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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 270

Updated on August 19, 2019

Know It All

For those of you new to “The Mailbag,” let me summarize how this works: writers from HP ask me questions about writing, and I do my best to answer them. Questions can be placed in the comment section below, or they can be emailed to me at

Oftentimes I do not know the answer to the question, at which time I will admit that I am not a “know it all,” and then other readers will share their knowledge with all of us.

It’s a nice place to hang if you are a writer. Good people inhabit this place. There is no authoritarian figure, no magistrate, no dictator, and no pompous ass. Just good people trying to help good people.

What say you? Would you like to join us?

This week’s questions . . .

The Mail Room
The Mail Room

Staying Upbeat

From Eric: “You write about pain in your characters but when a single quail dies you must feel it. How do you stay so upbeat? You are a fine wind beneath my wings but how about the wind you need? Not so easy.”

What can I tell you, Eric? I’m a complicated man! LOL

My attitude about life changed back in 2006. I was in a drunken stupor in Anchorage, Alaska, and I wanted to die while at the same time wanting to live. Every ounce of pain in me was being experienced at that moment. Long story short, some friends flew up to Alaska and got me. They put me in a rehab center. They took me by the hand and led me back into the Land of the Living. And since that day, I have tried to remember one very important lesson: don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff. I stay upbeat, Eric, because I changed my outlook and perspective.

The wind I need is love. I finally accepted love, and as long as I have my share of love, I’m a happy camper. I can’t change the world, but I sure as hell can change my world, if that makes any sense, which I’m sure it does. As long as Bev loves me, and former students love me, and writers like you on HP love me, I’ve got it made.

Life According to Bill Holland!

For better or for worse, this is me!
For better or for worse, this is me!

Hiding Behind Our Writing

From Liz: “Interesting comments on guerilla marketing and self-promotion. Do you think that it's possible that writers hide behind their writing as a form of self-expression and therefore self-promotion goes against the grain?”

I can’t speak for other writers but for me, what you said is definitely true to a degree. I don’t think I hide so much as I prefer communication with one degree of separation. If I was completely hiding I wouldn’t share so many personal truths about me in my writing. It’s just that I’m not comfortable in face-to-face communication. Never have been. The internet was invented for people like me.

Self-promotion goes against my grain because I do not like to draw attention to me. Again, that’s been true since my very early years. I like staying in the background. While some people crave fame and fortune, I crave peace, quiet, and anonymity. Fame would destroy me, and the reason I say that can be found in my reply to Eric’s question.

Self-promotion definitely goes against my grain. I write books and articles for others to enjoy, but I will hardly lift a finger to promote those articles and books.

It’s not easy being me! LOL


From Paul: “How’s the memoir coming along? Do you find it difficult to write about yourself?”

Paul, it is the hardest thing I have ever done in writing, but it is also one of the most rewarding things I have done. I don’t know how it will all turn out, but it is a valuable undertaking for me.

I don’t know how one writes a memoir or autobiography. I’m just doing it my way. It is a book of randomness. It is not done in chronological order. I think of something which happened, reflect upon it, and that reminds me of something else which happened twenty years later, and on and on we go.

The beginning and end are easy to write. It’s that middle part that is proving difficult. J But I’m slogging my way through, thank you very much, and when I finish I will look at it and be semi-satisfied with it, as I am with all of my books.

Where it all began for Bill Holland
Where it all began for Bill Holland

First Novel

From Megan: “I’m currently writing my first novel. I’ve always written short stories before, and the length of a novel is proving difficult. How do you keep the action flowing for three-hundred pages? It seems like an impossible task to me.”

Not impossible, Megan, but also not that easy to do.

The action in a novel is driven forward by fuel injection, and the fuel used is some event which can be a driving force for a number of chapters. In a 300 page book, you might have four or five such events spread out evenly throughout the book.

A death . . . a catastrophe . . . a sudden windfall of riches . . . a chance occurrence which will have importance as it plays out . . . these things drive a novel along to its conclusion. What they are in your novel only you can determine, but you definitely need them.

So, What Did You Think

Short one today!

Is this a nice place to hang or what? I think I have the coolest friends in the entire writing community of the world . . . that’s all of you . . . and I thank you for your friendship. Truly, you mean the world to me. You all help me to stay sober daily. You all continue to convince me, daily, that there is good in this world. You all teach me about love, and those are priceless gifts.

So thank you!

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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