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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 288

Updated on December 23, 2019

Not a Word From HP

For those of you who were wondering, my recent suggestion on the forum that HP should hire me as a Community Goodwill Manager was completely ignored by the HP management team. I wish I could say I’m surprised, but I’m not.

You can lead a horse to water, but if they decide to poop in that water, there’s not much you can do about it, you know? LOL

Thanks to all of you who supported my idea. I really do care about HP. I love this community. You are all my extended family, and I want this writing gig to be an enjoyable one for all of you. Evidently HP does not share my thoughts. If that’s a harsh assessment, so be it.

Let’s get to the mail on this 23rd Day of December, 2019.

The Mail Room
The Mail Room

Subheadings and Hp Micro-Managing

From Linda: “Bill, I don't know if this is a question for the mailbag or just a rant that I need to get off of my chest. How important are subheadings on HP articles? The fine folks at Delishably (the food niche site on Hub Pages) have decided to do a complete housecleaning, updating every hub so that they are standardized. I can understand the need to use the same format throughout, and I don't have a problem with moving commas or updating a double hyphen to an em-dash. But you know my style. I don't just toss a recipe out there. I tell a story and messing with the headings on each segment changes the presentation. I'm not happy. I know I can probably go in and change them back, but I don't want to irritate an uppity editor. Without us (the writers) there would be no Hub Pages, but they wield the power.”

Linda, you just opened up a rather large can of worms. The quick answer to your question is this: you are correct on both counts! Now for the long, unpleasant answer.

For informational articles like the ones you write, subheadings are very important. They provide a break in the text and they provide sign posts for readers as they move through your articles. From your standpoint, flow is important, and you are absolutely justified when complaining that HP ruins the flow when they mess with your subheadings.

Now let’s look at it from HP’s point of view. HP is all about Google and SEO (search engine optimization). Subheadings are very important to the Google gods, but they must be subheadings which attract views based on keywords. Without the proper keywords, viewership will fall. That is why HP will alter your subheadings. Their market analysis tells them that changing your subheadings will attract more views, and so they change them to include keywords. It’s really that simple, and what they do has value with regards to views and SEO.

You aren’t going to win this battle. As long as you choose to write for HP, they will choose to change parts of your articles to increase views. Sorry, but that’s just the way this SEO game is played, and you being right doesn’t matter much.

Do you see Striker in the crowd?
Do you see Striker in the crowd?

Watching Characters Act out Our Scenes

From Zulma: “Bradley Cooper, good choice. What about Striker? In my head, he always shows up as Lee Marvin or James Coburn. Since neither are available, who would you choose? It should be someone who comes across as stone-cold yet caring.

“That reminds me. I've been meaning to ask if when you’re writing, do you see your characters acting out the scenes as you write or do you wait until your editing to see how it plays out?”

The first part of Zulma’s question has to do with my “Shadow” novels. We were playing a “what if” game, trying to decide which actor would be best to play my Striker character, a stone-cold killer. The jury is still out on that one. I’m having a hard time coming up with a current actor who has that menacing depth.

As for your second question, Zulma, I do see my characters in the scenes as I write them. I put them in a situation and then ask myself “what would Striker do . . . and then I get out of the way and let Striker do his thing. It’s like watching my own private movie screening. My job is to accurately report what my characters are doing.

Does that make sense to anyone besides me? LOL

Actually, Zulma and I have had other discussions about this Striker and Eli and LIz are so real to me, and not just any actors will do. Talk about a lively imagination! I can see Striker, standing in the corner, cleaning his Desert Eagle, checking escape routes, and categorizing all of you as “friend” or “foe.”

Be afraid! Be very afraid!

Mailbag Consistency

From Ann: “The mailbag goes on and is always up-to-date, informative and helpful. How do you manage to keep coming up with such great answers? I bow to your perseverance, loyalty and commitment, standards that are hard to maintain - but you do it in spades, bill.”

Ann, thank you! I think the Mailbag has been successful for a number of reasons. I think it’s like a safe clubhouse where members can come to share, to help each other, and to do it in a supportive manner. Unlike many of the HP forums, this is a safe place. We do not attack here; we simply help. That is what I set out to do with the Mailbag, to simply provide a place where we could all learn and help each other.

As for my “great answers,” that’s just me “shooting from the hip” and hoping I hit the target. I always want people to know that what I say is just my opinion based on my experience. I do not try to portray myself as an expert. I’m just a writer, like all of you, sharing what I know. If I’m wrong I know one of you will correct me and lay out the facts for us all.

Commitment? I’m just giving back to the HP community. If all of you hadn’t embraced me over the years, I would have packed up my laptop and disappeared long ago. I have all of you to thank for whatever I have accomplished these past eight years.


From Pete:”I know you’re just finishing up your memoir, and I, for one, am looking forward to the publication. What would you say is the hardest part of writing a memoir?”

Thanks for your kind words, Pete. Don’t look forward to the memoir too much. I’m really just a boring guy living a boring life in boring Olympia, Washington. LOL

To answer your question, to me the hardest part is to be truthful and allow all of you to see all of my warts. A memoir, if done truthfully, does not allow for a hiding place for the author. When you read my memoir, you may end up not liking me as a person, and I have to be willing to take that risk . . . it is that vulnerability which frightens me the most.

Crossing my fingers . . .

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas
From our family to yours, Merry Christmas

Happy Holidays

I sure as hell want to be politically correct. It’s always a concern of mine. NOT! I wish you all a happy holiday season. Merry Christmas to those of you who do the Christmas thing, and Happy Life to those who don’t. For all of you, I send you blessings and love, and if that’s not politically correct then nothing is.

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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