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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Eighty
A New Year
Welcome back! Let’s not delay with small talk. There are questions to answer.
From Lawrence: “One question I have is about having a 'blog' and just wondering how often you'd post on a blog? I'm kind of thinking about it but not sure what kind of commitment it would take and if I can meet the commitment!”
Lawrence, thanks for the blogging question and Happy New Year to you.
Blogging is not a “one size fits all” proposition. There are serious bloggers out there who post at least three times each week. Many businesses blog five days per week. I think, and this is just my opinion, that the number of times you blog depends, mainly, on your purpose for that blog.
Casual bloggers who really have no purpose for blogging other than a written outlet for their thoughts can really blog as often as they want. One word of caution about blogging too little: It is very easy to lose your audience if you rarely post a blog. Readers generally respond to a normal frequency. They get used to seeing the blog post and they make time to read it…if you disappear for weeks on end, so will your readers.
Blogs are just one part of the writing platform. They are not the only part, but they are another manifestation of your writing skills. With that in mind, regardless of how many times per week you post, make it good.
Is the Product Good Enough?
From Eric: “I assume that whether or not you should do that depends on a desire and not on a guarantee of success. So my question is simple. How do you know if your product is good enough to give it a shot? Seems like a qualified editor only comes along after you have gone through all the hardwork. Is the wagon in front or in back of the horse?”
It’s an interesting question, Eric. How does one know if they are good enough? One doesn’t! There will always be a degree of self-doubt in this writing game. No matter how good you are, you can count on self-doubt. Can you also count on an objective appraisal of your own work? I don’t think so. A doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient….that sort of thing.
There are very qualified editors out there but you’ll pay for them. If you want an honest appraisal of your work without paying for it, sign up and join a writers’ group online, or take an extension course online or at a junior college. There you will get constructive feedback without paying an arm and leg for it.
Heck, Eric, I think I’m good enough to be a bestselling author, but obviously no one else agrees with me, so that should tell you something about “knowing if you are good enough.”
From Ann: “When you are editing your work for tightening up, word choices etc (i.e. not just boring old proof-reading!), do you often change words or phrases? I find it easier to go for whatever comes to mind so that the ideas are there, then I go back and think ‘I can express that better with….’. I wonder if you do that or do you have a different tack?”
Ann, as a matter of fact, that’s exactly what I do. My first draft is a free-flow of ideas and story. My first re-write is where the changes happen…and then during my second re-write, and my third. Often, between re-writes, I’ll let several weeks pass. For whatever reason, that gives me a very fresh, new perspective when I read it again, and that leads to quite a few word and phrase changes.
I’m a big believer in not interrupting the flow of the story in that first draft.
It feels good knowing you do the same.
The Creation of Characters
Again from Ann: “Do you ever mix characteristics of people you know, to form a new character in your novels, or do you just use one person as a basis, or do you not use those you know at all? Is that one question or three? I’m not sure!”
I lost count, Ann. LOL For me it’s a combination of all those choices. Some characters are mirror images of individuals I’ve known in the past. Some are compilations and some are just figments of my imagination. The current main character in my “Shadow” novels is a guy I just made up out of the blue. He’s a philosophical do-gooder who is also a vigilante. I most definitely do not know anyone like that, although it might be fascinating if I did.
A side note: Very good characterization is hard for me. I think it’s too easy to gloss over characters and not give them the depth they deserve. That’s what I’m trying to do lately….give more depth.
Depressing Writing Slump
From Lizzy: “On a more serious note, however, and perhaps a place to start off with your 2016 mailbag (if, in fact, you plan on continuing it) is a question I've been struggling with for some months now. I've been going through a rather bad depression, and while I am in treatment, and some things are getting better/easier to handle, others are not. The one thing that is germane to this site, is that I just am not in the mood to write. I don't feel like it. It feels like too much effort anymore.
“This is a new thing for me; writing used to be my release and escape, whether with articles, or just journaling. I start to write an article, and stop after a few sentences, as I just can't focus. It's not ordinary 'writer's block;' for that, I have tricks I use. This is just an "I don't want to" thing. I've come to a screeching halt. Do you know of a solution for this kind of slump?”
Lizzy, first of all, Happy New Year. Second, I’m sorry to hear about your depression. I have no experience with clinical depression, so I had to do some research on this.
I’m back. I just spent the last hour reading about depression and tips to combat it. That in no way makes me an expert. I don’t even know if it qualifies me as someone to even try and answer this question, but I’ll try anyway.
Start small and focus. Tell yourself tomorrow you will write 100 words, but even that instruction is too random. Look out your front window and choose the most beautiful thing you see when you do; then, in 100 words, describe that beautiful thing. Then stop writing and go do something else.
Next day, do it again, giving yourself a new challenge for 100 words. Try to continue for a week….100 words each day about a specific subject.
The other thing I’m seeing through research is the benefits of physical exercise. Winter or no winter, get outside and go for a decent walk. Push yourself and get the heartbeat going. Again, be specific in your goals…go for a brisk fifteen minute walk, then repeat the next day, and the next.
That’s all I’ve got for you. To continue would be silly on my part since I’m not a doctor and really not qualified to go beyond those two elementary suggestions.
Best wishes, Lizzy!
And that brings us to end of our first Mailbag of 2016.
What are your goals this year in writing? Do you have specific goals? Do you even need them?
My life has changed drastically of late, needing to work several days a week to meet some unexpected expenses, so I’ve cut back on lofty goals for 2016. I want to write another novel in 2016, and I want to write two novellas and two HP articles each week. Those are doable goals and I feel good about them.
What about you?
Thank you for sticking with me in 2015. I send you all blessings and wishes for happiness.
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”