The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Fifty-Nine
A Random Observation
Is it my imagination, or do the summer months move by faster than the winter months? How is that possible?
I’m being facetious for those of you who feel the need to actually answer that question. Honestly, I’m sitting in my studio this Friday morning and feeling a bit silly, so you reap the benefits.
Let’s get to it. We have a bunch of questions and I need to make up some wildly intelligent-sounding answers.
First, Second and Third Person
From Melissa: “Happy Monday Bill! Loved the questions, especially about the passive vs active voice. I will confess I get that confused myself. I also get the first person, second person, third person and all their variations entirely confused! Do you know of any simple way to summarize each style of writing?”
Melissa, the key to this question is the request to simplify the explanation. J Let me try.
First person uses pronouns like “I” and “we.”
Second person uses pronouns like “you” and “yours.”
Third person uses pronouns like “he,” “she,” and “they.”
First and third person are used quite often in fiction. Second person is rarely used.
From Eric: “I gather an almost sense of urgency from this. And that is good. In all your writing you exude a sense of personal responsibility and integrity. It seems like it could become burdensome. Do you ever just get all frilly farty and write all silly fiddle faddle nonsense just to cut loose?”
Actually, Eric, my very first novel, “The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday To Today,” was about as frilly farty and silly fiddle faddle as you could ever hope to read. It was 250 pages of nonsense with a story tossed in for good measure. I wrote quite a few “funny” hubs for HubPages back in the early days. Since then my muse has had other plans for me.
How’s that for a subheading? Get your attention?
From Buildreps: “Hey Bill, that were a lot of Q&A's again! I'd like to toss in a new question as well, that might make some readers blush. Let's consider a biography of a man written in the third person. How far would it be wise to go in details regarding the fact that sex plays an important role in the forces that are drawing on the man's fate?”
What an interesting question, Buildreps! From some of the biographies I’ve read, wisdom has nothing to do with any decisions regarding the writing. I don’t have many facts to work from here, but unauthorized biographies are written quite often, and in most cases, a public figure is considered exactly that…public….so most anything goes. Slander has to be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, and rarely is. So, if that’s what you are asking, I say be as truthful as possible and go for it.
From Liz: “Meanwhile--a new question has occurred to me:
I am either terribly over-organized to the point of OCD, or totally unorganized; there seems to be no happy medium.
So, I wonder, what method do you use to file writing ideas for the future? Notebooks? File cabinet full of scraps of paper? Post-it notes all over the desk?
My failing with file cabinets is that either every item has its own category, resulting in umpteen files with a single paper, or a lot of things filed under "misc." which ends up being the biggest folder.
In neither case am I easily able to find what I'm looking for. Notebook? Yeah..but what page is it on?”
Liz, I was laughing when I read this question, because I’ve tried all the methods you mentioned and they all failed miserably.
For me to organize something in a worthwhile manner, that something must be close by where I will see it. For this writer, out of sight definitely means out of mind. I tried post-it notes but they unstuck, fell to the floor and were forgotten. I tried file folders but those failed because they required me to actually look inside the folder for the idea. LOL
The only thing that has worked for me consistently is to write the idea in the form of an article title and then I save it on my computer desktop where I’ll see it daily. All of my article ideas are staring me in the face as online folders when I turn my computer on. They are actually the first thing I see every morning. Every other day or so, I open each one of them to remind myself what that idea was about. Maybe I’ll write a sentence or two under the title to clarify my idea. That way I’m not stuck with just a meaningless title.
In over four years of writing that’s the only thing that has worked for me.
From Kailey: “I can't remember if I asked you before, but is there a secret to getting jobs as a freelance writer/editor without coming across like we're just selling something?
I did put up flyers, before the summer, and I'll make sure new ones go up in time for fall so the students in my area 'may' finally come to me for help, and my flyers 'are' aimed towards helping them, but is there a more successful way to go about this that's still subtle?”
Kailey, you may not like my answer. I’m as shy as the next writer, and I understand your desire to not seem like you are selling something, but the truth of the matter is you are selling if you are a freelance writer. I happen to have a little background about you, and I know you long to be a full-time writer and to get away from those retail jobs. If that is your goal then the sooner you embrace the marketing of your skills the better.
There are many sites that advertise freelance jobs. Follow this link and you’ll find quite a few of them. I don’t know anything about where you live, but you might also try approaching local businesses and introducing yourself as a freelance writer. Get to know the owners, explain what you can do for their business, that sort of thing.
Or you can email me and I’ll give you some more ideas.
The Winning Formula
From Brad: “The bottom line is that they all for the most part follow the knee jerk patterns. This is especially true in the drama field. I can only dispense reality when I feel that the show is comedy infused drama.
I don't know the warping of reality exists in the fiction book world, although I suspect that it must, as writing is writing. Maybe that could be a mailbag question.”
Brad is talking about the “winning formula” that seems to exist in film and literature, and how so many directors, screenwriters and authors follow that formula at the expense of true artistic creativity. It’s an interesting point and I happen to agree with him. Traditional publishers have to be very careful where they allocate their funds, so most times they will only take a chance on an established writer who writes pablum for the masses. The true mavericks in the industry will find a tough road ahead of them for sure. The same can be said about film. Indie movie-makers rarely make big bucks, but their movies can rarely be accused of being “mainstream.” Sadly, in the Arts, “mainstream” sells and “norm-busting” doesn’t.
More Next Week
Well, I’ve had fun. I hope you have as well. I hate to pick up my marbles and leave so quickly, but time is moving much faster than normal and I’m running out of it, and once you run out of time, well, I guess you’re dead, right?
See, Eric, I can be silly.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”