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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 182

Updated on December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas

The Mailbag cannot be stopped!

But before you read today’s mail, take a moment and receive a gift from me, to you . . . Merry Christmas to all of you, a verbal gift of love. No matter what your religious leanings may be, you can certainly accept my love and gratitude, so I send them both to you.

And now the mail!

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

SERIES

From Paul: “What do you think of writing a series of novels with the same characters? Is it better to do that, or write stand-alone novels?”

Paul, I think that’s completely up to you. I say that with a couple of series under my belt, the latest of which is the “Shadow” series of paranormal thrillers. I’m a big fan of series. My favorite mystery writers all write series using the same characters, and I much prefer to read a series rather than a stand-alone.

Having said that, I believe many books are not suited for a series, and I believe each writer has to make that decision on their own.

Writing a series is, in one way, much easier. Character development, I find, is easier. There are landmines to watch out for, though. Keeping track of all that went before calls for some serious organization skills. Foreshadowing becomes a bit more difficult with a series.

So, bottom line, it’s completely your call.

Even stories told in 1960 had a different way of speaking that writers need to be aware of.
Even stories told in 1960 had a different way of speaking that writers need to be aware of. | Source

Proper Wording for Novels Set in the Past

From Linda: “Bill, you are a very prolific writer. Even without the weekly Mailbag series, you have written I've-lost-count-of how many novels, how many mini-series on HP, etc. But when you think back to what you have done, a few are cast in the 1800's, but the majority of your writing is in present time. I've always admired the writing you have done from earlier times (the letters from the Civil War and the Oregon Trail series on HP) but do you think you could write an entire novel in another century? Think about that for a moment. The reason I ask this is that in my opinion American English has become very informal in the past 100 years. We use contractions and slang with wild abandon. When I write food articles for Hub Pages I strive to use a "conversational" style, and so my writing it littered with contractions.

“But what if you are writing an entire novel from another century? No contractions. No slang. I can easily read my articles on HP and sense if they feel "real" or "stilted", but when I wander off into more formal speech, I wonder if what I am putting on paper flows, sounds genuine, or if it just totally sucks. And then (if you really want to make yourself crazy) worry about whether the words you are using were even a concept in that century. You can't make any reference (even figurative) to technology. Adjectives such as "electrifying" could not be used. I'm going crazy trying to write something that is set in the 1st century A.D. A penny for your thoughts (the coin is in the mail).”

Well, Linda, although the problem you pointed out is a complex one, the question you actually asked me is a simple one. Do I think I could write an entire novel set in the past? Yes, Linda, I do!

Now let’s elaborate . . .

What you point out is exactly true. It is no easy task writing a novel set hundreds of years in the past and doing it with linguistic accuracy. I agree that our language has become much more relaxed and, to use one of my favorite words, bastardized. So although I know I could do it, it would still take a great deal of research and great care to write it. I don’t know if I have the desire to go to all that work.

The short stories you referred to, the ones I wrote set in Civil War days, are in part the result of reading actual letters written back then by soldiers. The language is surprisingly flowery but also very stilted, and it takes some practice to do that properly.

So, in summary, yes I could but no, I won’t!

When do you post Christmas articles?
When do you post Christmas articles? | Source

When to Publish on HP

From Maxine: “Bill, with the holidays upon us, I remember a question I meant to ask on Thanksgiving. Does it make any difference to our views if we publish articles during the holiday seasons? Are we better off waiting for the holidays to pass before publishing again?”

Thanks, Maxine (that’s not really her name, so I cleverly gave her an alias because I like this question).

There are two ways to look at Maxine’s question. If she is just concerned with garnering views from the HP community then I would suggest waiting until the holidays are over. Views definitely fall off over Christmas, which is only natural. People are busy and wrapping presents is more important than reading a Mailbag installment.

But, if Maxine is talking about overall views from the entire internet, then it is my opinion that it makes very little difference when you publish because Google doesn’t give a damn about holidays. It takes three months or more for any article to filter its ways through the Google maze, and that journey is not affected by the posting date. So if you are a “big picture” sort of person, then by all means post any old time you want. If you are a HubPages sort of girl, I suggest you hold off until the first of the year.

But seriously, I could be all wet with that opinion.

This is slightly related to another issue, and we might as well tackle it now since I don’t have any other questions for today’s Mailbag.

If you are doing time-sensitive articles on HP, like a recipe for baking the perfect Christmas ham, and you are interested in gathering the most views outside of HP in that year, then you really should post your Christmas baking article at least three months in advance of Christmas and preferably earlier than that. This is a tough practice to teach oneself, but it will pay dividends in the long run. Thanksgiving articles should be posted during the summer….Christmas in the early fall….Valentines Day in November….4th of July articles in April or May.

And if you are pitching an article to the editor of a magazine, back that time table up even more, back to at least six months, because that’s how early magazines plan their future issues.

Just something to keep in mind!

The End Is Nigh

And so we tuck 2017 to bed, and welcome a new baby to the world. Hopefully 2018 will be a year of blessings and great rewards for you all, but more importantly I hope 2018 is a year filled with love for you all.

Love begins in each of us. I firmly believe that, and I learned it from my wife, Bev. I may not be able to change the world, but I sure as hell can change my immediate surroundings, and help to foster change in my community.

It begins with me!

Love to you all, and thank you for sticking with me through 2017!

2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Same here, Flourish. A couple days went by and it finally dawned on me that HP was a no-show. Hope they fix it soon. Thank you and Happy New Year!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      6 months ago from USA

      I haven't been getting notices of published hubs so I thought you went off the grid, on holiday, took a break. Glad to see you were still at it. I enjoyed the book series question. Have a wonderful 2018. Now I will go see if you wrote anything else since the notifications got turned off by pesky elves.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Still under 100, MizB, but rapidly approaching it. LOL You are so right, of course. We do the best we can and let the gods sort it all out.

      Happy New Year to you and Mr. B!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Another first, Mary! Thanks for the question. I'm always a bit surprised when a new question shows up after this long. I'll get to it this Monday. In the meantime, enjoy the celebrations this weekend. Happy New Year my friend!

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 

      6 months ago

      Hi, Bill, better late than never in reading the mailbag. When I was trying to turn off notifications of posts from another website, somehow I managed to turn off all notifications, including Hubpages, now I'm trying to figure out how to turn them back on. Anyway, good mailbag this week. I especially liked the question about period language. I don't think we can get any language from a different time period perfect, but again, I don't think anybody is old enough to know the difference as long as we give it our best shot. That includes you and me because we're still under 100 years old, right, my friend? Hope you had a great Christmas.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      6 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Bill,

      I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

      Great advice on the timings for publishing articles. I've noticed a good bump when an article first gets moved to a niche site but usually, consistent organic traffic takes a bit longer.

      I have a question about using 'made up words'. Do you feel they are now more accepted since the use of technology has thrust many new words into the public domain? Also, would these be better off italicised to show an importance or to tell the reader, it wasn't an error?

      Happy New Year to you and Bev.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate that, Frank! Thank you and Happy New Years to you and yours.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      6 months ago from Shelton

      I guess I opened up my mail late.. but it's still one of my favorite hub series.. Merry Holidays my friend

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Dora, and Happy New Year to you.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Linda! If I do it means I'm alive, so that would be good. LOL Happy New Year to you!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Jo! I did have a very nice Christmas. I hope the same for you.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Great answers as usual. Happy New Year to you and the 2018 mailbag!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      6 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I hope you have a great 2018 and that you write many more editions of the Mailbag, Bill.

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 

      6 months ago from Tennessee

      Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Bill, and so impressed that you managed a post on Christmas Day.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      When it's right for you, Bill, then you'll write again. Until then, thank you, and Happy New Year to you and yours.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Lil Sis! It is a multi-pronged approach. Few of us hit it big on just a blog, or just a content site...we add little pieces of the pie as we go, and hopefully it all adds up to a tasty morsel. :) Hugs from chilly Olympia.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      6 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Neither, rain, nor, snow, nor Christmas can stop the mail from coming through! Great job, Bill. Now that the holidays are almost over, I guess I can start to post again, but I'm not that sort of guy.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 months ago from Western NC

      Great advice here, Big Bro! I see traffic fall off except...my reindeer hub. That one article - written so many years ago - gets a lot of views - especially on Christmas Eve. Truth be told, seeing the views climb like they did this year *really* has inspired me to write over here more. I've always loved HP, thought that maybe I could experience the same success on my own website, but I realize this writing/art/photography/website stuff is a multi-pronged approach. And well, it's all an inexact science. lol.

      It's good to see you and I love your writers' advice column. Very inspiring indeed. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Good morning Melissa! We had a rare, rare White Christmas here. Only two inches of snow, but only the third time in my lifetime we had snow on the ground, so that was pretty cool. Today we have freezing fog, always a joy to drive in. :) Happy New Year my loyal friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks a bunch, Heidi! I'm glad to hear you agree on article posting dates. The longer I'm in this business the more I realize there are some things which are completely out of my control, and I'm fine with that.

      Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and thanks for your friendship and guidance.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Janine! We did have a lovely Christmas. I hope you did as well. I'm sure your girls have a magical time.

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 

      6 months ago from Minnesota

      Happy Tuesday Bill! I hope you and your family enjoyed a wonderful Christmas! I didn't get any notification that you had posted (or anything from hubpages) but I went looking for it and sure enough, the mail always delivers! :)

      We just had our coldest Christmas in over 20 years...so if you are having anything like mine, bundle up and keep those animals warm!

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      6 months ago from Chicago Area

      Okay, okay... I'm late to the Christmas Mailbag. :)

      Re: Talking in the Past. I think it's a devil of a challenge to write dialogue set in the past, especially distant past. Heck, it's difficult enough to even be dialogue correct for mere decades ago. (Will anyone understand "groovy" in 25 years?)

      I agree that the only way to do that is to read extensively in that time period. Not just fiction since those authors may have been trying to mimic other linguistic styles, too! Rather, I'd suggest looking at works such as essays and, as you suggest, letters. Those are more likely to be outpourings of ideas and emotions.

      For example, in a course on American public speakers, we had to read the speeches of the likes of Emerson. It could be challenging at times (but worth it!). But we got a good idea of what these folks were thinking and how they were expressing it.

      Re: HP Post Timing. Totally agree on timing issues. If you want HP input, then respect the calendar. Otherwise, I've found it absolutely makes no difference when it's published. Sometimes I've been dumbfounded at the bump in traffic for certain posts. I can't even begin to explain the Google algorithm (which is where the biggest share of my HP traffic comes).

      Anyway, thanks for being committed to our community even during the holidays. Happy Boxing Day and have a great pre-New Year week!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      6 months ago from New York, New York

      Bill, I am just playing a bit of catchup today in all honesty. But had to stop in to just wish you a wonderful week ahead now. Also, hope you and your family had the best Christmas yesterday, too! :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Merry Christmas to you, Bill! Let's make 2018 a great year, shall we?

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Mary! Working on myself is a full-time job, my friend, so I try not to judge anyone....I'll leave perfection to someone else.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you whonu...Merry Christmas to you and yours.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Michael my friend. It was a great year with another promised us in 2018.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Kristen! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Kari, and Merry Christmas to you and yours.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Linda! And now back to our regularly scheduled lives. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Eric, and again, Merry Christmas! The quick answer is yes, I do. The long answer will be in next week's Mailbag. Thanks again, buddy!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      6 months ago from Massachusetts

      Good morning Bill. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas. A great end of year edition of the mailbag, and looking forward to another 52 editions in 2018. A happy New Year to you.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      6 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I really like the message you wrote at the end. I can hardly do the changes I need to do in myself so I better start with that. Love, though, is the key as you have repeatedly reminded us. Have a new year filled with love.

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 

      6 months ago from United States

      Always hard at work. Merry Christmas to you and Family, my friend Bill. whonu

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 

      6 months ago

      Ended on high note your teaching mailbag interconnection. Thank you professor. It was fast passing year and I learned a lot though being a failing marks "student" due to irregular attendance . A question remains if I will have favor for next year of the Lord 2018 to partake.

      Meanwhile my friend I wish you much blessings and prosperity in the future.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      6 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great mailbag Bill. Happy holidays to you. Hope you hit some best-sellers out of the ballpark in 2018.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      6 months ago from Ohio

      Merry Christmas, Bill! As always, be the change you want to see. I hope you and yours are having a beautiful day.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Nikki! I wish the same to you, and I appreciate your new friendship. I look forward to our friendship growing in 2018.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Thank you for answering my question and the one from "Maxine". (That's the grumpy old gal with the dog, isn't it?). I hope you have a wonderful holiday full of family and love. (In your case, that's the same thing).

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      6 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Beautifully done again. So Mr. and Mrs. Clause were a bit tired at 630 this morning. And now of course we are ignored during the exploration of new things. Life always gives you more love than you can handle if you breathe it in.

      I heard you had a white Christmas. So cool!

      Bill I would like to ask you about struggle. It seems to me that it is uncomfortable sometimes to write (granted I write mostly in a spiritual realm) And I am a happy loved filled guy for the most part. But sometimes while writing I get a very hard gut check. Joyful yet brutal near pain I suppose. Is it just me, or do you go there? Like your letter series. They bum me out yet lift my soul in admiration and appreciation. I do not do apathy well.

    • nikkikhan10 profile image

      Nikki Khan 

      6 months ago from London

      Thanks Bill for such a wonderful episode of Mailbag,,Much Appreciated.

      Merry Christmas to you and your family as well & Happy New Year.

      May God Bless you in year of 2018 and May you get all the happiness of life.

      Ameen.

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