The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Thirty-Eight
The Questions Keep Improving
I’m having a blast with this series, and as I’ve stated before, no one is more surprised by the success of this series than me. I never dreamed this would continue. I saw it as a one-time thing, a way to take care of some spare questions I had not addressed. Little did I know!
The questions are getting better and I find that so encouraging. It seems we writers have a lot in common, and I think that’s why this series is so well-liked. These are questions we all ask as we go about our writing days, and it’s nice to know we aren’t alone and there is a one-stop-shopping spot where they are all answered.
So let’s get going with a great question from Mary.
Am I Any Good
From Mary: So, how can you know if you're a great writer? I mean, you love writing, your work is good but where does the line form between good and great? When can you tell if it’s worthwhile going ahead and trying to get that novel edited and maybe published?
Mary, I have asked myself this question hundreds of times. I love the writing community of HubPages because it is such an encouraging site filled with very supportive writers…but….after awhile, and I can only speak for myself, I begin to question if I’m any good at all, or are my supporters just being nice.
This is where an objective voice comes in handy. I serve as a writing coach for a number of writers. It’s my job as their coach to point out what they are doing well, what they can improve on, and help them to take the next step in their growth. I get paid to be truthful and not to sugarcoat things and only say how wonderful the writer is.
If you can’t afford a writing coach then I suggest you join some writing communities outside of HP. There are hundreds of online writing forums where you will get constructive criticism and a much better look at your talents and deficiencies.
I hope that helps.
From Sally: Where do you find these Beta humans?
Sally is asking about finding beta readers who will read a manuscript and offer free feedback. Sally, I’ve found mine on HubPages. There are a select few writers whom I trust to give the feedback I need and not just a pat on the back, and they have been invaluable for me as I write my novels. Ask some of your followers if they will do that for you and in return offer to do it for them when they decide to write a book.
From Melissa: You are a very "scheduled" kind of person, so does the time change affect your writerly bio-rhythm?
Melissa, I am confident when I say this question is a first. It is so much of a first that I’ve never even thought about it before, but I think there is a lot of validity in it.
Yes, I am very structured, and I know for a fact that any change in my structure can throw me for a loop. The change of seasons definitely affect me. The longer days and nicer weather have a habit of distracting me. As I sit here writing this it is sixty-five degrees and sunny, and all I can think about doing is working in the garden.
Luckily, the time change happened this year on a weekend, so I didn’t notice any difference in my writing, but I was definitely more tired on Sunday after the time change. The other thing I noticed was that it was still dark when I started writing this morning at seven a.m., and I was more productive first thing this morning than I have been the past few weeks when it was light at that hour.
So, that was a long way to say yes, it does affect me.
Emotional Price to Pay
From Ann: I have a question which is pertinent to me at the moment. If what you're writing about is more than usually emotional for you, do you find it difficult to write? How do you overcome that? I know emotions and passion are essential for good writing but some personal history can be painful and it's that sort of thing I'm talking about.
Goodness, gracious, Ann, yes!
Three years ago I took a chance. I wrote an article about being an alcoholic and posted it. Now mind you at that time I was unknown on HubPages. I wrote a deeply-personal account of my struggles with alcohol and then released it online for a bunch of strangers to dissect. I was in tears when I wrote it. I was in tears when I posted it. And I was in tears when the feedback was overwhelmingly positive and supportive.
What I have learned since then is that we are all human beings, and that means we are all frail. We have all suffered, and we can all relate to suffering. We can all relate to being human, so anything I write I know someone will understand it and embrace it. The other thing I learned is that my words can help other people. My article on alcoholism…other articles about adoption…and other very personal and yes, painful, articles, deeply touched other people. My words were the medicine they needed to deal with their issues. I try to remember that when I’m writing something that is painful. My experiences can help others, and I think, because of that, it is my responsibility to write about them.
Having said all that, there are times when I’m just not strong enough to tackle anything that is emotionally draining. What do I do? I don’t write it until I am strong enough.
Does that help?
From Bill: A question for when you start the sequel. How will you treat the characters from the old book in the new book. Will all carry over, will you simply ignore them, or talk about where they went? Will you introduce new characters? Why and How?
Bill, I think anyone who has considered writing a sequel has had to face these questions. My answer is purely subjective, of course. I think all writers have to decide these things once they consider a sequel, and I guess I would say your muse will be the final voice that you listen to for answers.
In my case I can't tell you if all my characters will return. You'll just have to read the book when it is published. LOL
If I introduce any new characters I will probably limit that to just one. I have some ideas floating around in my head for a new character, but I’m not sure if I want to do it in this sequel….but I can see that new character in the book after the sequel. You see, I envision a series based on these characters, so there is no rush in introducing someone new.
I’m a big mystery fan, and particularly mysteries that have recurring characters in them. I enjoy getting to know those characters and following their growth throughout the series, and I suspect many readers feel the same way. So I want my characters, or the majority of them, to be old friends for my readers, and at this point I can’t imagine killing too many of them off….but we’ll see.
Foo Foo Stuff
From Lori: “My question for the mailbag is, what is your personal opinion or preference, and/or your professional one, about articles on hubpages having a lot (and I mean a lot) of photos, amazon, ebay products, and other such things. I battle a lot how much to do this. Pictures bring life to the article to me, but can also be a distracting if done too much. I have almost completely quit posting amazon stuff unless I am writing a book review or a topic that can really benefit the reader who needs more in depth. Do you know of any rule of thumb so to speak?”
The “foo foo” reference was mine and not Lori’s, but that should give you a quick peek into my opinion on this matter.
I know the year is 2015, and the online writing world has changed the face of writing forever. That means the pictures, the products, the polls, all of that is important with regards to Google. I get it. I don’t have to like it to understand it. I can even stretch a bit and say that a few of those sidebar cells can add depth to an article.
My problem with it is when the foo foo overwhelms the article itself, and when the foo foo is used as a substitute for quality writing and substance, and I’ve seen writers who do that. They evidently think if they add enough flash that I won’t recognize a poorly-written article…but I do.
So add the foo foo if it adds depth to your article. Leave it out if it serves no purpose.
The Long and Winding Road
From Pat: “Bill, what’s taking you so long on that new novel of yours? It sounded like you were done a couple weeks ago, but now I hear you are still tinkering with it. What’s up?”
Pat, it’s exciting that someone actually cares about an un-published manuscript, so thank you.
I thought I was done….and then I thought I wasn’t. Then I thought I was done…and then I decided I wasn’t. This has been going on now for three weeks. Meanwhile, a friend is reading it and I’m waiting to hear her thoughts….and I keep tinkering with it. I re-wrote the prologue last week. This week I re-wrote the last chapter.
Because it’s not perfect yet! Oh, I know, it will never be perfect…no book ever is….but until it passes my strictest standards, I won’t declare it finished. I want this one to be exceptional and not just good or very good…exceptional or bust for this boy.
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- William Holland | Helping Writers to Spread Their Wings and Fly
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We’ve Used up All Our Time for This Week
What a blast! This installment almost wrote itself. Great questions!
Keep them coming and I’ll see all of you next week. Remember that what you have is a gift. Treat it as such!
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”