The Writer's Mailbag: Installment One-Hundred and Thirty-Two
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
I’m beginning to think I’m sounding like a whiner but hey, I’m entitled. Getting out before first light to get unfrozen water to the critters is wearing thin on my patience. These old bones of mine are getting tired of temps in the teens. How much longer until spring?
But no matter the weather, the mail must be delivered, so here we go!
Goals for 2017
From Melissa: “What are your writing goals for this year?”
Melissa, sorry to disappoint, but I don’t have specific goals. I follow the mantra “write, publish, repeat,” so that’s what I do. I’m a third of the way done with my next “Shadow” novel, and when that’s done I’ll publish it and start in on the next book on my to-do list, and when that’s done I’ll repeat. I should write at least two new novels in 2017, possibly three, and in my spare time I’ll be publishing a series of coloring books, a side-project I’m working on for the Farmers’ Markets we will be doing this spring and summer.
So, if you want to call those goals, there you go. I call them my to-do list.
SELF-PROMOTION ON HP
From Eric: “For Hubpages, is the way you do your shameless ;-) plug for your website all ok with HP Gods and the best way to cross network out of the black hole that can start on a writing platform such as HP?”
Eric, your question is funny on several levels, so in advance of my answer, thanks for the laugh.
So far I have had no problems with HP over my “shameless” plug for my website. I follow a general rule with HP: only plug my website and books if it is related to the article I’m writing for HP. So far that has worked. I’ve plugged the website, I’ve plugged my books, and I’ve plugged other articles, but only on articles related to writing. That’s the key, I think: related to the article I’m posting.
Which Form of Self-publishing?
From Rose: “The books I have published are in both ebook and printed version form. So are you saying you should at least publish the book in printed form? It's okay to self publish right?”
Well Rose of course it’s all right to self-publish. I would never discourage someone from doing so. I always try to be truthful in my appraisal of your chances regarding sales, which I believe are dismal, but I think it’s important that you self-publish.
I also think it’s important that you self-publish in both eBook form and hard copy. Since it doesn’t cost you a penny to do so on sites like CreateSpace and Amazon, I can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t do both. The formatting is so simple even I can do it, so if there is a reason for not publishing in printed form, I don’t know that would be.
HOW MANY CHARACTERS ARE TOO MANY?
From Linda: “Your response to the "he said, she said" dilemma brings another question to mind. How many characters is too many? My (same) friend has no less than 41 named characters, some appearing only once (as I typed the manuscript--yes, it was written in longhand--I kept open a second document to list each character as he/she appeared and note the page number on which they were introduced). Good grief--it's a children's book, not War and Peace. (And when I read W&P I maintained a list of the characters because I couldn't keep the names straight).”
Linda, let me begin my answer by telling you this: I’ve read one Robert Ludlum novel and only one, and the reason for that is because he loves a plethora of characters, so much so that I can’t follow them all or remember them all, and that makes reading a job for me, and I don’t need another job.
I don’t think there is a specific answer to your question. For me, as a general guideline, I try to have no more than ten characters that are integral to the novel. Of course there will be “insignificant” characters who may have one or two lines of dialogue and then disappear, but if you think about it, in real life we meet a lot of people each and every week, so it’s silly to think our characters won’t meet a similar number of people….but….people that are important to the book…I would think ten is a good number to consider,….ten or less.
I’m a pretty simple storyteller. I assume that my readers are like me, that they want to be entertained and not tested, so I try to keep things simple for them. In the book I’m currently working on, “Shadows Fall on Rosarito,” there are nine characters important to the story. I’m halfway done with the first draft and I can see no reason to introduce any others.
In other words, K.I.S.S., and I’m calling myself stupid there and not you.
Great question! Thank you!
Great resource in finding a publisher
What Is Failure?
From Lawrence: “I've got a question, but I'll admit it's a loaded one. ‘What is failure? Isn't it when we 'give up?'”
It seems to me, Lawrence, and this is a fascinating question, that failure depends on your goals. If your goal is to write a book in 2017, and you don’t, then you failed in that goal, right? But that’s just one goal, and in my mind there are other aspects involved there. The mere fact that you attempt to write a book is success to me. Not many people can even write half a book and do it well.
But maybe that’s not your goal. Maybe your goal is to sell one-hundred copies of that book, and you only sell seventy-five. Did you fail? Again, for that specific goal yes, but hey, seventy-five book sales is pretty good, right?
I’ll tell you a secret, my friend. I think I fail with every book I write. It’s never as good as I think it should be. Does that make me a failure?
It’s an interesting question and a very personal question. I’m not sure there is a definitive answer to it.
FINDING A PUBLISHER
From Bryan: “Need some help getting starting in the book publishing business. Any suggestions, advice anyone can provide will be most useful and appreciated. I have a manuscript that reads well, develops an interesting plot (and sub-plot) has a great ending which has the protagonist living happily ever after. In addition, I have children's stories, YA stories and many poems. I am ready to get published, just need the write shooting star!!!”
Bryan, I really wish I could be enthusiastic about the answer I’m about to give, but I don’t have it in me. Finding a publisher, for an unknown writer, is as close to Mission Impossible as you can get. Oh sure, it happens, but when you look at the odds you are facing, I would say you are looking at 99 to 1 and that’s being extremely generous.
There is no fast lane to success in the writing business. You build a platform, continue to build the platform, work at your craft, continue to work at your craft, and keep sending out query letters. It might take 1,000 query letters before you strike gold and get a publishing contract. You may, in fact, never get a publishing contract. All I can do is wish you luck in your endeavors, and that I will do. Good luck!
Won't you join me on my blog?
- Artistry With Words | Helping writers to spread their wings and fly
Helping writers to spread their wings and fly
That’s All We’ve Got This Week
So, instead of babbling on, we’ll stop right here. First, though, some shameless self-promotion. Check out my writing blog, “Artistry with Words,” and if you like mystery/thrillers, I highly recommend my “Shadow” series, available on Amazon. The latest in that series, “Shadows Over A Hangman’s Noose,” will have you on the edge of your seat.
And thank you for joining me for another Mailbag. Let’s make 2017 the best writing year we’ve ever had. Remember, the educated world is counting on us to carry on with our craft, so don’t disappoint them all.
2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc) #greatestunknownauthor
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”