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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 198

Updated on April 16, 2018

Last Night’s Dream

I have no clue what I was dreaming last night. I rarely remember my dreams, but what I do know is I woke up humming the very first Kenny Roger’s song, back when he had a group called The First Edition . . . “just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in.” It’s been something like fifty years since I heard that song, so I will file that away under Strange Occurrence and move on with my day.

I mention that because that’s how my mind works, and I suspect that’s how the minds of many creative people work. Random thoughts, random dreams, all feed the mind, and ideas are born, and from them stories and books.

It’s really pretty cool!

Am I the only one who remembers that song? Check it out on YouTube for a trip back in time.

And now let’s spring into the Present!

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


From Eric: “The book I was thinking of would be a compilation of two pagers. What would you do differently if that was a concept that you would take on. I mean different than what you have taught us to do for a novel. Though it is not poetry is that the kind of way to go?”

Eric, thanks for the original question. I’ve read quite a few compilations and there doesn’t seem to be any magic formula for publishing them. Organize them in the order you want, put a Table of Contents at the beginning so people can thumb through at their leisure and cherry-pick, and then publish. There may be similarities in the two-pagers so they can be divided by topic; there may not be so that they stand alone in each chapter, but the final organization of them is entirely up to you.

Cool idea! Good luck with it!

Does Size Matter?

From Nikki: “I’ve a question how many chapters are best for first book consisting of how many words? Please give your wonderful advice on this,”

Well shoot, Nikki, this kind of falls under the topic “Impossible Question.”

If the book is non-fiction, there really is not answer to that question. I’ve seen forty-page books with two-or-three chapters. I’ve seen non-fiction books with seventy-five chapters and 1,000 pages in length.

In fiction, the standard is around 70,000 words for a novel, but those 70,000 words can be broken into as many chapters as you want. That is your decision as the author. One personal word of advice: do not have terribly long chapters. I think it is better for the reader, especially in fiction, if you have shorter chapters of maybe five or six pages. I have no study to prove this, but I think shorter chapters read better for people with short attention spans, which pretty much describes 75% of Americans. LOL

Anyway, shoot for 70,000, and anything over that is pure gravy, as my grandma used to say.

What to Do Next

From William: “I have created an eight generation family saga, created a community from the wilderness, in great detail from 1833, that is still active in modern times. There are now four novels, two novellas, a short story collection and a couple of hundred of Hubpages stories collected into nearly a dozen ebooks about the characters and community. My muse keeps telling me that these somehow need to be reconstituted into an even more coherent set of stories in some sort of new format to reintroduce to a whole new set of readers out there. Current readership I can best estimate in the several hundreds. Is that wacky and unrealistic, or should I just let go of this family saga idea? I cannot do that, of course. Thanks for your thoughts!”

William, I love that you answered your own question at the very end! No you can’t do that! This saga is your life’s work, and it is marvelous. As a former history teacher, I can say I would be gravely disappointed if the saga ended. I think it’s a great idea to reconstitute it for a new set of readers out there, and let’s face it, that’s what you want to do.

Follow your passion and continue teaching people of those times. By the way, for anyone who has never read Bill’s saga, I highly recommend it.

Making Time for Family

From Manatita: “Bill, are you ok with re-arranging time for family matters, amidst all this pile of diligent work? (my question) for next week.”

Am I okay with it, Manatita? Hell no!!! LOL

But I do it because, well, family matters. I have finally reached the point where if I am given advanced notice, enough time to re-arrange my schedule, then I am fine with taking breaks for family matters. It is the surprise matter which someone forgot to tell me about which gets me grinding my teeth.

I really am terribly anal when it comes to my daily schedule. I admit it, and I’m trying to temper it a bit because, well, I chose to be in a family, and spending time with them really is important. Having said that, surprises which interrupt my schedule do not make me happy, so advanced warning is greatly appreciated by this old man.

Making time for family
Making time for family | Source

Control Issues?

From Rodric: “Now that I have found a potentially repeat editor for my books, I can work on my other books. I have a list of books that I need to write, but they refuse to come out right now. I have written down their tittles and put description of characters. They tell they are not ready to be written! Is that weird? My books are stopping me from writing them!

“I am having trouble giving my book to the editor that I met last week. It is my baby and I have not done it before with a stranger. We were introduced through a mutual acquaintance. Bill, your encouragement through your old and new articles and books are making me move forward. Could, however, my apprehension to go with my book editing have something to do with the Editor? He is a good guy and all. I just don't know him. I am so not wanting to let his eyes on my baby to change it up! I must have some serious control issues. I await your wisdom.”

There are two questions here, Rodric. The answer to your first question is no, not weird at all. When it’s time it will be time, and not a minute before.

As for your second question, I don’t find separation anxiety funny or strange at all. It is very hard for writers to turn their creations loose for an editor or for an audience to see. We are very sensitive folks, you know, and releasing a manuscript to a semi-stranger is opening ourselves up to criticism and rebuke and all manner of unsavory outcomes.

But it is necessary if we ever want to grow as writers.

Since I’m writing this on Friday the 13th, beware of my answer. LOL Seriously, I just saw one of your comments on last week’s Mailbag, so I know you did send your manuscript to the editor. Well done! I’m sure you’ll write an article once you get his/her feedback, and I look forward to hearing about it.

Control issues? I think all writers have control issues, so welcome to the fraternity, Rodric!

I tore my mind on the jagged sky
I tore my mind on the jagged sky | Source

Just Dropped in to See What Condition . . .

A new week of writing is before us. What will the condition of our writing be like at the end of the week?

I can hardly wait to find out. Writing is my drug of choice these days, and I’ve never enjoyed getting high so much!

“I tripped on a cloud and fell a eight miles high,

I tore my mind on the jagged sky,

I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in.”

Have a great week!

2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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