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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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    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I always appreciate your thought, Lawrence. That's what the Mailbag is all about.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      9 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      Great information here,one thing with working out what age group you're aiming at is ask yourself whatage your main protaginist is?

      Harry potter was eleven, the book was aimed there because kids that age identified with him.

      If your main characteris a teenager, then the book should be aimed at that age group.

      My thoughts anayway.

      Lawrence

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank yo Rajan! I'm glad you liked this, my friend.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      10 months ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      I like the uniqueness angle in anything one does. That makes one stand out in a crowd. Very much like my maternal uncle says. Thank you, Bill!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you DDE! I appreciate it.

    • profile image

      DDE 

      10 months ago

      You are a great advisor!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Peggy! Yes, this climate is really lovely for those who don't like extremes. I can handle the cold much better than the heat.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      10 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Your climate is so moderate normally. Wish that ours was like yours! We have much longer and hotter summers here in Houston.

      Your advice seemed spot on with regard to the questions this week.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Peace, Rodric!

    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Anthony 

      11 months ago from Peoria, Arizona

      I am looking forward to it Bill.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Answer coming on Monday, Rodric. This is actually something I have a lot of experience in. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Frank! Glad I could come through for you.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      11 months ago from Shelton

      the kids.. and cooking articles was what I really wanted to see a reply to.. and yes.. I was satisfied.. thank you for 207.. have a good week

    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Anthony 

      11 months ago from Peoria, Arizona

      With all the crappy things going on in my life, this article was a respite from the normal! I had a question about indenting using dialogue too. This helped. I have gotten out of the habit since writing on HubPages.

      I started an article and plan to be very general with information. It is about how coping with an issue might give someone else insight if he or she deals with it in the future. What do you thinking of sharing personal stories as a way to catharsis on Hubpages instead of a journal?

      It will be featured and appropriately written, but is that more blog-worthy?

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, Mary! Heat is gone; blessed seventies have returned, thank you very much. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate that, Liz...thank you very much.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That, MizB, is advice I will take...the flea market is about the only way to afford it, me thinks!

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      11 months ago from Beautiful South

      Ha! Bill, Chicago is a Big Book. My 14th Ed. is about 860 pages. I haven't even read it but use it as a reference book. I just look up what I need when I need it. It's expensive, too, so if you see one at a flea market for cheap, I'd advise buying it rather than a new one. Style doesn't change that much.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Great point, Flourish! Thanks for mentioning that.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Chitrangada Sharan. I always appreciate your thoughts.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Audrey! The heat finally broke; back to the 70's today, thank God.

      love,

      bill

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      MizB, I appreciate you weighing in with Chicago. Maybe I should read that damned book at some point, just so I have some clue what it says. lol Short on time today, my friend, but thank you so much. Enjoy your upcoming weekend.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      11 months ago from Brazil

      I can't recall if you've had another question about writing for cookery magazines. It is good to see another avenue brought up in your questions. Great advice, as always. I'm sure if Judith loves cooking, she'll find a way. I think much depends on the magazine.

      Have a great week, I hope your 'heatwave' cough cough, passes.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      11 months ago from UK

      You shed an interesting insight onto writers' issues. I feel like I'm learning something new from you with each mailbag.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      11 months ago from USA

      I’d say know your audience before you begin. I echo Heidi’s concerns regarding presentation of issues to kids at a level of linguistic or psychological complexity that is inappropriate for their age.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      11 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Another useful mailing, and thanks again for sharing.

      ‘Know your target audience,’ -that’s an important suggestion. I also liked the answer you have with regard to cooking articles.

      Thanks for the helpful tips.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      11 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Hope you're finding a few ways to cool off in your neck of the woods. Our mountain zone is coming up for a hot one and this means folks need to be extra careful in camping areas. Douse those embers!

      Thanks for another informative mailbag.

      Love,

      Audrey

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      11 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great mailbag Bill. We had two hot days here in Ohio in the 90s. So glad it's back to the 70s-80s. As for Lee's questions, it depends on the age groups. There's picture books and children's books for toddlers like 3-7, MG for those in elementary like age 7-12, YA for 12-18, and New Adult from 18-21. Hope this helps. Each genre has a different word count and format for writing.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Nothing unintentional about it, Linda...you write a mean food article.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, I was positive that I had left a comment yesterday, but I don't see it here. Perhaps the heat is getting to me. Thanks for the (un)intentional shout-out. Judith will find her wings, it just takes patience.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      11 months ago from Beautiful South

      Good morning, Bill. How do you do today, or "howdy" as they say in some parts of the U.S. I looked up how to treat dialogue in Chicago, expecting not to find anything since they deal mostly with journalism and academic papers, but I was fooling myself. The answer, however, was as I expected. To quote probably the most famous line in fiction: "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." Chicago doesn't either.

      Chicago gives two examples, one of which I don't like: A short conversation can be put into one narrative paragraph with explanatory text in between lines of dialogue. Quotation marks surround each line of dialogue, so the reader knows which speaker is talking. I personally do not recommend this one because a sleepy reader can miss a lot of action here.

      The second and one most common is the use of a new paragraph for each speaker. It also says that it is up to the writer whether or not to use quotation marks when changing paragraphs with the speaker. Chicago doesn't mention indentation. It basically says it is up to the writer to choose the style, but to be consistent in whatever style is chosen. Since it doesn't mention it, but to be consistent, I guess indenttation should follow whatever style the story or book is written in, indented or flush.

      So you see, my friend, Chicago says to do it any way you want to. Have a great day! It's going to be another 97 degree hot one for us.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That is very kind of you,Dora! thank you

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Like you indeed, Manatita! Like you indeed!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      More of you would be good for us, Shannon, but I suspect it might be exhausting for you. :) You can keep the heat, my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      You and me both, Linda! Yesterday zapped me of all energy!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Bill! We have to wait until Thursday for some cooling. Until then, sweat!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I've never tried that, Brian, but it's a good idea. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Chill always, Verlie! It's the only sane way to get through this life.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Pop, too funny...great angle for Judith's articles...sidewalk cooking around the world!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you William! I can hear that saxophone wailing in the distance.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      11 months ago from The Caribbean

      Bill, I have a feeling that some writers would give up on their book writing if it weren't for this mailbag. Thanks for the positive influence you are!

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      11 months ago from london

      Thanks Bill. Short and sweet, like me. Not much to say this time.

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      11 months ago from Texas

      Oh, you make me laugh, but don't be grumpy about that. ;) It's been above 90 degrees here for well over month. In fact, this year, April was quite warm. I say warm because as much as I dread it, I know the triple digits are just around the corner. Remind me again why I wanted to move south. Oh yeah, to get away from the cold!

      I've been taught since elementary school to do a new paragraph with each new character speaking. In other words, every time the person speaking changes. So that's what I do. And I don't indent when writing paragraphs online. I used to do that because that's the way I was taught tot do it, except that someone eventually pointed out to me that online paragraphs are typically not indented. That's just online, though.

      Man, I sat down with every intention to work on a novel tonight and now I find myself just exhausted. I need more of me to go around, I think. Feels like forever since I've written anything. Not enough hours in the day.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      11 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      It's hot here as well at the moment. I like sunny days, but I don't like the heat. Thanks for yet another edition of the Mailbag, Bill.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      11 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. Another great week for the mailbag. Your advice to Judith for her cooking articles really applies to many different topics, find a unique way to separate yourself from the competitors.

      The heat was on here today, hot and humid, but the t-storms just rolled through so should be cooler tomorrow.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      11 months ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

      I agree regarding stuck in the middle problems in writing a first draft. Insert a note to yourself [Villain one way or another murders his partner and moves from Boston to Barcelona] and move on.

      I wonder if mindmapping a story before writing it would help avoid getting stuck in the middle. I haven't tried that yet.

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 

      11 months ago from Canada

      Hey Bill, it is hot! Thanks for the mail bag, and the bonus vids, love the Rafferty. Chill eh...

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 

      11 months ago

      I have two comments. You always give great advice, and it is so hot in New Jersey that you can cook on the sidewalk! Cooking on the sidewalk might be a good angle for new articles for Judith!

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      11 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      I'm singing along, Bill. ". . . You used to say that it was so easy

      But you're trying, you're trying now . . ."

      Thanks for taking my question and the wise advice. I always know where to go when I have a question. I go to the guy that has the answers.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Melissa, after working outside for four hours yesterday, I was wilting like some of the plants. I need this heat to break soon. I've got too much to do outside.

      Enjoy the heck out of your week, my friend, and thank you.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      it is a tricky matter, Venkatachari M. one which many would-be writers of children's stories don't understand....And because it is tricky it demands great attention to that detail.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, I love your approach and your attitude. That, in my opinion, should always be the first goal of writing.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Heidi, you had me laughing out loud with your response...great stuff about kids books and cooking books....thanks for the laugh. Stay cool and I'll try to do the same.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for sharing that, John, about the age range. That is my impression, a lot of overlap.

      Good luck with that winter weather...hard to imagine right now. :)

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 

      11 months ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! Hope you are surviving the heat, we just had the 90's again this weekend, so I can sympathize. I'm much happier with the 70's, especially when you factor in high humidity...but on the bright side, the tomato plants are loving it! :)

      Hope you have a great and productive week!

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      11 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      One more interesting mailbag with new questions and new things to learn.

      The indenting advice provided by you is a good idea. I never knew this fact. And, the advice regarding finishing the book and returning to the middle chapter that got stuck is a great tip for those experiencing similar problems.

      Knowing your audience both agewise and place-wise are important factors as mentioned by you. But, nowadays, all age-groups are interested in everything and it is very difficult to target a particular age.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      11 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I just finished working outside and like you, here in northern Ontario, 82 degrees yesterday and I was melting. I could hardly walk in the garden center so today, I fertilized my plants early.

      You are right about the marketing angle if you want to earn from your writing. I spent time on it in the past but I realized that the topics many enjoy online don't interest me that much. So, I have long ago given it up. I write what I like. I suppose my goal is different. I want to keep my mind engaged and improve my writing so I am happy to write once in a while.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      11 months ago from Chicago Area

      I cannot believe it's still Monday a.m. and I'm in the Mailbag. Yay!

      Re: Kid's Books. This is one of my all-time favorite soapbox topics. So many people think they can write children's books. They just can't. Period, end of (children's) story!

      Writing a children's book takes a thorough understanding of reading levels (usually measured by the Flesch-Kincaid tests). K-12 teachers have a better chance of writing something that's appropriate. But everyone else? Good luck!

      On top of that, there's the age appropriateness issue. Some topics are too intense, too mature for certain ages. Ever wonder why some what seem to be kid's movies are rated PG? That's why. They're alerting parents that they might have some difficult explaining to do or have to calm some frightened kids.

      I could go on and on. In fact, I wrote a whole post here on HP on it because it just annoys me so much. As well, I was just asked this last week to edit some children's (K-8) materials and immediately declined. It's so difficult I won't even touch it.

      Re: Cooking Articles. Almost the same issues as for kids, coupled with the marketing angle. Almost everyone thinks they're the next celebrity chef. Please. BTW, I got a great Q&A question on a cookbook topic. New post on that coming soon.

      Well, it's the third day of 90s here in Chicago. But gonna cool off in a hurry by tomorrow.

      Stay cool, both in temperature and temperament, and have a great week!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      11 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Another enjoyable mailbag, Bill. The opposite to what you are experiencing here with Winter hitting full force. Minus temperatures expected the next two days. Love the songs Stuck in the Middle and Baker Street. Age ranges for kids books is a tricky one. I usually get requests to write for 4 to 8 years, or 6 to 10, or young teen etc. so there always seems to be an overlap and no clear definement. Try to keep cool.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Eric, you are a funny man. Get up here so we can have lunch. I have the feeling I would enjoy that greatly.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, no reason to apologize...feel better soon, and thanks for thinking of me.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Peg, that's why you live in Texas and I don't. lol I don't do 100!!!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Good morning Ann! Thanks for visiting so early this morning. I'll answer your question next week, but my quick answer is I rarely know what HP is doing or what they mean with comments like that, and you better not leave HP. I want you here!!!

      Wishing, for you, a mellow Monday!

      bill

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      Ok you sent me right to being stuck in middle with you. Jokers to the Right and clowns to the Left. And yes I had pants like them.

      And this mailbag just stunk -- you need to get your pizzazz back. LOL and XOXO

      So you had low hanging fruit here this week.

      You have a dog and a wife and by accounts a son. Who are you, given your talents,to not write about them more? Weird way to say it for fun. Where is that line Bill. My stories are just scary real do I disclose too much?

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      11 months ago from New York, New York

      Hey Bill. Sorry I am only now starting to feel a bit better. Was sick all last week from a virus. But just wanted to stop in to say hi and glad to see you up and running with you mailbag this hot (finally here, too!) Monday morning. Have a wonderful week ahead now :)

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      11 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Oh my, Bill, the eighties are hot? We hit the one hundreds here in Texas in May. Yikes. I like your advice to William about skipping over a difficult chapter. Sometimes the solution comes when least expected later on. Also, to Judith about finding a better mousetrap for food recipes. Another good one in the mailbag. Thanks.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      11 months ago from SW England

      Hi bill! Short but very sweet. Great questions.

      I was always taught to indent speech and to use a new paragraph for another's response - it's easier to read that way and means we don't always have to indicate in words who is actually talking.

      Question: Have you ever had messages from HP that a hub can't be featured because of 'spammy content'? If so, have you any idea what it means? There is nothing which makes sense on their 'Learning Centre' (sorry, Center!) or elsewhere. It's the second time, both recently, that this has happened to me and it makes me think I'm losing my touch. I might just stop writing for HP. So the second part of my question is 'Is it better to concentrate on writing just for me/self-publishing?'

      Have a Monday of monstrous musing, bill!

      Ann

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