The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Seventy-Five
A Flurry Saved Us
I thought we were going to have to cancel the Mailbag this week due to a lack of questions, but on Friday four questions came in and saved us, so here we are.
For my American friends, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. For my foreign friends, I hope your weekend was rewarding.
I start a new job this week so my schedule is about to drastically change. If you don’t hear as much from me, well, that’s the reason. I’ll be around as time allows and as for my writing, I’ll have to see how things shake out and make time somewhere, somehow.
Let’s get started with another question about romance novels.
Everything I Know About Writing
From Brad: “Thanks for the Romance men reading stat, I also don't know any of them. So one can conclude that if you want to succeed as a paid writer, than you had better get to know what women want to read, at least in fiction.
It would seem difficult for the mail writers, to get this kind of writing correct. Then a follow up question would be how many of the romance novel authors are men? The answer must be in the 9%. :-)”
Brad, this one is a bit harder to answer, and the reason for that really isn’t that surprising.
It seems there are quite a few male romance novel writers out there, but many of them write under a female name because, well, there is this silly belief that only a woman can write a good romance novel.
And the numbers of men writers are significantly more in the “romance erotica” genre. I wouldn’t even venture a guess why that is.
From Lucille: “I struggle with distractions during my writing day. I was wondering what are some of your distractions and how do you deal with them or eliminate them?”
Short of locking yourself away in a mountain cabin, I don’t think you can eliminate distractions. So your question then becomes how do we best deal with them?
My biggest distraction, or sapper-of-time, is answering emails and commenting on the articles of other writer friends, and I really hate to use the word “distraction” in that case. I am what I am because of the support of others, so I feel I need to find time to comment when they have written something. Now, as you might suspect of someone who has been doing this for over four years, there are a lot of emails and a lot of articles to comment on. How do I deal with them? I squeeze them in when I can. I’ll work on my stuff for a half hour and then comment on a couple articles. I’ll respond to an email after checking on the animals. I make it happen because, for me, it’s important that I maintain those relationships.
I know some writers who never comment on the articles of others. That’s their business and I think it’s best if I don’t comment on that.
Bottom line is this: if writing is important to you then you have to make time for it.
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From Darla: “My friends tell me I should start a blog. What do you think?”
Darla, I don’t even know where to start with that question. Start one if you want to is as good as I can give you. WordPress is free so why not? If you plan on being a freelance writer and actually write for money, then I suggest you either have a blog or a website. They add a touch of professionalism to your writing platform and I think they are important.
But if you are just writing for your own enjoyment then blog, don’t blog, it is entirely up to you.
From Frank: “How do you decide what to write about? Specifically, how do you decide on the subject matter for your novels?”
Frank, I’m not sure it’s a conscious decision. My first novel was a lark that grew wings as I was writing. My second novel was born from a suggestion by my wife. My third novel was a desire on my part to write a thriller and my fourth is a sequel to the third, simply because I want a series with those same characters.
I have two other novels in the planning stage which are completely different from the first four. One is a novel of hope because I wanted to write something inspirational and one is a reflection about growing up during the early 60’s because, well, I want to write that reflection in story form.
I doubt I answered your question. If I were forced to do so, my answer would be I wait for inspiration and then trust in that.
From Melissa: “Can I begin a sentence with a number in numeric form?”
No, you cannot!
Of course I’m going to have more to say about that because, well, I can!
The accepted wisdom in the writing world is never begin a sentence with a number in numeric form, like “1,021 people died that day.” It’s considered bad form, don’t you know, and writers really do like to avoid bad form.
Having said that, I am of the belief that there are no rules sunk in concrete, especially when writing a novel. I personally think writing the number out in words is best for effect, and I have followed the established rule for that reason, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t break it if I had a good reason.
Call me a rebel. I can live with it.
Book to Ebook
From Adam: “I’ve written a novel but so far have not found a publisher or agent. Do you think I should just bite the bullet and make it an ebook?”
Adam, welcome to DILEMMA WORLD!
The pros and cons of this dilemma can be listed for hours. Do it, don’t do it, it really comes down to a personal choice. I have moved from one end of the spectrum to the other on this topic. I say go for it, but don’t plan on instant success or, for that matter, any success at all. There are millions of ebooks being published each year, and whether yours becomes a bestseller depends on writing ability, marketing and a kiss from the gods.
Can you publish an ebook and then still get noticed by a traditional publisher? Sure, it happens, but you still have to have skill as a writer and you’ll still have to do most of the marketing.
I guess what I’m saying is I don’t see any major reason why you shouldn’t do it.
From Delores: “How do you feel about writing for free?”
I think it sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!
How’s that for succinct?
Now for a serious answer.
There are times when I think writing for free is worthwhile. If you are just starting out and you are trying to get a byline, that might be one time when writing for free is advisable. Writing on someone else’s blog as a guest blogger is a good idea and is almost always done for free. It’s a good way to build your platform and that’s always a good thing.
Just don’t get comfortable writing for free. Once you are an established writer, you should charge what your time and effort are worth, and free ain’t worth much.
Any More Questions?
No? Well then we’ll quit for this week. Thanks for all the questions. I hope the answers were useful. I’ll be back next week with installment seventy-six, the good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”