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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 207

Updated on June 18, 2018

The Heat Has Arrived

To clarify, heat for us in Olympia is anything over 80 degrees. We are a bit whimpy in the Pacific Northwest. We like our seventies, so when the forecast calls for ninety we all get a bit grumpy.

If you ever want to live in an area where the word “moderate” is embraced (only regarding weather and not politics) this is the place for you.

None of that has anything to do with writing, but I felt like sharing. Hope you don’t mind.

Shall we now venture forth into the World of Words?

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

Stuck in the Middle

From William: “Bill, I'm stuck in the middle of a story and don't know what to do. I have the beginning and I know where the story is going. I just can't seem to get this one chapter right. Would you recommend moving ahead and coming back to the trouble spot later, or push through the trouble spot and then continue? Your thoughts are appreciated.”

William, I was instantly reminded of a song by Steeler’s Wheel called “Stuck in the Middle with You.” That song was only really famous because its lead singer, Gerry Rafferty, went on to a solo career which included a classic on rock music, “Baker’s Street.” And that’s the end of my music trivia for you today.

My personal opinion on this problem…move on and come back to it later. Fretting over one chapter is a sure-fire way of chaining your creativity and roadblocking your flow, and you never want to do that. You have all the time in the world to return to that troublesome chapter once the book is finished. By then I’m sure your muse will have released the chapter from bondage.

Now sing along with me and Gerry….”You used to think that it was so easy….”

Indenting Dialogue

From Lori: “Hi Bill, when writing a book, do you indent dialogue? I've checked out different writing sources that give opposite rules on it. I don't do it on hubpages. But in book form what do you think is the best method or rule. I am using a createspace template.”

Lori, I have never read the manuals on proper writing, so I have no clue what they say in Chicago, but I have always indented dialogue in my novels and novellas.

Excuse me a moment…

I just went and did a little online research, and most writing sites suggest indenting dialogue, and starting a new paragraph when a new person speaks.

So I’m sticking with my suggestion. If they don’t like it in Chi-Town then tough!

I always indent dialogue!
I always indent dialogue!

Kids' Books

From Lee: “How do I know what age group I am writing to with my kids book? I’m almost done with the story/book, and it occurs to me I’m not sure what age group to market it towards. Any help would be appreciated.”

Lee, this is one of those things you should probably figure out before you start writing…just for future reference should you write another book. I don’t want that to sound snippy; consider it a gentle, friendly suggestion.

I am no expert on kids’ books. I don’t know how advanced most kids are with regards to reading. What age group was Winnie the Pooh aimed at? I’m still reading those books, so you see the problem here? Having said that, I would have some friends who have kids read it…or have their kids read it…or take it to your local library and ask the library staff for their professional opinion….or take it to an elementary teacher and ask them. There are a number of ways to get your question answered, and they are all better than having me guess.

Know your target audience and the age of that audience
Know your target audience and the age of that audience

Cooking Articles

From Judith: “I’m trying to sell some of my cooking articles to local and regional magazines, but so far no luck. What do you suggest?”

Judith, here’s my suggestion: “build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.”

Seriously, find a new and/or unique angle for your articles. My friend Linda (CarbDiva on HubPages) has done that with her cooking articles, so it is possible. Ask yourself this question: what sets your articles apart from other cooking articles? How are your articles unique? If you can’t answer that question then you have a bigger problem, and I’m not being facetious when I say that. In a field like cooking, where there are so many articles basically saying the same thing, you need to find a new approach, some angle which will appeal to people and which they will find fascinating. Until you do that, magazine editors are going to yawn at your proposals and toss them in the circular file.

So here is my suggestion: stop writing your articles and spend however long it takes to determine your marketing angle. How are you going to brand you? How are you going to set your articles apart from the thousands already out there? Once you determine those things then you can proceed writing with that new, fresh, fascinating angle.

Good luck and again, I’m not being facetious.

Another Short One

But that’s okay. I have a ton of work to do outside before the heat arrives, so best get with it.

My wish for all of you is the same wish I had for Judith: find your uniqueness and then market the heck out of it, and I’m not necessarily talking about writing when I say that.

2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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