The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Eighty-Six
Feast or Famine
That’s how it goes sometimes in the Mail Room. Some weeks there are too many questions and then, occasionally, we’ll have a week, like this one, where it’s like pulling teeth trying to get a question asked.
We’ll answer the three that came in and then let all of you go back to your regularly scheduled activities.
From Phyllis: “I’ve got a problem maybe you can help me with. I’m writing a children’s book which will eventually become an eBook. When I’m done I’ll then get some illustrations done and then format it for an eBook. Actually, I have two problems.
“I can’t draw and I’m not rich. How can I find an illustrator who will work cheap? And second, is formatting an eBook with illustrations very hard to do? I’m worried I’ll get all done with my book and then not be able to download/format it.”
Never fear, Phyllis, Bill is here.
Most of us aren’t rich, so I feel your pain. I’ve got a few suggestions and I’m sure our readers will have more.
Second question first: No, it is not that difficult to format an eBook with illustrations. I suggest the first thing you do is buy a copy of the book shown at the right. It is very detailed and very easy to understand. Whenever I get ready to format an eBook I go to the library and pick up a copy of that book. It takes me step-by-step through the entire process in a manner ever I can understand and believe me, I’m basically brain-dead when it comes to formatting.
Now about finding illustrators…..there are quite a few among us here at HP. I suggest asking a question on HP or making it a forum topic. I think you’ll find someone very quickly that way. You might also call the local college or high school, ask for the art teacher and explain what you are looking for. The teacher might pick up the ball and incorporate it into a lesson plan, or she might know of a student who would like some professional credibility and would be willing to work cheap. Those two ideas came to me in about ten seconds. Let’s see what my readers say about it.
More help on writing descriptions
Character Physical Descriptions
From Theo: “I’ve been reading your short stories and I’m impressed with the way you describe your characters physically. This is something I have great trouble doing. Do you have any tips?”
Well, Theo, I’ve got a lot of tips. How many do you want?
Here’s one I’ve done before. Go to a coffee shop with a tablet and pen. Study the people sitting in the shop. Write down as many physical characteristics as you can. Get detailed…small scars, big ears, thinning hair, narrow face, bulbous nose….go for the gusto with this, and do it for a number of people.
After you have done that, try describing those physical attributes in simile form. His nose looked like a mile of bad road. Her smile looked like the sun breaking through storm clouds. His ears looked like that old Disney character Dumbo.
I believe good writing is the result of a number of things. I believe good writers train themselves to be good writers through practice. I believe they observe better than the average person. I believe they read a great deal and are not afraid to borrow ideas and techniques from other writers.
Whenever I feel like my creativity has shriveled up, and I can’t possibly write a vivid description of a character or scene, I turn to my old mentor James Lee Burke. I read about ten pages of one of his novels and my mental block is cleared.
And yes, I use the same techniques for describing scenes and settings. We all have five senses….use those senses to help in describing a scene. What does your main character see? What do they smell, hear, feel and taste? Tell it in a way any reader can relate to and you’ll be successful.
Back to Work
From Bob: “I know you recently went back to work. How has that affected your writing schedule? Are you maybe a little bitter that you can’t write as much as you once did? Maybe not bitter, per se, but frustrated, maybe?”
Well, Bob, it definitely has affected my writing schedule. I was out on the road this morning and didn’t start writing until eleven, so four hours of writing time were gone. Same thing will happen tomorrow. So yes, I’ve had to get realistic about what I can accomplish and what I can’t. I can still handle my work load for my freelance writing customers, and I can still have the same goals of two new books this year, but it will just take me longer to do it. That’s not to say I’ve given myself an excuse not to write. I won’t go down that path. It just means instead of working on the novels two hours each day now I have to settle for half-an-hour or maybe an hour.
As far as being frustrated or bitter, it’s all in your outlook. Getting out, calling on customers, those things are good for me. I’ve been in my writing studio non-stop for four years, and being isolated is not good for this recovering alcoholic. I find I’m loving being out and interacting with customers. It’s actually fun for me right now. Another thing is it gives me a chance to do some observing of people and places. I always have my camera with me, so I snap shots that might help me in describing scenes at some point, and if I see an interesting person I’ll snap a shot of them as well.
So right now, a couple months into it, I’m able to tell you this is a good thing and will ultimately help my writing. It definitely will help my bank account. LOL
Last Minute Addition on Linking
From Colin: “Not sure if you've answered this one before, but I was wondering what you think about links to websites - more specifically, is it better (or more sensible) for writers to share links back to their own websites or to the likes of Amazon/Smashwords etc? “
Colin, this really is a first-time question and an interesting one. I’m in no way an expert at this, and perhaps our readers will have a more comprehensive and, dare I say, correct response.
I assume you are talking about a link to your book on Amazon, correct? My own opinion is it is always better to funnel readers to your own website. There you can have further links that will send them to Amazon if need be. It just makes sense, from a marketing point of view, to always send readers and Google searchers to your own writing website to increase traffic to that site.
Having said that, if someone in the comments tells me I’m wrong with that opinion, I won’t be a bit surprised. LOL
And That’s All We Have
A short one today but at least we got the mail out on time. Since I don’t much care about HP guidelines and earnings, it really doesn’t make much difference to me if I hit the magic 1,250 word limit.
And no, I haven’t heard anything else about the rumors of HP going out of business. I suspect, at this point, it is simply a rumor that took on a life of its own in the forums, but if it is true, I hope many of us can find a way to stay in touch on some other writing site. I’d hate to lose you all.
Have a great week of writing!
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”