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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #313

Updated on June 15, 2020

Stacking Firewood

Did you know there’s a correct way to stack firewood? If that is true, and it is, it would then follow that there is a wrong way to stack it as well.

Am I right, or am I right?

There actually is, you know. It’s in the “Chainsaw Journal,” so that’s like the firewood Bible talking to you. You need to build towers at each end of the row for stability. You need to stack individual pieces so that air can flow between the pieces, thus allowing for quicker drying. And you need to stack in the sunlight, if possible, so that the ends are facing the dominant wind direction, again for proper airflow.

Who’d a thunk it?

Anyway, I’m stacking firewood this week, in preparation for the winter of 2020-2021, and I was thinking of those things while stacking. I was also thinking about future article ideas. I was also thinking of COVID-19. And I was also thinking of senseless deaths on nameless streets in non-descript cities.

Busy mind!

Let’s find out what’s on your collective mind this week.

The Mail Room
The Mail Room

Photos: Fiction or Nonfiction

From Liz: “Do you think photos fit better in non-fiction or fiction books?”

Liz, judging from the history of book publishing, I think the overwhelming number of books with photos in them are children’s books, whether they be fiction or nonfiction. If it is an adult book, the majority goes to nonfiction.

Or so it seems to me! I’m not sure why that trend began, or continued, but that is my observation.

Is there a good reason why adult fiction wouldn’t have photos? Not that I can think of, but perhaps one of the comments below can shed light on it. My own personal opinion is that novel writers try, by the very nature of their genre, to paint a picture using words. Using a photo is almost like cheating if you are a fiction writer.

Bias in Writing

From Liz: “Do you think that it's inevitable for writers to inject their own bias into their writing?”

Interesting question, Liz! Let me just toss this out, and please note this is just my opinion: I think it’s a rare writer indeed who does not inject personal bias into their writings, even in fiction. It is, of course, possible to do so, but I think most writers would agree that they do it. I know I certainly do. My personal beliefs are interjected throughout all of my novels, and I do it on purpose.

Part of my belief system is in every one of these books
Part of my belief system is in every one of these books

Photos in Ebooks

From Francis: “Why are there no photos in ebooks?”

That question is a first, Francis, so thank you for it.

There actually are ebooks which have images, but they are not the norm. The reason for that is because Kindles are e-ink devices, and images downloaded onto them typically end up as grainy images. They are also low-power devices, and images take a long time to “develop” on the screen.

Or so I’m told by the person I asked at Amazon. Since I’ve never tried to add photos in any of my ebooks, I can’t speak from experience on this topic.

Starting a Blog

From Joel: “I’m kind of new to writing. I write an occasional article on HP. I sold a couple articles to an online magazine. I’m looking to expand as a freelance writer. Is there value in starting a blog? Will it help me at all?”

This, Joel, is a can of worms.

Some writers believe that starting a blog will build their audience. Let me say this about that: a blog does not build your audience. The writer does that.

I don’t think blogging is primarily about writing. I think it is first, and foremost, about connecting. Most people don’t read a blog because they love blogs; most people read a blog because they want to connect with people who have similar interests or similar beliefs.

If you want to expand your audience, you will need to learn how to market your blog. If you just want an online “diary” to display your thoughts and your work, and you aren’t concerned with attracting an audience, then for goodness sake yes, start a blog. It’s free, it’s pretty easy to set up, and it’s fun to toss your thoughts out to the world.

But if you are interested in numbers, you’ll have work to do.

Will a blog help you? It won’t hurt you, unless you are a poor writer, which you are not. But will it help you? Only if you learn to market that blog and use it as part of your overall marketing plan.

Good luck!

Why Do You Write?

From Isa: “I’m curious, why do you write? What is your motivation?”

I’m glad you didn’t ask me why you should write, Isa, because I wouldn’t have an answer for you. But you asked why I write, and that one I can easily answer.

I write to connect with others. Period. End of story.

I am an introvert. I have a very hard time connecting with people “in the flesh.” It’s almost painful for me to walk into a room of people I do not know. However, I am a human being, and I need other human beings. Writing allows me to reach out and touch others. Truly, it is my salvation. Without writing I would be a lonely hermit, beard flowing, mumbling to myself and hoping someone will notice me while I hide in my man cave.

Then there’s that whole “I write because it’s my passion” thing.

This is why I write. I see distant horizons when I write, and I want you to see them too.
This is why I write. I see distant horizons when I write, and I want you to see them too.

Making a Living as a Writer

From Nadine: “How can I make a living as a writer? It seems so highly competitive, and yet you and many others do it. What’s the secret?”

Another can of worms! Thanks a lot, Nadine!

I think you are asking the wrong question, and here is where my education in marketing kicks in.

Instead of asking how you can make a living writing, you should be asking how you can change people through your writing. Allow me to explain that one.

Marketing is all about offering a product which people believe they must have for some sort of enrichment. They need the expensive sheets because they will sleep better upon them. They buy a cookbook because it will help them to eat better. They buy a breakfast cereal because the company tells them the cereal is healthy for them.

Similarly, a person purchases a nonfiction book because that book will somehow change their life. They purchase a novel because that novel will provide entertainment for them. Your job, as a writer, is to provide a product which people will want badly enough to purchase, and those same people will see some sort of value, to them, in that novel.

If you can do that you can make a living as a writer.

Closely tied into that is another goal: provide a unique product. Write in such a way that makes you stand out in the crowd, or write about a topic which makes you one of the few. Figure that out and you are on the right path.

I hope that helps.

Back to the Firewood

What a pain in my patootie! The two cords were dumped in the front yard. The aviary where I stack the wood is in the back yard. That means putting wood in the wheelbarrow, taking it around back, stacking it, and then repeating it about two-hundred times.

I’m no spring-chicken! This is much harder than it was twenty years ago.

But it keeps my mind busy, so there you go.

Have a great week filled with love and tolerance for one another. Remember, if you are looking for a writing coach, email me at

2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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