The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Fifty-Four
Happy July to You All
We’re going through a heat wave right now in my little corner of the world. I know, I know, 95 seems balmy to some of you, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is hot for us in usually mild Olympia, Washington. Like my dad used to say at the family get-together at Christmas….”it’s all relatives.” Get it?
Enough corny, stupid puns. Let’s move on to installment fifty-four of this series. This is an interactive series where you ask and I answer. Maybe someday we’ll switch around and you can answer my questions, but for now, this is the format we’re stuck with.
Let’s begin with a question about screenplays.
From Faith: “I do hope the questions keep rolling in. Have you ever considered writing a screenplay? I attempted to several years ago, and it was fun, but there sure are a lot of rules to follow as far as proper format. Do you think it is a difficult task for most writers to transition from writing a novel to writing a screenplay?”
Faith, this really is a terrific question. I just wish I had a terrific answer for you.
Have I ever considered writing a screenplay? Sure, but I’ve also considered being President of the United States, so take that with a grain of salt.
Do I think it is a difficult task to transition from writing a novel to writing a screenplay? My gut response is it probably depends on the writer. I do know a couple novelists who have made the transition, but they said it was difficult. Honestly, my hunch is it would be easier to just start out writing screenplays without infecting yourself with the novel bug. That way you don’t have to get rid of bad habits before you start writing. J
Can you tell from my answer that I don’t have a clue? Writing a screenplay seems like a formidable undertaking to me. I have my hands full just learning how to write a novel.
From Janet: “I'm new to blogging, and in exploring, I ran across your blog. I am a first time author. My book was just released in June. I was told by my publisher to use the internet as a means of getting my book publicized. How does one do this when she is not that computer-literate or internet saavy? Can you offer any suggestions?”
Janet, thanks for the visit and the question. The answer would take an entire article. I would start on Facebook, but make a new Facebook page either as you the author or a page just for your book…and then send it to all your friends. The other obvious sites are Twitter, Pinterest and Google+…..my goodness, what else? If you don’t have your own website you might consider that as well. I’m sure we’ll have more suggestions in the comment section. Good luck!
From Brian: “Question: How do you time your writing time? What is included in your 10 hours per day of writing? Do you use a timer? Do you turn it off for meal breaks, snack breaks, bathroom breaks, spouse interrupts, nap attacks, writing-related bookkeeping, doing office clerical tasks, or for any time that you are not writing for more than a minute or two?”
Leave it to you to toss out a question that leaves me staring off into space.
When you put it that way I guess I don’t “write” ten hours each day. But I’m darned close to it.
I write from seven a.m. to five p.m. on a perfect day, but during the summer there are no perfect days. Our urban farm keeps me busy and distracted. Our birds and other critters could care less about my writing career. They need food and they need water, and prepositional phrases do not enter their world.
On a perfect day I don’t need a timer. I shut down to eat at the same time daily. That’s about my only distraction unless there is an emergency on the farm. Friends know not to call during my work day. Same with family. Since Bev works about the same schedule away from home, I really have few distractions.
In other words, I have the best of all worlds here in my little writing studio. Having said that, we are getting a goat soon, and I suspect the goat will have something to say about my schedule.
The Muse Again
From Harris: “What do you do when your muse refuses to speak to you? I’ll have days when she just does not show up. What should I do then?”
Well, Harris, I’ve never had it happen, but if it did, I think I’d just walk away and wait for her return. I don’t think I could write without inspiration. The closest I’ve come to that happening is on individual articles. I’ll start an article but then it dries up, and I just leave it alone until something comes to me…but leaving it alone simply means I move to another project. I only have about twenty projects going on at a time, so usually my muse is waiting for me at another project site with a look on her face that says “what took you so long?”
From Bobbi: “How do you portray emotions when you write? I’ve read some of your works and I’ve had tears in my eyes, but I don’t understand how you do that. It’s obviously not enough to say “the sight made him sad,” but I don’t know how to go beyond that. Can you help me?”
Doctor Bill to the rescue!
If you only remember one thing for the rest of your writing career, remember this: we all share the same senses, and most of us, maybe 99%, have shared similar experiences. A writer needs to not only remember that but embrace it. How would you feel if faced with a situation? What does fear feel like to you? What do happiness or shock or surprise or confusion feel like to you?
No, it is not enough to say “the sight made him sad.” What does sad feel like? Is it a crushing weight that threatens to take your very breath away? Does it feel like losing your best friend? Does it feel like the descent of darkness, blotting out inner light? Does it feel like you are suffocating from the weight of passed memories?
To me, this part of writing is what being an actor must feel like. Actors become famous for their ability to tap into emotions and transfer those emotions to their audience. I think writers….great writers….have the ability to do the same thing.
Two Different Voices
From Julie: “I hope this makes sense. Is it okay to switch between first and third person when writing a novel? I’m new to the novel writing thing, and I don’t want to mess things up by being too fancy.”
Julie, you made perfect sense and you aren’t being too fancy. Thousands of writers do exactly that. Most of the story is told in first person, through the eyes of the main character, but occasionally a chapter will be written in third person as they tell us what is happening elsewhere in the story. This is a common technique so feel free to use it.
There’s the Bell
And that bell signals the end of the main event. I hope you enjoyed the questions and answers this week. Hey, if you don’t like the questions, you can always ask some of your own.
I’m going to return to my seat under the shade tree. I’ll sip on a smoothie for awhile and then do some more writing. I think the muse is calling to me, so must go. Ta Ta for now. Have a tremendous week of creativity and thank you for spending some time with me.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”