The Writer's Mailbag: Installment One-Hundred and Eight
And Another Greeting to You All
It must have been the 4th of July holiday that affected the Mailbag a few weeks back, because since then we have been overflowing with questions. Good news for all of us because I love this series. The questions always challenge me and it’s been my experience that growth comes with challenge.
So let’s start growing!
From Louise: “I was wondering though how long should it take to roughly write a novel and how long should a novel be I have written about ten or more novels as I like to call them but I'm not really sure if they are do you want to take a look at them?”
Louise, to answer your second question first, the definition of a novel, as used by most publishing firms, is a manuscript between 70,000 and 100,000 words. That is, of course, a pretty subjective range, but you can use that as a general guideline.
How long to write a novel? That’s purely up to the writer. It takes as long as it takes. For me, the whole process takes about six months. I’ve known writers who have taken several years to write a novel. Again, it takes what it takes. Never judge your progress by the progress of other writers. It’s your book and it will be finished when you declare it finished.
Everything I know about writing
From Venkatachari M: “I got one doubt regarding the usage of the comma when listing some items. Why should you put a comma even while you are adding "and" before the last item? For eg., books, novels, novellas, essays, and short stories. Is the comma necessary before 'and' in this sentence?”
Venkatachari M, you just asked for clarification regarding a matter many writers are confused about. What you are referring to is called a “serial comma,” and whether it should be used before the conjunctions “and” and “or.” Not all writing style books agree with this, but most will tell you the best course of action is to always use the serial comma before the final conjunction. Logically it is not always necessary, but in highly technical language, like legal language, it is most definitely needed for clarification.
Best bet, to keep everyone happy, use that comma!
From Chitrangada: "Aren't other writers and authors your Allies and not your competition? I would be glad if you include your views regarding this in the next installment of this wonderful series.”
My friend, you raise an interesting question, and it is a subject matter I have considered often and mentioned often.
None of you are my competition, and I am not your competition. I believe that strongly. Rather than competition, I look at all of my peers as my allies. We serious writers are a very select group. We understand each other with regards to writing much better, even, than spouses and other family members. We should support each other and aid each other in every way possible, sharing each other’s works, answering each other’s questions….we are a brotherhood, in my mind.
There is a big market out there with literally billions of readers who can purchase books and read articles. I could sell a million books and not once infringe upon your ability to sell a book. It is silly to think otherwise.
What we should do is encourage each other to become the best writers we can be, to raise the level of quality in writing, and by doing so, to raise the literacy rate of our countries. By doing that, we all benefit.
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Illustrations in Novels
From Venkatachari M: “I have got one more question for your mailbag. Do writers add images also in novels and books to illustrate or enrich some incidents or circumstances?”
I have seen illustrations in novels, for sure. It is not the norm but I have seen it. I think, most often, images are used in science fiction and fantasy novels because those two genres deal with a reality we are not accustomed to seeing in the real world. And of course, non-fiction books use illustrations quite often and it is much more the norm.
Is there an unwritten rule that says no illustrations in a novel? Of course not! I would suspect we don’t see them often because they would add to the cost of the printing, even though that additional cost would be minimal. Besides, a good writer should be able to paint a picture with words, so illustrations really shouldn’t be necessary when a good craftsman is doing his or her job.
From Ann: “How would you start up a writing group within your community? Having found like-minded people, how would you structure the meetings? In fact, maybe that's worth a hub...?!”
A hub indeed, Ann, and honestly, I don’t remember if I wrote one on this topic. If not, shame on me, because it’s a good one.
Listen, not everyone will want to be in a writing group. I get that, believe me. I’m a recluse when it comes to writing. Heck, for life in general, I’m often reclusive, now that I think about it. Still, the benefits of a writing group are many and I believe it is well-worth the effort to form one or join one.
How do you start one up? Advertise, of course. I guess I would start at the library and then move on to independent bookstores in my area, put up a poster and see if I get any response. I could also go to the local colleges and universities to spread the word, and of course social media. Maybe some of our readers have other suggestions.
The structure of the meeting? It really depends on what you want to accomplish? Do you want critique of current works? Do you just want a safe place where you can share your works? Do you want a working group where members help each other with their writings? The purpose is entirely up to you, but I know this: it is very necessary to decide on the structure and nature of the group and then stick with that structure. Anytime you get a group of people in a room and hope to accomplish something, there is bound to be chaos if there is not structure, so set up the guidelines and then stick with them.
If you feel the need to change things up, then periodically have a meeting where you review the guidelines. At that time you can change up if you feel like it….but I really do think some sort of structure is necessary or it rapidly can become a free-for-all and very little will be accomplished.
I’m not sure that answers your question, but there you have it!
Bye, Bye Miss American Pie
I just read where Don McLean was arrested, so I’ve been humming that song all morning. See, there was a reason for that subheading!
Great questions and I thank you all, and thanks to those who stopped by to read and comment. Let’s do it again next week, okay?
My latest novella in the Billy the Kid Series, “Breathing Fire on a Cold Winter’s Day,” is now available on Amazon. And I am now beginning my third novel in the “Shadow” series. This one is called “Shadows Over a Hangman’s Noose.”
Have a great week!
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc) #greatestunknownauthor
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”