The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #326
A Weird Change Has Come Over Me
Truth be told, I think I’ve read maybe five books in the last year, and I’m almost ashamed to write that. Prior to the last year, I would read, at least, one book per week. I had done that for thirteen years, since I finally sobered up in 2006. Reading was an anchor for me, something to occupy my mind, take it away from the stinkin’ thinkin’ of an alcoholic, but then, about a year ago, I just stopped reading. Instead, late at night, I now watch documentaries on Netflix, and nary a word do I read.
I wonder why? It seems strange, to me, that I would undergo such a radical shift so suddenly.
I miss reading, but not so much that I’m willing to pick up a book tonight and dive in.
Did I just grow bored with reading? I don’t think so. Will I begin again soon? I have no idea. It’s just bizarre.
Just being real. I doubt it’s anything to worry about, so don’t worry about me. We humans are complex creatures, and on a good day we might understand 50% of the things we do.
Let’s find out what the Mailbag has in store for us this week. And my apologies to Rinita. Your question came in late, so I will start off next week’s Mailbag with your question.
From Lisa: “Do you have trouble creating female characters for your novels, you being a male and all? Just curious how you handle that to achieve believability?”
Thanks for the question, Lisa! No, I don’t have any trouble creating female characters. I rather enjoy doing it. The first novel I wrote, “The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday to Today,” had a female character as one of two lead characters, and I greatly loved making Sheila come alive.
Having said that, I would prefer to develop male characters simply because I’m male and I understand the male perspective much better. I’ve been with my wife Bev now for over ten years, but no way can I claim to understand her. It’s that unfamiliarity with the female species which makes me hesitate to take on that task too often. I have a lot of female characters in my novels, but I rarely attempt to give them as much depth as I do my male characters.
Maybe in my next Shadow novel, if there is a next, I’ll allow Liz to spread her wings and fly. I think she would like that. She’s certainly earned a moment in the limelight.
America’s Got Talent
From Joel: “Have you been watching this summer’s season of America’s Got Talent? There is this poet who is in the finals, a young black man who speaks his truth, and that’s his talent. He is wildly popular and one of the favorites to win the whole thing. Seems to me this is writing of a sort, or poetry. What say you?”
You’re talking about Brandon Leake, who describes himself as a “spoken word poet,” and I’m fine with that description. And yes, he is good and yes, he is, in my opinion, a poet. I love the raw power of his words. He reminds me of the coffee shop poets of the 50’s and 60’s. I saw many of them back in the old days, and Leake would fit in well with them then, or now.
I kind of want him to win simply because he is a poet and not some sword-swallower or modern dance group.
From Rochelle: “What is your favorite topic to write about?”
What an interesting question, Rochelle. I’m not sure I’ve ever been asked that before.
Three hours later . . . I had to give this some thought. I think it’s the moral dilemmas we all face throughout our lives. I like to think “that could have happened to me,” and “if it did, how would I have handled that situation?” I am barely removed from the homeless alcoholics on the streets. My birth family, two blood brothers in particular, spent time in prison, and the whole birth family died young. That could have been me. Would the outcome have been the same for me as it was for them, death in prison or death in a fiery motorcycle crash while high on meth? I am fascinated by those situations when I write. And I’ll bet if each of you reading this right now stop and ponder that question, you can all think of situations you could have easily been in, and how would you have handled it?
From Kevin: “What do you think of all the writing contests which are offered online and in writing magazines? Do you think there is any value in entering those contests?”
Well, Kevin, you might win something, which I consider a value.
Other than the obvious prizes available, I just think it’s great practice to take on those challenges. It is much too easy to become complacent as a writer, and only write about things which are comfortable for you. I think that kind of complacency leads to stagnation in your skills. Great writers step out of their comfort zones and attempt the difficult.
And hey, again, you might win something! I say go for it and good luck! There are some great contests offered in the magazine “The Writer,” and also “Writer’s Digest,” if you’re looking for a few.
From Jeannie: “Do you think it’s harder to be a freelance writer now than it was ten years ago? I mean in terms of actually making money. Is it still possible to make meaningful supplemental income as a writer?”
The first question is easy to answer: YES! It is much harder to make money as a freelance writer in 2020.
Back ten years ago, freelance writing was still relatively new. There were fewer freelance writers out there, and they all got a large piece of the pie. Today, it seems like everyone is a freelance writer, a sign, I think, of the poor economic times. The influx of freelance writers has actually driven the price down. Writing a particular article ten years ago might have paid $40 or more; today that same article will pay $10, simply because there are so many writers out there who need the money and are willing to write for less. It’s really simple Supply and Demand. Right now the supply of writers is huge, and that drives the price down. Whether that will change in the future is anyone’s guess.
There are, of course, other ways to make money as a freelancer. You can monetize a blog and make money that way, but be warned, there is a glut of blogs out there, and the demand for blogs is waning.
You can make money writing articles for magazines, or be a freelancer and sell articles to online newspapers, but again, the market is flooded with those types of writers.
I’m not trying to be discouraging. I’m trying to be real and honest.
And let me add this point: I’m not all that convinced that being a great writer is more important than being a good marketer of your writing. I’ve read some wildly successful blogs which were really pretty poor in writing quality. I’ve read some mediocre magazine articles which were about as interesting as watching paint dry. They were wildly popular because the writer was one hell of a salesperson.
Work on your writing but also work on your marketing skills. If someone could make pet rocks popular, and they did, you can surely sell your writing. I’m beginning to think the ratio is one part writing skill and three parts marketing skill but hey, what do I really know?
Hp Writers Famous?
From Mary: I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an HP writer making the bestseller list. Do you think some writers on HP are worthy of it? Is some of the writing on HP good enough to be a bestseller?
Interesting question, Mary! My quick answer is yes, I think some HP writers are very good and could have a mass following, if they were ever heard of? It takes decent writing, one hell of a marketing campaign, and a whole lot of luck to make the bestseller list. I think of James Patterson anytime I entertain a question like this. I do not think Patterson is an exceptional writer, and yet he sells tens of millions of books and is often on the bestseller list. In fact, a lot of the time he doesn’t even write the book but rather outlines the story and then has a ghostwriter write it. Oh, the shame of it.
But there he is again, and again, and again, on that damned bestseller list. Why? Great marketing and a loyal following, talent be damned.
I can think of a handful of writers on HP who are every bit as good as James Patterson, but I doubt we’ll ever see them on that list. Marketing rules and dogs drool.
Back to My Reading Woes
It’s really not a woe. It’s more like a curiosity. I just find it weird that I am suddenly bored with something I found such joy in.
I’m a complicated being! LOL
Questions for the Mailbag? You can include them in the comment section below, or email them to me at email@example.com. And for those asking about my latest novel, “Shadows Over The Pond,” I will be finished with it by the end of September, so look for it on Amazon in October. Not to worry if you forget; you can count on me reminding you.
Have a beautiful week! For the love of God, or the gods, please do all things with love. We need a whole bunch of love right now.
And if you want to use my line “marketing rules and dogs drool,” feel free. I give you that one for free.
2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”