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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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