The Writer's Mailbag: Installment One-Hundred and Twelve
Returns Are a Good Thing
For some reason my mind is on Christmas shopping and the inevitable returns after gift-opening. Somehow I tied that into all of you “returning” for another installment of the Mailbag.
See, folks, I’m just as strange as you always thought.
Let’s do it!
NUMBER OF EDITS
From Dee: “Also, I was wondering how many times you went back and revised your first novel? Does it get easier to write without edits after time?”
Dee, there seems to be two different questions to this one, and I’ve actually got two different ways to answer it.
The first question is easy. It took me three years to write “The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday to Today,” and today I can write a novel, start to finish, in about six months….so that part of writing a novel has gotten easier because I now know how to structure a novel and how to do dialogue and scenes better.
The editing process, however, hasn’t changed much over the years. It takes me however many edits it takes me to be satisfied with the product. Generally speaking, I’ll usually do about four edits/re-writes before I’m satisfied. The first time through I simply tell the basic story….no editing allowed. The second time through I fill in gaps and add some flourish. The third, fourth and possibly fifth times through are pure editing.
Pain and Writing
From Eric: “So we accept that you as a writer can portray a dark side. So much so that your darling Bev is not inclined to go there. But the writing is excellent and compelling. So I assume you lived some darkness. At this point and at this time, are you somewhat pleased that you did, in order to give you the juice to actually bring us there so we may experience it without the pain and damage?”
Eric, I truly believe writers must experience life in order to write about it convincingly. There is no way for me to accurately capture the pain of loss unless I’ve experienced it. No way to portray the joy of triumph without actually being there at some time.
It’s an odd thing to say I’m happy all the pain happened because it helped me to be a better writer, but I am. What came before made me who I am today. I am one of those people who needed pain to force change before I self-destructed. It’s the only way I was going to pay attention and alter my life. I needed to suffer….period, end of story.
Let me explain it this way. I showed no inclinations of being a writer up until 2001. That was about the time I was gearing up to self-destruct, and writing was an outlet for me because, quite frankly, I was incapable of voicing my pain….that went on until I almost died in 2006. Finally, after 2006, I was able to use writing as the communication outlet I needed, but in a positive way.
That’s the best I can do to answer your question in the affirmative.
From Dora: “Is there a name for fiction which includes real names and real facts? Or is this a question for the mailbag? I think this is a good way for the author to preserve information which has significance to him or her.”
I suppose, Dora, in a very broad sense, any novel that contains real names and real facts should be considered a historical fiction, but publishers don’t believe that to be the case. I would venture to guess a majority of fiction contains some truth, but it is still designated fiction, or mystery fiction, or thriller fiction, or romance fiction. If the majority of the book is about a particular event in history, like Bruce Catton’s Civil War trilogy, then it is considered historical fiction. In other words, a question to ask before labeling a book: is it centered around a historical event, or are the historical events simply background for the real story?
From Linda: “You made a comment (which you probably don't even remember making--you're forgiven) last week on one of my hubs. You said I should be a syndicated columnist. You wouldn't believe how much that has been in my thoughts (or at least on the back burner) this past week. My ultimate goal -- we're talking BUCKET LIST here -- is to publish a cookbook. But I don't think you can do that without being known. A newspaper column(s) might be the way to do that. So I ask you -- how does one promote themselves to a newspaper as a potential columnist? I've done a Google search and came up with not much of help.”
Well Linda, you definitely came to the right place.
I have a friend on HubPages named Deb Hirt. A couple years ago Deb started writing a weekly article on HP called “Life at Boomer Lake.” It is a wonderful series about observing the bird population of a lake in Oklahoma. You may have seen it. Anyway, Deb asked herself the same question.
The answer is the same for her and for you. Deb started small, locally. I forget the name of the newspaper she first approached, but lo and behold, they loved her articles and gave her a weekly column in a small Oklahoma newspaper.
You need to do the same thing and by small I do not mean the Tacoma News Tribune. Find an independent press newspaper, or an online newspaper for the region, and approach them with your food articles. Think small and work your way up the food chain….pun intended. The most important step is the first one. You have to get that first byline and then grow from there. Also, approach local magazines…the smaller the better. Go online and search for those publications, write a great query letter, and start the process.
It worked for Deb and it can work for you.
Again from Eric: “Bill, I have to admit that sometimes on a Monday morning I could not care less about improving my writing and all that goes with it. I scoot on over here strictly because of you and your amazing attitude - it motivates me to be more upbeat. And despite my best intentions I learn something very useful also.
“Does inspiring others inspire you?”
Eric, before they build that statue in my honor, know that there are many days when my attitude sucks. I am becoming, more and more, a curmudgeon in my old age, and Bev gets much of the credit in making sure I come back from the grumpies and return to the inspirational side of me. In other words, she won’t tolerate too much grumpiness.
But to answer your question yes, it inspires me very much. I will read a particularly touching comment and I’m in tears, and instantly I want to be a better man and inspire more change in people. I just read one such comment today from my “sister from another mother,” Paula. She had me in tears, dammit!
EGO OR JEST?
From Randy: “Hey, Billybuc, I recently saw a tagline at the end of one of your novels….#greatestunknownauthor. Is this an ego thing, or are you having fun with it?”
Randy, those who know me well know I don’t have much of an ego. In fact, I still have an inferiority complex, just not as bad as it once was. No, the tagline you are referring to is my fun way of saying I’ll never be famous but I would be happy just being the greatest unknown author. It’s my tongue-in-cheek goal, of sorts…..fame in not having fame. LOL I hope I make it.
It’s also, in all seriousness, a marketing ploy I’m trying. It may fall flat. It may work. It costs nothing to find out.
Amazon or Bust?
From Jeanie: “Bill, do you keep up with all the latest stuff on Amazon Publishing? There’s a new thing called FBA that’s making the rounds on Amazon. I just heard about it and wondered if you understand it?”
Well, from what I understand, Jeanie, FBA stands for “Fulfilled by Amazon,” and it’s a new (?) marketing program that is being pushed. There’s a free ebook about it and you can find that by Googling FBA. I think I’ll do the same, just for the heck of it, and we’ll both find out about it at the same time. I’ll meet you back here after I read it.
I’m back. I downloaded the ebook and here’s what they say in Chapter Two:
“What Is "Fulfillment By Amazon"? Fulfillment By Amazon – often abbreviated to "FBA" -- is a service that allows you to: 1. Gather and prepare the items that you want to sell 2. Enter the items into your Amazon.com seller's account 3. Ship the items to an Amazon fulfillment center 4. Sit back and wait for Amazon to sell your stuff for you Really, it's as simple as that! As the company strives to be the most advantageous online retail outlet for both buyers and sellers, Amazon has devised a system that allows everyday entrepreneurs access to nearly all of the selling features that make their website so popular. Why waste valuable hours stumbling through the process of maintaining a side business when the established experts have offered to do the majority of the work for you?”
I hope that helps a bit, Jeanie!
I was going to lament the sad state of affairs of HP at this point, but why bother? I took one look at the voting categories for the Hubbies and threw up my hands in disgust. That should tell you what I think of HP.
But I’m not done. What’s up with all the newcomers who sign on as followers but don’t have any articles written and never make any comments on the hubs of others? How is that “following” someone? I don’t understand the motivation behind that, and I don’t understand HP allowing it.
There seems to be a great deal I don’t understand.
What I do know, for sure, is I’m always appreciative to those who stop by and pay me a visit. Thank you so much.
Now, sit your butt down, and write it off. Lighten the load, so to speak.
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc) #greatestunknownauthor
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”