 174 awaits.

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


From Linda: Linda actually found this link to a question about Hub Scores and sent it to me. One of the former HP workers, Simone, answered a question about Hub scores, so follow this link and helpfully it will help to clear things up a bit.


From Anusha: “Bill, thanks for giving such detailed and explanatory resolutions of my queries. But you didn't answer the one about meditation. Has it helped you, or someone you know, after dreaming of such scary characters day and night? I specifically asked that one, because, although I love the genre of Romance infinitely more than anything else, let alone the creepy world of scary villians and horrific locations, I was just curious whether the career path is totally out for me or there is still some hope.” :D

Anusha, forgive me. That’s what happens when I get in a big hurry.

Does meditation help me? Most definitely it does, in every facet of life. It is my way of shutting off the world and getting back in touch with my core so yes, after writing about human monsters, meditation definitely grounds me and returns me to the land of the normal.

Meditation is something that has helped me for eleven years now, ever since the day arrived when I realized I had no answers for life and I was on a path of self-destruction. For me, it is one part of a new pattern of living which brings me happiness.

Meditate on this if you need something
Meditate on this if you need something | Source

Early Inspiration

From Donna: “Bill, was there one person who inspired you early on to become a writer, one person who stands out as being instrumental in your development?”

Donna, actually yes, there was, and that person was Mister Jahner, my English teacher sophomore year in high school. Mister Jahner gave us a short story assignment, and I dove into that assignment with gusto because, secretly, I loved to write. Mind you, I wasn’t about to tell my sports-playing friends about my secret passion, so I kept it all to myself and never discussed with anyone my desire to one day write a book.

Anyway, the assignments were eventually turned in, and days passed, and finally we got our stories back, and on my story Mister Jahner wrote this note: “Wonderful story with an exceptional ending. Keep working at your craft. You have talent!”

That was the first time someone had told me I had a talent for writing, and it was just enough to stoke my fire and keep me on that path. So thank you, Mister Jahner! You made a diference.

The power of positive strokes!

The Cost of Editing

From Kaitlin: “Bill, I’m about finished with my novel, and it’s now time to edit. But I can’t afford to pay someone to edit, so what should I do?”

Kaitlin, it’s a problem many writers face. Most of us are low-to-middle class income folks, and paying an editor $500-$1000-$5,000, or more, is way out of our budgets. There are, however, a couple options still on the table.

Look around, online, for a writers’ group where members help other members with editing and suggestions. They are out there and they are fairly easy to find.

Enlist some friends to be beta readers. Although they are most likely not professional editors, at least they have the ability to catch most mistakes. You can probably clean up 90% of your errors by having two or three separate pairs of eyes read your manuscript.

And trust yourself. The simple act of reading your manuscript out loud will help you to catch quite a few errors.

It’s not perfect but then this ain’t a perfect world. J

No Comments

From Layma: “I’m pretty new to this site, but I have written five articles, and so far I’ve received a total of three comments. What am I doing wrong on HP?”

Well, Layma, this is a pretty common question among newcomers to this site. I did read your articles in preparation to answering your question, and from those articles I surmised you have some writing talent, so the quality of your articles is not the problem.

What is the problem, or so I believe, is your lack of commitment to the process. People on HP most often comment on articles written by people who comment on their own articles. It is a quid pro quo situation here, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. Now there is no way for me to know how often you comment on other articles, but I suspect it is not very often.

So get busy! Take a couple hours and do nothing but comment on some of the really good HP articles out there. Write meaningful comments, not just “nice job!” Most veteran HP writers will return the favor, and once you are established as a person who is going to stick around awhile, your readership will grow.

It’s all part of the process. Building a writing platform takes time and hard work.

If I can do a coloring book then anyone can use CreateSpace
If I can do a coloring book then anyone can use CreateSpace | Source

Photos and Createspace

From Chris: “Hey, Bill, I’m writing a children’s book, and it has pictures, and I’m having a hard time transferring those pictures into the CreateSpace template. I can’t make them fit properly. What am I doing wrong?”

LOL . . . Chris, I have no clue.

Seriously, without me actually following along with you in the process, there is no way for me to answer this question. I will refer you, however, to a great book I use often when self-publishing . . . that book is “A Detailed Guide To Self-Publishing with Amazon” . . . it is my Bible when it comes to formatting and self-publishing. I originally got it at the library and was so impressed by it that I purchased it for daily reference material.

I’ve also found CreateSpace staff to be pretty accommodating. Get in touch with their support staff and ask your specific question. I’m sure they can walk you through the solution.

Good luck!

A Short One This Week

But short is good when it is quality, and these questions were quality, so there you go!

Besides, we all have other things to do. We have characters to create, and stories to tell. We have information to share and “how to’s” to write. There is no rest for writers.

Have a great week, and if any of you should run into Mister Jahner, tell him Bill Holland says “thank you” for the words of encouragement.

Now back to the high of creating!

2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for your thoughts and suggestions, Lawrence. Really good ones, I might add.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 6 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      So much good advice here, with regard to editing, something I discovered today that might help for those wanting to 'try' but aren't sure of their abilities, CreateSpace have a 'preview' function where people can put a part of their novel up for others to get a 'taste' of the writing!

      Also I've found another way to get feedback is using HP and breaking the novel into bite sized chunks, then again, I'm already a 'fan of the serial novel'

      As I said, some really good thought provoking material here.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Manatita, thank you my friend, and we are in total agreement regarding meditation.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Alyssa! You are appreciated!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Bill! Sorry I'm so late getting here. Much to be done before the winter blues fall upon us.

    • Alyssa Nichol profile image

      Alyssa 7 months ago from Ohio

      Wonderful installment this week! Thank you! :)

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 7 months ago from london

      Nice work and yes, short but sweet. I tried to assist with Anusha, last time, but she would have missed my comment, I'm sure. So I'll try to serve again. Mind you, this time you answered beautifully!

      Sri Chinmoy teaches that Meditation is the answer to all life's problems. After all, this happens only when the mind is clear, calm, silent, vacant ...before this, we call it concentration or focus.

      The very nature of Meditation is to encourage clarity, stillness, awareness which in turn brings vastness, discernment, Love ... and as such it is bound to help. Meditation will inspire the psychic Heart which will in turn inspire the mind. I have Hubs here on the subject which she can read. Much Peace.

      Note: Ms Dora loves reading and may help with proof-reading for your friend. I also do this, but my hands are tied right now.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Shoot, Bill, now I can't find her. Hmmm....I'll keep trying.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Yes they have, Jo! I owe a debt of gratitude to Mister Jahner.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 7 months ago from Massachusetts

      Bill, did a quick search here on "Layma" and the only hit I got was your Mailbag hub. Could you add or send a link to their profile. Thanks.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 7 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. I am always fascinated by how ours lives can be shaped and taken in directions by the simplest of events. In your case an encouraging remark from your English teacher, Mr. Jahner. I will make a point to visit Layma's Profile and read an article or two. Have a wonderful weekend.

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 7 months ago from Tennessee

      Thank goodness for high school English teachers. They have been an inspiration for so many people. Keep up the good work, Bill.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Dennis, that is very kind of you. Thank you sir!

    • pagesvoice profile image

      Dennis L. Page 7 months ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

      You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can't take the classroom out of the teacher. You continue to inform and educate and we are extremely grateful. Thank you for giving us another instructional article.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Audrey!The Hub Award surprised me a bit, but I am very, very grateful.



    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Aww, thank you Michael my friend. The Mailbag would not be the same without you and your thoughtful comments.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Mary! One word of kindness led to me having quite a few good friends. How very cool!

      Happy November to you!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 7 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Dear Bill. First I want to congratulate you on your Hub Award. You certainly deserve it. Secondly, thanks for all the time you put into "The Writer's Mailbag". The videos are an extra bonus.

      Love your comments about meditation. I'm a believer.

      Take care my friend and enjoy your new roof.



    • profile image

      Michael Milec 7 months ago

      Another eye opening article! For sometime now a thought is jumping out of the Writer's Mailbag as a Superstore supplying all writer's needs via the Mr. Jahner - you my friend Mr. William D. Holland by your answers encouraging, inspiring and pointing to the right direction of potential success. Though I do not have right to participate, I would like to thank you (& HP) for bottom of my heart for being accepted.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 7 months ago from Brazil

      Thank goodness for Mr. Jahner! His actions caused a ripple effect which has touch many of us here on Hubpages and beyond.

      Great advice on editing options, and thanks for the useful video.

      Have a wonderful week.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh my, Rasma, that makes me very nervous. LOL Seriously, thank you...just don't make that pedestal too high, okay? It might hurt if I fall.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Anusha, I love your sense of humor. Yes, more power to my villains, as long as they leave me for peace of mind from time to time. :)

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 7 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Another top notch release on these good questions that you get, Bill. The videos on self editing give important clues about dialog. I like the idea of reading it out loud to see if it sounds realistic. I'm guilty of sequencing issues in my stories (I like to backtrack) as well as reluctant to delete stuff that doesn't belong.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 7 months ago from Riga, Latvia

      Thanks for another great mailbag. You know Bill I realized how much I rely on your advice. When in one of your replies you first said you had not idea I found myself holding my breath. Surely Bill must know and then you came through by giving the person perfectly logical advice about what to do. So you see I sort of have you one a pedestal and can bravely continue my journey into the world of writing because if I meet up with any problems Bill will know what to do. Hope you have an inspirational week.

    • anusha15 profile image

      Anusha Jain 7 months ago from Delhi, India

      Good to know that Meditation helped you find your forte and thus yourself in life.

      So maybe, just maybe, even if I stick to my favorite Genre, (or shall I say, the genre from which stories pick me up as a suitable storyteller) and want to create antagonist with darkness lurking in each alley of his or her mind, I could do that too with some help from meditation. :)

      Thanks a lot, more power to you and your creative mind.

      Do I say, more power to your villains? ;) That's a tricky wish... depends on how would it be construed though...

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It truly is, Devika! Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you always Chitrangada Sharan!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Linda! Because of Mister Jahner, you and I became friends. :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Flourish! I have four new followers in the last week and I've heard not one word from any of them. Why follow?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It's such a little thing, Brian, but it means so much. Thank you for sharing that story with us.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 7 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Supporting each other is a great idea for improvement.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 7 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Very helpful set of questions and answers, both for newcomers as well as the seasoned ones.

      Agree with you about meditation and the need to interact and comment.

      Thanks for sharing!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 7 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      It's wonderful to have an encouraging teacher like Mister Jahner. I'm glad that you met him and that he wrote such a nice and important comment on your assignment.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 7 months ago from USA

      I definitely agree with new HP writers needing to comment on the work of others. No one wants a lopsided relationship online or otherwise so I agree with you they need to comment and even share on social media.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL..Mike, I have an eye exam scheduled. I have a floater going on, a little black dot that literally floats across my right eye vision. It is annoying the hell out of me.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you again, Zulma! Unfortunately, I don't have the time to devote to SimCity. I'm afraid my city has fallen on disrepair. They'll be voting me out of office soon. :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Well thanks again, Kristen!

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 7 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Sophomore year in high school seems to be--or to have been--the year for getting into writing thanks to a teacher's encouragement. Back in the 1957-1958 school year, during class I learned from my English teacher and from Perrin-Smith Handbook of Contemporary English how to construct a sentence and a paragraph and after class the teacher showed interest in my verses and prose sketches.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 7 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Bill - Sending our thanks to Mister Jahner. The editing question is interesting. Reading your work aloud is a great idea. You will find many stumbling blocks that way. Peg sent out printed, bound copies of her title to a few readers. It was so much easier to make notes, add question marks and strike out duplicate sentences that way. It made the work much quicker for the 'beta readers.'

      Resizing photos in Word is a 'right click' thing, where you can make the picture fit.

      Time for an eye exam, I read medication three times before I saw meditation. yikes

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 7 months ago from United Kingdom

      How I adored Sim City when it first came out on the Nintendo. Yes, the first Nintendo. I'm more into 4X strategy games now, but Sim City is where I cut my teeth.

      Big thanks to the teacher who encouraged you so early on.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Yes, Venkatachari M, it is possible, sadly. I have no way to alleviate those fears for you, but I'll answer in more detail in the Mailbag next week.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 7 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      No problem Bill. I'm glad to share that link of IWW. It's been listed in Writer's Digest magazine annual 101 best websites for writers for a couple of years. :)

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 7 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      This week all questions are centered around book writing and publishing and are very useful for me in writing my book. But, I am afraid if anybody stealing the contents while proof reading. Isn't it possible?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, Bill, for that flattering comparison. I'm just trying to get as much done as I can while the muse is still working hard.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 7 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Hi, Bill. I like Eric's comparison of you and Bulova watches - very accurate, but I'd also like to compare you to the energizer bunny. No further comment except to say thanks for another mailbag of information!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I am too, Dora! Thank you! I wish the man was still alive so I could thank him in person.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, I have found that book to be comprehensive. It has not failed me yet and it has been with me through five novels. Give it a try.

      Wishing you a Mauve Monday!


    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 7 months ago from The Caribbean

      Your story about Mister Jahner inspired me too. It takes so little to encourage a young person, yet so often we neglect to do it. Happy for you that Mister Jahner performed this role in your life. Now we all benefit!

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 7 months ago from SW England

      Love that photo you suggest for meditation; I've seen you use it several times. It makes me think of birds, angels, spirits, sunsets of course..... I could go on. I see why it's good for meditation as one can get lost in it and see shapes like you can in any clouds on any day.

      Thanks also for the title of the Amazon book on self-publishing. I think I need something like that!

      Have a mellifluous Monday, bill!


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Another great suggestion, Linda. Thank you for it.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Happy Halloween, Heidi. Thanks for mentioning Word and image handling. I have found the same thing to be true, so great recommendation about CreateSpace templates.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      She did indeed, Kari, and I thank you for that reference.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Great advice and recommendations, Kristen. Thank you for sharing them.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Wow, Melissa, you power-read that book. Thank you so much. Sure, you can email me the question and no, the next book in the series will take place right here in Olympia.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      What a fascinating question, Eric! Stay tuned for a hopefully fascinating response. :)

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 7 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, another source for Kaitlin could be Grammarly. It is free to install on your computer and it will run a systems check for simple spelling errors, punctuation, and syntax. If you want al of the "bells and whistles" you have to pay, but I don't think the fee is very much.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 7 months ago from Chicago Area

      Lots of tricks and treats in the Halloween Mailbag!

      Re: Meditation. I don't do formal meditation. But I find that just monitoring my breathing is tremendously helpful for a lot of reasons. So if formal meditating ain't your thing, just watch your breathing.

      Re: Early Inspiration. Honestly, I didn't get inspired by anything but boredom on a job. I had to keep my mind active, so I discovered my hidden writing talent just to stay sane.

      Re: The Cost of Editing. Yes, professional editing is an investment. But building one's self editing skills is necessary, too, in addition to hiring others.

      Many editors these days charge by the word. So the longer your book, the greater the cost, which should be obvious. There are editors on Fiverr and Upwork that can offer services for reasonable rates. But do review their profiles and proficiency. For example, on Fiverr, I don't do fiction and am very specific about what nonfiction works I review.

      Re: Photos and Createspace. If the book has a LOT of photos and images, I'd probably suggest paying for Createspace's layout services or hiring a graphic designer who can create the work in a layout program, and then make a PDF for uploading to CS.

      I wonder if the reader was trying to add these images in the Word template. I've found Word to be awful at image handling. Then when you put that into the CS process, it just gets worse.

      Also, since this is a "children's" book, I've found that authors envision that their images will bleed off the edges as many traditionally published works do. Unless you have a lot of graphic design experience, don't try it! Get a designer.

      Happy Halloween!

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 7 months ago from Ohio

      Another great mailbag! BTW: Natalie Frank recently wrote an article about participating in the HubPages community. Layma may want to check it out. :)

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 7 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great mailbag Bill as always. For Kaitlin, she should invest in self-editing like I do, and buy books on self-editing or check it out online. That's what more writers like I do to edit our work. I agree with having betas and CPs, a writing group or joining on online crit list. I can recommend her and other writers to join the Novels-L online crit list at Internet Writing Workshop. It's free to join, though she needs to do at least 2 subs a month, when it's a sub or a critique via email.

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 7 months ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! I finished reading Shadows Fall on Rosarito this weekend. Really enjoyed it! So, is the next in series going to take place in England? I do have a question for you about this book, but perhaps I should email it to you..don't want to give away any spoilers...

      Have a great and productive week!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 7 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      You are a rock of steadfastness. Like those old Bulova watches that were super reliable.

      I have been doing some philosophical inquiry about responsibility.

      Are you in a state where that talent within you is a responsibility to others? What you write you are obligated to share? And you are obligated to write?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Janine! wishing the same for you!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 7 months ago from New York, New York

      Aw, always so happy to see you at here on Mondays. Now wishing you a wonderful day ahead, as well as an early Happy Halloween tomorrow, too, my friend :)


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