- Books, Literature, and Writing
The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 185
I was painfully shy as a teen.
I mean painfully, as in almost bleeding.
Didn’t have my first girlfriend until I was eighteen.
Didn’t have sex until I was . . . well, I won’t kiss and tell.
But the point I’m making is this: being painfully shy meant many, and I mean many, hours spent observing others on this big playground we call life. I was the watcher at parties and school events. I was always taking mental notes of what I saw . . . my way of taking part . . . and my way of learning how to function in society.
And I believe that experience, that decade of painful observation, made me a better writer.
I am a chronicler of life, and I love what I do!
Let’s do this!
From Nadine: “Hi Bill I was re-editing my article: Can anybody write a novel, when I saw your article on the right side of my screen, among many others. I like the way you wrote it. We are all so different. I saw that you have not changed your floating capsules, or whatever they call it. Lately, I had to do a lot of re-editing. I wonder if I'm the only one?”
Nadine, I don’t change anything. If HP wants to change the format on my articles, they are welcome to do so, but I’m sixty-nine now, with a limited lifespan ahead of me, and I refuse to waste valuable time on editing my articles so they fit into HP’s perfect algorithm world.
I know, I know, it might mean more views if I do, but I just don’t care. I have this recurring vision of Steinbeck editing “The Grapes of Wrath” to please the HubPages editors. Thank God he never did that.
But to answer your question no, you are not the only one. I hear from a lot of HP writers that they are editing their articles to meet HP standards, so you have lots of company.
From PS: “Hi Bill...and happy 2018...I have been working on my writing all of my life and writing fiction is not my forte. Any suggestions on nonfiction writing besides writing about what I know. I would like to be able to hook readers from the time they read the title...dreaming, huh? Thank you. Many Angels headed your way. Ps”
PS, it is always a pleasure hearing from you.
No, you are not dreaming. I think this is one of the great fallacies of non-fiction writing, that it’s hard to hook readers and make the non-fiction interesting. A good writer can make the phone book interesting, and I really believe that.
I have two suggestions for you. Always remember that we all share the same five senses. Make your writing memorable by relating things in your story or article to the senses. We can all remember the magic of seeing a Christmas tree when we were young kids. We can all remember what that first kiss felt like. We can all remember the pain when we lost a loved one. Use that fact to make your writing more relatable.
Second, even in non-fiction, the art of storytelling should be used. I have always found personal stories to be a powerful way to hook an audience. My stories about growing up, and in particular about the lessons learned from my dad, are very well-received by my followers. There is no law that says I can’t use similar stories in a non-fiction piece of work.
To sum it up in a few words, I would say to dramatize your non-fiction so that it is relatable to most, and use any method at your disposal to accomplish that goal….and never forget the senses!
Kicking Passive to the Curb
From Kristen: “Great mailbag as always my friend. I do have a question to ask you for next week. How do you simplify action in prose and make your work less passive in writing, other than removing passive words? I've been told that by two people for two of my mss.”
Sure, Kristen, you can use Hemingway Editor and your problems are solved. That’s an app, by the way, which will show you, in highlights, which sentences are passive in nature.
Now that I got that out of the way, let me say that I am terrible at this. On more than one occasion I’ve caught myself writing with a passive voice. It’s an easy trap to fall into.
Here’s what works for me, other than removing passive words. I ask this question on a regular basis while writing: who is doing the action?
“I took the garbage out” . . . active
“The garbage was taken out by me” . . . passive.
If I remember who is in action, I can usually catch myself before falling back into the trap of passive writing.
From Kari: “I'm with you about the Maven situation. I'll just keep going and see what happens. About the writing time, do you use this time to also read and comment on others' hubs, or is that some of the other stuff?”
No, I don’t read and comment on hubs while I’m writing for customers or doing my fiction. I read and comment on Hubs first thing in the morning before I get busy with my workday. I might, on occasion, while taking a break, go read a Hub, if it’s written by someone I regularly follow, but that doesn’t happen very often.
I’ll tell you why I do this: I have a very compartmentalized mind,. I work best when I’m concentrating on just one thing. That’s why all of my work is given time slots during the day, and distractions and detours are not allowed. Especially when writing fiction, my flow, voice, and train of thought are all derailed when I keep switching back to some other activity.
It just doesn’t work for me.
Making Money or Catharsis
From Eric: “OK buddy you just published another of your articles on reflection of life. It is just outstanding in it's field. (no I do not mean the left fielder who just stands is outfield)
“So the question is quite clear. Do you have niches for making the big green, the mulla, the coin and greenbacks or the buckaroos. And one for just being a great writer contributor to life? Blog, bus. Books and whatnot. Or is it just one big cathartic cosmos of "the mailman"?”
I always look forward to Eric’s questions. They not only make me think; they make me laugh.
Yes, Eric, I make money writing, on several fronts. And yes, Eric, I have other fronts which are just for the cathartic cosmos.
I make money with my freelance business doing content for businesses. In other words, I do blogs for businesses. I have one commercial real estate company in Fort Worth, one in Los Angeles, and three local companies I work for. I do quite well with all that. I also coach several writers, for money, and I will be ghostwriting a real estate book very soon, also for money.
And yes, I make money from HubPages! And I actually make a little from my books.
I do not, however monetize my blogs, Artistry With Words, or The Urban Farm Yard Sanctuary. Those are just places where I can let my hair down, write the way I want to write without restrictions, and relate to other people who share the same interests.
Does that answer your question?
Well, My Friends, the Time Has Come
“To raise the roof and have some fun
Throw away the work to be done
And let the music play on, play on, play on.
Thanks for stopping by. Have a great week of creating.”
2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”