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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #303

Updated on April 6, 2020

A Cold Spring but Warm Hearts

We aren’t even close to planting a garden yet. Oh, we have the seeds and yes, we definitely have the time, but the soil is just too wet, and the temps keep dropping down to freezing at night. So far we have garlic and potatoes in the ground because, well, those two are pretty hardy and can handle some adverse conditions.

Pretty much like all of us these days.

I hope this finds you well and healthy and happy. There sure are a lot of new articles on HP lately. Amazing what happens when people have spare time on their hands.

As you know, every Monday the Mailbag arrives, a welcomed distraction from the daily news.

So let’s get to it!

The Mail Room!
The Mail Room!

Really, a Memoir?

From Joel: “I know you have encouraged us, in the past, to write our memoirs, but I just can’t see anything in my life worth writing about. I’m thirty-three and I’ve lived a pretty boring life. What do you think of that?”

Joel, I think you are living with self-delusion.

What do you think of that? LOL

I just don’t buy it, Joel, or anyone else who thinks that. Human beings are fascinating creature. There are 7.5 billion of us, and we are all wired differently. That in itself makes you, and your story, unique. You have experienced hardships. We all have. You have had victories. We all have. You have bled and struggled and celebrated and laughed and mourned. We all have.

Your story is relatable to 7.5 billion people.

So write the damned thing and quit hiding behind the “my life is boring” excuse.

And, if you need help, I'm your man!

If I can write one, you can write one!
If I can write one, you can write one!

Hot Topics for Writers

From Cherise: “With the COVID-19 thing going on, what do you think will be popular writing topics in the months ahead? I’m thinking in terms of HP and going viral and all of that, how to rack up a big number of views?”

How-To article are always good, Cherise, and by the way, I love your name. It’s a musical name and it feels good saying it.

Back to your question….how to downsize…DIY repairs….how to plant a garden….how to save money around the house….how to keep kids occupied with fun activities….

In the months ahead, people are going to want to save money. They are going to take up new activities. They hopefully will become more self-efficient, and they will be looking for articles which can guide them.

Now is the time to write those articles. Get busy and you should see some supplemental income in a couple of months.

How to raise chickens!
How to raise chickens!

Jumping Between First and Third Person

From Andrea: “What do you think of alternating between first and third person when writing a novel? I’m thinking of that approach for my next novel, but I’ve never done it before and I wonder if it would be confusing to the readers.”

I’ve done it several times in several novels, Andrea, and I don’t think it’s confusing at all for the reader. If anything, it’s a bit of a challenge for the writer, who needs something like a split-personality to pull it off well. Lol

I’ve also seen it done quite well by some famous authors, so I’m pretty confident in telling you that you can do it.

Now Is the Time

From Megan: “I have no more excuses. With this social distancing, and with me home from work with all the time in the world, I can’t use the “I don’t have enough time” excuse for not writing a novel. I only have one question: how do you do it? Seriously, how do you start a novel? It all seems so overwhelming to me. I think you’ve said that you start with an opening chapter and the story just grows from there, but I think that sounds like witchcraft. HELP!”

Megan, I will never deny a damsel in distress. Help is on the way!

I think what you are referring to, Megan, is the act of overcoming the fear attached to doing the task. To anyone who has never done it, the idea of writing 75,000 words in a cohesive form is daunting. Many freeze and do not get beyond the idea. My suggestion to you, and to others who feel the way you do, is to break it down and swallow your bitter pill in small bites.

Consider this approach:

  1. Plan your story
  2. Build your characters
  3. Create a setting
  4. Decide upon the inciting incident
  5. Pinpoint key moments, or sparks

Each step is crucial, but taking it slowly, step by step, will get you through the door and safely down the path. Let’s take a brief look at each of these.

Plan your story – if you want to call this outlining, that’s fine, but you have to put down, on paper, some sort of story thread to follow. The original plan can be pretty basic, but it’s a good idea to jot down some sort of blueprint to follow.

Build your characters – this is fun! You get to create characters. Make them interesting. Write a character biography for each of the main ones.

Create a setting – where is this story taking place? Be specific and be detailed when doing this.

Decide upon the inciting incident – something must happen to propel the story forward and to make it interesting to the reader, some conflict which the main character will spend the rest of the book trying to overcome.

Pinpoint key moments, or sparks – The formula I use is 15,000 words per spark. Throughout the book, there must be things that happen which will keep the story moving forward.

That should be enough to get you started! Good luck! And if you need a writing coach, get in touch with me at I work cheap for fellow writers.

Rest Assured, Spring Will Arrive

One day we will wake up and it will be seventy degrees and sunny, and our hearts will be lifted and we’ll rush outside to gather in that wonderful warmth. Until then, dream of better days and plan that garden!

I hope you all have a safe, happy, and love-filled week.


2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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