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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Sixty

Updated on August 17, 2015

Random Thoughts Before We Begin

The beginning of a new school year is always a sweet-melancholy time for me. I so enjoyed my years as a teacher. There were very few days sprinkled in those eighteen years when I did not want to go to work. In fact, it’s an injustice to say that teaching was work for me. It just seemed a natural extension of who I am, like breathing or sleeping or urban farming.

But the day came when it was no longer fun, and at that point I kept a promise to myself and walked away. And now I write, and it is fun and fulfilling, and the same passion that was a part of my teaching is now a part of my writing….and that’s how it should be.

Let’s get started with a passionate question from Zulma.

Welcome to the Mailbag
Welcome to the Mailbag | Source

TIMELINES

From Zulma: “Now that I think about it, here's a question you may want for the 'Writers' Mailbag'. When it comes to establishing a time period and a timeline, do have one already in mind when you start or do you let the characters thought process and voice lead you there? I have a devil of a time when it comes to that and I'm curious how others handle this.”

To me, Zulma, time period and timeline are two different things. Do I have a particular time period in mind when I begin? Most definitely. I have three completed novels, one almost completed and another in the works, and I know for a fact what time period they take place in. The time period (1960s, 1990s, 1810s) is an integral part of the story, like voice, dialogue, scenes, so I can’t imagine not knowing that in advance.

The timeline, however, always gives me the weebie jeebies, and the only solution to that, in my humble opinion, is a timeline “outline” before you get started, or at least a “running timeline” on a separate piece of paper so you don’t lose track of time.

What day is it? What time is it? Is it realistic that the character performed this task in two hours? If so, did you remember that two hours had passed before you started the next scene? Are you keeping the days straight? Heck, in the case of “Tobias,” my second novel, I had to make sure my years were consistent, because it was told as a series of flashbacks and memories. Timeline is difficult. I literally have a piece of paper on my desk, and on that paper are columns for activity, time started, time finished, and I keep track of events as I write.

I’d love to hear from our readers on this topic.

Is this your current level of motivation?
Is this your current level of motivation? | Source

In Search of Motivation

From Eric: “For so many of us housewives school is starting up and with the little ones off to live their own lives without us, ingrates probably won't even miss us, it is a good time to jump start our writing. Can you give us any motivation to help get us off the couch watching soaps and eating bon bons? I would so much like to be a writer and not just an ornament for my spouse to show off at mixers. As you can see I am covering up my fears by joking and being flippant. What if I commit and just cannot cut the mustard? I don't suppose you can be successful and keep your writing a secret?”

There’s a serious question hidden inside this flippant question and by God, I spotted it immediately.

Every writer I know walks this tightrope of self-doubt. “Cutting the mustard,” as you say, is always hanging around our necks. As I’ve said many times, I almost quit one week into my writing career, and the reason was I didn’t think I was good enough. But by who’s standards? Who determines if I’m “good enough?” It seems to me that that is a call only the writer can make. If your goal is to share observations, reflections and information with the general public, then take it from me, Eric, you are already “good enough.” If, however, your goal is to be published one day by a major publishing firm, you may never be good enough. If that’s the case, then your passion for writing has to carry you through. A truly passionate writer will not quit. It’s virtually impossible to do so.

OBSTACLES

From Theresa: “Hey, what do you think are the most common obstacles every writer faces? Again, not sure this question is worthy of esteemed recognition in the famed Monday Mailbag series.”

Thanks Theresa! Of course this question is worthy. LOL I’m just not sure how to answer it.

I think self-doubt plagues many a writer. I think lack of marketing skills and/or the desire to market plagues many more. Then we have a lack of technical skills and then, of course, we have a lack of talent, but that’s just too ugly to talk about.

Writing is such an individual undertaking. I think it is real hard to give a blanket explanation to something as subjective and individualistic as the Arts. I know writers who work full-time jobs and then come home to take care of four kids. For them, the greatest obstacle is time. I know others who have all the time in the world, and they’ve written several manuscripts, but they never self-publish those manuscripts because of a lack of confidence. And on and on we go.

I grew up in a funny family, so much of my humor is inherited and a product of environment
I grew up in a funny family, so much of my humor is inherited and a product of environment | Source

In Search of Humor

From Ann: “Question: You are good at humour in writing. Can you give us an example of taking one sentence and giving it a serious slant, then a humorous one? I'm just interested in how you tackle humour, or (as I suspect) is it just an innate talent?”

What an interesting question, Ann. Thank you! My first observation is that there are some people who are just naturally funny. I grew up in a funny home. My dad was hilarious (except when I forgot to mow the lawn). My mother was funny as well. I also grew up surrounded by sarcastic and funny friends. We were always “cracking wise,” so now, in my waning years, humor is just a part of who I am. Even when I’m writing on a serious topic, that sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek side of me will show up in a sentence or two. The same thing happens when I’m writing an article for a business customer.

But you asked for an example. Obviously I’m stalling. J Okay, here goes. I’m going to show you how my sick little mind works. This is completely off the cuff. I took a story from the news five minutes ago….here is a passage from that story:

Kerry, the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Cuba in 70 years, told the ceremony it was obvious that "the road of mutual isolation and estrangement that the United States and Cuba have been traveling is not the right one and that the time has come for us to move in a more promising direction."

The first thing that popped into my head after reading that sentence was “and then he rushed to the corner store and bought a case of Cuban cigars.”

Hey, I thought it was funny!

Thanks Ann!

And Thanks to Everyone

Sixty installments down. How many to come depends on all of you asking questions in the future. Thanks for the great questions this week. I’ll be back next week with more, good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise. In the meantime, I’ll be busier than a one-armed paperhanger with crabs. I borrowed that line from my dad. Was that funny enough for you, Ann?

2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • Buildreps profile image

      Buildreps 23 months ago from Europe

      You shared great insights here about timelines, billybuc. This is probably one of the most important technical parts of writing a good story.

      Talking about technical details of books. My wife recently read a book about a girl that lived among wolves during WWII, called Misha. A crazy story that's sold as to be real. You might perhaps heard of it.

      She sometimes read aloud some parts of that book. After a few paragraphs it was already clear to me that the technical details sucked. Details like: Misha discovered food by observing vultures....sure vultures in Poland. Stealing food from farms, while everyone knows that you've to deal with angry farm dogs. Once I said to her that the details were unlikely she didn't like the book anymore:) We then checked it out on internet, and it appeared to be a fraud.

      You're very right about your remarks here that details are so important to make it a great story. Voted up, as always, and thanks very much, our highly esteemed friend!

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 23 months ago from Norfolk

      Hello Billy,

      I loved all of the questions this week. Thank you. Great way to start the week.

      Hope your week is a terrific one.

      Sally

    • bizarrett81 profile image

      bizarrett81 23 months ago from Maine

      Thanks for this. I like your suggestion of keeping a paper for tracking timeline. I'm working on something with flashbacks and keep getting lost. And your right, self doubt is a huge obstacle. One that has made me give up many times.

      Thank you for taking your time to do these. You're still a great teacher!

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 23 months ago from Chicago Area

      Cannot believe I'm (at this moment) only the 3rd person to weigh in on the Mailbag this morning! Woohoo!

      Re: Humor. Humor is a difficult tightrope to walk. Think drama actors are talented? Yeah, they are. But successful comedic ones? Really talented! Timing is so critical to the delivery of humor whether in word or on stage. A misplaced or inappropriate humor bit can ruin an entire work. Why I just try to be clever instead of comedic. :)

      Have a great week ahead!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 23 months ago from New York, New York

      Aw, Bill I am slowly returning to reality as I was away at Disney all last week, but just had to stop in and check out your weekly advice here. As always never disappoints and you know I, for one, love your humor. Happy Monday now! ;)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for sharing that, Buildreps. If I came across a book like that I would quit reading immediately. If a writer isn't willing to do the research then I'm not willing to read.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Sally! I always enjoy your visits. Have a great week, my friend.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Liz, you may have given up in the past but you're back and better than ever. Here to stay this time, I hope. :)

      Thank you for your kind words and have a great week of writing and living.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Heidi, it is very difficult for sure. The very words "trying to be funny" is a tip-off. I don't think truly funny people have to try.

      Have a superb week and thank you.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 23 months ago

      Now that's funny. I can see Kerry rushing off on a bike to stock up on cigars. It's a good visual.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 23 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Another good "mailbag" Bill. Your distinction between "time period" and "time line" was particularly interesting. Hope all is well over your way. I hear there are a lot of wildfires currently blazing in many states. Maybe too many people lighting up Cuban cigars :)

    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 23 months ago

      Monday Morning Mailbag! For some reason, I am always surprised to find it is Monday, again. Yes, we empty nesters have no way of knowing the day of the week when we no longer have to chase the school bus to make sure our precious little off spring get on that bus. Oh, the memories!

      Follow an outline, you say. Tell that to my characters. They have a mind of their own and will say what they have the need to say, regardless of a

      timeline. Some days, I feel like a third party to the story and am literally

      typing as the scene plays out before me.

      Yes, I have a new muse and she is working out great. I had been running hot and cold for about four months. There was never a doubt that a new muse would return at some point, and the characters would jump up like marionettes and start to play out the scenes.

      Happy Monday, my friend.

      DJ.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 23 months ago from Northern California, USA

      This week's mailbag (as they all are) was fun to read. You do have a way with humor that is always appropriate, no matter where you insert it. And regarding time lines, I am a "paperless" kind of gal, but like you, when it comes to time lines, I have to get out a pencil and paper to keep track of who is doing what and when. Like, there was one time I almost had a woman graduate from college when she was a baby. I had people being born out of sequence. The time line helped me sort through it all.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 23 months ago from Central Florida

      Some very good topics were brought up this week.

      Timelines can be tricky when writing stories or novels. It's important to keep track of seasons, time of day, how much time as passed between events/scenes, etc. The writer may not be aware of these indicators when s/he is writing, but the reader will catch discrepancies in a heart beat.

      I love what Rick Riordan had to say about humor. The reader needs a break in the drama to catch his breath or unwind from a tense moment. Humor is just the right ticket to keep the reader reading as opposed to putting the book down for a while and walking away to regroup.

      Installment sixty! Where does the time go?

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, I appreciate you stopping by after your vacation. I hope you had a great time. Thank you and Happy Monday to you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm glad you liked it, Pop! Thanks for stopping by. You don't like cigars, do you? :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Maybe, John. LOL All is well here. We have a lot of fires here in Washington but most of them are on the east side of our state. Thanks for the visit and have a great week.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      DJ, your description of being a third party is exactly what it is like when writing a book. I'm glad the new muse is working out for you. Hurry up and finish that book before that muse goes on strike.

      Thanks as always, my friend.

      Bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh Marlene, I understand completely. I have seen myself make some horrendous time mistakes. I may learn slowly but I do, eventually, learn. Thanks for sharing that. I got a good laugh out of it.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha, I have no idea where the time goes, but it goes much too quickly these days. I don't know what happened to the weekend. :) As for timelines, I would be dead if I didn't keep one. It is an indispensable part of fiction writing for this writer.

      Thank you dear friend and have a superb week.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 23 months ago from london

      Nice one, Bill. A mere forty to go then we can have a party.

      About the humour, we do this a lot better when we are spontaneous, than when we have to tell others how its done, I think. Still, you explained it nicely. Much peace.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 23 months ago from Oklahoma

      The new school year always brings back memories for me as well. Some good. Some bad.

      As for timelines, I keep one as best I can, but I won't just break if I have to flex and accommodate.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Very true, Manatita. I found it difficult to be humorous on demand. Funny how that works. :)

      blessings, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for your input, Larry. I always find it interesting to hear how others handle the writing procedures.

    • Sparklea profile image

      Sparklea 23 months ago from Upstate New York

      Hi Billy buc! Your last paragraph was the BEST! LOVED it and I sure laughed! Great advice regarding timeline. So appreciate your loyalty to your hub friends by taking time to do this each week. Heading to Barnes & Noble in a few minutes to read your novel. It is the only way to escape the cats. God bless, you know I will stay in touch. Take care of the critters and HI to Bev! 90 degrees is forecast for the whole week ahead, so I continue to hibernate. Humidity 100 percent. Sparklea :)

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 23 months ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! School will be starting in a couple weeks and my kids aren't quite as nostalgic as you! I bet you were a wonderful teacher, though...In many ways, you still are! You teach all of your readers here every single week. So as an avid pupil under your study, thank you!

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 23 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, I think my computer failed me again, so will try to recreate the "brilliant statements" I penned an hour ago. I loved this mailbag. Timelines are where many authors tend to stumble. (Didn't you always wonder how Jack Bauer could navigate LA traffic, keep his cell phone fully charged and never have to take a bathroom break?)

      Humor--A sense of humor is so important, not just in writing but in our every day interactions. But there is a fine line between being clever and just sounding stupid. I tend to be quite snarky so have to apply a delicate touch when seasoning my writing (just like cayenne pepper).

      And finally, you are still a teacher. You instruct with every hub that you share with us. Thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Lea, so good to see you. Warm weather returning tomorrow and Wednesday here, but we certainly don't get that kind of humidity here...thank God! Take care and thank you. Know that you are appreciated greatly by little old me. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Aww, thank you Melissa! No, I'm pretty sure your kids won't be very nostalgic in a couple weeks. I appreciate your kind words. Once a teacher always a teacher. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Linda! I love the word "snarky" by the way. Great word, one of those words that sounds just like it means, if that makes any sense. :)

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 23 months ago from Hollister, MO

      As you expect, my desk is full of 'timeline' notes, for the various stories I write, in different 'time periods' in my historical fiction. I appreciated your notes. I couldn't write what I do in my family sagas without these notes. Great mailbag! ;-)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Bill, you are the perfect example of that timeline section. There is no way on earth you could write that sage without a detailed timeline...if you could you would be my writing god. :) Thank you sir!

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 23 months ago from SW England

      Yes, that was funny enough thank you bill! I did see the cigars coming but it's great. As I expected, humour is in your blood.

      The time line thing - I'd do exactly the same as you, as I like to have a logical outline as a base and I'd keep it as a current one.

      Great questions as you say. I don't think you're going to be short of those for a while, bill.

      Enjoy the rest of your delightful day!

      Ann

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 23 months ago from Brazil

      I love the fact you touched on humor this week. For me, I can't bear watching dry films or reading books that aren't a bit humorous.

      I too grew up in a family of wannabe comics.

      After a family reunion we all thought we had appendicitis as our sides ached from laughing so much.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Ann! I'm still a bit surprised that this series continues. Shows you how little I really know. :) I'm glad you agree on the timelines. I always feel better when you agree with me. :)

      Have a superb week, my friend.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That's my kind of family, Blond. If you can't laugh then the world seems like a real scary place. :) Thank you!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 23 months ago from south Florida

      Interesting questions, Bill, and rational answers as always. When it comes to humor, the secret is ... there is no secret. One has a well developed sense of humor or lacks same. Personally, I agree with you. A great deal of it may depend on one's genes.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 23 months ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Bill, once again, you've given us a mailbag that is overflowing with useful questions and answers.

      I do find that maintaining an accurate timeline is a bit of a challenge. I like the idea of creating an outline right at the beginning, it makes good sense. I'll just have to learn to organise myself better. As for humour, I love reading books that can make me laugh out loud.

      I remember reading one of Tom Sharp's Wilt series on the bus, I was laughing so much, tears ran down my face. I'm sure the people on that bus though I was completely bunkers. Some writers are naturally good at writing humour, even the most serious situation can be lightened by the odd injection of a bit of hilarity. I do try to use humour in my writing, but I'm not sure how well this works.

      Ann was very naughty putting you on the spot, but I guess you showed her. ;) As always, brilliant!

      Let me know how you're doing with my friends Crusty, Prewitt and Co.

      My best always.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 23 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Unbelievable that this wonderful series is up to the 60th installment -love any chance to 'hear' your wry sense of humor, dear Bill.

      Have a great week. Love, Maria

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you drbj...if anyone would know about humor it would be you. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Jo and I did email you today...I hope you got it...maybe I'd better do so again. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Maria. I think it's unbelievable as well....and I love your new profile picture. :)

      love,

      bill

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 23 months ago from Massachusetts

      Wow, number 60. Another great week of questions and answers. Great job Bill, have a great week.

    • Babbyii profile image

      Barb Johnson 23 months ago from Alaska's Kenai Peninsula

      Another great mailbag Bill! Happy 60th Mailbag!! Time line is squirrelly all on its own, even worse if you're not having a good day to begin with. You may have to redo everything you did that day. And marketing... ugh.. like most writers I don't like selling myself. I guess it would help if I narrowed that skill gap by studying some marketing.

      Maybe that's a good question for you Bill. Can you recommend any (non-painful) marketing titles that would be an advantage to writers who in this day and age really need to think about how to market themselves?

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 23 months ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Bill, sorry, no sign of the email, I also checked the spam but no joy there either, try resending it.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Bill, and I wish you a superb week as well. See you next week.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for your thoughts, Babby. I'll have an answer for you on the marketing question next week. Thank you again.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Will do, Jo!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 23 months ago from The Caribbean

      Great job on all the questions. The timeline outline is my takeaway this week. Thanks for always being so relevant.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 23 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Bill. I find your Mailbag series a great break from my procrastination tendencies. Great questions this week and great answers.

      Great idea of the timeline, when I was writing Emerald Wells Cafe, half way through I started a timeline to keep track of everyone. Live and learn.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 23 months ago from southern USA

      What day is this ...oh, oh ...Monday! Can you tell it has been a Monday, Monday for me, especially being I am arriving at 9:30 p.m. my time across the US.

      Thank you for addressing my question, and maybe each individual writer has his or her own particular obstacles, instead of many having the same, but time does seem to be common for sure.

      The timeline is of utmost importance.

      Humor helps us to get through this life and actually helps to keep us sane LOL ... even though we can't always incorporate into everything we write.

      Peace and blessings always, dear Bill

      Happy Monday evening

    • social thoughts profile image

      social thoughts 23 months ago from New Jersey

      Another thought-provoking mailbag! The motivation question was my favorite. It's so true that no matter how much we improve we still can't know if we're "good enough" because we're our own worst critics, and some publishers just want what they want!

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 23 months ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks for the help, Bill. First, I didn't realise time period and time line were two different things. I've been using the terms interchangeably. Thanks for the clarification. It's ironic that as a writer, it never once occurred to me to write down events as and when they occur. I'll be doing that from now on.

      Regarding Eric's comment about writing in secret, it is possible. There's a lady in my writers' group who did just that. She wrote her first novel at odd moments when her family wasn't around. It wasn't until she was ready to publish (using a pseudonym) that she let her family in on her secret. The reason for the subterfuge: she was worried her book wouldn't be good enough. She is now working on book #2.

      Hey, Bill. Do your characters have a family tree that you refer to? Mine do. Have a great day.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 23 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      You may have walked away from teaching, Bill, but let's face it - you still do, every Monday, and I thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Dora. I'm always happy when someone finds something to take away from this series.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Mike, that's how I learn.....late! LOL I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for the question, Faith. By no means was it silly or stupid or whatever....very appropriate for most writers.

      Happy Tuesday to you, dear friend, and blessings to you always.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It's a bitter pill to swallow, Kailey, but a truth pill nonetheless. My best to you this week; I hope work is bearable for you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Good morning Zulma! What a nice way to begin my day. As for family trees, you'll just have to wait for a week to find out, but thanks for sharing your technique with everyone.

      Peace my friend

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for that, Bill. I do enjoy helping others, and knowledge is worthless if not shared, don't you think?

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 23 months ago

      RE: turning a serious situation into humor. I’m still wrestling with a scene I remember from my childhood. My mother discovered garlic growing in the garden after we bought a new home. I was only four years old, but I remember the conversation she and my father had about the garlic when she put some in her vegetable soup. It was a very serious, low-key conversation, but that’s what I find so funny about it. If they had shown some emotion during the conversation, I probably wouldn’t have remembered it at all. That and the fact that my father dug up the garlic right after their conversation. Have a good serious, funny day, my friend.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 23 months ago from Shelton

      60 carries and not one fumble.. Billybuc you are sure to go all the way.. you are indeed hubpages most intrigued contributors.. praise for Billybuc and his mailbags..

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Awww, thank you so much, Frank. I'm just doing what I was raised to do...give back to the community. I appreciate your very kind words.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 23 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      I think a common obstacle faced by every writer was expressed (as, I suppose, a general observation about life) by T. S. Eliot:

      Between the idea

      And the reality

      Between the motion

      And the act

      Falls the Shadow

      First there are the powerful, wise, insightful, beautiful phrases I am going to write, and then there are the, "Needs work, Brian," phrases I do write.

      Motivation: Write a paragraph, get a bon bon.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 23 months ago from Texas

      Bill, this is your best one yet. I need the timeline information. Thank you for the information.

      Thumb-up UABI and shared

      Blessings my friend

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 23 months ago from Texas

      Bill, this is your best one yet. I need the timeline information. Thank you for the information.

      Thumb-up UABI and shared

      Blessings my friend

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 23 months ago from New York

      No need to tell you we're all cheering you on for 100 mailbags, a nice round number!

      Okay, so you have your timeline, but you're writing fiction, can't you play around a bit with the facts if it is a work of fiction? (Next mailbag?) I mean, you make up a town, you make up people, can't you change the time with it not necessarily being true, like making a year pass really fast? 365 days is a long time when you're pressing onward!

      Thanks for everything Bill. You know you're winning a Hubbie again, right?

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      MizB, what a great anecdote. I wonder what the said during that weighty conversation? Too funny!

      Thank you, my friend. Enjoy your day!

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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Brian, I love bon bons. LOL One of my favorite "candies" when I was a kid. I always had them when I went to the movies.

      Take a break, Brian. You deserve one.

      bill

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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm glad to hear it, Shyron! Thank you and best of luck with your timeline.

      blessings always

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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      and thank you again, Shyron! :)

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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, thanks for the question. I'll have an answer for you Monday. As for the Hubbie, thank you. I hang with some very good friends.

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      Paula 23 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      bro...great answers to interesting questions.....looks like the flow of questions writers have is non-stop. This is good I'm sure. When we stop asking, we've stopped caring to improve and get that firm grasp on the process we search for every day.

      Do I have lack of confidence? You bet. This is really curious to me because in the majority of areas of my life, I'm so self-assured. Go figure.

      Thanks for this weeks' installment. You're our center of help & hope!....UP+++....Peace, Sis.

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      Mary Hyatt 23 months ago from Florida

      Humor is very important in writing and just "everyday life". I've always wanted to write a book about my deceased Veterinarian hubby who had a great sense of humor. His usual greeting to folks was : "Did you hear the one about"....and then tell them a great joke. He was a riot!!

      Unlike you, I never have gotten around to writing that book!

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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Sis! I have that little corner of my brain that says I'm not good enough....and I'm about as confident a person as you're likely to meet....go figure. :)

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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, I hope one day you'll write that book. I love the greeting your husband had...what a great ice-breaker that is. Thank you for sharing that.

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      Eric Dierker 23 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      This is nice reading your hub a few days later, you have wonderful readers with great comments. This timeline concept seems to be serious business. I am reading a James Patterson right now and he is masterful at jumping around yet maintaining time order. Very cool. He uses quite short chapters and it is effective. This brings me to my question about paragraphs.

      I know there are basic rules for "paragraphing" but lately I am wondering if paragraphs aren't most effective as punctuation. It seems some writing uses them as pregnant pauses within the same line of thought. Dare I say even you do it? Set me straight would you please.

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      sujaya venkatesh 23 months ago

      an amazing read Bil

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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Eric, you must be eating your Wheaties! What great questions you're asking of late. Stay tuned for the answer and thank you.

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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much, Sujaya!

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      DREAM ON 23 months ago

      You always keep the ball rolling. Each mailbag is over flowing with so much information. Timeline is one of my biggest enemies. Every day connects so close to the next. I have enough trouble in real life. Those who master the art in their novels have to be extremely organized and detail oriented. Thank you for all your time and effort you put in every post. They are one more piece to writing that extend farther than your hubs. Which continue to amaze and delight. Have a wonderful night.

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      Ruby Jean Fuller 23 months ago from Southern Illinois

      I guess many start writing thinking they are not good enough, I know I did. I love to write humorous pieces in rhyming fashion. Thank you again for being you..

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      Danny Cabaniss 23 months ago from Shawnee, Oklahoma

      Great stuff again, Bill! Thanks so much! I love the Cuban cigars line.

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      DREAM ON 23 months ago

      Bill have you ever thought of non fiction writing? An autobiography of your life ? If you did in writing how do you protect people that were instrumental in your life but we're cruel in every way, shape or form. I found that the truth hurts and even though it's true people don't want to hear it or see it in print. So would it be better to turn it into a novel and make characters that resemble the real people you have met and let the smart readers connect the dots. Who are we really talking about ? Example Say I had an ex girlfriend who destroyed my life. Instead of telling the truth and letting everyone know the truth turn to fiction and give my new girlfriend in the story Cindy Suffera who has a body that won't stop at the same time she makes me wince every time I even mention her. From years of pain that she has caused that still cut like a paper cut aggravating every day but not deadly.Thank you for your suggestions and insight. Have a great day.

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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Dream On, thank you so much for the kind comment. I try to help other writers....I just assume that's what we all do. :)

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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      And Ruby, I love it when you write humorous pieces in rhyming fashion. We are a match made in heaven. :) Thanks for being here.

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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for being here, Danny. Glad you liked my weak attempt at humor. LOL

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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Dream On, great question...and your example is....worthy of a quality writer. I'll stuff this in the next Mailbag. Stay tuned...and thank you.

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      Nithya Venkat 23 months ago from Dubai

      Great questions and answers, 60th installment! Great series, keep them coming.

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      Deb Hirt 23 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      As always, great material, this time with a chuckle at no charge. I love it.

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      Rebecca Mealey 23 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Great writing advice as always, Bill. For my timeline (novel set in 1994) I found myself actually printing out the darn calendar for that year and using it like someone's day planner!

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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Deb, the chuckle is always free. Glad you liked it as much as I like you being here. Thank you!

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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Rebecca, that is a superb suggestion. I hope people read your comment. Thanks for that.

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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you once again, Vellur! You are appreciated.

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      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 23 months ago from United Kingdom

      @rebeccamealey: A day planner. What a great idea!

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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It for sure is, Zulma! Seems so simple; why didn't I think of that?

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      breakfastpop 23 months ago

      Actually, I have smoked a couple of cigarillos in my lifetime!

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      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      You and me both, Pop!

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      Dianna Mendez 22 months ago

      Lots of great information here, Bill.

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      FlourishAnyway 22 months ago from USA

      One of the important things about humor is not to try too hard. It also help to surround yourself with funny people.

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      Bill Holland 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Dianna and congratulations on your Hubbie win.

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      Bill Holland 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh, Flourish, I totally agree. I grew up around funny. It certainly helped me to see humor in life. Thanks for mentioning that.

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 18 months ago

      Lack of self-doubt is indeed the biggest hurdle in our path. Great answers to the questions!

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      Bill Holland 18 months ago from Olympia, WA

      For sure it is, Swalia! Now, how do we give confidence to all of those writers? :) Thank you!

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