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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 279

Updated on October 21, 2019

The Big Dark

I read that phrase recently in a story in the Seattle Times newspaper. It was a phrase coined to describe this time of year in the Pacific Northwest when the days shorten, the clouds weigh down on us, and the light seems to always be set on dim . . . The Big Dark! From October through March, our little corner of the world can be a bit oppressive. The current forecast calls for seven straight days of rain. Storm systems are lined up out in the Pacific Ocean, like cars in the McDonald’s drive-through, one after another after another, riding the jet stream directly at us.

It affects people, you know, the constant gloom. They even have a medical name for it . . . Seasonal Affective Disorder. I have friends who will slip into some serious melancholy for about four months.

Me? I’m not a big fan of it, but being a writer I find it is fortuitous, having a built-in excuse to just write more. When the weather is sucky, like today, my only two jobs are to walk the dogs and write, and I can easily live with that load.

How about you? Do you find you write better during stormy weather? Or are you a sunshine and warmth kind of writer?

I’ll let you ponder that while I tackle a few questions.

The Mail Room
The Mail Room

Broken or Disappearing Links

From Rodric: “The question is: What can I do about videos I use from Youtube and references I link that disappear or should I worry about it at all?”

Rodric, I appreciate the question, but I’m probably the wrong person to ask about that problem. I post an article on HP and then I forget about it. I mean I never revisit it again. I have no idea if the HP staff is messing with my links and videos, so I sure don’t know how to fix that problem. I wouldn’t even worry about it but then, that’s me. I know a lot of HP writers who pay real close attention to that stuff.

My opinion, for what it is worth: the HP staff knows a lot more than I do about Google and SEO. If they think changing your videos or links will help your article with SEO, then I’m fine with it. I’m just a writer. I have a working knowledge of SEO, but they have metrics and statistics and advanced knowledge I will never be privy to.

Is It Worth It?

From Sarah: “I’m a freelancer, part-time right now, hoping to go full-time in the next year or so. I have a customer who is never happy. My most recent assignment for him was a 500 word article about business ethics, and I’m on re-write number four. I’m getting paid $50 for this article and I’m beginning to question my sanity for taking the job. My question is this: is it worth it? Should I just cut my losses and run, or stick it out until I finally make the customer happy?”

Well, Sarah, first of all, that sucks!

Secondly, been there and done that.

Thirdly, I ain’t going back again!

You asked if it was worth it. I’m guessing you have at least three hours of work invested in that article and four re-writes. Maybe four hours . . . anyway, do the math! Fifty divided by three is just short of $17 per hour. Fifty divided by four is a little more than $12 per hour. To me and my way of thinking, it isn’t worth it. In that same amount of time I can do five or six articles at $25 each for over $150.

Granted, you may need the money, in which case you might as well fulfill your commitment and at least pocket some money, but in the future, pick and choose your customers wisely. You might consider including a “re-write clause” in your contact which says you are only obligated to do one re-write upon the customer’s request. That way you avoid things dragging out ad infinitum.

Some pay for writing is not worth it
Some pay for writing is not worth it

What Is It About?

From Pree: “I write poetry, and sometimes my poetry can be a bit abstract. I’ve had people tell me they like it, but there are times they don’t understand it. Do you think I should include a paragraph after each of my poems which explains each poem?”

Oh boy, someone asked me a poetry question. LOL I don’t think that has ever happened before. By the way, I love your name, Pree. I would love to know the origin of that name.

Okay, on to your question. This is just me, mind you, but I love abstract poetry for the very reason that it often means different things to different people. I love the fact that my interpretation of a poem is neither right nor wrong. An accompanying explanation of the poem would ruin it for me. What if I was wrong in my interpretation? I’d feel like an idiot, much the way I felt in English class in high school when the teacher explained “Fern Hill” by Dylan Thomas, and his explanation was light years away from my interpretation.

I’m the same way with abstract paintings. I don’t have to be correct in my interpretations. I just need to feel it to enjoy it.

Have you ever read Tom Robbins? Same thing . . . I have no clue what he is writing about, but I love the journey.

Grammatical Rules in Dialogue?

From Jesse: “What do you say? Should we be concerned with grammatical rules when writing dialogue?”

I say NO!

Short and sweet!

What you should be concerned with is consistency. Dialogue is one way we can identify with characters, so make sure you are consistent in speech patterns of characters in your book or story. A lot of people in real life do not speak using proper grammar, but they do consistently speak the same way day in and day out.

Quotation Marks

From Brie: “I’m confused. When a character speaks in a novel, and that speech carries on beyond one paragraph, where do you put the quotation marks? Beginning and end of each paragraph? Or beginning of each paragraph and the end of the last paragraph?

We just had questions from Pree and Brie. How cool is that?

I know, I’m weird!

The last option is the correct option on quotation marks. I’m not sure if this rule has changed over the years, but I do know that it is currently considered correct if you put quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph and only at the end of the last one.

If Sister Mary Catherine was still alive I’d shoot her an email and ask her, but she’s been pushing up Daisies for about thirty years now.

The Big Dark
The Big Dark

The Big Dark

Sounds ominous, doesn’t it, like THE BIG SLEEP? And it is ominous for those of us who live here. I’m reminded of the Walker Brothers song “The Sun Ain’t Going To Shine Anymore” from 1965. It’s just our reality here in Olympia, the price we pay for gorgeous green scenery and the bluest skies you’ve ever seen during the summer.

And that is my wish for you, this week and beyond…the bluest skies your life has ever seen. Enjoy your day, your week, and your life, and remember to do all things with love.

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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