The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Sixty-One
Don’t Look Now But…..
Summer is coming to an end. Oh, I know, officially not for another month, but we all know it really stops on Labor Day, so ignore the solstice stuff and mourn with me.
The calendar pages keep turning. Change is inevitable, the only constant we can bet the bank on. What changes will happen in the fall? The winter? How will we react to those changes?
Just some random musings before I get down to business and answer some questions.
Let’s start with a marketing tip.
From Babby: “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?”
Non-painful marketing titles? I’m not sure how one eliminates the pain from marketing, Babby. J
I’m going to take you on a different route for the answer to this question. Let’s not talk about books. Let’s talk about online newsletters that I have found to be very helpful, newsletters and blogs like “The Writer’s Market,” or “The Writer’s Digest.” I also enjoy the blogs by Hope Clark and Janet Reid. I find some great information on those sites and it’s all for free (read non-painful).
If you are talking about marketing your own book, in my opinion, the best thing you can do is hold book signings and readings at libraries and independent bookstores. Get out and meet the buying public. Become one with the buying public. And then go get a second job like the rest of us. LOL
I read once that a successful writer will have one-hundred people that will follow them to hell and back. What’s the point? Those dedicated one-hundred will spread the word about the writer through word of mouth, and there is no better marketing plan than word of mouth.
How many followers like that do you have?
From Zulma: “Hey, Bill. Do your characters have a family tree that you refer to? Mine do. Have a great day.”
Zulma always has great questions, ones that force me to dig deep, and for that I am appreciative.
Mine do not. Mine just have a general outline of important facts about them. Maybe mine should. Maybe they would be more interesting if I did what you do, Zulma.
I think this falls under the category “individual preference.” I know of other writers who do this. Maybe I’m just too impatient to start writing. I do believe that the more information you gather about your characters, the better you will know them and, in effect, become them when you write….and that is a very good thing.
From Mary: “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!”
Mary, here’s the thing about fiction: It is make-believe, and you are the director of the altered reality. You can do whatever the hell you want to do.
I have read books that skipped ahead a year. I’ve read books that skipped ahead a decade. I’ve read books that went back in time (hey, I wrote one of them). If skipping ahead is necessary then do it. Only one word of caution: When a writer does that, they need to pay close attention to the flow of the story. Make the transition smooth or you’ll confuse the readers, and it’s never a good idea to confuse your readers.
Eric and Paragraphs
From Eric: “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.”
Eric, you are showing some amazing insight with this question. Knock it off, please! J
Yes there are basic rules for paragraphing but seriously, who cares? There are basic rules about all parts of grammar, and successful writers break those rules every year and make millions of dollars doing it. Although there are, most definitely, rules of grammar, the one rule I think is most important is that rules were made to be broken when writing fiction.
As for the second part of your question/observation, most definitely paragraphs are used to control the pace and flow of the story. I do it often and totally ignore the rules set down by Sister Mary Elizabeth at St. Patrick’s School.
Déjà Vu All over Again
From Lawrence: “Really enjoyed this hub and all the great advice. I have a sort of question but I'm sure I know what you'll say.
I came up with a plan for a story but some of the gadgets in the story make for Star Trek type stuff (its not a SF story) but the other day checking some info to reply to comments on other hubs I found the gadgets are actually being used and changing the way we understand history!
I reckon you'll say ‘WRITE THE DAMN STORY’”
Lawrence, you know me so well.
WRITE THE DAMN STORY!
Listen up because I’m only going to say this once. There are few original ideas in the book world. Most stories are rehashed, repackaged and reworded storylines that have appeared in print for hundreds of years. The names and settings have been changed, but the basic plot/storyline is the same as others. What makes an individual story unique and entertaining is the talent of the author.
Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy and girl have a family and live happily ever after. Ever hear that one?
Man is shot. Detective chases down clues. Detective catches bad guy. Sound like any book you ever read?
Boy grows. Boy becomes a man. Boy comes of age and learns about life. Sound familiar?
Use the gadgets. Don’t use the gadgets. The most important thing you can do is put your own personal touch on the story…make it yours….and yes, write the damn thing!
Cuts like a Knife
From DREAM ON: “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.”
I’m wrestling with this one right now, Dream On. Not an autobiography but definitely a memoir about a particular time in my life. I’m leaning towards changing the names to protect the innocent…and the guilty. J I just think fiction gives a writer a lot more leeway and allows us to write freely without worrying about hurt feelings (or lawsuits). The most famous example of this in literature that I can think of is “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Harper Lee patterned her characters and her story after real people and real events, but changed all the names. That turned out okay so I’m thinking I should do the same thing.
See You Next Week
The Mailbag just keeps on keeping on, and will continue to do so until you run out of questions or I drop dead. I’m hoping neither of those things happens, so let’s keep those questions coming and I’ll keep exercising and eating right.
Thanks to those who had questions this week. If you have a question, just leave it in the comment section and I’ll tackle it next week.
Have a superb week of writing. The world is counting on you.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”