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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Forty-Two

Updated on April 13, 2015

Forty-two…are You Kidding Me?

One article. That’s all I was going to do with this mailbag nonsense. One article to tie up some loose threads and answer an array of questions and then I would be done with it.

Forty-two weeks later here we are.

Obviously I do not have a firm grasp on reality.

But then we all knew that, right?

Welcome back to the Mailbag. You ask, I answer, and then we all go get a stiff drink and enjoy the rest of our day. My idea of a stiff drink these days is lemonade, but that’s for another discussion.

Here we go with a great question by Carol.

Welcome to the Mailbag
Welcome to the Mailbag | Source

CREATESPACE

From Carol: “As always very helpful. Bill I have kind of a complicated question..well maybe. I am curious about Create A Page. Where are the best instructions to turn an ebook into printed with this site? You had mentioned it before.”

I’m guessing Carol is talking about CreateSpace, a site I most definitely mentioned before.

Let me start by saying if I can do this then anyone can, because I am basically brain dead when it comes to technology. I’ve done it, my wife has done it, so I’m confident, Carol, that you can do it.

When I have done it I simply followed the instructions on CreateSpace. If you need further instructions then there are several good online books available through Amazon that can walk you through it. There are also several good videos on YouTube that have all the information you need.

Trust me, this is not difficult. It’s a bit time-consuming, and there will be some errors along the way, but eventually you will get to the finished product.

Three writers and three distinct writing voices
Three writers and three distinct writing voices | Source

The Voice

From Kailey: “I'll never get tired of your voice! It's conversational, intelligent and comical. Speaking of which, do you have any suggestions for someone who wants to improve their voice? Or, do you think after most writers have found a voice they're comfortable with it'll always sound repetitious to them, even if others enjoy it?”

Kailey, I’ll tell you what. This is such a great question…I’m going to write a hub about it. I’ll post it on Friday. Sorry for the delay in the answer, but this one really deserves a longer answer than I can give here. Thank you and I promise to have this answered by Friday.

This is what I think of revisions....a necessary evil
This is what I think of revisions....a necessary evil | Source

REVISIONS

From Lizzy: “Okay--I have another question for you, vis-a-vis revisions.

Do you (or how do you) keep track of revisions, and not lose your place in scrolling back and forth on the computer screen while making the changes?

I find that if I need to do a major revision, I need to print out a hard copy, and use old-fashioned edit marks, boxes and arrows... That's one thing with a hub; quite another matter if it's an entire book!”

Lizzy, this is a great question, and it applies to anyone who writes a book. Your system of printing out the manuscript is a good one. It’s not one I use but I certainly see the advantages to it.

As I’ve stated several times in the past, my first and second drafts of my novels involve no editing or revisions at all. In the first draft I simply tell the story. In my second draft I develop in detail characters and scene descriptions. When I’ve finished with those two drafts I turn my book over to my beta readers. I have some good ones and I trust that they will find the major flaws in the story I’m telling. They will let me know if there are gaps in the story or holes to fill. They will tell me if something doesn’t make sense and needs more development, and they will tell me if my characters are likeable and if not what is wrong with them.

Armed with that information, I then begin my revisions. This is in no way an easy task. If I change something that is to be repeated throughout the novel, then I am looking at dozens of individual revisions wherever that “something” appears in the novel. I just had this happen. I didn’t like one of my major characters and I had to make changes to her in about fifty different spots throughout the book. How do you keep track of that? I simply start at page one and work forward until I’ve done every revision necessary for that character. Same thing if it is part of the plot. If I revise the plot then I have to go through the entire book and make sure it all ties together with the new changes. There is no easy way to do this.

There are computer programs you can buy that help you to outline each chapter for a reference so you can easily spot where in the book certain things appear, but this only alleviates a bit of the work. In the final analysis, revisions require painstaking work, especially if they are big revisions.

The novel I just finished, Shadows Kill, was completed and about to be sent out to agents when I learned, thanks to a friend, that my timeline was completely flawed. I won’t repeat some of the words that came out of my lips upon discovering that my friend was correct. I then had to go through the entire manuscript, again, and correct the timeline.

Either I’m stupid or revisions are difficult on the best of days.

Beta Readers

From Brian: “Beta readers are precious. Beta reading is a gift to receive and to give from the heart. Best of all is a critique writing group in which each member is a beta reader for the others, with each being eager to ever be an even better writer and glad to encourage and help the others in that urge. An advantage of a local group is being able to get not only written comments and suggestions but also verbal face-to-face comments and suggestions. I have found it more helpful to get both written and verbal feedback than either alone. I wonder if a critique group meeting (or a get-together with a beta reader) could be simulated with a video call?”

It’s a great idea, Brian, and one I had never considered. It seems to me that a conference call to your beta readers via Skype would be very advantageous. I don’t have a clue how to do Skype but I’ve seen it done and it sounds like a great idea to me. Set up a time and have your beta readers there “in front of you.” You can all then share ideas at one time. Sounds very doable to me.

Making Money

From Jackie: “What’s the fastest way to make money as a freelance writer?”

What I’m about to tell you, Jackie, is something I don’t recommend to any writer.

The fastest way to make money is to write for a content mill. There are thousands of them online so you won’t have any problem finding one. You can literally be making money within a week or two.

The problem in doing that, though, is that the money they pay sucks. How’s that for clarity? Content mills pay peanuts for hours of work, and every single time a writer works for peanuts he/she drives down the market. Our time should be valuable, and writing 500 words for five bucks is a joke in my opinion.

But if you want to make money quickly then go forth and enjoy those peanuts.

More Next Week

I’m still having fun and you’re still having fun, so I’ll be back next week with another installment of the Mailbag. If you have a question then just leave it in the comment section below and I’ll get to it next Monday.

In the meantime, have a great week of writing. Spend the week elevating your game. Next week, at this time, I want you to be a better writer than you are today.

2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 2 years ago from New York, New York

      As always great advice and looking forward to your article on Friday for more advice on writing in your own voice now, too. Have a wonderful Monday now, Bill ;)

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 2 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you so much Bill...I always have a panic attack when I have to follow instructions or directions. I will check out createspace..Create a page..where did that come from? Do you order copies of your book if you want them from createspace??? I know you are busy noveling these days and all great...I am waiting patiently for the book for writers from an intense writer...How is that for a title...???

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Janine. Happy Monday to you, too....where does time go, eh? So much to do and never enough time. I know you know what I'm talking about.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      Bill, if you don't mind, I'd like to throw in an idea for Lizzy's question regarding revisions. When I edit/revise, I use Word Track Changes. The changes show in red, so it's easy to find where you left off. Before accepting the changes, I save the document as a new file (story revision1, for instance), then accept or deny each marked change. The reds go away and you have a clean document when all is said and done. I always save my original drafts. I don't know if it's entirely necessary, but I do it anyway.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Carol yes, you can order copies of your book from CreateSpace...at a discount by the way. As for that writing book....sheez....I don't even know what to say about that. LOL Happy Monday my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Sha. It's always helpful hearing how others do it. I appreciate you sharing and helping others who wonder about that.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Interesting as always Billy and I like the idea which bravewarrior suggests above about making revisions with Word Track Changes. That is definitely something I would like to explore sometime soon.

      I just realized that you have written pretty close to the amount of hubs I have written in total with this series. I don't know how you do it! It takes me a long time to get one hub out .........SIGH!!

      You have a great week Billy

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 2 years ago

      I'm still having fun, too. I have to check out CreateSpace. Voted up, useful, interesting and always awesome.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sally, I suspect I have much more time to write than you do. Thank goodness I have a nice view out this window because I sit at this desk for many hours. :)

      Thank you my friend. Happy Monday to you.

      Bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Pop! I guess we'll keep doing this as long as everyone is happy.

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 2 years ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday! I know you have shared your process before, but I guess I never thought very carefully about how you actually made the edits themselves. So, you never print out the book as hardcopy? It sounds like you make all your revisions on screen? That does sound very efficient. Much less paper being wasted! I'm sure no matter how you make the edits, this has got to be a time-consuming and lengthy undertaking.

      Thanks again for writing these mailbag articles!

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 2 years ago from Iowa

      This has been a great series. I'm glad you kept it going!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Melissa, Happy Monday to you. No, I no longer print out my manuscript. I can't afford to buy that much paper. LOL I wish I could but I can't, so I make my edits online and live with it.

      Have a great week, my friend, and thanks for always visiting on Monday.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, Deb. I am too! :)

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Wonderful and helpful article, Bill). You're right, about making money online for pennies. I do it, but a US dollar goes further in the Philippines than over there, so it's pin money on the side. At the same time, it's been getting in the way of fulfilling my dreams, such as working on books. But I have discovered a niche I'm good at -- Children's books, and we are in the process of publishing the first in a series of 13. Thank you Bill, for leading me to my niche, whether it is discovering I can make compost that accidentally grows plants, to learning about book writing and discovering my target market is children.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      ... and we still enjoy reading the mailbag, every week! "revisions are difficult on the best of days..." caught my eye, this week. For sure! But also very satisfying, when finished. But, over and over, character by character, it must be done. And, yes, the timeline is critical. I've seen a number of "finished" published books with timeline errors... Looking forward to hearing about your responses from agents! ;-)

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Thanks for that clear answer, Bill. I guess I sometimes get tangled up in trying to follow a certain element, and then I lose my place; probably through the same process that our brain uses to auto-correct typos, and we miss them ourselves, but they are quickly found by someone else proofreading.

      Voted up, interesting and useful, as always.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mona, that is wonderful news. Thanks for sharing it with me, and I wish you the very best of luck with that ambitious 13-book series.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Bill. I had to laugh when my beta reader caught the timeline error. I had only read the darned thing about twenty times and managed to miss the error each time. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Lizzy. I wish I had a better solution but I don't. It is as painstaking for me as it is for most writers I know.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Bill, good questions, and good answers. How I wish I could find Beta readers locally. I wonder if an average Joe could be of help at all, you know, one who is not a professional writer. You could trade out time with that person for a service they need. Probably not a good idea.

      I have a hint. I simply cannot live without dual monitors. They really aren't a large investment if you are serious about writing. For my HP, I write my story in Word and save it to my hard drive, then I cut and paste to the HP template, including photos and graphics. It is so much easier and faster than minimizing one and bringing up the other, and you can make side-by-side comparisons without printing out a hard copy. The possibilities are numerous.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      It's Monday so that means it's time to check the mail. I can't believe it's been 42 weeks. That's amazing. As usual some great questions with some pretty darn good and straight forward answers. Just what we have come to expect. Have a great week Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great suggestion MizB. When I grow up I want to be as intelligent and practical as you. I have a habit of making things much more difficult in technology than is necessary. Thanks for sharing.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Bill! I'm as surprised as anyone that this series has gone this long. Now I hope it hits 100.

    • social thoughts profile image

      social thoughts 2 years ago from New Jersey

      There are always interesting questions in these! I always learn something new!

      If I may, perhaps, I misunderstood Lizzy's question, but if not I have a tip. I edit for an organization using word documents via email, and have to show my changes with specific color codes. If I add something, I highlight it in blue; when I think they should delete something, it's highlighted in green and/or strike-through; my own questions are highlighted in purple. I wish I knew about this when I was more of a story writer, since I used to revise all of the time, and save all copies, too. Does this help?

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      That is helpful, Kailey. Thank you. I've written your hub and it will definitely be out on Friday. Thanks for being patient with this old man.

    • social thoughts profile image

      social thoughts 2 years ago from New Jersey

      Oh, good, it helped!

      No problem. I'm looking forward to it, and the next round of questions!

      P.S. You are not old!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Kailey, I'm working on the theory that I'm young of mind and spirit, so I'm really only thirty years old. :) Thank you!

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 2 years ago

      Hi Bill, ~ beyond what is ordinary: all great answers to important questions. One day though in-between the lines there hidden answer will uncover secret technique of "how dead brain " is being revived . Wouldn't that be something! ( Patience continue to be a choice.)

      Voted useful, interesting.

      Good night my friend, be blessed and productive.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is another interesting and useful mailbag hub. I'm glad the series has lasted so long!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      The Skype idea with key questions prepared in advance so it doesn't last forever sounds like a good idea.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Teacher, teacher.....I was just looking at some info I received in the mail about the Adult Education courses offered at our local High School. Not too much that I would choose to take advantage of, but I thought of you immediately!

      Have you ever considered taking on something like the basics of writing for one of these classes? Believe me, I know your schedule is filled to the brim bill, but somehow I have faith you could fit this in if you chose to. You have SO MUCH to offer and you're a natural in the classroom. I can't help but believe this would be a very successful adventure for you...not to mention your students!

      OK, so you're thinking..."Is she crazy? Like I need something MORE to do!".......Well, the answers are, "Yes" and "Why not bro?" Hey, anytime I can make a suggestion, buddy!

      I'll be on my way now......LOL. UP+++pinned.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Michael my friend, you continue to bring a smile to my face. Thank you for that. I'll let you know when I revive but until then, I will practice patience. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Alicia. I'm enjoying it greatly.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It does to me, too, Flourish. Now all I have to do is learn how to do Skype. LOL

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Paula, I have considered it, and I still consider it. I'm so focused on writing novels that I can't imagine...but still, we need the money, and I suspect that will be the motivating factor that wins out eventually. Thanks for the suggestion, Sis, and your faith in my makes me smile.

      Bro

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Thanks for your response to my question. I intend one of these days to experiment with Skype, Google+ Hangout, and TeamViewer to see which, if any, of them would be best to use for a virtual meeting of a critique writing group or with a beta reader or editor or to let a group member sick at home or on vacation in a far away motel attend a meeting.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Yes, it is still fun and informational, so keep the mailbag going with your usually very helpful advice. Thanks!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Brian, you are very welcome, and thank you for the question. I hope you'll let us know if you do try it and tell us how it went.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I will do that, Dora, and thank you for always being here.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This has absolutely nothing to do with writing, but I want to ask if you like a laptop computer? I am having some problems with my shoulders using the mouse. I thought a touch laptop would be better. What do you think?

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hi Ruby! I have a laptop but not a touch screen. I bought Bev a touch screen laptop for Christmas. She loves it and the times I've played on it I loved it too. :)

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      Forty-two and nothing to be blue about for sure with this Mailbag series!

      Monday already ...well, Tuesday now. Wow, the weeks are flying it seems. I am so thrilled that the questions keep pouring in and all useful.

      I am looking forward to your hub about voice on Friday. Yes, that one needs elaboration.

      Next Monday will roll around quickly and I am sure the mailbag will be stuffed with great questions.

      Blessings

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Faith! I love this series because I don't have to come up with ideas to write about. LOL The lazy me just loves that.

      Have a wonderful Wednesday my friend, and blessings always.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      I'm one of those who has to have hard copy text in front of me to do revisions. It's logical and I know I won't miss anything because everything's numbered! Never done it with a book though, so I'm probably talking through my hat; is that why I never wear one? :)

      Great stuff! I'm on a high as I've just had a favourable result from hospital tests - life is good and, boy, do I value it more and more!

      Have a wonderful Wednesday, bill!

      Ann

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, I'm so happy to hear about your hospital tests. A reason to celebrate for sure, dear friend. I'm sending hugs and smiles your way.

      Bill

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, bill! :))

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very welcome, Ann. Great news for sure!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      42 and stronger than ever my friend, I really got into the beta portion of your mail-bag so it is true some weeks are far more useful to me and im sure that holds true for many other readers so keep the mail coming Magic Mike!!!! LOL

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Thank's Bill. I think after this house move I'll get one...

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I will, Frank, and thank you. This is like spaghetti...I just toss stuff against the wall and see if it sticks with anyone. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are welcome, Ruby! Like I said, Bev loves here and now doesn't like using mouses.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Billy

      Finally got to this hub. So much good material on hubpages it takes time to work through it.

      Really enjoyed this hub and I'd agree with your assessment of content mills.

      I've done work for a couple and some are actually good for learning the craft but most aren't. One of them I found out was a Russian scam where I was writing college papers for kids too lazy to do the work (they did pay me though. I just didn't take any more assignments)

      By the way if you think $5 for 500 words is poor a word of warning that's the top end of the scale!

      Sorry for the rant but I'd rather write on what I like for cents than do the other!

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Of course I agree with you re Createspace. Super easy site to use to publish. But I would caution writers to begin with the print book and let Createspace do the conversion to ebook. Harder to do the other way round. Plus, unless there's glitch in the system (which I had happen once), it will automatically make both versions available on Amazon. Done.

      Happy Weekend!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lawrence, I didn't even consider that a rant. I considered it a whole lot of truth. :) Thanks my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great points as always, Heidi. Thank you and now I'm off to see what you have written. Thank you again.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 23 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      As always, great material that I have never even thought about. At this rate, we'll all be experts without the hard work that you went through.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Deb, if that happens, I'll be very gratified. Thank you for your kind words.

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