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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 249

Updated on March 25, 2019

Feast or Famine

Last week we had two questions. This week I’m exhausted from answering them all.

Not really! I’m loving the outpouring of questions, so thanks to all who tossed one my way.

For all who have asked, I have finished my latest novel, “The Magician’s Shadow.” Unless something new comes to me, some urgent addition, I will upload the book this coming Thursday, and it will be officially published by month’s end. It’s been a long road for this one, but I think it was worth it. I consider it to be the best of the Shadow series. Hopefully you will agree.

And now let’s get to this boatload of questions.

Welcome to the Mail Room
Welcome to the Mail Room

Is It Real or Is It Memorex?

From Dream On: “When you read someone's book how do you know if they really wrote it or if they had a ghost writer write for them? Some people say they can tell by the writers previous work from their style and the language they use.”

Dream On, I wouldn’t know unless I had read a great deal of their work. I can easily give you an example using two pretty famous writers. I was once a big fan of James Patterson and Robert Parker. I read everything they published over the years, and because I was so familiar with their work I was able to notice when their styles had changed. It turns out they started using ghostwriters to write their novels. Patterson is still doing it today. Check out a novel by him…it will say James Patterson with so and so as the authors.

If I’m not familiar with someone’s writing, I don’t see any way I would know if they had written it or not. Sheez, now you’ve got me wondering: am I the author of my works, or do I have a ghostwriter? LOL

Which Way Do You Slant?

From Eric: “Bill you talk a lot about the weather. In fact you tell stories about it. I think that is because you are a farmer. Do you think most writers actually lean toward a slant that comes from there vocation. I am thinking of Hemingway and Clancy and even the dark Poe. And should they?”

Eric, I think most writers, if not all, rely heavily on what they know . . . on their experiences. I think we are all influenced by our body of work as human beings. How could we not be? With me it is intentional. I use everything from my past I can remember, not necessarily because I think I lived a fascinating life, but because I’m too lazy to do research on something new.

I will also admit to my writings being heavily influenced by my political and social leanings. I’m a Liberal and most of my main characters represent my lean to the Left. I make no excuses for it, and I don’t plan on changing. Read it, don’t read it, it makes little difference to me, and it doesn’t lessen my love for writing one iota. I write because I love to write. I don’t keep score.

So yep, I’m slanted for sure!

There is quite a bit of my "slant" in every one of my novels
There is quite a bit of my "slant" in every one of my novels

Interesting Observation

From Mel: “I have noticed, through my own literary endeavors, that the audience who reads my mailman articles in droves is really not much interested either in my book reviews or the chapters of my novel I publish on my blog. I have a niche audience, and they cannot be coaxed out of their niche. It is frustrating, but I am hoping that one day a tiny stray spark will start a brush fire. That's a good analogy for California, I suppose, which is not quite as damp as your lovely Pacific Northwest. Great mailbag!”

Mel, I’ve basically seen the same thing. I don’t know what causes the phenomenon. Perhaps just a shortage of time. I know it is hard for me to read HP articles and follow too many blogs. I have had to scale way back on the amount of “following” I do.

I have some incredibly loyal followers who read my articles, read my blogs, and read my novels, and I greatly appreciate it, but I get it if people don’t have the time or inclination to do all of those things. It’s just too hard sometimes.

Social Media Marketing

From Linda: “Bill, this Mailbag was short, but full of good stuff. I agree with you on the marketing, but what if you are a social media (or computer) dunce?”

Then, Linda, you are dead in the water!!!

LOL Kidding, of course, but only partially.

If you are going to promote a book without social media, you better quit your day job and get out there full-time to rub shoulders with the masses. It’s possible, of course. It’s been done before, with good results, but it ain’t easy my friend.

My suggestion: follow Heidi’s blog on marketing…Heidi being a regular follower here…you’ll see her comment in this stream sooner or later today…start following her. She knows her stuff and she can give you some great suggestions on marketing without social media.

Branching out and Storylines

From Alyssa: “So now that I've rambled, I do have a question. (Two actually.) Please forgive me if you've answered it already, but what are your thoughts on sharing different types of writing, the ones that are out of the norm for your account? When you get your ideas for your novels, do you always have an entire story line in mind or do you get inspiration as you continue to write? I apologize for this 10 page essay comment. haha! Have a wonderful week!”

Alyssa, great questions. What are my thoughts about sharing different types of writing on your account? I think you should go with your passion, no matter what that passion is on any given day. It does get a little tricky on blogs which are specifically about one topic, like yours is about fitness and self help, but then I’m reminded of a brilliant writer, Og Mandino, who made a living writing novels which pounded home the self help theme. His “Ragpicker” novel is still one of my all-time favorite novels, and it was really nothing more than a “love yourself” message wrapped up in a creative short story.

So, there are ways to mix and match and make it work.

As for my inspiration when writing novels, I’m kind of a “wing it” kind of guy. I almost always start out by writing a creative first chapter with very little plan behind it. Just a writing exercise . . . I then build a novel around that first chapter. I usually have no clue how it is going to end, and the actual story comes to me while I’m writing. This is, by the way, completely in opposition to the accepted way of writing a novel, so please don’t emulate me. All I can tell you is it works for me. I am able to organize a storyline, in my head, as I go along. It’s really a weird process and I don’t suggest it for anyone else.

Most of these began as writing exercises.
Most of these began as writing exercises.

Waning Desire

From Rodric: “My temperament in writing has shifted from fiction to nonfiction. I have about nine books that are incomplete in the fiction category but all I want to do is write about serious things. I feel a need to get those other books about, but the drive is not there. What are your experiences with changes in writing desire, if any?”

I just went through it, Rodric. It has taken me twice as long to write my current novel, and the main reason for that tortoise-like pace was a lack of desire to really attack it with gusto. I was just tired of writing, quite frankly. For eight years now I have constructed my weekly schedule around writing, and I think I just needed a break to recharge my internal batteries.

About two months ago I started getting the writing bug again. I’ve even started writing articles for HP other than the Mailbag, which I had not done for months. For those who are not aware of my HP past, for the first two years I was here, I wrote an article per day for two solid years. I was a writing machine and I was loving it . . . I think I just finally blew a tire on my hot rod and I needed a break, because I’m feeling refreshed now!

Don’t worry about it, Rodric! Do what you want to do, when you want to do it, and enjoy the heck out of it.

That’s a Wrap

Thanks for the great questions! That was fun! I’ll be sure and let you all know when my latest novel is ready for purchase. Again, the name is “The Magician’s Shadow.” I’m going to price it quite low because I really appreciate your patience in waiting for me to finish it.

Blessings and love always1

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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