The Writer's Mailbag: Installment One-Hundred and Twenty-Two
And my goodness, October is gone. Where did it go? And in the blink of an eye it will be Thanksgiving, then Christmas, and then we’re all broke again until the tax returns arrive. LOL
Let’s see what’s on everyone’s mind today with some new Mailbag questions. Maybe if we concentrate on writing we won’t fall into a financial depression.
From Melissa: “Have you tried any dictation software or used a tape recorder?”
I have not used any dictation software, Melissa, but I couldn’t leave the answer at that, so I did some market research and found that Dragon seems to be the industry leader in that sort of thing. The top of the line Dragon software costs about $300, and next in line around $150.
I have, however, on many occasions used a tape recorder because, well, I’m a dinosaur, and most of the time I need that sort of thing, I’m out and about and I just need to record random observations or ideas.
So I guess that’s about all I can do with that question.
A QUESTION ABOUT NIUME AND FOLLOWING OTHERS
From Linda: “I know that connecting with others and taking the time to comment is very important to you. You taught me that early on--if someone takes the time to write a comment on one of your hubs, the very least you can do is to respond. To do otherwise is rude and disrespectful. So, I'm wondering if you are "following" anyone on Niume and if you are starting to establish a relationship with any of the people over there. I'm still learning my way around that site.
“And, now today I have an email from Niume inviting me to learn how to expand my universe on Niume. Their YouTube talks about "Flipboard".
- Did you get "that" email" too?
- Are you on Flipboard?
- Should I be, or is this drinking the KoolAid?”
So, Linda, you are absolutely correct when you say that following people is important to me. Having said that, I’m about to sound like a hypocrite, because I’ve just been too short on time to adequately follow people on NIUME so far….but hope springs eternal, right? I mean I am “following” people, but only in spirit, and that has to change or I might as well get off the site. So I have some work to do.
As for the “Flipboard” thing, I do think you should be doing it, as it has a great track record for gathering views and traffic for articles. I think I should be doing it too but again, I’m strangling on too much work right now, so it will have to sit in line and wait its turn.
For those who are curious, Flipboard is another social media magazine, and evidently it has been quite successful. It is easy to sign up for, and on NIUME there is a Flipboard widget which will send your NIUME article to Flipboard and hopefully increase the readership.
And a late addition to this conversation: I did sign up for Flipboard, and in three days my NIUME views increased by 34%.
Here is a link to Flipboard in case you are interested in signing up. I don’t think HubPages uses Flipboard and I have no idea why they don’t.
Short Story Collections
From Joy: “The other thing I'm wondering about is the tradition of publishing series, kind of like what you are doing with The Sun Never Rises. In the past, newspapers have offered this opportunity. Today, those chances seem to be disappearing. But I still see some authors publishing in books that include collections of short stories and later publishing books under their own names. These collections of short stories give the reader a taste of each writer's style. I wonder where the short story editors glean the stories for these collections. What publications do they look to for the best candidates for inclusion? Or do they put out a call for submissions?”
I love the Mailbag, and one reason I do is because of questions like this one. What a great question, Joy, and hopefully we can all gain from it.
The answer to your question is a little of both choices you offered. I know some short story anthologies are made up of contest winners and, as you well know, there is no shortage of short story contests floating around. For example, Writer’s Digest has several short story contests during the year, and at the end of the year they publish an anthology of short story winners. This is really quite common and the way these things usually work. Other anthologies are gathered from private sources. I know of several anthologies that have been printed by writers on HubPages, for example. I had one of my stories in one published by some good friends of mine, and a site I like to support, The Creative Exiles, recently published, or will be shortly, an anthology of poetry. I just checked….yes, it is out….available on Amazon by . following this link
I’m sure there are other ways to be “found” but those are two of the more common ones. Heck, Joy, you could self-publish your own anthology if you wanted. Just put out the word to writer friends, asking for a short story from each of them, and publish them all under some catchy name. Who knows, right? Maybe it will be a bestseller!
From Priscilla: “Do you know anything about choosing titles for an article? Are there any guidelines, or criteria, that one should follow when choosing a title for an article?”
Another fantastic question, Priscilla, and by the way, welcome to the Mailbag.
You can find all manner of helpful articles about this topic, and some give competing advice, but let me tell you what I believe to be some important points….in no particular order:
- The title should be between 7-13 words
- The title should include active verbs
- The title should include keywords
- The title should be enticing without giving away the farm of information
Follow those guidelines and you really can’t go wrong with the title. Of course, then you have to write an interesting article, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish.
From Pete: “What do you think of cliches?”
I’ve had this question before, but I don’t mind going over it again.
I don’t have anything against clichés. What I detest is the overuse of them. Let’s face it, we all use clichés during our lifetime, so really, it shouldn’t be forbidden to use them in articles or novels . . . but . . . none of us speak in clichés all the time, so our writing should not be “cliché-heavy” either.
My challenge, to all of you, is to make up your own “clichés” and let them become classics, rather than using worn-out clichés which have been used to death for centuries.
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Helping writers to spread their wings and fly
From Mary: “As a ghostwriter, how much information do you receive from your client? Is it a book which just needs modifying, an outline or perhaps just an idea scribbled on the back of a Starbucks napkin?”
Really, Mary, it could be any of those three options, or a different one you haven’t mentioned. Ghostwriting comes in many shapes and forms, but with respect to ghostwriting a book, it really depends on the person hiring you and what they expect of you . . . which, by the way, you better specify before ever starting the job.
I’m ghostwriting a real estate book for a customer right now, so let’s use that as an example. I have a basic knowledge of real estate, enough to b.s. my way through an article, but not nearly enough knowledge to b.s. my way through a seventy-page book. When I first started discussing this project with the customer, I told him I would need detailed outlines and bullet-points for each chapter. He agreed, and that’s the way we approached it. We have phone conferences each week to discuss the current chapter. It’s the way it has to be; otherwise I wouldn’t be able to write the book for him.
I can envision situations where a lot less information would be needed to write a book for someone, but in the case of a technical book . . . I would think the more information the better.
Bottom line: make sure both you and the customer are very aware of the parameters before ever starting.
AND WITH THAT WE SHALL SAY FAREWELL
But just for another week! You can count on the Mailbag returning next week, “Good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise” and yes, that was a cliché, although it’s an old one and rarely heard in today’s world.
Use it again at your own peril.
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc) #greatestunknownauthor
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”