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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #302

Updated on March 30, 2020

Happy End of March

A strange phenomenon I’ve noticed: the older I get, the faster time passes. How does that happen? It seems to defy known scientific laws, doesn’t it? And yet I know it to be true. LOL

And it’s not just for us old folks. When I was in school, summers always sped by quicker than school-year months. How odd!

Just random thoughts floating around in my head, but it is time to set them aside and deal with the Mailbag. We have a “ton” of questions awaiting my attention, so let’s get to it.

The Mail Room
The Mail Room

Your Daughter Wants to Be a What?

From Jackie: “My daughter is in high school, two years from college, and she tells me she wants to be a Journalism major and be a writer when she graduates. I’m excited for her, of course, but I’m also a bit nervous about her choice. Is there any money to be made in writing? Seriously? I can’t wrap my brain around her future. Help me to relax, please!”

Sorry, Jackie, I’m not a drug dealer!

A joke, folks! I told a funny!

Jackie, obviously you are a bit concerned, but I’m thrilled that your daughter wants to be a writer. Seriously, I think it is great when any kid follows a passion. Of course, she isn’t my daughter, so my opinion comes at no cost to me at all.

Sure she can make a living writing. As long as there are magazines there will be a need for writers. As long as there are online newspapers there will be a need for writers. I could go on and on. The market for professional writers is strong if you don’t consider those who write novels or non-fiction works, and the list of available jobs is as long as my arm.

I don’t believe the freelance market will dry up at all. I might also suggest, though you didn’t ask for it, that your daughter take a course or two in marketing. It certainly can’t hurt her to do so.

So relax, Jackie. Writing is a noble profession, one which can, and will, pay your daughter well if she works at it.

But if she tells you she wants to be a novelist, be afraid. Be very afraid! LOL

Product Writing

From Robert: “I actually write articles about different products, kind of like a review of products. My website does okay, but I want it to do better than okay. Do you have any suggestions?”

Robert, without seeing your website, or a sample of your articles, it’s a bit tough to answer that question. I will pass on some wisdom, though, that was given to me many years ago.

Remember this regarding marketing: people do not want to know the technical aspects of a product. Few are interested in how it is made or any of that “boring,” nuts and bolts stuff. They want to know what that product will do for them. They want to know how their lives will be improved by purchasing that product. This really is the key to all advertising: appealing to the customer’s basic needs in some way.

Take a look at your articles and ask yourself if you are giving your readers that information. I suspect you may not be doing it.

Articles about products will never grow old
Articles about products will never grow old

Blog Writing

From Charise: “What do you think is the most important thing to remember when writing a blog? I want to start a blog about being a teen mother, but I’m not sure what “angle” to take with it.”

Wow, Charise, what a great question. I know a lot of blog writers who should pay attention to my answer to your question. LOL Now everyone who has a blog that I’m following is wondering if I’m talking about their blog. You know that’s true, right? Well relax, I’m not talking about yours.

You can ask ten blog writers that question, Charise, and I’m willing to bet you will get at least five different answers. Keep that in mind because what I’m about to tell you is my opinion only.

First, determine who your target audience is and write to them.

Second, get personal!

Third, be a storyteller!

Fourth, remember that you can’t please everyone.

Fifth, be consistent and reliable!

If you need clarification of any of those points, ask for it in the comment section.

Help on a Children’s Book

From Denise: “Some great questions in this one. I have one. You see I think I need your help on becoming a better writer. I've never thought of myself as a writer. I'm an illustrator and never had any ambitions to be anything else. However, I got a story from my sister who refuses to do any of the writing. It's too good not to follow through with but I feel like my writing is just so lame. It has potential but it just lays there and snoozes. How much do you charge for your monthly tutoring again? Can you help with a children's book? It's different than novel writing because you aren't expected to write more than 500 to 1000 words but they have to be entertaining, contain an introduction to the character, deliver a conflict and then resolution in just those few words. I feel like I'm stumbling around in the dark. Help! I have all this time on my hands and just don't seem to be able to deliver the goods.”

Storytelling is storytelling is storytelling, Denise. You can quote me on that. Whether it is one of my “Shadow” novels or you writing to kids or Hemingway writing from Cuba, storytelling is storytelling is storytelling. I may not have experience with children’s books, but I have experience with storytelling. Hook up with me and we’ll chat a bit.

Travel Articles

From Liz: “I was especially interested in your comment about our writing being a distraction from the horror of this time as I have a dilemma. I recently returned from a trip abroad, just in time it now seems, and I have been working on a hotel article since. At a time when travel is out of the question is it appropriate to still be publishing travel articles? Or could they count as a welcome distraction? What do you think?”

Travel may be out of the question right now, Liz, but planning and daydreaming about traveling is definitely not out of the question. Besides, your travel articles are basically timeless. When you write about a resort in Genoa, that article will be valid today and valid in ten years, unless the resort burns down and no longer exists.

I say go for it and go for it with gusto. Now is the time to increase your writing, not decrease. When this social-distancing directive ends, people are going to flee their homes as quickly as possible, and you better believe they are planning their escapes right now.

If I wrote travel articles, I would be writing them as quickly as possible right now.

Travel articles will always have a market
Travel articles will always have a market

Alternate Endings

From Zulma: “I'd like to get your thoughts on alternate endings. After much determination, I finally finished a mammoth tome of fan fiction. For reasons I'm trying to fathom, the author gave us a choice of two endings, one happy, one sad. (They could both be happy or sad, I suppose, depending on how the readers felt about the characters.)

“This bugs me. Could the author truly not make up his/her mind how to end the story or is it just fan service. Maybe I'm just being picky but I like one ending, even if it's an open one.”

Zulma, it would not only bug me, it would annoy me to no end. There was a lot of that “crap” written during the Great Awakening of the Sixties, and it all annoyed me. I’m all for artistic freedom but dammit, a story needs an ending, and I don’t want to choose what that ending will be.

There used to be a series of children’s books published in the late Eighties. I don’t remember what they were called, but I know it gave you choices. The main character would have a decision to make, and you could choose the decision. Choose one way and turn to Page 18 and the story would continue from there. Choose another way and turn to Page 50 and the story took a different turn.

Annoying to the 10th degree for me!

And Now We’ve Run out of Time

Not only is it moving quickly, but now I’ve run out of it.

What’s a guy to do?

Until next week, I wish good health and happiness for all of you. Thanks for joining me this week. Rest assured I’ll have another installment for you next week, good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.

And if you are looking for a writing coach, give me a shout-out at I work cheap for friends.

2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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