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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 221

Updated on September 17, 2018

Friends Help Friends

Those words were drilled into my brain and my heart by my mother and father during my formative years. They believed in them strongly. I guess the Great Depression had much to do with that, but I also know that my parents were raised by caring parents, so it was all a natural progression over the years.

Friends help friends!

It’s as simple as that when we consider the popularity of this Mailbag series. We are a community of writers who believe in those words.

And I think that is very, very cool!

Thank you for continuing the tradition each and every week.

So are you ready? I’ll take a stab at answering the questions, but if I drop the ball I’m counting on all of you to pick it up and share your experience and knowledge. That’s how it works with the Mailbag.

Let’s do this!

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

Copyright Dilemma

From Zulma: “When it comes to copyright, do you add a copyright notice to everything you write or just the stuff that comes out of your head. For example, if you've written an informative hub and you got your info from other sources do you copyright it? I'm not sure how to handle this. I copyright my creative writing because they are my own words, but I don't feel right doing that when the words came from somewhere else? I feel like I'm taking credit for something I didn't really do. Please guide me, Sensei.”

This one gave me pause, Zulma! I wasn’t sure if you were talking about quotations or simply using research for background information in a non-fiction article. The longer I thought about it, the more my brain hurt, so I just decided to give you my overall impression concerning copyrighting in general.

The general rule is this: the moment you publish an article, short story, or novel, that piece of writing is automatically protected by copyright laws. Now we all know how toothless those laws actually are but still, your work is copyrighted “protected” from piracy.

But you are posing an ethical dilemma, aren’t you? You are concerned that by using information already published by someone else, you are infringing on their copyright protection, and my impression is no, no you are not. As long as you give reference to the origination of those thoughts, you are fine under copyright law or ethically. Your writing is still your writing, and that’s what is being copyrighted, the specific and unique way you have presented material.

Let’s face it, there are very few “new” ideas in the world. Almost all of us, if not all of us, borrow from a library in our minds, and that library is composed of information we have learned over decades, information which came from someone else. If you think about it, taking it to the extreme, we would not be able to write about anything. If I mentioned in a short story that the sun rose in the east, that’s not new information. I borrowed it from someone else . . . can I still copyright my short story? Of course I can!

I’m not sure if that helped or not; maybe I totally misunderstood the question; but there you have it!

With a little help from my friends!
With a little help from my friends! | Source

Word Tabs

From MizB: “I have a question that should be aimed at a techie, but my author and I can't find an answer online. Or perhaps I should say that we can't get their answers to work on our computers, his is an HP and mine a Mac. Here comes the most stupid question of the day. How do you reset the tabs in Word? We need to shorten them from 5 down a space or two. There's got to be an answer somewhere that will work for one or the other of us. Thanks for any help.”

MizB, one of my followers answered the question before I could, so here’s what Mike has to say….. 'Word' home page - look for the word paragraph - just to the right is a drop down Arrow. At the bottom of the drop down page is the word 'Tab' Your adjustment can be made there. And then you came back on with your own solution later in the comments, so it appear is has all been rectified. This is an example of my favorite type of question, the one where I don’t have to do any thinking at all. Lol


From Pat: “Bill, I read “Resurrecting Tobias,” a wonderful novel written by you, and in that novel you have a passage about Vietnam. That passage blew me away. It was so real. Now I know you never served in that war, so how did you achieve that type of realism? I struggle with things like this, making scenes seem real when I’ve never really experienced them.”

Pat, I suggest to you that most writers struggle with that same thing.

First of all, thank you for your very kind words. I loved writing “Tobias,” and it’s nice to hear good things about that novel. No, I never served in Vietnam, thank the gods. But I did have friends who served there, and I did have access to many letters written by soldiers who served there, so capturing the horrors of battle there was easier than you might think.

Add to that the fact that we are all human. I may not have served in battle, but I can sure imagine it and envision it. I have smelled death, and I doubt it smells much different here or in Vietnam. I have had friends die violently, and my reaction to those deaths was, I’m sure, similar to reactions from soldiers in 1968 when they lost friends violently. I simply recalled the pain of my losses and then put that pain into the book for Toby to experience.

In the acting world they call it “method acting.” I call it “method writing.” I become my character, and I experience what they experience.

I know, it sounds simple, but it really isn’t. It takes work and it takes dedication to realism, but then if you want to achieve great things in writing you must be dedicated, right?

I hope that helps. I challenge you to try it. Think of a harrowing situation, put yourself in that situation, and then write about your reactions to it. I think you’ll find it to be a valuable writing exercise.

In search of realism . . . what is it like?
In search of realism . . . what is it like? | Source

Nothing Else?

Well, then, a short one it will be! My thanks to everyone who asked questions this week, and my thanks in advance to those who read the Mailbag and/or commented on it.

Friends helping friends!

I saw a posting on Facebook this week from someone totally disgusted and disgruntled with HubPages. Evidently she was banned from that site for some infraction, and man alive did she ever rip into the HubPages staff. She called HubPages a farce, a ripoff, and all manner of other descriptions.

I understand her being upset, although I don’t know the specifics of why she was banned. My experience is the exact opposite. I love this site. This site has given me the opportunity to share my writings with the world. People from India and Dubai and South Africa have read my short stories, and I find that remarkable. And I have hundreds of friends from around the world who genuinely care about me, and I find that beyond remarkable.

So thank you, all, for including me in this fraternity of writers.

2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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