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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #308

Updated on May 11, 2020

How You All Doing?

Hanging in there? Following the rules? Staying healthy and safe?

Weird times for sure, but I’m a closet optimist and I’m feeling pretty good about humanity in general, so hang tough and look for the silver lining in all of those clouds.

Changing times, all around us, up is down and down is up, but one thing that remains constant is the Mailbag, and it’s waiting for us at this very moment.

Let’s do this thing!

The Mail Room
The Mail Room

Pulitzer Prize

From Manatita: “How are books chosen for the Putlitzer Prize?”

Darned if I know, Manatita. In fact, I can’t take credit for this answer, because Manatita looked it up himself and sent it to me. From the Pulitzer website:

“To have a book considered for a Pulitzer Prize, you have to fill out an application, pay an entry fee of around $50 and send four copies of the book to the committee overseeing the awards. The author can send it. The publisher can send it. A fan can send it. Anyone can nominate a book to be a winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.”

So there you go!

For some reason I really like the fact that anyone can enter any book for consideration by the committee. On the other hand, again for a reason I cannot articulate, it cheapens the process a bit, at least in my mind.

I’ll have to think about that some more. What do all of you think about it?

Attacking a To-Do List

From Brenda: “I would love to know your strategies for balancing out your to-do list. It seems like lately I have put too much on my plate and do not have enough hours in the day to possibly tackle everything.

“A lot of writing, reading, groups, posting, activities waiting for me to complete without even giving thought to my own free time. Any ideas?”

Brenda, this is a pretty common malady. If I had to make a list of the Top Five Complaints of people I am in contact with, not having enough time would be near the top. But in my mind it’s not a matter of a lack of time; instead, it’s a matter of not prioritizing what needs to be done and standing firm with those priorities.

I have an advantage over you, Brenda, in that I’m naturally anal. LOL I’m the human equivalent of a dog with a bone. I don’t let go of that bone until all the marrow has been sucked out of it in the time allotted. Once that has been accomplished, I move on to the next bone. But it is all done within the framework of a daily schedule.

The other arrow in my quiver is this: I schedule the hours in my days and I don’t deviate from that schedule. 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., writing. 10:30 to 12:00 dishes, sweeping, and lunch. And so on until my day and schedule is completed. If I don’t accomplish a given task in the time I have allotted for it, I finish it the next day during its allotted time. The task does not guide me through a day; the schedule does that! I have found this to be the most efficient use of my time.

I’m not saying it would work for everyone, but it works for me. I have a pretty good track record for getting things done.

I wish I could guarantee that this will work for you, but I can’t. But you might give it a try.

I always make time for writing
I always make time for writing

Feeling Predictable

From Joel: “Lately the novel I’m working on seems predictable. Or maybe dull. I’m not sure what it is, but I know I don’t like it. Any thoughts?”

Sheez, Joel, that’s like Mission Impossible. Without actually reading your work, it’s real hard for me to give my thoughts. That’s not going to stop me, of course.

Here’s the thing about novels: they are all about friction. There is almost always conflict in a novel. If your novel feels bland and predictable, my first guess is it needs more conflict. I read once that a good novel has something unexpected in every chapter, and it is that “unexpected” event which keeps readers glued to their seats and eager for the next page.

Try spicing yours up with a little more conflict. Your readers will appreciate it.

Characters Sound the Same

From Theresa: “I finished the first draft of a mystery I’m writing, and I’m not happy at all with the dialogue. The characters all sound the same to me. They sound like me.. What should I do to change that problem?”

It’s a pretty common problem, Theresa. Most fiction writers stumble on dialogue the first few times. What should you do? Go out in public and listen to people talk. Record them if you have to, or take notes. There was a character on the television series “Longmire” who never used contractions. That might not seem like much, but it was very noticeable since most people do use them. I hadn’t thought of that until I was listening to a contestant on “The Voice” the other night, and she didn’t use them either. It’s a little thing, really, but it makes a large difference in dialogue.

You could have one character always speak in short, chopped sentences, while one speaks in a flowery style. One could talk like a Valley girl while another speaks like a college professor. And in so doing you will be mirroring real life, because that’s what you’ll hear if you go out and listen.

Really good writing takes an attention to the little details like that.

We all have unique speech patterns
We all have unique speech patterns

Early Character Development

From Zulma: “I read recently that in order to have an engaging protagonist they should have some agency. They should act rather than be acted upon in order to move the plot forward. However, what if the protag comes from a background where they were not encouraged to act or take control of a situation. They were expected to do as they were told without question by parents, teachers, employers, even friends. Later on in the story, as part of their character arc, a life-changing event occurs that forces them to think and act for themselves.

“So, how do you create a character that readers will become invested in until that cataclysmic event happens?”

It’s a fascinating question, Zulma. It really is, and it presents a rather formidable problem in my opinion. You have described a situation which will separate the outstanding writers from the mediocre writers.

I would approach it through character development plus foreshadowing. I think it would be possible to unfold a character’s “average” life in such a way, dropping “sinister” hints along the way, so that readers notice that the idyllic life will not last for long. Actually, Harper Lee did this in “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Her opening chapters are really about little kids living in a dusty southern town. Not much is happening, but there is a curtain of “sinister” hanging over them without Lee actually describing the origin of that sinister thing. Does that make sense?

Anyway, it’s an interesting challenge for writers to undertake, should they have a hankering to improve their writing.

Go Back and Review

From Eric: “Now how often do you go back and review your work from over five years ago and why or why not?”

Eric, I hate to admit this, but I don’t go back and review. I guess the main reason is I just don’t have time to do it. I’m too busy writing for today, you know? Every once in a great while someone will comment on an old article of mine, and then I’ll re-read that article so I know what they are commenting about, but that’s it for me.

I probably should. It might be a dandy way to see growth and/or learn, but so far I just haven’t done it.

Pen Names

From Lawrence: “But here’s a question for you, I've already started my next project, it’s a story I've wanted to write ever since I uncovered a few things researching family history, but it's a totally different genre to what I i normally write! I'm going to go with a pen name similar to my own, but would that be confusing? Should I use a totally different name? This book will be in the Historical fiction romance genre set in WW1.”

Interesting question, Lawrence. I don’t really have anything against pen names. There are valid reasons for using one, although you didn’t reveal why you want to do it. The danger with using a pen name similar to yours is confusion. The other problem with a pen name, as you well know, is the fact that you have already built your platform for your real name. Using a pen name loses all of that previous goodwill and name recognition.

Still, a lot of very good writers have used pen names, and I think the pros far outweigh the cons when doing it. I would, however, think twice about using one which is similar to your own. That’s a sticky wicket if you ask me . . . which you did!

A Completely Unrelated Matter

There’s been news in the U.S. lately that the postal service might be in trouble. The President calls it a joke and wants to overhaul the whole system, or do away with it completely. I would really hate to see that. The Post Office is an American tradition I’m not willing to give up. For many small communities, the Post Office is the only connection between citizens and the government. It has successfully delivered mail to every single household in the United States for over two-hundred years, and that kind of remarkable track record deserves our support and not our derision.

Why am I mentioning that? I guess nostalgia has something to do with it, but in my mind it’s like saying no more bookstores or no more libraries. There are some things which may be outdated but are essential to the fiber of any society. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

Besides, it’s in the Constitution, and if the Constitution is good enough for gun rights advocates, then it’s good enough for Post Office advocates.

Just random thoughts. Pay no attention to me.

Need a writing coach? Email me at holland1145@yahoo.com and we’ll team up to make you a better writer.

Have a brilliantly creative week, be safe, and do all things with love.

2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      9 days ago from Olympia, WA

      I know, Jo! I try not to say what I'm actually thinking out loud. In today's political climate, I'm afraid what I say won't be very acceptable. lol

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      9 days ago from Olympia, WA

      I agree with you, Dora! Good characters can carry a story all by themselves.

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 

      9 days ago from Tennessee

      Lots of interesting subjects here but I'm stuck on your last response that I see here. I keep thinking about the order of succession in our government: Trump, Pence, then Pelosi. Nancy could get it done. God forgive me for having these thoughts.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Trump has been surrounded by people with the virus, but so far he's been untouched. Go figure, Zulma. :) I don't want him dead; just sick enough to shut him up for awhile. lol

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      10 days ago from United Kingdom

      I think 'stay alert' means use your common sense. lol Of course, it people had been using it, total lockdown might not have been necessary.

      To Johnson's credit, he was hospitalized with corona so at least he knows what other people have gone through, unlike Trump. Corona wants nothing to do with him.

      Take care, Bill.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      11 days ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks. I especially like the answer to characters sounding the same. I like stories in which there is interesting dialogue, and some writers can't do it very well. I like those who can.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 days ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate that, Devika! Have a great week of writing and living, and stay safe.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 days ago from Olympia, WA

      It's a tough problem you have outlined, Zulma. Me thinks it will take me quite some effort and thought to pull it off.

      Stay alert? Is that what you prime minister said to do? He's cut out of the same cloth as Trump, isn't he? What does stay alert even mean?

      The blind leading the blind; that's what we have going on right now.

      Take care, dear friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 days ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very kind, Lora! Thank you! I'm just passing on lessons which were freely given to me. I'm a big believer in "pay it forward." :) Be safe my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Jason! I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. Be well my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Hey MizB, nice job finding me. lol It shouldn't be that hard, should it?

      Record heat this weekend, followed by fifty and rain. I didn't step foot outside on Monday. Too depressing and oppressive. One would think I'd be used to it, but I'm not. Sigh!

      You take care now. Better days are ahead for us all.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      11 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Hi Lori! Welcome back! I hope you are well, my friend. As for curmudgeons, they are everywhere, aren't they? Nice choice for a book character. And yes, what you said makes sense about characters. I've done that many times.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      11 days ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hi Bill interesting and so much to learn from your work Another worthy and learning lesson from your hub. It is of great interest to know that you share in detail to all writers.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      11 days ago from United Kingdom

      Hi, Bill.

      I've given more thought to character agency. I suppose you could make the character sympathetic so readers would be routing for them to take control of their lives. Then again, it would depend on the motivations of the people in the character's life. Are they manipulating the character for their own ends or do they truly believe they are acting in the character's best interest. Hmm...this is a toughie.

      I would be most interested in seeing how you handle this.

      Take care, Bill.

    • Lora Hollings profile image

      Lora Hollings 

      11 days ago

      Great mailbag, Bill. Your video was just awesome! We are so fortunate to have such a skilled writer who is an exceptional teacher too. One who really lays out what great writing is all about and then gives us lucid examples of what he is talking about. Creating conflict in our stories and multi-dimensional characters is what turns dull writing into the books that we want to read! I like your idea of doing a bio on all of your characters as well to create depth and consistency. I wholeheartedly agree with you about the post office too! Thanks for the lessons and stay safe.

    • Nicoartz profile image

      Jason Nicolosi 

      11 days ago from AZ

      Hi Bill. I found Lots of great advise and interesting stuff in the mailbag. Also, great video. Nice job. Thumbs up. Stay health and safe.

    • Brenda Arledge profile image

      BRENDA ARLEDGE 

      11 days ago from Washington Court House

      Bill,

      I'm trying..but I got to write me a schedule out first. Then remember to follow it.

      Hopefully it will eventually fall into place. I keep getting interupted...then going back later. Not good.

      I'll let you know how I do with it soon.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      12 days ago from Beautiful South

      Ha! I finally found the mailbag this week. At least I found you this time. Again, my notifications are few and far between. I wonder who is selecting the chosen few? Anyway I enjoyed the questions and found one amusing. Not saying which one, mind you but I think it was the way in which the question was phrased. Kind of like that old song, "I was lookin' back to see if you were lookin' back to see if I wuz lookin' back to see if you were lookin' back at me" or something like that. :)

      We're having an unusual cold snap here today. I think the high was about 56 or maybe it was 65, but it felt like 56. The chickens wanted to stay in their coop and had to be forced outside. Meself, I'm trying to stay warm, too. Have a nice rest of the week, my friend Bill.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      12 days ago from Pacific Northwest

      Well, here I am . Sorry I've been gone so long. I've gotten behind in reading and writing on hubpages for a while now but here I am back in the saddle

      I like your answer about character sounding the same. Just observing and listening to people talk and their behavior is an easy way to link them to a character without directly basing your character on a specific person. Does that make sense? I don't know .

      I've been writing a character who's a curmudgeon. I've seen enough of them in my life to get a good idea of how they act and talk, and you've got to admit they are always memorable, are they not?

      Great installment.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for the question, Rinita. I'll have an answer for you on Monday, but my quick answer now is that there will always be that risk when writing an autobiographical piece. Family members, if they are accustomed to reading your work, would know immediately, I think. How to mask this? Stay tuned.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      I am well, Chitrangada Sharan. I hope you are as well. Thank you for finding the time to visit me.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for your thoughts, Venkatachari M. I still love reading a physical copy of the newspaper, so losing the post office would be a greater shock to me. Regarding the pandemic, I wish you continued good health, my friend. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Zulma, your question was a tough one, and the solution would be challenging at best and damned near impossible for mere mortal writers, me thinks. I doubt I could do it successfully, although when I finish this latest Shadow book, I'm going to give it a try. We shall see!

      Trump is the master of deflection. I think you hit the nail on the head.

      Stay alert? I like that more than be safe. Thanks! I'll be using it from now on.

      Have a brilliantly happy Tuesday, my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Very true, Rajan! I'm a bit surprised the pandemic isn't worse in your country. Grateful but still surprised. Let's hope it lessens soon.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Me too, Linda. Hopefully calmer and saner minds will prevail.

      Thank you always, my friend. Be safe!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Exactly, Bill! I think talk of the Post Office will subside once we change the government a bit....usher out a few people and bring in better ones. That's my hope, buddy.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      John, I wish it was the best of the best with Pulitzer. I don't like the fact that my works would be considered for that prestigious prize. lol Happy Tuesday my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Alyssa. I'm glad I made you smile. Mission accomplished on my part.

      Have a spectacular week, my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for dropping by, Chardie. I hope my thoughts are alive. Otherwise I'm dead, and I don't like that option. lol

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      I love the comparison, Marlene. I'll happily be compared to that fine institution. Thank you my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      No doubt about it, Peg, they are losing money. But hey, we can bail out General Motors, so why not something guaranteed in the Constitution? Just random thoughts.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Hi Shannon! I can't imagine taking a break from social media. I find it fascinating, but I don't engage in controversy. It's just not worth my serenity.

      As for the Pulitzer, I hope it doesn't work that way. I hope they still choose based on quality over quantity.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Your mail is better than mine, Heidi. I get ads for cremation. lol True story. Those I can do without.

      I understand why people would want a pen name, but it's not for me.

      Be well my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Rosina! I appreciate your thoughts.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Meg, I'm sorry to hear about hubby! I think your solution is a wise one. Let him get his beauty sleep while you get your work done. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Me too, Flourish. I find people absolutely fascinating.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Hey, buddy, not much of a rant, but right on! Losing the Post Office would be like spray-painting a beautiful work of art. We can't let it happen, and we control the outcome. Thanks Eric! Rant on!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      We are well, Melissa. I hope you and your family are doing all right. Is the snow gone yet?

      Stay safe and thank you for always being here. You are a gem!

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      12 days ago

      Interesting topics today and I hope all's well with you. I have a question similar to the pen name topic. I think part of why the author might want to use a pen name is that they are writing about their own family history and don't want people to know that? Anyway my question is, how do you write something autobiographical without it being evident that it's about your own life? You could change names and places, of course, but people who are close to you personally would still know that these incidents happened to you and if it involves them, might get offended too. Is there any other way to "mask" this?

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      12 days ago from New Delhi, India

      Thanks for sharing another mailbag, with interesting questions and answers.

      I am late by a day, to read this mailbag. And that makes the question by Brenda, relatable to me. The answer to Theresa’s question is helpful.

      Hope you are doing well. Take care. Thank you.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      12 days ago from United Kingdom

      Good Morning, Bill.

      I think I understand what you're saying. Would that be akin to movies having something going on in the background while the main action is happening? Perhaps as a form of foreshadowing? I remember Scout mentioning her brother's broken arm which piques the reader's curiosity as to how that came about. Then she mentions Boo Radley. So now we need to know who he is. But wouldn't that make us more invested in Boo Radley rather than the children? I suppose our interest in Scout and Co. develops as we read on. I don't know.

      As for the Post Office, it could be Trump deflecting again. He's come under fire for his (mis)handling of covid. Maybe he just said this about the USPS to draw attention away from that. It wouldn't be the first time he's done this.

      I like the idea of the schedule and have tried a few times. But the rebel in me chafes at the idea of structure. Too restrictive I guess. lol

      Have a lovely day, Bill, and stay alert. (That's the new catchphrase as England is looking to lifting some restrictions.)

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      12 days ago from Hyderabad, India

      The question about the Pulitzer Prize is very interesting. But, I do not like the author requiring to fill a form and submit his book for consideration. It should be the work of the jury members to select and nominate books or through any literary bodies engaged in the promotion of arts and science.

      And, I love the old along with new technology. So, I can't forego the postal services or the physical newspapers and all such heritages.

      Regarding the present conditions of humanity due to this pandemic, I feel that we should become accustomed to life and live with it protecting ourselves.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      12 days ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Post offices have almost become showpieces here as well and could down shutters anytime. Life is almost at a standstill what with the corona pandemic flames showing no signs of being doused by the lockdown showers. Hope something miraculous happens soon to let us breathe easier.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      12 days ago from British Columbia, Canada

      The information about the Pulitzer Prize was interesting and surprising. I would hate to lose the postal service where I live. I don't know the details of the situation in the United States, though I've heard about the threat to the postal service in the country. It sounds like a strange and sad situation to me.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      13 days ago from Massachusetts

      A busy week for the mailbag, Bill. Interesting info on the Pulitzer Prize. I am somewhat surprised and it definitely takes a little luster off of the selection process.

      As far as the US Postal system I still very much rely on them and think it would be a travesty to get rid of it. Not to mention the millions of jobs that would be lost. Have a great week.

    • Alyssa Nichol profile image

      Alyssa 

      13 days ago from Ohio

      Haha! You always make me smile, Bill. I love your argument for the Postal Service. As always, the mailbag offers a lot of food for thought. I hope you have a wonderful week!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      13 days ago from Queensland Australia

      Another fine mailbag. The Pulitzer Prize revelation that any one can submit a book for consideration sort of undervalues it. I thought they had to be the best of the best to even be considered.

      In regard to updating old hubs, like you, if someone comments or I need to look for some reason such as a video not working, then I will review it and maybe change a couple of things. I have too many to go through all of them regularly though, and you have a lot more. Have a great week.

    • Chardie Cat profile image

      Chardie Cat 

      13 days ago from Northern Mindanao, Philippines

      This mailbag is sharp and engrossing. Your thoughts are really alive, Bill. It’s amazing.

      I wish I could read your books, too. But am pretty sure I can’t afford them.

      Thanks for the inspiration.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      13 days ago from USA

      Another fabulous mailbag, and just like the United States Postal Service, becoming an icon for the writing community.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      13 days ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Another lively and informative mailbag today, Bill. About the post office, according to the US Government Accountability Office, "USPS’s overall financial condition is deteriorating and unsustainable. USPS has lost $69 BILLION over the past 11 fiscal years." Maybe some improvement in its operations is in order to compete with other delivery services. Or the taxpayers can continue to prop it up with bailouts. But what do I know? Not much.

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      13 days ago from Texas

      I like your optimism. Some days I'm filled with it. Other days not so much. Today, I was thinking about taking a break from social media just as I have from the news. There's so much dissension and unnecessary division among people. I suppose maybe it's always been this way, but we didn't have to be witness to it on such a large scale before. I don't necessarily back down from controversy, but I also don't like to go looking for it. I try to get along with people. I can't even stay angry for long even when I probably should, so this all has me feeling a bit disheartened sometimes. Good thing for people like you to turn me back around.

      You've got a full mailbag today!

      Now, regarding the Pulitzer Prize, if anyone can submit a book, I wonder if multiple submissions increase a book's chance of winning? More submissions means more money, for one thing. But on the flip side of the coin, more submissions also means greater interest in that particular book.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      13 days ago from Chicago Area

      Monday, I think, again.

      Re: Pulitzer Prize. Sounds like the same nonsense as with best sellers. But on the Pulitzer FAQ page, it says that self published books are eligible. Hmm...

      Re: Looking Backward. Yeah, I don't look at my old work too much either, unless I can think of something to add or change that would add value to the work for readers.

      Re: Pen Names. I just think pen names are getting more difficult as time goes on. If you've established yourself under your own name, then you'll have to build a new audience under the new name. That's a lot of work. Also, in the internet age, keeping your real identity under wraps can be challenging. I did a whole segment (rant?) on the pen name topic (problem?) in my recent book, Networking for Authors. It can be a mess.

      Re: USPS. I don't think they realized how dramatically email and the internet would disrupt their business. I think they have value because they can deliver to every single address in the US. But looking at the mail that I do get, there is very little that has value. Except for parcels, everything I get for bills and such can be done online. The only real addressed mail seems to be from healthcare which seems insistent on sending bills even though the info is available online. (Don't get me started on that.) I'd say I recycle at least 90% of what comes to the house. They need a new business model.

      Anyway, glad to hear that you and yours are okay. Take care and have a great week!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very kind, Ruby! I have no plans on leaving. As long as God doesn't, I should be here. :) I have used the same name too often too; I'm always on the lookout for a new name to use.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Pamela! We are well, and I hope you can say the same. Take care, my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm amazed you aren't experiencing cramps, Ann. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Verlie, I just bought a new laptop as my old one was definitely on its last leg. Best of luck with your tablet. I would find that very cumbersome.

      Stay safe, be healthy, and thanks always.

    • surovi99 profile image

      Rosina S Khan 

      13 days ago

      Bill, today's mailbag was compact with a lot of information. I especially liked the schedule management, character building and character voice. There is certainly something unique about every mailbag and that's what makes them so interesting. Keep them flowing.

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 

      13 days ago from Northern Ireland

      I like your time management tips, I just wish I could train other members of the family to respect my working time! I had half an hour this morning before going out to help someone with something urgent and wanted to get some work done. I was no sooner seated in my (top of the house) study than my husband wanted something done downstairs. These things are all computer related. He could learn to do them himself but it's so much easier to get someone else to do it for you! There, rant over. He does lots of things for me, so it's not all one sided. Nowadays, I stay up late, maybe until midnight, as he goes to bed early and I can get a lot done then.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      13 days ago from USA

      I liked your points about conversation. There are some people who tend to use very rare dictionary words, others are flowery and dramatic in their everyday descriptions, then there are those whose language is sharp and filled with random curse words. I love the mix different flavors.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      13 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Bill I seldom chastise so when I do I am sure of myself. Buggy whips, firemen on trains, shoemakers, real cowboys. service stations, millers, house calls, party lines,

      The name of the union is for "Letter" carriers. I write and mail no less than 3 letters a week. That is my job to promote and maintain my USPS. I have all my online purchases sent USPS that is my job to assure my mail lady feeds her children. (four and they are beautiful)

      Anyone who does less, needs to accept their role in the USPS going the way of the Blacksmith -- use it or lose it. (so yes I spend roughly $100 a year)

      There is my rant to the MAILbag readers and you.

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 

      13 days ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! Wow, that was a pretty jammed packed mailbag today... Glad your postage hasn't gone up a single time! Hope you are continuing to stay safe and healthy and at the same time carry on with this thing we call living. Time keeps chugging riight along.

      Have a great and productive week!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      13 days ago from Southern Illinois

      Bill, I can't imagine living without the postal service. I hear it's losing money, and it's well known that Trump puts money first. I took notice about using the same name too often. I have used the name Timmy for too many pieces. I will change that. Thanks again for all you do to help we writers hone our craft. I can't imagine HP without you.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      13 days ago from Sunny Florida

      I do not think we should get rid of the post office either. The questions today about character's speech and character development were good questions that I imagine many of us have and it is good to read your answers.

      I hope you hae a good week. Stay healthy, my friend.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      13 days ago from SW England

      I've been crossing my fingers and toes for weeks!

      Ann

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks as always, Ann! That man knows nothing but profit. I'm very tired of him, and if there is a God, he will not be President after 2020. Cross your fingers and I'll cross mine.

      Wishing, for you, a sunny, gentle, love-filled Monday.

      bill

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm so happy you found value in my schedule, Brenda. Good luck with it. It's not for everyone. My wife cannot follow a schedule to save her, but don't tell her I said that. I don't want to sleep on the couch tonight. lol

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks a bunch, Denise! This post office debate is no debate at all in my eyes. It's an American institution, it's guaranteed in the Constitution, end of story.

      Blessings always

      bill

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      I will look that up, Linda! Thanks for the tip. My blood pressure is pretty good, so it can handle a little spike. lol

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Sha! That whole Pulitzer thing has me shaking my head. It cheapens the process in my mind, you know? But maybe I shouldn't be so cynical. Maybe it's a good process and I'm just not seeing it.

      Happy Monday to you! Stay safe!

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 

      13 days ago from Canada

      Morning Bill, sorry I've been Awol, computer crash has left me hanging. Trying to relearn everything on Tablet, oh man!

      Please don't take my post office away, especially now. I'm back to writing letters through the mail, would be totally lost without that essential service.

      Great questions today. Especially liked the one on how to make characters voices unique. That's so important.

      I don't know the secret, but hopefully it comes from knowing

      your characters well at the start.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm glad you found value in that video, Mary! Thanks for taking the time to watch it and comment on it. Blessings to you always, my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks as always, Mr. Happy! This whole business of not having enough time strikes me as silly at best. We all have the same amount of time. It's what we choose to do with it that is the heart of the matter, and you are right on about possessions. I will spend my afternoon weeding a flowerbed. Hmmm...time well-spent? Me wonders!

      Blessings always!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      It's all very strange to me, Peggy, this business of the Pulitzer Prize. It just seems like a weird way to choose nominees. But what the heck do I really know about any of that? I'm just a part-time writer, you know. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Liz! I loved the Prince Charles left that note. That showed a touch of class we don't see in the United States at the higher levels of government.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Happy Monday Janine! Get rid of the post office? What a silly, silly thought by a silly, silly man. :)

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      13 days ago from SW England

      Your standard of questions and answers is still flying, bill!

      I feel for you regarding the post office. We have lost many of ours over the last few years but at least the institution still exists! I am nostalgic (probably too much so) but it kind of takes the rug from under us in this unpredictable world, doesn't it, if the old stuff is just erased. Anyway, what does 'that man' know about tradition and feelings?!! Stick to your guns, bill!

      Have a melodious Monday!

      Ann

    • Brenda Arledge profile image

      BRENDA ARLEDGE 

      13 days ago from Washington Court House

      Bill,

      Thank you for explaining your angle for tackling a to do list.

      I believe this might work. I have just been letting the day rule me without any schedule.

      Then I get behind when other matters pop up and I find myself rushing or staying up too late to get finished.

      I am going to try to implement a schedule and definitely make time for my own writing as well.

      You have written quite a collection of books.

      Thanks again.

      I find it interesting about the Pulitzer prize. I feel it does take away from winning it. I always assumed the process was more complicated.

      The post office should be left alone. Many depend on it here in my little piece of the world.

      Thank you for this article.

      Stay safe and have a great day.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      13 days ago from Fresno CA

      I have to agree about the post office. Don't mess with it if it's working. Also, I really love your advice about dialog and the use of continents. It does make a big difference to change small things like that to keep people's dialog separate in your mind. Really good advice! Great mailbag today. Keep 'em coming.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      13 days ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, lots of good questions this week; will this self-isolation bring forth a fresh crop of authors?

      As for the Postal Service, the biggest problem they face (other than a President who obviously knows more about their business than they do) is that unlike any other agency, they are required to pre-pay health care costs for their employees. Read about the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (but be prepared for your blood pressure to click up a few notches) and then contact your Congressman.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      13 days ago from Central Florida

      I was a bit surprised that the Pulitzer Prize for novels process is so simple. And you have to pay an entry fee? What's up with that?

      I agree with you about the Post Office, Bill. To eliminate it would be, well - un-American!

      Great mailbag, as always, my friend. Have a great week!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      13 days ago from Ontario, Canada

      I like your take on character development in your video. It's right there with us, from our experience, from people we've come to know - they're there staring at us. They have taken our interest all our years and just waiting to appear in our stories. I'll remember that there are layers and won't forget that they're conflicted just like us.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      13 days ago from Toronto, Canada

      "If I had to make a list of the Top Five Complaints of people I am in contact with, not having enough time would be near the top." - So, I was listening to this one guy talk about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and the interviewer asked him how he managed to have the couple of months needed to simply hike on a trail, when most people can barely find a weekend to go camping. His answer was that the less possessions one has, the less "chained-down" one is. So, if You have houses, cars, many bills and so on then, You do not have much time for yourself but when You have little, You have more time.

      I really agree with the above mind set. I limit my possessions a lot; also no kids, no wife, no girlfriend and You know what? I got lots of time and it's nice, haha!! : )

      "I read once that a good novel has something unexpected in every chapter" - I agree and that is why I don't have a schedule. How can "unexpected" things happen when we have a set schedule? Unless that set schedule includes some sort of exploring, I suppose. Ya ... that would have to be it. Haha!! just thinking out loud here.

      "The characters all sound the same to me. They sound like me." - Haha!! Too funny. Yes, the same has happened when I tried to write fiction: it's all me. I can't lie, or pretend. There's no point.

      "I probably should. It might be a dandy way to see growth and/or learn" - I do that quite a bit. The point is to: "make less mistakes today than I have made yesterday" (Elon Musk). Reading what I wrote in the past helps me do that. It's like looking in the mirror type of thing.

      "There’s been news in the U.S. lately that the postal service might be in trouble." - What do You mean?! We need the postal service. I just sent You mail, haha!!

      Alrighty: stay safe and be well until again. Cheers!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      13 days ago from Houston, Texas

      I agree with you about the Post Office being an integral part of our Constitution. If that can be upturned by the current administration, then hang on to your hats! Nothing is safe. Let's hope calmer winds prevail.

      As to the Pulitizer Prizes, I never realized that anyone could submit books for consideration. Therefore if the book of the century is written, but no one submits it for consideration, it would not be named. Somehow that cheapens the prize, in my opinion.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      13 days ago from UK

      Interesting information about the Pullitzer process.

      I am impressed by your scheduling.

      I'm wondering how many novels I have read that have been deliberately spiced up to avoid being predictable.

      It's interesting to read your advice about character development and voices.

      I laughed at your comment about reviewing. I guess HP have ingrained the importance of regular reviews in us.

      Your comment about pen names could equally apply to writing on websites like HP. Many prefer to protect their identity online, by hiding behind a pen name.

      I hope your postal service survives. Ours has been working flat out in lockdown. So much so that the heir to the throne, Prince Charles, left the postman a thank you note to pass on to the postal service outside his lockdown residence.

      Stay safe and have a good week.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      13 days ago from New York, New York

      Bill, you said it perfectly about the Post Office. I don't want to get political by any means, but let's just say I don't agree with much of anything that this administration and president is doing, including with the post office, as wel. That said, tet's hope for a change to come this November at the very least. Happy Monday now and thanks for always being a sane voice in a not so sane world. Have a great week ahead now :)

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