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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 240

Updated on January 21, 2019

Words From Dad

Three simple words . . . a mantra if you like . . . they are branded on my brain and have resided there since I was a pre-teen . . . keep moving forward!

I’m sure he learned those words in World War 2. Soldiers do not like retreating, and I’m sure some drill sergeant back in basic training drilled those same words into my dad when he was a 21-year old private.

Never give up ground, Bill . . . keep moving forward, Bill . . . the only way through a tough job is to keep moving forward.

Last year I finally found out who my biological family members were. They all died tragic deaths. I know very little about them, so I don’t know what their personal beliefs or credos were. Those little sayings, those inspirational guideposts, the intestinal fortitude to keep moving through adversity, came from my adopted father, Dale LeRoy Holland.

Keep moving forward!

Shall we?

Welcome to the Mail Room!
Welcome to the Mail Room!

Is There an End to the To-Do List?

From Liz: “The question I have is this: in your list of things to do, which I assume you probably have (if not on paper, at least in your head) do you ever reach the end of the list? I never seem to, but may be reaching the end of things to do will signal boredom.”

Liz, I can’t imagine having an empty to-do list. I really can’t. I actually love having projects. It is frustrating for me now, a little bit older, and not able to accomplish as much as I once did in a day, but still, I keep plugging away. Owning a house . . . running a business on the side . . . those things, by their very nature, demand a to-do list, you know?

And yes, I would be bored without it. I can’t even sleep in past six-thirty on weekends. I find myself lying in bed thinking about the things I could be accomplishing, and up I pop!

But I do stop and re-charge the batteries. Evenings are for relaxation, so I shut off my personal motor by five each night and simply enjoy my life at rest.

The Chicken or the Egg?

From William: “I suppose there's no way of knowing for sure, but do you think most consider writing for money, or just for the love of writing? Do you think money drives good writing or does good writing drive money? I realize this is probably just an opinion question, but I'm curious as to how most writers think.”

What an interesting question, William, and you better believe I have an opinion on this one.

I think, most definitely, money drives writing. I think many people get into writing to make money. However, you asked about good writing, and I do not believe money drives GOOD writing. I think talent and a love of writing drive good writing.

Sadly, I don’t think good writing drives money. There are very few financial success stories in writing about unknown authors. There are hundreds-of-thousands of good writers around the globe who do not make good money writing. To that point, I would say good writing PLUS good marketing drive money. Good marketing can make a mediocre writer rich, and it wouldn’t take me long to give you examples of that in the literary world.

Make sense?

Learning New Tricks

From MizB: “I do have a question you can probably answer though. If a person (namely me) has 10 years experience commercial copywriting in the days before computers and content writing, would a course in today's techniques be beneficial. I'm not sure I want to write copy again at all, but in case I do.... I'll wait for your answer next week.”

MizB, I should have asked you for clarification earlier in the week. Are you asking about online computer techniques, because that’s how I read this . . . or techniques in content writing for freelancers?

I know very little about computers but manage to make some decent money as a freelancer. Mind you, I would probably do better if I had more knowledge about social media platforms, so a short course in that would be helpful for me. As for freelancing, there are actually some very good YouTube videos about freelancing which I have found to be helpful. I’ll include a couple of those in this Mailbag.

I would suggest you start following an HP writer by the name of Heidi Thorne. She knows this business inside and out, and her articles about writing are invaluable.

I’m sorry if I missed your main point. If I did, please re-phrase it and I’ll try it again.

Point of View

From Linda: “Before sitting down to write that “great American novel” the author needs to decide what the POV (point of view) will be—1st or 3rd person. Both have been successfully used by the masters. Keyes’ “Flowers for Algernon” would not have had such a dramatic impact if he had not used first person. And Harper Lee used first-person in our favorite novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” But third person gives one the advantage of unlimited omniscience. Which POV do you prefer to use, and do you have any recommendations, especially for new authors?”

Thanks, Linda! I can easily answer the first part of your question. I almost exclusively use first person for writing my stories and novels. I just prefer it for a variety of reasons. It allows me to delve into the psyche of the main character in more depth; that’s probably my main motivation in using first person.

No, I have no recommendation on 1st or 3rd other than to use the one which feels most comfortable to you. Either one can be used for powerful results, but unless you are comfortable with the point of view you choose, the results will be mediocre at best.

And thanks for the Christmas present! lol

Keep Moving!
Keep Moving!

And We Keep Moving Forward

We are about to say goodbye to January, 2019. Time is, indeed, moving forward, as are we all.

For those curious about such things, my latest novel, The Magician’s Shadow, is of course taking longer than I thought it would. I am one or two weeks away from finishing the first draft. Editing will take another month after that. All that to say it will be published, probably, in March. Sorry for the delay but, well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.

How about we close with some Dan Fogelberg lyrics about moving forward . . . from his song “Spirit Trail.”

The light is long the sun is low
I'm riding fast across this dusty road
But I don't want to be, no I don't want to be

Above the ridge an eagle flies
In lazy circles in the western skies
I want to fly with him I want to walk the spirit trail

I've seen them come I've seen them go
Off to the oilfields and rodeos
To find a better way, they leave their native soil
But I can hear a different song
The drum within my heart is beating strong
I want to follow it, I've got to walk the spirit trail
Let every creature I see be a brother and a friend to me
Let every step that I take leave the footprints of a warrior
Along the spirit trail

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Jo, you and me both. I can imagine aimlessness at all. It doesn't register in my brain.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, thanks for finding this one and commenting. Your to do list sounds like mine, as well as the bucket list. I need another lifetime, my friend. lol

      Happy Monday to you!

      bill

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 

      4 months ago from Tennessee

      Regarding to-do lists: A really good day for me is one where I wake up early eager to get up and begin my day's projects. I can't imagine just wandering through each day without goals. I may have too many to-do lists sometimes, though.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      4 months ago from SW England

      How did I miss this one? Sorry bill.

      Time flies, doesn't it? I thought 2018 whizzed by and now a month of 2019 has all but disappeared in the wink of an eye! I have a to-do list and it never runs out either. Always something new. I also have a bucket list which is getting shorter but then I realise I've left something off and it becomes longer again!

      If we don't plan, look forward to something or have goals, then we are the worse off for it, I believe.

      It's sunny here, but freezing - much better than warm and grey and wet!

      Here's to lists and more lists; they keep us alive.

      Cheers, bill!

      Ann

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much, LI-Jen!

    • Li-Jen Hew profile image

      Li-Jen Hew 

      4 months ago

      Hey Bill. I enjoyed your article. Nice to see discussions and sharing of opinions. All the best in accomplishing your to do list and in getting your Magician's Shadow ready!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate that, Rajan! Thanks so much!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

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

      To do lists never have an ending and to move forward is the way of life. There is so much to learn from your mailbags. Thank you, my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That is such a lovely thing for you to say,Flourish! Thank you so much.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Peggy, the more I think about it, I hope all of our to do lists are endless...that means we keep active and keep adding to them. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for your insights, Mary! It is true, Marketing is a black hole for many writers.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      4 months ago from USA

      Bill, I’m sure your dad would be very proud of you and your writing. You are a lovely human being and his kindness and wisdom helped mold you into who you are.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      You adoptive dad was a wise man and you obviously learned much from him. As to "to do lists" it is motivating to have one. Some things get crossed off as others are added. I am sure with all that you do, yours is endless.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      4 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      Bill, there are so many talented writers who are not earning because they know little about marketing. I hope that they find ways to reach many people. Not many writers enjoy marketing especially their own work. Too bad. Well, looking forward to your new novel and just keep moving forward.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Devika! It's always nice having you stop by.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Alyssa, you strike me as someone always on the go...keeps you out of trouble, right? :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for checking in, Bill, and for sharing your experience on HP.I hope the snow and cold didn't cause you any problems.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Shannon...glad you enjoyed them.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Advise for all writers. I write for pleasure if I EARN it is a bonus,

    • Alyssa Nichol profile image

      Alyssa 

      4 months ago from Ohio

      Wonderful mailbag and amazing advice! I'm the same way with the to-do list.. I can't imagine an empty one. Have a great week!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      4 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. Another excellent week for the mailbag. 240 weeks and counting, mighty impressive. Regarding the to-do list, for me it never ends. When I first started on HP I thought it would be a good way to make some extra income so I guess I did get into it for the money, which was minimal back then. Today, I continue to write travel articles because I love doing it, not for the money.

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      4 months ago from Texas

      Okay, okay, I'm awake! LOL...I just read your answers and you had me laughing for sure. Can't wait to share them.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Mike, it's been twelve years since I experienced five degrees. I don't miss it at all.

      Onward we go! thanks buddy!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for the clarifications, Heidi, and for always being willing to share you expertise. I found it fascinating that more writers are writing for the love of it and not for money. I like that trend and hopefully, as you said, it will drive out the questionable writers.

      Stay warm my friend, or just move to Olympia where winter never happened this year.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Linda! Fogelberg was a genius when it came to lyrics. I'm still in awe forty years after first hearing him.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Linda, too funny about straddling that fence. I hope there was no barbed wire!

      As for POV....do what is most comfortable for you...that's the end of my advice on that matter.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      MizB, I was afraid I had I had missed the mark on that question. Sorry about that; I'm going to take a mulligan and try again next week.

      Staying warm is no problem this winter; in fact, I hesitate to even call this winter in Olympia.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I like that suggestion, Liz...sound advice, and we all need some positive affirmation from time to time.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Never alone, Eric!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for the visit, Kristen. It's good to have you back again.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Pamela! I like to think my dad was one of the best. I was lucky for sure!

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      4 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      A great mailbag. All questions are unique and wise ones. You answered them very nicely with many useful tips.

      I am writing my novel in the third person as it seems suitable for me even though I used the first person at some points to put me also in it as a side character. Actually, I started it in the English language and completed a draft sketch of 15,000 words. Then, I left it as it is and started writing it in Hindi as a fresh book to be published in the Hindi language first and then go for the English version. It will take some months for completion.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Wake up, Shannon!!!!!!!!

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 

      4 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Bill - I was busy moving forward on Monday, so could not make the publication date. The comet (not a typo) stream is entertaining today. Imagine a temperature of 5. Your readers are such kidders.

      I had to refresh my memory regarding first person and third person. Third person seems to be my choice.

      As always, a lot going on over at the mailbag.

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      4 months ago from Texas

      Oh! I just figured out what questions you meant. My brain is not working yet this morning. Should've gone to bed early last night like I intended to do. LOL. I was over here trying to remember if I asked a mailbag question I'd forgotten about.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Melissa! I hope you aren't buried under too much snow. Have a great week!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks so much, Tim! Peace be with you always.

      bill

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Shannon! Fogelberg is my favorite lyricist for sure. I'm working on your questions. Be patient with me.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      4 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for continuing the Mailbag series, Bill. 240 editions is very impressive. I love the song lyrics that you've included this week.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      4 months ago from Chicago Area

      Wow, it's still Monday and I'm in the Mailbag. Starting the week right.

      Re: Chicken vs. Egg. Bill, as you probably noted in my report from the Self Publishing Survey, the biggest motivation for self publishing in 2018 was love of writing. This is different than in 2016 when the biggest motivator was making money.

      There are two possibilities for this shift. One, I had more business writers in 2016. Two, there's been a shift in attitudes for writers lately. Writers have come to realize there's little money in writing, except for a few notable outliers. So if you don't love it, why do it?

      My hope is that the low income possibilities for self publishing will drive out the less serious writers so that the good ones get the recognition and the revenues they deserve.

      Re: Learning New Tricks. First, Bill, thanks for the shout out!

      MizB, I think my question is the same as Bill's. Do you need insight on the tech techniques? Or the market side of the equation?

      If you're talking about copywriting techniques (I used to do copywriting years ago, too), I would also want to know what you hope to accomplish. What do you see as an ideal situation where you can apply your skills?

      Then I'll do my best to offer insights once I have a better idea of what you need. Feel free to send me a message.

      Well, moving forward... at least as fast as we can in a deep freeze here in Chicago. Tomorrow's high in mid-30s is going to be downright balmy. Then back down to a high of 5 on Friday. Happy Monday!

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      4 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, thank you for answering my question on point of view. I'm still on the fence (and boy, that smarts!) as to which would be the better choice for my current project.

      I'm famous for making lists and then misplacing the list, but if nothing else it helps me to practice my penmanship.

      Your dad was a wise man and you are living proof that nurture trumps nature. Have a wonderful week my friend.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      4 months ago from Beautiful South

      Bill, thanks for attempting to answer my question. I’m wondering if new technologies, products and media call for a different approach. To a certain extent, copy is copy, but I doubt that the copy I wrote forty years ago for Yellow Cab would fly in today Uber market. Several times I was called on the carpet for getting too “out there” or “just a little too creative” with my copy, which would seem very bland in today’s market. (In my defense, in two of those instances, the advertisers liked the ads so well that they each ordered an extra run.) Anyway, I’m specifically talking about the writing techniques. I figure it would be kind of like getting back on a bicycle, but it would be going from a balloon tire to a sleek multi-speed racer.

      Stay warm, my friend. I'm freezing my tail feathers off here.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      4 months ago from UK

      Another very relevant and interesting compilation of sound advice, all couched in a very positive and encouraging tone. Just the right advice to keep us all moving forward. Maybe we should keep a record of the 'done list' so we can acknowledge the tasks that we have achieved.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      Bill you made my day knowing I am not alone.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      4 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Bill, sorry I've been absent to the mailbags lately this month. I'm glad I can stop by here to visit your mailbag too. For Linda's question on POV, I mainly written in 3rd POV and sometimes (like 5%) write in 1st POV. Great mailbag as always.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      4 months ago from Sunny Florida

      Hi Bill, It sounds like you were adopted by a good father and I share that view about keeping on. I enjoyed your aticle and good advice as always. I hope you have a good, productive week.

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 

      4 months ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! Wow, almost through January already...thank you for the update on the Shadow's book. I look forward to reading it when it is finished! In regards to 1st and 3rd POV, I enjoy reading both--and often find that I have trouble sticking to writing in just one...something I definitely need to work on.

      Hope you have a happy and productive week!

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      4 months ago from U.S.A.

      Hi, Bill,

      Wonderful article. Your dad was wise and you provide sound advice for writers here.

      Keep on moving, Bill!

      Much respect and admiration to a helpful and kind author,

      Tim

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      4 months ago from Texas

      I guess we all know who your favorite music artist is by now. LOL.

      I like your answer to the POV question. I'm not very good at writing in first person point of view, though I'd like to practice it more. You're right that it can be very powerful, though now that I think about it, it can also weaken the plot. I think it did in the book I just finished reading. It was a mystery/thriller. So between the POV and the instant romance that distracted from what little action there was and the overall plot. . .Well, you get the idea.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Eric, I was walking backwards yesterday, trying to figure out where a gunshot came from. lol As for computer formatting, good luck! It still confuses the hell out of me.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Nithya! It's always a pleasure having you stop by.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That's a problem for us all, Pop! :) Thanks my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, you and Bev both make lists each morning. Me, I'm kind of a seat-of-the-pants kind of guy.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very welcome, Shaloo. Thank you for spending part of your day with me.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Chitrangada Sharan, and I hope your Monday is everything you want it to be.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks John! That's what I wanted the Mailbag to be, a reliable safe spot for writers.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Verlie. I've found, working for myself, that there are no holidays. Good thing I enjoy my work.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It is my pleasure, William. Thanks for stopping by on this holiday.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      Bill your "Keep moving forward" had me get up and go out back and walk backwards for about 100 yards. It is like a super core exercise and fun to boot! So reckon I often walk backwards to forwards.

      I think I should get better at the computer formatting stuff. My lack of ability with it often stifles my creativity -- not good and probably lazy on my part.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for finding the time for a visit, Janine! Enjoy that day off and stay warm.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      4 months ago from Dubai

      Another useful and inspiring mailbag installment. Moving forward is the way to keep on going come what may. Thank you for sharing.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 

      4 months ago

      I like the advice. All I have to do is figure out the direction.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      4 months ago from Brazil

      Your dad was a wise man. I think I need a pair of blinkers to wear and his advice. Progress is slow at the moment but at least I'm not going in reverse.

      Regarding to do lists, I try and make one each morning.

      Great questions again this week and thoughtful answers. Have a great week.

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 

      4 months ago from India

      Keep moving forward...loved it!!! I am just back from a vacation and this inspires me to move forward and get back in the work mode. I love the pearls of wisdom from your dad... thanks for sharing!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      4 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Happy Monday Bill!

      Useful questions and answers and an inspiring mailbag. ‘Keep moving forward’, thanks for the motivation.

      Have a wonderful week! Thanks for sharing!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 months ago from Queensland Australia

      It appears nothing can stop the mailbag being published. It is becoming one of the constants we can all rely on here at HP. "Keep moving forward" Bill.

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 

      4 months ago from Canada

      Morning Bill, Keep moving forward, (or at least keep moving!) resonates with me this Monday morning. It's not a holiday here in Canada, so it's business as usual, I'm off to the rodeo with the wise words of your Dad, and the inspiration of Dan Fogelberg nudging me along. Thanks for that!

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      4 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Wow! I'm not sure what happened, but I picked up my mail here early on this Monday morning. Thanks for taking my question, and yes, it does make sense. I've been looking at some writing courses lately, but honestly, they don't have anything over the mailbag. There's a lot to learn here. Thank you, Mr. Holland, for teaching us.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      4 months ago from New York, New York

      Bill, it is a day off here for my girls and husband, too. So, on a bit of a relaxed Monday schedule because of that. But still moving forward with the week ahead of myself. That said, I had to just stop in to read your weekly mailbag and wish you a great week ahead! Happy Monday now :)

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    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
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    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
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