The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Sixty-Seven
Ho Hum, It’s Back Again
I’m being facetious about the ho-hum business. I’m amazed this series keeps humming along, and as it grows so, too, does the readership. At this point it is a self-sustaining entity that rarely requires fine-tuning by me. I just love it!
Thanks in advance to all of you who asked questions this week. Let’s get going with a good question about total focus.
Total Immersion in Writing
From Ann: “A question: Do you get so immersed in your writing that you have no idea how long you've been sitting there at the keyboard?”
This will be an easy question to answer….YES!
Truthfully it doesn’t happen often but it does happen, and it is almost always when I’m working on a novel. I say it doesn’t happen often because even when working on a novel I am rarely in the zone with words flowing like manna from the heavens, but when it does happen it is amazing to witness. All outside influences are forgotten; it’s just me and my story.
Maybe my book can help you
Ebooks By Installment
From Brian: “Question: Would it be feasible and cost-effective to self-publish a novel in parts in imitation of Charles Dickens?
Dickens serial fiction OR novels OR publication
The Project Boz website says, "Most of Dickens’s novels were published in twenty stand-alone monthly parts. Each number or installment (after the first two installments of his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, when Dickens and his publishers were still experimenting with the form) contained exactly 32 pages of text, along with two engraved illustrations; each installment also contained 16 or more pages of advertising. These serial parts cost only a shilling. The final installment cost two shillings, and was a double one, including a more generous amount of text, four illustrations (including an engraved title page and frontispiece), and front matter--preface, dedication, table of contents, a list of illustrations, and so forth."
“So why not publish a novel as a series of short ebooks of a few chapters each? I'm not sure about advertising or about illustrations or about subscriptions. As a customer, I would want it to be easy, simple, inexpensive, and convenient to obtain and pay for each part and to have the option of canceling my subscription at any time before getting the last part.”
Brian, you always ask the most fascinating questions. Why not is my answer!
I remember back to the golden age of pulp fiction and dime novels. Short novels, really shorter than a novella, were published regularly and they sold quite well. We got away from that for a few decades but I think we are returning to that style again. People seem to have less time to read…attention spans are shorter…and I think short ebooks that sell for ninety-nine cents each would do well if they were chapters or a continuing story.
So yes, Brian, why not indeed!
My theory on writing: good writing will sell if properly marketed. Hell, bad writing sells if properly marketed. J There’s a lesson in there somewhere.
From Aliswell: “Hi Bill, Long time No Communicate. I have returned to Hub Pages and You in particular, to try and get any answers to my dilemma.
My dilemma, as it appears to me... as if "me" is in anyway the slightest best indicator of reality...is that I can't make myself believe that my tiny contribution of words to the World would...Make any difference to Anybody???
For me to even contemplate writing as a possible new life experience, I think I have to get beyond the extreme mental block of not believing my almost infintestibly small contribution would be of any real positive contribution to anything.
Thanks for Any and All Feedback!!”
Allen, I hear you! What do we have now, seven-point-three billion people in the world? What possible difference can one writer make? We are all just a pimple on the elephant’s butt, so to speak. I honestly don’t know of a writer who hasn’t felt like you feel. I am not downplaying your feelings at all. I think they are valid and I totally understand them.
Here’s what I had to come to grips with when I felt as you do….if I make a difference in one life….if I cause one person to feel something significant….if my words move one person to tears or laughter or an “ah-ha” moment, then isn’t that worth the effort? Isn’t one genuine moment of human connection worth the time?
I think it is. It is the human connection nature of writing that draws me to it. It is knowing that someone, somewhere, will read my words today, or tomorrow, or fifty years from now, and be moved by them, that really excites me. My words are immortal and by extension, then, so am I.
How cool is that?
I was the dorky, uncool kid in the school gym during the dance, never noticed, never talked to. Imagine that kid now writing things that have an impact on lives. It is truly mind-blowing to me.
Time to Move On
From Zulma: “I've just scrapped my 2nd attempt at writing the first chapter of my book. I'm going to try again today and hope it's 3rd time lucky. Does that happen to you? Do you carry on beating what may be a dead horse or do you just walk away and say 'Screw it.' How do you know when it's time to give up and move on?”
Zulma is an American living in Europe, and I can always tell that because her east coast vernacular sneaks in occasionally…..”screw it”…..I’m laughing as I write this, so thank you Zulma.
The answer is yes. I’ve had several “screw it” moments, the most memorable being when I started writing my first novel in my “Shadows” series, namely “Shadows Kill.” I was ten-thousand words into the book when I said “screw it” and erased them all. It just wasn’t there. I wasn’t feeling it, and perhaps that’s the answer to your second question, how do we know. I just knew. It just didn’t feel right. I knew what I wanted to accomplish and after ten-thousand words it wasn’t there. The characters were bland, they were dissatisfied with their performance to that point, and they were whispering to me that it was all a bunch of rubbish.
So I deleted it all.
I think that decision is a personal one, but I don’t think it’s subjective. I think it is based on some very real objective factors that only we and our muses are aware of.
How was that for a nebulous answer?
From Faith: “What do you think is necessary to reach that oh-so-satisfying conclusion in a novel? Many times, I know for me it happens when a writer builds up the series of scenes that show how the hero is applying what he’s learned.”
Faith, what an interesting question. The way it’s worded I think you’re asking about satisfaction for the reader and not the writer. If that’s so, it seems to me to be completely subjective. When I was younger I wanted closure in a novel. I’m not sure that’s true now. I don’t particularly care if boy gets girl or bad guy is killed in the end. I simply want an ending that ties up all loose ends and leaves me wanting more.
I’ve said before that I read novels to be moved emotionally. I need that fix when I’m reading. I need to laugh, or cry, or be angry. If the writer has done that, and done it in a cohesive manner, then I’m pretty satisfied. But again, I’m sure others will have different answers and that’s as it should be.
One More from Eric
I wasn’t going to add any more, but Eric’s question had me laughing:
“Now I got this buddy who has fired me up to compile my Sunday Sermons into a book. There are a million things to be done -- see my problem? My experience in life tells me that I need a plan. You have done this so I ask you. Should I make up a plan that looks like a Pro Football pre-game plan (game plan) or should I make up a plan that looks like an initial public offering (IPO or Business Plan)? And of course the sister question; should it be chronological or more fluid? If you tell me to do what works best for me, I will cry because how the hell should I know.”
Eric, my friend, you are too funny. Who is that idiotic buddy who is pestering you about making a book? Oh, wait, it’s me!!!!
Follow this suggestion…..K.I.S.S…..don’t over-think it, Eric. Chronological doesn’t make sense….if you want to group them, do it maybe by theme. Make a table of contents….oh, hell, I’ll just walk you through it if you email me.
Sixty-seven down and Waiting for Next Week
It’s been fun, so let’s do it again next week. I’ll be standing on the street corner of my imagination with a pile of Mailbox flyers, handing them out for free, so wave me down if you see me and I’ll give you the latest copy.
Until then, have a great week of writing. What you are doing is unique, stamped with your own personal touch, the most rare commodity in the world, so treat it like the treasure it is.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”