The Writer's Mailbag: Installment One-Hundred and Ten
A Tough Week
I’m happy to report my wife is back home and a tough week has ended. I send out a huge thank you to the staff at Capital Medical Center for the caring and loving attention they gave Bev, and an equally huge thank you for all the kindness you all showed us with your well-wishes and prayers. I am blessed to have thousands of online friends who genuinely care about me, and I can’t begin to tell you how cool that is.
We are back to normal and that means the mail has arrived.
From Linda: “I am in the midst of reading a fiction-based-on-fact story about the life of Ernest Hemingway. He wrote powerfully about running with the bulls in Spain, and did so by totally immersing himself into the story. He became the story and it became him--they were inseperable. Could he have accomplished the same writing without being there? I rather doubt it. So where am I going with this? Does a great writer need to fully experience (not simply imagine) that of which they write, or did Hemingway suffer from a lack of imagination?”
This is what I love about the Mailbag, questions like this one that make me think, ponder, ruminate, and question. Thank you, Linda!
I doubt seriously if Hemingway lacked imagination, and the reason I say that is “The Old Man and the Sea.” His last great work of fiction, the “Old Man” was not about Hemingway in any real sense. About that novel, Hemingway said: “No good book has ever been written that has in it symbols arrived at beforehand and stuck in .... I tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks. But if I made them good and true enough they would mean many things.”
Ernest Hemingway in 1954
That is what great writers do. That is the power of imagination in the hands of a craftsman. I do believe Hemingway totally immersed himself in that fishing story, even though it never actually happened to him. I think a writer who has lived a rich life, who has experienced much, can put himself/herself in practically any literary situation and have a “reality” about it and the way they write it. Human emotions are shared by us all. How we would react to certain situations are shared by us all. Specifics cloud the reality that we are all, basically, the same, and our imagined reactions to a fictionalized situation are probably very accurate to what our reactions would be if we actually lived that same situation.
From Eric: “Just a short question you might just answer here. Do you sometimes feel like "scoop" the old time investigative reporter when you write about the facts of your imagination?”
I like that reference, Eric, and I understand it.
I’ll tell you what I feel like when I’m writing fiction: the luckiest human being on the planet. Out of the seven billion people on this planet, very few can actually write a good story of fiction. I can, and I think that is pretty cool. And out of those seven billion, only one person can write like me, and that is me, and I find that fantastically cool!
IN SEARCH OF GREATNESS?
From Zulma: “Question for you, Bill. We know your favourite writers are masters of the craft and have produced stories that will live for ages. My question is do you suppose they set out to create such magnum opuses or did they just want to write a good story?”
Zulma, I want to believe they set out to simply write a good story. What kind of ego would it take to sit down and believe you were going to write a classic? I don’t think Harper Lee had that kind of ego when she began to pen “Mockingbird.”
I can only speak for me, though, and I know when I begin a new book, my goal is to tell the best story possible within the confines of my talent. To hope for the level of Lee, or Steinbeck, would seem, to me, to beg for failure. That’s why I gave myself a tag “greatestunknownauthor.” I want to be the best Bill Holland I can be, the greatest William D. Holland the world has ever experienced, and while I’m in that process, I will be relatively unknown, so I want to be the greatest unknown. If I ever go beyond that, well, that would be icing on the cake.
From Allie: “How do you get a book placed in a local, independent bookstore?”
Allie, you ask nicely!
I was going to leave my answer at that but I was afraid it would seem I was being flippant, so let’s give it a bit more.
It really is that simple. You go into the bookstore and you speak to the store manager or owner. It would be helpful if you had a copy of your book with you, and I also think it would be helpful if you had a flyer or brochure providing information about you, the author.
You explain that you want your book in their store, and chances are they will say they want to read it first before committing. After they read it, if they consider it worthwhile, you work out a percentage of the sale that they get and the percentage you get….usually in the 60-40 range. And then you are off and running. Some will want to just buy your book wholesale from you, and some will want a consignment deal. You are your own marketing manager so negotiate a deal you can live with.
I have found local, independent bookstores to be very receptive to local writers, as long as you’ve got game and your writing is worthwhile.
Lack of Support
From Trish: “I was wondering how you handle the lack of support that seems to be the norm for a writer. Heck, Bill, I have family members who have never read my work. That gets a bit discouraging? Do you have the same problem and if so, how do you deal with it?”
Yes, Trish, I think it is the norm. My wife Bev read my very first novel and hasn’t read any of my books since then. It’s not that she isn’t supportive. It’s just that she gets into a book too much, and my dark style of writing in the “Shadow” series and the “Billy the Kid” series is too much for her to handle. She literally cannot sleep at night if she reads some of my stuff. I’m got a son and step-kids who have not read my books, and extended family that has never even read one of my articles.
Oh well! I know they support me but for whatever reason, they just can’t get around to reading one of my books.
On the other hand, I have loyal followers I have never met who have read every one of my creations.
Here’s the thing: I love to write, and during those times when I’m feeling under-appreciated, it is that love of writing that carries me through. That has to be the carrot we all crave or else, why do it? If the act of creating a work of art isn’t enough for a writer, or an artist, or sculptor, or musician, well, then, maybe they weren’t meant to create.
Find inner satisfaction in the fact that you are doing something wonderful.
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Helping writers to spread their wings and fly
From Linda: “Here's a topic for the mailbag--the issue of plagiarism reared its ugly head at the RNC a few weeks ago. I was shocked at how many people wrote it off as "no big deal". But to those of us who are writers it is a VERY big deal.”
You just snuck this one under the deadline wire, Linda, so thank you!
I think people are, at times, a bit confused about my attitude towards plagiarism, especially with regards to our articles being stolen online. I have probably twenty articles on HP that have been stolen and yes, it is a big deal…..and now here comes the “but”….but I can’t stop it. Sure, I can fill out the forms, which take time, but while I’m filling out one form another of my articles is being stolen. This is the reality of online writing. There is no adequate way to stop plagiarism from happening. The authorities can only catch people after the fact, and the punishment is not a deterrent at all.
So, while I’m pissed off that it happens, I’m also resigned to the fact that there is no real satisfactory way for any of us to fight back.
I’ll never understand people thinking it is all right to steal online and put their name on the stolen work. It is such a foreign concept for me that I can’t wrap my brain around that kind of depravity.
MORE NEXT WEEK
Thanks for hanging with me again. I’ll have snacks out next week if you want to stop by again. Until then, write your butts off and enjoy every minute of the creative process.
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc) #greatestunknownauthor
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”