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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 191

Updated on February 27, 2018

Finding Peace in Sameness

As I write this it is Friday, February 23, 2018. Blue skies are giving way to gray. The temperature is twenty degrees. Evidently we have snow coming later this afternoon. If I pay close attention I can darn near see the atmosphere changing above me and it is quite a show to behold.

I can’t control the changes in the weather. I’m not sure I would if I could, but one thing I can control is my routine. I function better in a routine. As a teen and young adult the opposite was true. At the drop of the proverbial hat I would be ready for any adventure, pack a quick bag, road trip to exciting locations, you name it I was game for it, but now . . .

Now I find comfort in routine and peace in sameness.

I rarely deviate from the routine. Some would find it very boring. I find it is necessary in order for me to maintain a quiet heart and stress-free mind. It works for me. It most likely would not work for you . . . or maybe it would.

Such is life!

Shall we begin?

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

Self-Imposed Deadlines

From Brian: “Question: Do pretend deadlines work for you? A writer under contract to a client, a producer, a studio, an employer, or a publisher who paid an advance has to meet deadlines or face undesirable consequences. Many writers, I've read, are more productive, in both quantity and quality of work submitted when they have deadlines. When you are writing "on spec", do you have ways to give yourself deadlines. Of course sticking to a schedule—a weekly "The Writer's Mailbag" hub; a weekly blog post—is one way. But what about a novel or hubs that aren't in a series? What sort of self-imposed deadline would incentivise me right now to be writing a story or essay instead of asking this question?”

Brian, it’s a fascinating question to which I have no answer based on experience. I do not have self-imposed deadlines when writing novels. I never have had. My whole life is a deadline and I mean that in total seriousness. I am so into routine that I can almost predict, to the day, when I will finish a novel. I can program in my brain to write 4,000 words each day, do the calculations, and tell you a finish date.

But what I can’t tell you is how to transfer that anal-retentiveness to you. LOL

People with ADHD have attention problems and thus they have deadline problems, but I suspect you do not have ADHD. Rather, I suspect you suffer from a condition called “Too Many Interests,” or “Too Much Thirst for Knowledge.” It is too restricting for you to simply sit and write all day. There is too much to learn and you want to learn it . . . that’s my guess!

Sorry! I just don’t know how one trains oneself to do what comes so naturally for me. Maybe one of our readers will have a suggestion, so make sure you read the comments.

Book Planning

From Kari: “Thank you for another educational and interesting Mailbag. I think I have seen this question before, but my memory isn't what it used to be. My questions are: Do you have the entire plot of the book worked out in your mind or in an outline before you start writing it? Does the book ever go in a different direction than your outline? Thanks in advance.”

Oh my goodness no, Kari! Not even close to organized in my mind. Truth be told I have no idea where a book is going when I start it. My first novel (The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday to Today) I started simply as a writing exercise. I wanted to see if I could write something as weird as Tom Robbins writes.

My second novel (Resurrecting Tobias) began as an attempt to write a dark trip through a dark side of town. After I wrote that story, I let it sit for a few days, picked it up again, and started writing further on it. Eventually a book came.

My “Shadow” series began as another writing exercise. Eventually a character (Eli Baker) took shape, and from that character the idea of a dark avenging angel gained traction.

No, Kari, I have no clue where a book is going when I start it, and I don’t work from an outline of any sort.

I do not recommend my work style to anyone.

A whole bunch of non-planning went into these books
A whole bunch of non-planning went into these books | Source

Magazine Payment

From Bill: “Hi Bill. Hopefully this finds you well. I have a question for you. I received an e-mail from a woman representing Regent Seven Seas Cruise Line. They are creating a magazine/brochure that they want to mail to all past customers with stories from travel writers with first hand experience visiting some of their ports of call around the Mediterranean. Amazingly, she is interested in one of my articles. My problem is that she asked if I would be interested, and what it would cost to use my article. I don’t need help with the “would I be interested” part, but I have no idea what is reasonable to charge someone for an article like this. Some quick Google searches just confused me even more with rates from $100 per article to charging per word to even as high as $1000. The article is about 2500 words. Help.”

Bill, first of all, congratulations on the interest from a magazine. As you know, I predicted this several years ago. Your travel articles are top-notch, and if you ever decide to do this full-time I think you’ll find some success.

Your question is a tough one to answer.

Getting that first article is huge for your future, and as such that first one has a value which is much higher than the ones that follow . . . not a dollar value but rather a value in establishing yourself as a professional writer. Publication means you have credentials, and you can’t put a value on that. In other words, I am suggesting you find value in this reprinting which is measured in future payments rather than the here and now.

Having said that, magazine payments are all over the place. They are as low as $25 and as high as $5,000. You will fit on the lower end of that spectrum because one, the magazine you are talking about probably isn’t a big name magazine and two, you have no professional credibility. If you get paid somewhere in the $50-$100 range consider yourself lucky.

My advice to you: simply ask the woman from Seven Seas what they normally pay writers for magazines. She will then give you a price and you can then decide if it is worth it to you. I suggest you find it “worth it.” Having that first byline is huge.

And if they are not offering a byline I would be tempted to tell her to shove off. Without that byline it is practically worthless to you for future endeavors.

Hope that helps!

The first step to take is saying these words: I am a freelance writer!
The first step to take is saying these words: I am a freelance writer! | Source

How to Freelance

From Lori: “Hi Bill, I've been making more money at hubpages the last year. It's not much, and I'll continue writing for them, pay or no pay. But it has whet my appetite to try to Branch out and do paid freelance work. I know you do some. What advice do you have for finding reputable people or companies, etc to write for. I get on Google and am overwhelmed. A lot of it is technical or business writing, or writing about specific topics I know nothing about. I have experience with a bit of news writing in the small community level and I've done lots of newsletters and online sites on specific topics that never paid and went out of business. What say ye, matey? Any advice about finding freelance work. I'm not looking for a full income, just a side income.”

Oh my goodness, Lori, where to begin?

If you are serious about this, you begin by marketing yourself as a professional writer. Image is pretty important in marketing. Start a website for your freelance business. Do that today!

Then have some business cards printed up with your freelance business name on them.

And then go out and talk to local business owners. Impress upon them the importance of online marketing. Impress upon them the importance of strong SEO content on their blogs. Suggest to them that you can drive people to their business with your knowledge of SEO.

That would be my suggestion to you. Yes, there are a number of online sites where you can find freelance work, but I much prefer the local approach. You’re a people person. Get out there and meet the people.

And good luck!

Difference Between Website and Blog

From Peggy: “What is the main difference (or is there one) between a blog and a website? Are the costs of operating one the same? I most often tell people that I have a website.”

Oddly, Peggy, this question has never come up, so congratulations on being the first.

In theory there are several major differences between a blog and a website. Websites were originally created as sites where products and/or services were promoted and sold. They were meant to be static and they were meant to be one-way in communication. Blogs, on the other hand, were created as a means of constantly updating followers on the blog-owner’s activities and/or thoughts. Communication was meant to be two-way on blogs, as in comment sections.

Having said that, the whole thing has sort of morphed in time; now most websites have blog software i.e. WordPress, so not only do websites promote but they also have the capability to be informal and share communication/comments. Not only that, but on blogs most people can now promote products by having a product link on the blog home page.

So, in theory there is a difference; in actuality, in 2018, the differences are pretty hazy.

Podcast Value

From Shaloo: “Thanks for the answer and sharing your blogs. Just checked and saw that you are planning to start podcasts soon. Do podcasts add more value to the blog or bring in more traffic?”

Well, Shaloo, let me fine-tune your question by saying I would like to do podcasts, but that would require a major re-allocation of time and so far I have not been willing to do that. So we are in a wait-and-see situation regarding me and podcasts.

Having said that, podcasts will, or will not, add more value to a blog and will, or will not, bring in more traffic depending on the marketing skills of the writer and the quality/value of the podcasts. A friend of mine may do podcasts, but if they are junk I might listen to one or two out of loyalty, but not many more than that. And if that is true for a friend of mine, you can just imagine how many podcasts done by a stranger I might listen to.

In other words, give people a good reason to listen to your podcast and they will listen to it. “Build it and they will come,” but you better promote the heck out of it because there are a lot of podcasts online these days.


More Clouds

A solid blanket of clouds now, gray upon gray, preparing to drop their white magic upon us as spring approaches.

Ya gotta love it!

2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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