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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 216

Updated on August 13, 2018

Same Story, Different Week

I know it’s beginning to sound like an obsession, but the heat continues here in “once balmy” Olympia. We set the all-time record for hottest July, and August seems hell-bent on setting its own record.

So be it!

This weekend I stacked two cords of wood, spread two cubic yards of wood chips, and managed to keep all the critters alive while Bev went to Oregon to ride horses on the beach with a friend of hers.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Actually nothing if your name is Bev. It just goes to prove something I have known for quite some time: my wife is wiser than I am!

Shall we see what’s in the Mailbag this week?

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


From Jo: “This is not a writing question, Bill, but I noticed in your introduction here you mentioned heading off to the farm. I was under the assumption your farming activities were urban. Do you now have a farm? I would love to know more about that activity. I have read about how others do farming for years. Just one of my weird obsessions.”

Oh boy, a non-writing question!!!

There is no way, Jo, that we could afford to buy a farm. Bev’s son and his wife own ten acres about five miles from us, so we keep all of our chickens at their farm on about a quarter of an acre. We go out there daily to feed and water them, and to collect eggs. Here at our house, in the city, we keep our quail and eight hens for our own egg consumption.

It’s a nice solution to a problem, one which quite a few small-time urban farmers are doing. I was just talking to another young couple at the farmers market yesterday. They are going to lease a quarter-acre from a farmer and grow their produce on his farm They will be able to grow quite a bounty of crops on that quarter-acre using a hoop house; the price is very reasonable; any old way you look at it this is a win-win situation for all concerned.

And I suspect w will be seeing more and more of this in the future. There is actually a groundswell of interest and participation by young couples with regards to urban farming and small farming. We are seeing community gardens in most cities now, but we are also seeing creative solutions like cooperative farms and farm section leasing like I mentioned above. While the number of farms has decreased over the years, the number of small farms has actually increased, and that does this old heart good to hear.


From Zulma: “Similies instead of synonyms? What an excellent suggestion! I believe this is worthy of a hub. Or at least a mention in the mailbag.”

Zulma, I have no time for a hub on this topic, but I’ll be glad to weigh in with a few thoughts here.

Listen, anyone can use synonyms. It takes no talent at all to look up the synonyms for a particular word and choose one which strikes your fancy. I will even say there is nothing particularly wrong in doing so.

But how about going the extra mile as a writer? Instead of saying a young girl’s eyes were light blue, how about saying her eyes were like robin’s eggs? Yes, it takes a little more effort, but I think the result is much more satisfying for both the writer and the reader.

I even take it a step further. When I’m tired of sitting at the computer, but I still want to practice my craft, I will go outside and play with similes as I relax under a tree. Just look around, choose an object, imagine a synonym for that object, and then imagine a simile to take the place of the synonym. It may not be as much fun as playing Dungeons and Dragons, but it will be infinitely more beneficial to your writing skills.

Just sayin’…nothing against Dungeons and Dragons!

The bottom line: synonyms are okay, but do you just want your writing to be okay, or would you like to be recognized as a writer who expelled just a bit more effort?

Describe this using a simile!
Describe this using a simile! | Source

When to Stop Editing

From Zulma: “We all know how important it is to edit and tweak our writing till they're just right. Is there a mandatory point at which you should stop? Left to my own devices, I could edit my stories from now until the crack of doom and still be at it afterwards. How does one know when good enough really is good enough. I realise this is subjective and would really like to know how other people know when it's time to stop editing and start publishing?”

Yes, Zulma, this is completely subjective, and I suspect it is a problem all writers share, unless you are a writer who simply doesn’t care about quality, which you are not.

I limit myself to four re-writes/edits. That is a purely random number/limit I set for myself because, like you, I would be there at the crack of doom still tweaking. I can drive myself nutso doing those edits, so to avoid being institutionalized I set a limit of four and I stick with it. After four edits that baby is being delivered, ready or not, here she comes.

And I will be interested in hearing from others as well.

Touching Lives

From Rodric: “I am going to have to let go and let God... If it is good, it will touch lives. That is my biggest hope with my writings. Is it normal to have a writing philosophy like that? I don't want to make money only, I want to change someone's life. So far, I am not making money.”

Rodric, I sure hope it’s normal because that’s why I write.

I’ve said this many times before. I’m not here at HP to make money, so all of the site-tweaking they do, and all the suggestions they give me, are ignored by me. I simply don’t care about making money on HP. I’m here to be a part of a community of writers, and I’m here because it gives me a platform for my writing.

I write because I absolutely love writing. I write about social issues because I want to be heard and have a positive impact on people. Again, I simply don’t care about the money. I self-publish novels because I must write. I barely market them after I publish them. I don’t care about that part of the publishing side of things. If someone buys them great, but sales will never dictate how much I write in the future. When the love of writing is no longer there then I will hang up my cleats and step away from the ball field.

So I’m with you, my friend.

Let’s make a difference, what do you say?

Rebuild your articles to increase readership
Rebuild your articles to increase readership | Source

Too Many Published

From Rodric: “Bill, I have been going through all of my older articles and converting them to shorter 750 to 1250 words bit sizes. Ever since Eric made the observation on one of my articles that it was long. Reading what you mentioned about the suggested length of Hubpages articles, I went to work. It is fun, but I am publishing the material at like ten articles a day. I have changed the content and pictures, but will Hubpages flag me for putting out too many new materials? Is there such a rule?”

Rodric, I noticed all of those publications over the past few days. I didn’t know what you were up to, but I was in awe at your production in such massive numbers. Lol I feel better knowing you were just fine-tuning articles already written.

Is there a rule on HP about too many articles published? I know of no such rule. I’ve seen writers publish four, five poems in a single day in the past, with no negative outcome. In my opinion go for it until you hear from HP, but I can’t think of a single reason why they would be upset about that process . . . why would they be upset? You are improving your articles and thus doing your part in improving the quality of HP.

It’s Friday Morning and . . .

The clouds have appeared, and rain is forecast for tonight, and how very cool is that?

Thanks to you all who asked questions, and thanks to you all who commented on this installment of the Mailbag. Let’s do it again next week! Sound good to you?

2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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