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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 264

Updated on July 8, 2019

Holidays Lose Their Glitter

I’m not a grouch when it comes to holidays. It’s just that being a freelance writer means I have to work on many of the holidays if I have visions of being paid for my work. That’s just the reality of being a freelance writer. You get paid for doing the work. There are deadlines, and those deadlines don’t give a tinker’s damn whether it is the 4th of July or Christmas or Easter.

I have the freedom, of course, to adjust my hours during a holiday week, so I usually only work two or three hours on a day like the 4th of July, but I do work. I try to keep work to a minimum on weekends so I don’t become a very boring person. It also helps in maintaining sanity and some balance in my life.

Those of you who are freelancers will understand this. Those of you who are not probably think I’m strange. Those of you considering a freelance life are probably questioning the wisdom of a freelance career.

Such is life! I like what I’m doing. I like being my own boss, and I don’t mind the solitude of this chosen occupation. It may be good for you; it may not be. It’s definitely not for everyone.

I hope that didn’t sound discouraging. It’s just the real of it.

Let’s see what questions await us.

The Mail Room!
The Mail Room!

A Few Grammar Questions

From Li-Jen: “Dear Bill, I am interested in submitting my questions for the Writer's Mailbag. When do we use 'We' and 'You' when we address the readers? Is 'when we are addressing' and 'when we address' interchangeable? When is the best time to use the active voice and passive voice in our writings?”

Thanks Li-Jen! I hate grammar questions. LOL Sorry to start off that way, but I really do. They remind me of Sister Mary Elizabeth and her yardstick, which always found its way upon my knuckles when my grammar was poor in elementary school.

“We” is a pronoun, and the only job of “we” is that of a subject pronoun, as is “We went to the grocery store for some soup,” or “we are now going to discuss pronouns.” “You” can be either a subject or an object, and it can be used in singular or plural forms. I literally could write a couple pages just discussing “we” and “you” in English grammar, so I’ll stop there.

“When we are addressing” and “when we address” are essentially the same and interchangeable. I’m flinching as I write that. I don’t know if that mean nun is lurking by.

If you were able to speak to Sister Mary Elizabeth, which you can’t because she is dead, she would tell you to avoid the passive voice like it is the plague. My high school English teacher, Mister Jahner, would say the same thing, but he would have called it the Black Death. I, however, do not think it is quite so horrible.

As a general rule, I believe the passive voice is all right if the readers do not need to know who is responsible for an action. If I am writing “Baby Joan was delivered at 1:30 a.m.,” is it really necessary for me to tell the readers who delivered that baby? The proper active phrasing would be “Doctor Adams delivered Baby Joan at 1:30 a.m., but if Doc Adams is not important to the story, in my opinion, the passive voice is just fine to use.

I hope that helps a bit.

The Cloud

From Lori: “Hi again Bill. You answered one of my questions about losing my work and you suggested saving it to the cloud. I keep hearing about the cloud and have no understanding of what it is and how it works, other than it's a way to store things. Can you explain it in Cloud for Dummies fashion? What is it, how does it work, and how do I save things on it. I wish I was more tech savvy.”

Lori, I’m not tech savvy at all, so remember that as I try to explain The Cloud.

The Cloud is a number of online servers used to store information. It is accessed by Cloud software. Put it another way: instead of storing all of your information on your computer, which has limited storage capabilities, the Cloud allows you to store unlimited information. You never have to worry about your computer crashing and you losing data, because the Cloud is separate from your computer. Consider it a huge warehouse, and you just rent a storage locker in that warehouse.

There are countless Cloud applications for you to access and/or pay for. You’ll have to do a little research to determine which one is best for you, but I really do recommend it so you don’t lose another manuscript. It’s very easy to use, as easy as hitting the “save” key, so even tech dinosaurs like you and I can use it.

Welcome to the Cloud, Lori!
Welcome to the Cloud, Lori!

Traditional Publishers

From Shaloo: “I look forward to your mailbags every week. There is so much to learn. I know that you have self-published most of your books. Have you ever tried the traditional form of publishing? If yes, what was your experience?”

I have tried the traditional form of publishing, Shaloo, and my experience was about what I expected. My main efforts went into finding a publisher for “Resurrecting Tobias,” which I considered to be my best chance at mainstream publishing. I sent out countless letters to publishers and agents. I actually received a couple responses asking to see the entire manuscript, which was very encouraging, but then interest died after that.

Let me say this about traditional publishing: good luck! The market has shifted dramatically over the last decade. It was once possible for an unknown author to secure a deal with a major publishing firm. Now it is next to impossible. Budgets are tight at publishing houses. The ebook industry has cut into profits for those publishing firms, so most of them are just concentrating on successful authors who have a successful track record, and I don’t see that changing in my lifetime. I don’t want to sound discouraging, but I do want to be truthful. Breaking in with an established publishing firm is not going to be easy. My advice is to self-publish and then hope your independent book somehow goes viral due to your brilliant marketing campaign.

Best wishes!

I thought Tobias had a chance, but it wasn't meant to be.
I thought Tobias had a chance, but it wasn't meant to be.

It’s Friday and It’s Time to Shut Down for the Week

The clock on the wall says my writing week is just about over, so I’ll stop this Mailbag and go feed some chickens. I hope you all have a brilliant weekend. Rest up and do something nice for yourself. You deserve to be pampered with some self-love.

I will leave you with the words of Maya Angelou:

“The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else's cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God - if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That's what I think.”

Ain’t she something? If you want to read more about love, try out Leo Buscaglia. That man knew about love!

And if you want to follow my “writing” blog, go to You will be welcomed with open and loving arms.

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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