The Writer's Mailbag: Installment One-Hundred and Thirty
And a Happy New Year to You All
Are we really about to say hello to 2017? It just blows my mind that 2016 is coming to an end. It was one hell of a year for me, the good and the bad, and I’m sure you all echo that statement. I’m determined to make 2017 a better year. It will take determination, and a willingness to work hard, but thanks to my parents, I’ve got a surplus of those traits.
I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year! Thank you for your loyal support. You may not know it, but you all mean so much to me. You continue to give me gifts daily. You are, in a very real sense, my extended family, and you are always appreciated.
Enough of that syrupy slop. Let’s get to the mail.
No Question, Just a Comment About Grammarly
From Zulma: “Hey, Bill. At the risk of repeating myself, I must say how pleased I am with Grammarly. It checks spelling, grammar, and plagiarism. It explains why the grammar is incorrect and how to fix it. It spots duplicate content quickly and provides information on where to find it. I was hesitant at first about paying for a subscription. However, a craftsman always has the right tools for the job. Grammarly is a tool I use to ensure I'm producing the best I can. I wouldn't be without it.
“On a different note...there is a fun website called 'I Write Like' where you submit a sample of your writing and it tells you who you write like. I've tried a few times and have been compared to Gertrude Stein and Dostoyevsky (!!!). Perhaps you and your followers might like to give it a try. The link is www.iwl.me”
No question there, so no answer from me, but thank you, Zulma. I encourage all of you to check out that link. If Zulma recommends it then it’s worth a look. The same goes for Grammarly.
From Dora: “Do you have a favorite among the books you have written? If I could only buy one, which would you recommend? Why?”
Dora, thanks so much for this inquiry. Although a majority of my novels and novellas are mystery/thrillers, my favorite, and the one I would recommend for you, is “Resurrecting Tobias.” It is as close to autobiographical as I’ll come with a novel. It’s a story about all of us, the trials and tribulations we all face as we walk this path of life, and I think you’ll be able to relate to the lessons served in that novel.
I also love “The 12/59 Shuttle,” since it was my first, but it’s not a novel I would recommend to just anyone. It’s wild and crazy and crude, unpolished, me at my rawest as a writer. No, for pure entertainment and a banquet of food for thought, I would go with Tobias.
How Much Dialogue?
From Lori: “Hi Bill, here's a question for your mailbag series - you are still doing it, right? In my recent fiction story I tend to use tons of dialogue. I'm not sure why, but that's how it comes. The story is very much about relationships. When is dialogue to much or not working and what is the best alternative?”
Lori, I could literally write an entire article about this question. Since I don’t have the time to do so, I’ll just write a long answer here.
The three main components of any novel are dialogue, narration, and action. These are the fuel that drives a novel along to its conclusion, and good novelists have an innate ability to use all three in balance. There is no steadfast rule regarding how much of each to use. This is one of those things that you learn over time. One just gets a sense of when to use dialogue, when to use narration, and when to use action. Too much of one will bog a novel down. Too little of one can leave a reader wondering what just happened.
It is always a good idea to incorporate all three in every scene. This gives each scene balance, and I believe engages readers on an emotional level.
The other thing to consider is pacing. What are your intentions in a scene? If it is a fast-paced situation, perhaps an abundance of dialogue will move that scene along quickly. If it is important that the readers understand why a character is doing something, then perhaps an interjection of narrative will do well. If it is a highly-charged scene, like a car chase, then let the action do the talking. Think in terms of real life. If you were in a hair-raising car chase, screeching around corners, barely staying on the road, you wouldn’t be carrying on a dialogue with someone. The action will deliver much better than a conversation could deliver.
One other random thought: it is always good to have multiple characters in each major scene. This gives you the option of having dialogue should you choose to use it.
The balance of action, narrative, and dialogue will give your story rhythm, and rhythm is something we, as writers, should always strive for.
Great question, Lori!
What’s the Secret?
From Brad: “I’m not doing terribly well with my sef-published eBooks. What’s the secret to eBook success?”
The best advice I can give you, Brad, comes from a book I read last year titled “Write, Publish, Repeat.” In that book the writer suggests that eBook success comes from repeating those three things ad infinitum. The eBook industry, and success in that industry, is a numbers game. The more books you have, the better your chances are of gaining attention and notoriety. Once someone stumbles upon one of your books, and likes it, the better the chances are that they will then pick up another of your books and read that one, so you build a foundation and then let that foundation be your earnings-maker over time.
Write, publish, and repeat!
I currently have two series going on, the “Shadow Series,” and the “Billy the Kid Chronicles.” Using the previously-stated logic, if someone likes one book in a series they will be more willing to purchase another book in that series.
But…and there is always a but…the first thing, the most important thing, that you should be concerned with is writing a quality book. If you write slop then I promise you readers will read that slop and then stop looking for more of your slop. Quality wins the day and I will go to my grave believing that.
And I’ll throw in a second but for free: this is the eBook world we’re talking about, and there are literally millions of new eBooks each year. It’s a big ocean you’re swimming in, and the chances of finding a life boat are slim, so you may never find success.
How’s that for a dose of reality?
HAPPY NEW YEAR
That was it for questions this week so we might as well wrap it up. Have a great and safe New Year, and again, thank you for your friendship and support.
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc) #greatestunknownauthor
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”