The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Forty-Six
Happy Monday to You All
Welcome back! It’s Monday and the Mailbag has arrived.
The weather is beautiful here in western Washington. I’m having a bit of difficulty concentrating on my writing of late. The garden keeps calling to me, and home projects are waiting, but despite it all, the Mailbag is something that just can’t be delayed. There are pressing questions to answer, so let’s get to it.
The first question is a dandy and it’s from my dear friend Faith.
From Faith: “TGIF! Actually, I do have a question, which most likely is a simple one for you, and I know it is Friday. I guess I can Google it, but I'd rather hear your take on it. I understand if it is not a question worthy of the Monday Mailbag Series, if not, maybe you can give a quick answer here? A question just popped into my mind, being that I am working on flash fiction and fiction writing at the moment. However, I am a non-fiction writer for the most part. Anyway, to my question: When writing fiction, do you think it takes away from the story to place a disclaimer at the end that the characters depicted in the story are purely fictional and not related to any real person(s) in this life? To me, if it is fiction, then that means it is fiction. However, I know, many writers do take from their life experiences and add that into the character of the fiction character. A lot of times, the writing is so familiar to real life, readers assume the characters are based on real people, when they are not.”
Actually, Faith, I don’t think this has ever been asked, so nice question!
Do I think a disclaimer takes away from the story? I don’t think so at all, no! Do I think It’s necessary for a work of fiction? That question is a bit trickier.
The fact that it is fiction should eliminate the need for a disclaimer and yet I have seen them countless times in novels. The mere fact that accomplished writers have felt the need to have disclaimers tells me that they are concerned with possible lawsuits and thus feel they are necessary. I tend to think that’s a wise attitude. I wish we didn’t have to be concerned with all that legal stuff but we do. A disclaimer takes what, one or two sentences? Might as well include it at the bottom and be safe.
From Brian: “Please consider adding a freelance writer job description capsule to this hub. Does freelance writing include writing feature film scripts or novels 'on spec' in hopes of getting an agent and making a sale to a producer or publisher? Writing short stories in hopes of selling them to magazines? Writing for hire per assignment? Writing and giving lectures? Writing nonfiction books or articles in hopes of publication and sales? Internet self-published content writing for a share of ad revenue? Other? Regarding assignments, what are some examples of possibilities? If you have already written articles on these questions, please cite them.”
Sheez, Brian, why don’t you just ask a difficult question while you’re at it? LOL
This really is a tough one to answer.
Okay, so I went to the Writer’s Digest for a definition of a freelance writer. Here’s what they said:
“A freelance writer is a writer who works for a company or an individual on a contractual, or project basis. There is a project or piece of writing with a set time frame and a clear goal. After the project is complete, the freelancer moves on to the next project. There are many different kinds of freelance writing, such as business writing, marketing writing or web writing. On the other hand, some freelancers focus solely on querying and writing for magazines, anthologies or newspapers, while still others serve non-profits through grant-writing.”
Now, all that seems pretty clear to me, but there are gray areas, and Brian has mentioned some of them. If you write a film script on spec, is that freelancing? By the strict definition no, it is not freelancing. Rather it would fall under the category of author.
I also don’t think writing for sites like HubPages qualifies one as a freelance writer because, according to the definition, there is no contractual agreement with HP.
From my own experience, I have three main customers. Each week they give me a list of articles they need written and I do that within the time frame and receive pay for them. That is strictly freelance writing. I also write articles and try to sell them to magazines. If an article is purchased then that is a freelance gig. Is the attempt to sell it an activity of a freelancer?
See? Confusing any old way you slice it.
Great question, Brian. I wish I had a definitive answer but I don’t. To me, if you are constantly trying to sell your writing on contract, you are a freelance writer. If you are constantly writing books, you are an author. It’s the “writing on spec” part of the question that gets us into murky waters. Hey, just call yourself a freelancer and be done with it, or as my dad used to say, fake it till you make it.
From Bree: “The weather is improving and there are so many things to do outside. How do you concentrate on writing when there are so many distractions?”
It appears I’m not the only one with weather issues.
Okay, seriously…..I’m a freelance writer and author, and writing is my job. If I had some office job and I was being paid by the hour, I couldn’t use weather as an excuse. Oh, I might play hooky now and again and call in sick, but a job is a job is a job.
For me, it’s the same thing with my writing. This is my job. I don’t get to take off all summer because of the weather. I treat this labor of love as a job and act accordingly.
Having said that, there are times when we need to feed our soul and just say “to hell with it.” Those are the times we should shut down the computer and go play. Your muse will probably thank you for it.
Pete and Repeat
From Angela: “Bill, is there some rule that tells you how often you can use the same word in an article or a book? I’m not talking about common words, but more like adjectives to describe something….like ‘beautiful’ or ‘lovely.’”
Welcome to one of my pet peeves, Angela. I’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth repeating. I saw a novel by a local author last month; it was in a display in a local grocery store. I like supporting local writers whenever possible, so I thought I would buy her book. I opened to the first page and started reading. She started five sentences in the first three paragraphs with the word “she.” I put the book back on the display and walked away.
Is there a rule? No! Should there be? Oh my God, YES!!!!!
Creative writing is called creative for several reasons, one of which is the creative use of the English language. There is nothing creative about using the same word over and over again. Now, having said that, if you are writing a technical article or non-fiction book, some words must be used often. If you were to write a book about nuclear power, it would be difficult to leave out the word “nuclear” in many situations.
But creative writing should be creative and not lazy.
More Coming Next Week
Through wind, snow, sleet, hail and even sunshine, the Mailbag will be delivered, so I’ll see all of you next week. I’m looking forward to it and I hope you are as well.
Thanks to those who had questions this week. If you have a question just include it in the comment section below. I’ll get to it as soon as possible.
Have a tremendous week of writing. Stay safe, be happy, and always thank the gods that you have been given the ability to write.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly”