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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 236

Updated on December 24, 2018

Well Looky Here, It’s Christmas Eve!

To those around the world who celebrate Christmas, may I wish you a very Merry Christmas, unless that offends you, in which case I wish you Happy Holidays or Happy Monday, whichever floats your boat. I don’t really care if you are a “believer” or not. I just live my life with love and let someone else, much smarter than I, work out all that PC stuff.

I’m not big on labels….look at that black guy across the street… friend the Muslim….I met my gay friend the other day….my Republican buddy….seems, to me, like an inundation of unnecessary words. I have had to train myself to get away from that language divisiveness, but it’s hard to do at times. I’m just Bill to my friends; there is no need for any other qualifier. Being Bill is enough, thank you very much. Being Bill is a full-time job. Being White Bill, or Writer Bill, or Farmer Bill, it all just seems to separate me from who I really am, which is the sum total of the entire picture. Ya know?

So let’s do this! We have a full bag today as we come to the end of 2018.

Welcome to the Mail Room
Welcome to the Mail Room

Wasting Time

From Eric: “Bill I have had an issue lately. You at least seem all structured and move from one task to another with intent. I get out there and just stood for about thirty minutes watching the clouds light up in their morning flare. How the heck do you stop such manner of "wasting" time. I know you like to sit under trees like Buddha. (perhaps a life question rather than a writing one - but to me there is no line of demarcation)”

Eric, I suspect you know very well that what you are doing is not wasting time. In fact, I think what you are doing is much more important than what Mr. Anal (my affectionate nickname for myself) is doing right now. I can sit under trees with the best tree-sitters in the world, but I only allow myself to do that in the afternoon after my writing is done. For me there is a clear line of demarcation, and that line is noon.

My wife "wasting time."
My wife "wasting time."

Createspace Shake-up

From William: “Bill, I see you address CreateSpace. I have always (until now) published with CreateSpace. A few months ago I was told that all my books were being moved to Kindle as there was no more CreateSpace, Could you speak to that? And thanks in advance.”

I knew this was happening, William, but I hadn’t published anything since they made the move. Evidently Amazon abruptly fired the CreateSpace team and consolidated all the services on KDP Select. I just went there, transferred all of my books over to KDP (it took all of two minutes to do that), and then I investigated how tough it would be to publish using the new platform. It appears to be pretty straightforward, using the same approach and template as with CreateSpace. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem at all.

Now mind you I have not done any investigation beyond that, but I will when I publish in February. My guess is that nothing has changed. Amazon was always in control, even when CreateSpace was around. I think this is more a “trimming of the corporate fat” more than anything else.

Updating Articles on Hp

From Mary: “I know you have a vast number of articles here on Hubpages and the niche sites. My question is, do you update any of your articles? I know HP suggests updating but just wondered if you felt it was important to your type of articles?”

Mary, the quick answer to your question is no, I do not update my articles on HP. My reason for not doing so is important, though, and that reason is . . . I just don’t care. It’s not that I don’t think it will help to increase views because I do think it will. The HP staff knows quite a bit more than I do how to play the Google search engine game. If they say updating my articles would increase viewership I have no reason to doubt them.

My reason for not doing so is simply a matter of time and convenience. I have a ton of stuff I still want to write. I don’t have time to go back and update 1,400 articles. That’s a young man’s game and I’m not playing it. J

Strange Muse

From Shannon: “I have a random mailbag question for you - if it hasn't already been asked. Thought it might be fun for you to share and interesting for us to know. . .What is the strangest way that your muse has provided inspiration?”

Jeez Louise, Shannon, I don’t know if I have a “strange” example. The whole process seems a bit bizarre to me. I never know when it is going to happen, and it happens, usually, when I’m not trying to make it happen. An example: I am 50,000 words into my new Shadow novel, and until yesterday I had no idea how the book was going to end. I went for a walk with Maggie out at the farm, and I was tossing sticks for her to chase, and the ending of the book popped into my brain. Clarity arrived out of the fog, so to speak. I wasn’t thinking about the book at all, but my muse decided it was time to share with me.

The whole process is a mystery to me and I’m fine with that.

My muse can be found down this path
My muse can be found down this path

Benefitting From Theories

From Brian: “Have you benefited in practical ways from any theory of story creation, such as Aristotle's Poetics or Volger's Writer's Journey (based on Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces) or Phillips's Dramatica (which I just learned about in a Google search) or Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing or whatever?”

Brian, I will probably disappoint you with this answer, but no, not one bit, unless by osmosis. I have benefitted from Sister Mary Charles’ Diagramming Rules, and Sister Agnes’ Rules of Proper Language, and I went to Harper Lee’s School of Storytelling. I found them all very helpful.

All fun aside, my writing is the result of eighteen years of education and seventy years of living. I write what I feel. I break grammar rules often. I do not outline or plan. I’m constantly in a state of “winging it” when I write. About the only thing I can say about my style is it works for me.

Do Excerpts Help Book Sales?

From Rodric: “Question: You have answered this before, I think, but I cannot locate it. I notice that you put the excerpt of your book on some of the Mailbags--to my joy! Does doing that help increase sales? I know that I am going to buy the book now, but does that work for you consistently?”

Rodric, I have no statistics to back up any claim; about all I can say about posting excerpts is that it can’t do any harm to do so. Since I’m not “sales motivated,” I share excerpts simply because I know some friends will enjoy them. I have a pretty loyal following, and those excerpts are little gifts to my followers.

But again, to answer your question, what can it possibly hurt to do so? I think it’s a good marketing tool unless . . . and this is a big UNLESS . . . unless one is a horrible writer, in which case one probably shouldn’t share anything. lol

Book Structure

From Kathy: “My first questions: how do you figure out the structure for your books? Do you recommend taking classes or reading how to books?”

Kathy, thanks for your very first question. I think my approach to structure comes from an innate ability, which in turn comes from countless hours in classrooms during my youth. I also learned at the hands of the masters…Lee, Steinbeck, Hemingway…I have read A LOT over the years, and I was bound to learn something along the way.

“How to” books would certainly help, as would taking classes. I’m not much of a class-taker, so I think I would opt for books, but whatever floats your boat.

The basic structure of a book, by the way, really hasn’t changed much over the years. There is an introduction, there are three or four douses of fuel to keep the plot moving, and there is a conclusion. How you fill in the blanks of that basic structure is what will brand it as your own unique style.

And That Is All This Week, Folks

Thanks so much to all of you who asked questions this week. I had fun answering them, and I hope all of you enjoyed the sharing of information and ideas.

I will leave you with a stanza or two from another Dan Fogelberg song, “Make Love Stay”

Now that we love
Now that the lonely nights are over
How do we make love stay?
Now that we know
The fire can burn bright or merely smolder
How do we keep it from dying away?

Elusive as dreams
Barely remembered in the morning
Love like a phantom flies
But held in the heart
It pales like the emply smile adorning
A statue with sightless eyes.

Moments fleet, taste sweet within the rapture
When precious flesh is greedily consumed
But mystery's a thing not easily captured
And once deceased not easily exhumed.

There’s a message in there for all of us! Love is never a waste of time! Have a love-filled week!

2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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