The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Fifty-Two
Happy Anniversary to Me
One year, my friends, and so I raise my arms to the sky and yell out HOORAY!!!!!
We made it, thanks to all of you. One year with this series of questions and answers. Obviously you aren’t bored with it, so we’ll keep it going as long as I can provide you with information and be somewhat entertaining in the process.
Let’s get started with an editing question today and then we’ll see where we go from there.
From Stages of Me: “Now for a question? I do have a published work and it gets some good reads and reviews, however, I am limited on marketing do to hospital treatments and such. When well I am able to do some motivational speaking, God is right there with me giving me the script. When I am able to schedule or respond to speaking requests and/or book signings, they go very well, I am humbled and blessed. I am very limited to responding due to health issues on occasion, but I do enjoy sharing what God has placed on my heart. The area I struggle with is editing, I basically stink at grammar. I use a checker for basics, but nothing paid for. Do you recommend an editing program online? Or using a talented friend, or both? Any suggestions or tips appreciated, especially from such a talent as you. Peace and blessing to you.”
Thank you, Stages! I suspect your question is shared by many writers. Money is always going to be a drawback for most writers, and editing is costly.
There are a lot of different ways you can go with this. Do I recommend an online editing program? I don’t know of any but I’m sure there are some. I’m always hesitant with any online business or product that I have not tried myself, so unless someone can recommend one that they have tried, I would say no to this option. There are just too many scams online these days and I’m an old-fashioned guy who wants to meet the person he’s handing money to.
What I would do, however, is put together a beta reader group. Find five or six friends and/or fellow writers whom you trust, and have them edit for you. You can then do the same for them when they need your services. This kind of sharing of the workload makes sense to me for writers who are not swimming in cash. It seems to me to be a win-win situation for everyone involved.
I can give you the names of some editors on HP, people I trust, but they don’t work for free, so we’d be right back to that money problem.
The Voices of Me
From Pat: “Can you tell us how you manage to have such a “conversational voice” when you write? I swear, I read your work and it sounds exactly how I would imagine you talk. That’s not by accident, is it? How does one develop such a voice, the voice of an “old friend.”
Oh my goodness! This question requires like an article all by itself. It’s a great question, Pat, but I fear I’ll ramble on and on and on with my answer.
I had an acquaintance come up to me a few months ago and he wanted me to judge the voice of a manuscript he had written. Now let me preface this by saying that the person is a bit, shall we say, boring. He has the personality of paint drying. If you have a conversation with him it’s like taking a handful of valium. Get the picture? So naturally the voice in his manuscript was as dry as cardboard. It was his voice….there was no way on God’s earth that the voice was going to be anything but dull.
My writing voice is personable and conversational because I’m personal and conversational. I care about people. I enjoy talking to them and learning about them….and that is reflected in my writing voice….that and about a million things that have happened in my lifetime, but mainly my conversational writing voice is the product of my speaking voice and my attitudes towards life.
This is just my opinion, so take it for what it’s worth: your voice is going to reflect your outlook on life. A very angry person is going to come across as angry, when writing, even if they are writing a recipe. It’s really unavoidable. I suppose there are some very gifted writers who can step outside of themselves and create a voice that is completely different from who they are, but those writers are rare.
If you want a personable, conversational voice, then first change your outlook on life and then the voice will follow.
Of course, I may just be full of it, too, so take that into consideration.
From Bob: “I was sending query letters out the other day and a couple of the agents specialized in literary fiction. I was stumped. I don’t understand the difference between literary fiction and just plain fiction. Any help?”
Bob, I hope you have a lot of hair, because you can tear a lot of it out trying to classify your manuscript. The waters get very murky when talking about literary fiction or general fiction or mainstream fiction. I’m not going to go into all of them right now, but I will answer your specific question. Literary fiction relates to a story of ideas rather than action. What is happening in the story is not nearly as important as the delivery of a message. A writer may build their story around the concept that “love conquers all,” or they may want a story about “the equality of all men and women.” When the idea holds center stage rather than the actual story, you are then looking at literary fiction.
This is obviously a tightrope we writers walk. There are so many genres under the main fiction category, and many books combine two, three or even four genres in a single book. Still, you need to pick one if you are going to query an agent or publisher.
So good luck!
What Should I Charge?
From Beth: “I recently approached a business about writing their blog for them, and they seem interested, but now we are discussing price and I don’t know what a fair price is. Can you help me determine an equitable cost for my services?”
I get a lot of emails asking this same question and it is a tough one. On the one hand, I think many freelance writers undervalue their service and don’t charge nearly enough. On the other hand, if you charge too much, it won’t take long for the business owner to find someone who can do the job for less.
What is your time worth to you? What is the going rate for freelance writers? These are questions without definitive answers. I’ve had business owners ask me for 400 word blogs plus research and they wanted to pay me ten bucks. NO THANK YOU! I’m worth more than that. I’ve had business owners willing to pay thirty, forty and fifty for the same thing. What are your time and talent worth? Are you willing to work for $25 per hour? Less? More? I can’t answer that one for you.
I Feel like I Cheated You Today
I don’t like these installments to ramble on for too long, so three questions is all we can do today and still maintain your interest. Sorry about that, but there were some great questions and I wanted to make sure I gave adequate answers.
If I didn’t get to your question rest assured I will do so next week. We will usher in a new year of the Mailbag next week, and I look forward to a new wave of questions.
Thanks to all who asked questions this week. I’ll see all of you next week. In the meantime, have a blast writing. I hope your love affair with the written word equals mine.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”