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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 291

Updated on January 13, 2020

A Gentle Reminder

I was reading a book the other day about creating podcasts. It continues to be an item on my “to do” list and yes, I’m getting closer to making it a reality.

Now I mention that because, in that book, one of the chapters dealt with a very important reminder for all who make podcasts: first, and foremost, always remember that you are storytellers!

And that is true for all writers as well. We are storytellers. We come from a rich tradition of storytellers. Our ancestors sat around campfires and told stories to one another. Our ancient relatives told bedtime stories to children and grandchildren. Storytelling is one of the oldest means of communication, time-honored and vitally important as a means of making sure our history does not die.

Remember that the next time you slap together an article for HP, or the next time you struggle with a chapter in your novel.

What you do is important!

Let’s see what Mailbag questions we have this week.

The Mail Room
The Mail Room

Free Books?

From Mary: “I have a question you or one of your readers may be able to answer. I have seen ads (mainly on Facebook), for 'free books' cooking, gardening etc. These are not a digital copy, but a hard copy. The company refuses to send a digital copy or a PDF. The cost of postage was high and that was to the USA. I have a feeling it is not a way of shifting books for reviews, but skimming money from the postage. Any idea what their line of thinking may be? Plus they are paying for Facebook ads. I didn't fall off the cabbage truck yesterday and this just smacks of dishonesty, in my opinion.”

Mary, I’ve been checking out Facebook ever since you sent this question and I still haven’t seen such an offer. Not that I’m doubting you because I’m not. It’s just curious that you receive the ads but I don’t.

Whatever the case may be, this smells of a scam to me. I can’t find any information about it and no negative comments about the practice, but that does not keep me from thinking this is a scam and should be avoided. What’s amazing to me is the fact that Facebook can’t do a better job of policing their own site. They have the best and the brightest working for Facebook, so what’s the problem?

My personal rule to live by regarding Facebook: never send money for any offer found on that site.


From Sha: “Now for the question I promised in a comment to a previous post and I'll preface it by saying I'd like to get back in the writing groove in 2020. I've been MIA since I went back to work five years ago. Holy Mackerel! Five years ago???

“Back in 2013, you frequently posted contests or challenges based on picture prompts. My muse found those very motivating. She apparently loves a visual that jump starts her creative juices. I know other writers enjoyed your picture prompt challenges as well. They really helped your fellow writers spread their wings and fly.

“So, my question is this: will you consider bringing back your picture prompt challenges? They don't even have to be contests, just something to help your fellow writers exercise their creativity. I know you're really busy with your new writing endeavors, downsizing, etc. So, how about one or two challenges per month?

“What say you, my friend?”

What say I, Sha? I say you are a pain in my patootie! LOL

Fine! What am I going to say to such a lovely request? I’ll do it for you. I can’t commit to a certain frequency, but I will have one for you in a week or so.

As always, thank you for your friendship and belief in me.

Writing prompts coming soon!
Writing prompts coming soon!


From Faith: “Do you have any pointers on writing a screenplay?”

Holy cow, Faith, I don’t even know where to start. Screenplays are a whole different cat than what we are used to as story or article writers. They are not easy to write, and there is a specific format which must be followed when writing one.

My first tip is to get your hands on a real screenplay to familiarize yourself with the format.

My second tip, get yourself a screenplay app like “Final Draft” or “Montage.” Those provide the format for you and free you up to just worry about filling in the blanks like settings, dialogue, action,etc.

My third tip is to dive in and give it a go. There is only one way to get better at something like this, and that’s to do it. Screenplays can be daunting. You are taking an existing story and basically directing the film on paper. This is storytelling on steroids, and so far it has seemed too much for this writer to tackle.

I’ve included a video for you which might help.

Writing Coach

From Brad: “I’m still a little confused. I saw where you were offering your services as a writing coach, but I’m still a bit hazy regarding what it is a writing coach does? Can you clarify please?”

Brad, let me break this down to the most basic component: I can make you a better writer! That is my job as a writing coach. I am your cheerleader, but I am also an unbiased mechanic who will break your engine down, do a diagnostic, and tell you what you need to do to have your engine running smoothly.

Or put another way. If you were a basketball player, and you needed to improve your freethrow shooting, the job of a coach would be to break down your shooting motion to make it as pure as possible. There are correct mechanics involved in shooting a basketball. A good coach knows those mechanics. The same is true of a writing coach. I can do that for you. I can take your writing and raise it to the next level by teaching you proper mechanics.

Encourage a child and you may end up with a writer
Encourage a child and you may end up with a writer

Why Write?

From Mr. Happy: “I was just sitting here contemplating writing and why people write. At first, I thought of asking You why You are writing a biography because I was thinking about how I have been writing journal entries here and there, for the past 30 years. It's just keeping track of some things while I'm walking the path of Life. A biography seems like a journal entry of sorts (in my opinion). That's how I thought about it.

Maybe You already answered that, I don't know but even more than that, why do You write in general? And/or why did You chose to write to begin with?”

It’s such a complicated question, Mr. Happy, and yet so very simple.

Pick one: I write because I want to be heard, something which is not easy for an introvert. I write because I am a teacher, and writing allows me to teach to thousands. I write because I don’t want to be forgotten, and I don’t want my family and their story to be forgotten. I write because I have always loved storytellers, and I want to be known as a storyteller. I write because I think “ordinary” people have extraordinary things to say which relate to us all.

I began writing because I was encouraged and praised many decades ago. I found I loved it. I loved crafting stories. I loved living in imaginary worlds. I loved entertaining people with my words.

I loved, and still love today, everything about writing.

Back to Storytelling

I was watching an Amazon show, “Modern Love,” last night, and the first episode had me in tears. I was openly weeping while watching it. To me it was brilliant storytelling, and it reminded me of why I love writing so much. If I do my job correctly, I will move people in a similar manner. I will touch their hearts. I will provide, for them, a very real, human experience, and I just think that is too cool for words.

What you do is important!

My memoir will be published in a week. It is important to me. I do not want my family, and the story of my family, to die with my death. I do not want my story to die when I pass on. I am one of billions, as you are, and every damned one of our stories should be . .. is . .. important!

And I’ll say one more thing about my memoir: I think it is an important reminder, for all who read it, that we all share some very basic commonalities. We are not so terribly different, you and I. Makes no difference where you are from or what your culture is or your political or religious beliefs . . . we are human beings. If we could just spend a little more time concentrating on the commonalities instead of the differences . . .

Anyway, “And The Blind Shall See” will be released within a week. I hope you enjoy it.

2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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