- Books, Literature, and Writing
The Writer's Mailbag: Installment One-Hundred and Seven
And Here We Go Again
Just when I thought the Mailbag was on its last leg, a bounty of questions arrived. The old gal ain’t dead yet! So let’s not dilly-dally. Here are the questions and answers for this beautiful week in July.
From Mary: “If the mailbag does slow, there are still many I haven't yet read as I was late arriving to the party. I will be sad to see the mail bag go but I look forward to the podcast.Will this podcast be part of a hub or accessed via your website?”
Mary, that final decision hasn’t been made yet. I can download it on iTunes, or I can download it on YouTube, or just make it available on my website. I’m recording it today so I guess I’d better make up my mind soon. Stay tuned. I promise to tell you as soon as I have an answer.
My tips on writing
Those Pesky Colons and Semi-colons
From Eric: “Let me get right to it. I am having a problem with colons and semi-colons. (shoot I don't even know if that is the correct way to write semicolons) At least we are not talking about my colon, thank God. Maybe it is because I have trouble separating thoughts in my head. I am not sure how to use these punctuations. Advise please.”
I had an editor once who advised me to just not use those damned semicolons when writing fiction, that it was lazy writing to use them and that book publishers did not like them. So there you go!
Seriously, I happen to agree with her on that point, but you asked for the rules, so that’s what you’ll get.
Use a colon when introducing an item or a list of items, and you don’t capitalize the first item after the colon, unless it’s a proper noun. Here’s an example……”If you want to be successful follow these simple rules: study, practice and then repeat steps one and two.” There are some other teensie-weensie, rules regarding a colon, but that’s the main one.
Now on to semicolons. I’m going to borrow from “The Grammar Book” for the first semicolon rule…..A semicolon can replace a period if the writer wishes to narrow the gap between two closely linked sentences.
Call me tomorrow; you can give me an answer then.
We have paid our dues; we expect all the privileges listed in the contract.
Unfortunately, there are about five or six other rules regarding a semicolon, and only the wisest among us can keep all those rules straight. Seriously, Eric, it is easier for me to simply not use a semicolon and avoid the possible mistakes and definite headaches. Remember that a semicolon is nothing more than a comma on top of a period, which is a hint if you think about it. The semicolon is supposed to be a long pause but not a complete stop in a train of thought. For me, it’s just easier to make two sentences out of the whole mess and move on.
I hope that helps but I doubt it did. LOL
From Denise: “Another great mailbag, Bill. I really loved it. About the pretentious comment... I know I'm just an artist/illustrator and not really a writer. I just dabble to give my heart's blood some reason to exist, however, I tried to get in with a local writer's group recently and was turned away as not being "qualified" because I had not signed with some publishing company. I found them to be snooty and superior acting and really not worthy of my time. But at the same time I was disheartened. Do you find many writing clubs or organizations to be like that or were these guys just a rare occurrence? I'm personally hoping for rare occurrence because I find this writing community to be warm and engaging.”
Honestly, Denise, I don’t know how common it is or how rare. There will always be pretentious and snooty people, and there’s just no avoiding them in the writing field. I’ve seen them in writers’ groups, at book signings, at book readings and at workshops….but they are not the norm and I think it’s important to understand that. One snoot can ruin it for the thirty who aren’t snooty, and it’s the snoot we always remember. Unfortunate but true, my friend!
From Faith: “Hmm, I just thought of a couple of questions for you for the next Mailbag, possibly: How does writing change the writer? In other words, since you've realized you love to write and are passionately pursuing writing through novels, etc., how has writing changed you? Do you think the unconscious mind is a writer's best friend?”
Interesting questions, Faith!
How has writing changed me? I’m just talking about me, now, but writing has made me more introspective. Writing has made me more aware of my surroundings and the people who share this planet with me. Being a writer has made me more appreciative of all who pursue a career in music or the Arts because this is not an easy road to travel. Writing has made me more empathetic and in touch with my humanness.
And that’s just a partial list.
It makes me sick that so many school districts are cutting funding for the Arts. I think the Arts are vitally important to our society and our advancement as a species. Not everyone can or wants to be an accountant or tech nerd. Some people can only find happiness and fulfillment through the Arts, and it’s a damned shame school districts and the governments do not realize that fact.
As for the unconscious mind, by that I assume you mean the muse….is it my best friend? Mine is a distracting and demanding wench. LOL She never leaves me alone, for the love of the gods. She’s constantly whispering in my ear, telling me to pay attention, giving me ideas for future stories, demanding that I listen more intently, gaze more acutely and quit taking life for granted.
I love her!
Like alcohol once was, my muse, or unconscious mind, is my lover, and I can’t imagine life without her.
How’s that for an answer?
Building a Brand
From Lawrence: “Actually that's maybe a question to look at, how long does it take for an average author to 'build a brand'? I've heard it said that it takes four or five books when a traditional publisher takes you on (at least they plan for that) so what do you think?”
Lawrence, it’s an interesting question for sure. I’m not sure there is a definitive answer about how long it takes to build a brand. I think the five years estimate is a pretty good one, but you also mentioned traditional publishers in the question, and that makes it a sticky wicket.
Trying to predict the actions of traditional publishers is a tough one in these uncertain times. I don’t think the fact that a writer has four or five books necessarily makes him or her more attractive to a traditional publisher. I still think it’s all about the quality of the writing and being in the right place at the right time. Those four or five books could be complete crap and then where is the writer and what are their chances?
It certainly doesn’t hurt to have four or five books, and writing a series is a positive note in this discussion, but, and there’s always a but in this discussion, it is still practically impossible for an unpublished author to attract a traditional publisher. I said practically impossible and not impossible, by the way.
So, four or five years? Yes! Four or five books? No guarantees!
From Karen: “Do you know of any other online sites. or offline situations, that allows for that kind of freedom, without deadlines, that still allows writers to earn money?”
Karen, as you well know, there are a number of sites, like HP, around, so the quick answer is yes. But why should I elaborate? You and I both know sites like HP don’t pay out enough money to make it worth anyone’s while. Now hold on….in one of these comments, someone just might enlighten both of us and reveal the Land of Nirvana where we can all get rich. Wait for it….wait for it….
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- Artistry With Words | Helping writers to spread their wings and fly
Helping writers to spread their wings and fly
Dealing with Pretentious Writers
From Ann: “I did add a question but it hasn't registered so here it is again: With reference to the pretentious writer, what would you say to someone like that if you came across one? I tend to think they're either insecure or just plain big-headed but how would you make them realise what they sound like? Call it a creative exercise!”
Ann, the answer depends on which Bill you are talking about. The old Bill would have responded sarcastically to the pretentious behavior. The new Bill would ignore it and make sure he never had to deal with that person again. Today I just let people live and don’t consider it my job to “make them realize” anything. It’s a full-time job just regulating my own behavior. LOL
AND THE BEAT GOES ON
That’s it for our show this week. Thanks to all who asked questions. I hope the answers were close to satisfying.
My new novella in the Billy the Kid series, “Breathing Fire on a Cold Winter’s Day,” will be available on Amazon this afternoon. I just thought I’d mention that in case you had a hankering to read about death and mayhem. LOL
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”