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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Seventy

Updated on October 26, 2015

Great Response

Thanks to all who asked questions this week. We were on the brink of ending this series due to a lack of questions, but I had no sooner mentioned that and the floodgates opened. This week there is no shortage, so the series continues.

While I was contemplating the end of this series I thought of an alternative format that might work on the weeks there are no questions, so maybe this series isn’t going to die after all. We shall see.

Let’s get to it!

Welcome to the Mailbag
Welcome to the Mailbag | Source

My all-encompassing book on writing


From Colin:

“You've maybe covered this, or part of it before - how do you go about editing your work? I know most of us edit a certain amount as we go along, but ideally we'd all benefit from our own personal editor. So what's your method and does it work okay for you, or would you prefer something different (in an ideal world).”

Colin, thanks for the question. It’s one that has come up before and seems to be a question on the minds of many writers. I don’t edit my first time through a book. I think, and this is just me, that the flow is ruined by doing so. I just tell the story the first time and not worry about editing.

The second draft, for me, is about filling in more detail on the characters and the scenes. I really do very little editing at this time either. Finally, on the third draft, I do the bulk of my own editing. Once I finish this initial editing I turn the manuscript over to beta readers and give them a shot at it. Once they have finished with their observations and recommendations I do the final draft.

Hp and the Damned Bots

From MizB: “Great article, Bill. I hope you will keep receiving enough questions to continue this series. Is there a setting where we can opt out of this editbot business? It changed the pronoun “your” to the contraction “you’re” in one of my sentences. Coincidentally, either word would fit, but the meaning is entirely different. This autocorrection made me look foolish because the sentence became out of context.”

MizB, I’ve scoured the forums and I don’t see anywhere that it is possible to stop the edit bots. Honestly, I’ve paid little attention to this controversy because I simply don’t care, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to others. Still, my answer is I have no answer. I’m hoping someone will clarify in the comments section below. As usual, HP has managed to completely confuse us all.


From John: “One question you may be able to add to your next mailbag is:

As you know I don't have a niche in my writing, and don't want to be restricted by one. Is there any type of publication or place where my type of haphazard unpredictable writing would be suitable? Somewhere that would welcome random content..probably not.”

John, I think you are there already. HubPages welcomes randomness. It just doesn’t pay well but in all honesty, no one is going to get rich online with random creative writing. We can make a little money with ebooks and a little money with HP and a little money with YouTube tutorials…then toss in a little money from selling articles and a little money from contests and some from blogs….that’s just the nature and reality of this business for creative writers.

I know, that wasn’t very optimistic.

There was no celebration when this was published
There was no celebration when this was published | Source


From Ann: “Ah, I have a question! When you've finished a novel, do you celebrate? Do you have a favourite meal or go out on the town or what? Or do you just get down to the next novel without taking a breath or a break? Maybe Bev insists you take a break!”

Ann, this question is a first. Nice going!

When I self-published my first novel, “The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday to Today,” I celebrated. Bev and I went out to dinner. It was a very big deal to me.

I haven’t celebrated after the next two. Now, although it is still a big deal, it’s more expected and not as earth-shaking for me. I know I can do it, I’ve proven it in the past so now it’s just do it and move on. J I’m proud of all my novels but only the first seemed like a huge accomplishment worthy of celebration. Now, if I had a best-seller, you can bet I’d be out throwing a party. I’d probably party in England and you could join us.

Exuding Confidence

From Eric: “I am reading a book now where the author is quite confident. It is in an area that requires a whole lot of thought. Anybody who is paying attention knows the field is dynamic and illusory at times. But this guy speaks with such authority that when reading I find myself just accepting his position. You exude that confidence in your writing when opining. Do you work at it or is it just a reflection of your personality? Is it a style or writing technique one can adopt or a "self" deal?”

Eric, I’m reminded of something a parent of one of my students told me once while we were having a casual conversation. She told me I had a very noticeable aura and it was captivating. I don’t think she was flirting. J I’ve heard the same sort of things several times since then.

The point is that this is not something I practice but rather it seems to be a part of my personality. I’m not even aware of it so obviously it’s not something I work at. This is me, for better or for worse.

Is there a technique one can adopt? I would imagine there is but I’m at a loss what it would be. I think a writer needs to sound confident about the subject matter he/she is writing about, but that “confidence” really can only come from actual confidence in one’s knowledge and abilities. I know what I write about. I know what my abilities are. I don’t try to fake it and write about nuclear fusion. I don’t write about interior decorating. I keep my mouth shut about engineering. I’m the same way if you meet me in person. If I give an opinion it is based on experience and that makes me sound confident, I think.

I’m not sure that was helpful but there you go.

Making up Words

From Blond Logic: “On a similar note, or possibly for a future mailbag question. (If in fact you do carry on with it.) What are your thoughts on made up words? These could be exclamations of shock, delight or horror, or just random words in a conversation. Everyday we are hearing new words on the street, in your opinion should these be included or are they possibly too short lived and likely to date our writing?”

Blond, I love this question. As I’ve said before, I think rules, especially with regards to creative writing, are made to be broken, but you mentioned “dating” and I think that is a very real possibility if you are writing in a specific time period. Street slang, in particular, may only be relevant for a particular time period in a short story. As for made-up words, I’ve used them myself, but I always preface them by saying something like “my grandmother was fond of saying” so the reader knows it’s a fabrication of the imagination and not just poor grammar.

Make sense?

Createspace and Covers

From Mary: “Question about self-editing on CreateSpace, if you will. I'm having the devil's own time trying to get my formatting straight. Is there a secret I'm missing or have you not used CreateSpace?

Question 2 re: book covers. Do you just choose random illustrators for your book covers or do you personally know people who do book covers?”

I’ll answer the second question first, Mary. I’ve been fortunate on covers. A former Hubber did my first cover for “Resurrecting Tobias,” and my last two covers were done by a current Hubber, one Mike Friedman. In other words, I’ve got friends in low places. J

Now for the first question. I have used Createspace for three books now and honestly I haven’t had any trouble with formatting, but I bought one book and got a second book at the library that helped me to do the formatting. One book was called “The Kindle Formatting Bible” and the other was “How to Publish Your Paperback with Createspace.” Both helped me greatly.

Is teaching a good occupation for a writer?
Is teaching a good occupation for a writer? | Source

Income from Writing

From Brian: “I hope the Mail Bag questions keep coming. I will miss this series if you discontinue it. Here is one: For the best combination of income to live on and quantity and quality of creative writing output, which is the best sort of day job: teaching writing; writing for hire (newspaper writing, ad copy writing, grant writing, etc., or something unrelated to writing?”

Brian, the question confuses me a bit…you talk about income sources but then you talk about creative writing output. I’m going to answer this way: I don’t think there is a “best sort of day job” with regards to writing and writing income. Making money from writing is all about 1) quality of writing and 2) your marketing efforts. A mediocre writer but a great marketer can make good money. A great writer but poor marketer will be on food stamps. This is where so many writers fail. To make money they have to learn to market their writing….period!

Ta Ta for Now

I’ve started working out in the real world again. Two days a week I’m out in public selling and merchandising, so I’ll say goodbye for now so I can go to my second job. Have a great week and I’ll see you again next Monday.

2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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