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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Thirty-One

Updated on January 26, 2015

Thirty-one and Counting

Who woulda thunk it? LOL Certainly not me. This was just a throw-away article when this series first began. It was a way to tie up some loose ends and answer some questions that didn’t merit an entire article being written about them.

Thirty-one weeks later I am still answering similar questions, and I’m loving every minute of it. Keep those questions coming and I’ll keep this series alive. I think we all benefit from it, don’t you? As writers, we can always learn something new from our peers, and that’s the greatest benefit of this series of articles. I learn, you learn, we all learn. How cool is that?

Let’s get started with a question from Molly. Before I forget, though, if you have questions just leave them in the comment section below and I’ll include them in the next installment.

Welcome to the Mailbag
Welcome to the Mailbag | Source

Building an Audience

From Molly: “I'm sorry if you've answered this before, but how do you build up an audience in general?”

This is a fairly common question, Molly, and I don’t mind revisiting it.

Think about it this way: when you are just starting out as a writer, who really knows you? Other than family and friends, who in the online world has a clue about you or your writing ability? The answer should be “practically no one.” We can, of course, post our articles on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest, but those articles will most likely just get lost amongst the thousands of articles posted daily on those social sites. So what to do?

I’m sure there are many answers, but the one I’m going to give you is the one that worked for me so well. My wife gets the credit for this. She insisted that I join a writing community, and that’s why I joined HubPages. Having given her credit for that idea, I’m now going to give myself credit for the following: once I joined that writing community, I became an active part of it. I commented daily on quite a few articles written by other writers. I spent countless hours getting to know the other writers on a personal basis. In turn, they did the same for me. Three years later I have a devoted following of friends as my fan base and audience, and that audience grows daily by word of mouth.

You have to put in the time to reap the benefits. Make the effort to follow other writers, comment often, and get to know them as real human beings. I promise you it will pay off after a few months. You have already taken an important first step by following me. I guarantee I’ll repay your kindness and comment on your articles. That’s a start, right?

How would you set this mood using dialogue?
How would you set this mood using dialogue? | Source

Setting the Mood

From Ann: “So here's my question for one of your Monday pieces: How do you convey mood in dialogue?”

I’m not sure if Ann is asking about the mood of the character or conveying the mood of the setting. I forgot to ask her. Since I have already discussed establishing the mood of a character through dialogue, I think I’ll tackle the second option, namely establishing the mood of a setting or scene through dialogue.

“Mood is what the reader feels while reading a scene or story. It’s not the reader’s emotions, but the atmosphere (the vibe) of a scene or story.”

This one is considerably harder to do, by the way. How do we establish a suspenseful mood through dialogue? How do we establish a frightening mood, or a carefree mood, or ominous mood, or hopeful, or……?

I’m going to teach this lesson by example, and at the risk of seeming self-serving, I’m going to do it using a passage from my recently-completed novel, “Shadows Kill.” In this scene, the main goal is to convey rising tension among the characters as they hunt for a serial killer.

Liz jumped in with an answer no one wanted to hear. “Where are we? Absolutely nowhere, boss! We’ve got zilch. No physical evidence at all. As far as anyone knows, the two ladies had normal days, went to bed, were abducted and were killed. Interviews netted nothing. All we know….the absolute bare minimum and the absolute maximum that we know, is that this guy has a hard-on for Eli, but we don’t know why. The bastard has given us clues but we don’t know what they mean without a decoder ring and a waltz through his sick mind. That’s it, Lyle. What did he have to say this time?”

Lyle grabbed his Coke from the desk and flung it against the wall. “I saw the asshole. I had gone home to see my wife and have lunch with her, and when I was leaving there was a guy at the street corner looking at the street sign. I didn’t think a thing of it, but when our boy called he described my coat and mentioned the visit to see Suzette. It was him at the corner. It had to be. That asshole was standing fifty yards from my wife and getting his rocks off while I stood there enjoying the scenery.”

Hopefully you can gain an appreciation for how this is done from reading this passage. I hope that helped, Ann. Thanks for the question.

Recycle your work until it's the best you can do
Recycle your work until it's the best you can do | Source

Calls for a Subjective Answer

From Theresa: “Bill, what is the most important aspect of writing, in your opinion?”

This question actually came from a discussion about the technical aspects of writing…you know, grammar, voice, rhythm, etc.

I was going to pick just one and expound on it, but really my answer is a bit more esoteric than that…wouldn’t you know it? To me, the most important aspect of writing, the one we all should concentrate the most on, is quality. The quality of my writing is the one thing that is completely under my control. I can take short cuts and produce inferior work, or I can put in the time to make sure my writing is of high quality. Now, in the online world, I’m not sure it makes much difference. By that I mean that an average writer producing average work can still market themselves properly and make money online…but I want more than that.

I don’t want to sound like I’m preaching, so forgive me if I do. It’s just that writing is important to me. I hold it in sacred standing. It is a craft. It is an art form, and as such it should be approached by a writer with the intention of producing quality work. Nothing less should be published.

Are you guaranteed success if you produce high-quality work? Not at all, and that sucks, but oh well…it should still be the goal of every writer.

See You Next Monday

We only covered three questions today, but they were great questions and deserved a little extra attention. I know there are more great questions out there, and I’m counting on you providing them. Until next Monday, I wish you all a superb week of quality writing. Remember that you are following in the footsteps of some giants in the literary field. You may never reach their heights, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying.

2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 2 years ago from New York, New York

      Bill, as always first off, thank you and yes I do totally agree with how to gain an audience and learned that pretty early on in this writing gig, too! Happy Monday and hunkering down as the snow is coming down. Looks like we are in for the blizzard of the century and even Kevin is to be home for two days to work from home (which never happens).

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Thanks for answering my question, bill. Spot on! It's funny but although some questions are seemingly repeated, they're each from a slightly different angle and therefore still relevant. Different strokes, I guess.

      I'm still amazed that reading your articles makes me think I'm just sitting down for a chat with you; your style flows so easily but then I'm willing to bet that your conversation flows just as easily too :)

      Happy Monday!

      Ann

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Stay safe, Janine, and thank you for stopping by. I don't know why so many writers don't understand how to gain an audience. It really is a matter of give and take. Like me following you and you following me...we do so out of respect for each other as people....and will continue to do so.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Ann! When I was trying to find my "voice," I wanted it to be conversational English. I wanted to connect with my readers and for them to be comfortable reading my work...so you have given me affirmation and I appreciate it.

      Happy Monday to you...mild and warm here...strange winter.

      bill

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Cold and bleak here after lovely sunshine for most of the week - and they tell us it's going to get a lot colder with snow even in the south (even though that's probably just the higher ground). As long as the sun comes back I don't care!

      Ann

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 2 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Hi Bill,

      Three quality Q & A today! I enjoyed visiting you first...as I am taking advantage of 'teacher's day off' and catching up on some wonderful reading in HubVille...thanks to Mother Nature.

      Happy Monday and Love ya, Maria

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Stay warm and safe, Ann. Not a whiff of snow this winter here....oh well, there's always next year.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Maria, thank you for visiting little old me. Enjoy your day off...I hope the snow isn't making life too miserable. We'll be camped out under 62 degrees today. This is the winter that never happened here in Olympia.

      love,

      bill

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 2 years ago

      I learn so much from everything you write. Thanks, billy. Voted up, useful, interesting and always awesome.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Like I always say, " I learn every time I visit your hubs. " Thank you again.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm very happy to hear that, Pop...thank you my friend and Happy Monday to you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Music to my ears, Ruby. Thank you!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      Great questions and answers again, Bill. The other day a discussion was started on LinkedIn by a group member who wanted to know if we (the other group members) pay more to attention to quality or quantity. There was a resounding WTF response. Quality should always take priority over quantity. You stated it beautifully in your response to Theresa's question.

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      bradmasterOCcal 2 years ago from Orange County California

      billybuc

      It was great to get a peak at your book.

      Keep in mind that I don't get dialogues from reading books, just TV and movies. I also don't watch the CSI, or like series. I don't care for their delivery of dialogue.

      Having said that, the passage gave me a one dimensional mood. That mood was frustration. There was no real feeling of anger, more of him putting two and two together. Other than brand recognition, identifying the can that he threw was Coke, it didn't add to the action.

      The action of throwing the can was not really emotional. The accompanying words like asshole didn't convey anger to me. This was also a monologue with no reaction to whomever he was speaking to in this scene.

      Because this was a snippet, I didn't know anything about this character, except from this scene. He lacked passion, at least from this monologue.

      "As he got up from his chair, he slammed his can of soda so hard on his desk that it split open covering the desk in foam. He got up so quickly that his chair had shot across the room, and everyone in the room was riveted on him."

      This is how I would interpret anger, and emotion, maybe because I grew up in NYC.

      Here I had to choose whether to be polite and complimentary, or just candid. So I choose what I would like for someone to do for me.

      I am here to learn, and not to burn.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Sha. I'll go to my grave believing that quality must be the first priority of any writer. It's good to know others believe that as well.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Brad. Great observations and right on. You are learning well, Pilgrim. I appreciate the input and in no way consider it a burn.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Bill, I'm not sure about the example on setting moods, but I'm looking forward to reading the book. Another useful edition of the mailbag, eagerly awaiting the next. Best wishes always.

    • Iris Draak profile image

      Cristen Iris 2 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      I always love it when you emphasize craft and the quality that comes from it.

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 2 years ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! Thanks for continuing your series, as I learn something new every time. It just isn't Monday without the mailbag!

      Wouldn't you know it, NYC is experiencing the storm of a lifetime and we are having unbelievably mild temps (in the 40's--which feels like springtime to me!). So, I'm off to help cover for my co-workers in NYC. Have a greet week!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 2 years ago from Arizona

      Hey Bill: This may be off topic but I wanted to share this. I have a favorite author Tess Gerritsen. I just read one of her current books and was totally amazed at the writing quality (in my opinion). She is an excellent writer and has many interesting ways to develop characters, descriptions and plot. This one rambled and the characters were overzealous and the pace too fast. This is probably not the best description..but it felt way different than her usual fabulous style. I like when writers stay within their style if I really like them. And changing to what may be a more hip, faster moving and seriously annoying characters. I just wanted to share this as I could hardly finish the book.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      That is so true. You got it--- Invest the time. Do your homework ...read, comment, and make comments that are meaningful that actually let the writer know you read what they wrote.

      Take care of you my friend.

      Have a most lovely rest of the week in case I do not get back soon.

      Angels are winging their way to you and yours ps

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      That was one really pissed off room you described. Made me edgy just reading that snippet. Thanks I learned a lot from that example.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      Its hard to imagine anyone not considering quality the most important. However, I guess everyone's got their own idea of quality.

      I'm thinking I need a bit more dialogue (actually someone pointed it out to me) but I don't want to overwhelm with dialogue. Reading your example let me know I can certainly use more without over powering.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • Availiasvision profile image

      Jennifer Arnett 2 years ago from California

      Bill, I really appreciate your resolve to produce quality work. I shows! You stand out from the crowd. Man, I hope to attain half of your work ethic and drive for precision. You are such a great example to us.

      Out of all of the characters you've written, which one is your favorite?

      I thought I saw that Shadow's Kill is coming out in March, yes? I'm really looking forward to it!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      Glad your mailbag is still full!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you, Jo. I won't be publishing this book. I'm going to try to find a publisher, so wish me luck.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Cristen. This is a craft, isn't it? As writers I think it's our responsibility to treat it as one.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Melissa, if that isn't the definition of bizarre, I don't know what it. Minnesota with mild temps while the east coast gets snowed under. Too strange. Well, take care and thank you for joining me this Monday.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Carol. Strange you should mention that. i discovered a writer recently who did the same thing, and after reading three books of his that I loved, I couldn't finish the next one with a changed style. To me that's just a kiss of death for an author. If it ain't broke don't fix it.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you PS. I don't know why this is so hard for some writers to understand. You have to invest time and effort if you expect the same from others.

      Blessings winging their way to you

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you, Eric. I appreciate it. It's hard to take a snippet of something out of context, but I'm glad you saw what I was shooting for.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, it's a delicate balance we have to strike...too much dialogue..not enough dialogue...that's where friends and beta readers come in handy. As the author, we may be too close to our own work.

      Best wishes, Mary, and thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jen, I won't be publishing Shadows Kill. I'm going to try finding an agent or publisher and go the traditional route. Wish me luck because I love this book. It would be sad if it died in obscurity.

      Thank you for your kind words.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Flourish, it's overflowing. I can't keep up with it. :) Thanks for the visit.

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Quality pays in whatever we do. Thanks, again, for the reminder! ;-)

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      31 weeks. That's a long haul for "community" service. Just curious: Have you approached any of the writing publications about doing a continuing column like this for them? You've got a significant portfolio to sell the idea. Have a great week!

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      I have to agree with you, Bill, that we should all strive for quality. I've noticed something, though, and it may just be peculiar to me. There are some writers on this website who write on such interesting topics and do such thorough research that I can forgive their lack of professional writing ability, and read them anyway. It makes me just want to sit down with them and teach them how to form a sentence, what a run-on sentence is, and how to use commas (just a few examples). I know if they could master that, they would top gun.

      As far as building a following, I'm having to do that on my own. My family and friends couldn't care less about my writing. Good advice coming from you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Bill. I have to believe that is true, or writing will no longer be a craft.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Heidi, it has crossed my mind, but hasn't happened yet. My to do list continues to grow. I have to finish this novel before tackling any other projects...but thank you and your suggestion has been filed away.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      MizB, I know a few of the same types of writers. Very interesting, and very creative, but just lacking the grammar necessary to be taken totally serious as a writer. As for your lack of support...that saddens me.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. Another great installment. It's great to see what this has become. Looking forward to next weeks installment. Have a great week.

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      Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from Northern California, USA

      Excellent questions and excellent answers. So glad to be learning this writing stuff from you. Glad I had a chance to visit. Have a wonderful week.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

      Great advice Bill, and you always hit the nail on the head so to speak! I did have a question for you, but boy my brain has gone tonight, so hopefully I will remember it tomorrow! lol! great hub as always, nell

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bill, I'm impressed you even stopped by with that storm heading your way. Thank you so much for taking the time. Stay safe and warm.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm glad you visited too, Marlene. Thank you and have a profitable week.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      That's okay, Nell. If I don't write things down immediately they are gone inside my gray matter and may never surface again. LOL Thanks for the visit.

    • Sandra Eastman profile image

      Sandra Joy Eastman 2 years ago from Robbinsdale MN

      I find my best writing is done when I play out a scene Over and over in my mind until it feels right. Then after I put it on paper I tweak it numerous times until it conveys the feeling I felt when it was written in my mind. Sounds a little redundant but it works for me. Thanks for another great hub.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sandra, redundancy is useful in cases like that, and I do the same thing. Thanks for sharing...it gives validity to my work process.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting hub containing some useful tips, as always, Bill. Thanks for continuing the Writer's Mailbag series.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      You have answered these questions to perfection, thank you.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Bill. I continue to learn from your answers though I did not ask the questions. Very thoughtful and helpful.

    • AnnaCia profile image

      AnnaCia 2 years ago

      Hi Bill. There are so many times I question myself, "why do I wait so much to write? There is so much I would like to say and the thoughts stay in my mind...only in my mind". Thank you for motivating me and answering many questions I do have. Keep the good work.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Yes thirty one and counting! Great going indeed and you are helping other fellow writers with this wonderful Q-A series.

      Thank you for sharing another helpful installment!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate it, Alicia. Thank you for always being here.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much, DDE!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Dora. It's always a pleasure having you stop by.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Anna, what a pleasure to have you visit. Thank you so much. I hope you are well, and I hope you find what you need to begin writing again.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you ChitrangadaSharan. If this helps other writers then I am a very happy writer.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      If someone wants to see an example of how to create mood, they should read your hub "A Walk with the Invisible Man." I noticed that you didn't use quote marks for dialogue and somehow that worked, adding to the mood of being a "lost soul." It is a technique I have rarely, if ever, seen used. Maybe you could comment on that in another mailbag.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Catherine. I don't use it often; only when I feel it will work within the framework of the story. I'm glad you felt I succeeded.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Hi Billy,

      Missed this one somehow - nice set of questions with some excellent answers - which brings me to another question.

      I have been wondering how you manage to update your 926 hubs and keep them up-to-date and fresh. Do you think that earnings are really relative to having more hubs, or having hubs which people visit on a day to day basis. Is this really only a numbers game or is there more to it than that?

      Hope you are keeping warm in your part of the world.

      Sally

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sally, that's a great question that I'm sure many HP writers are curious about. i'll give you my opinion on Monday. Thank you and enjoy the rest of your week. It is warm where we are on the west coast, and we are lucky this winter.

      bill

    • Mark Johann profile image

      Mark Johann 2 years ago from Italy

      You nailed it billybuc,

      Still one of the best writers for me in Hubpages. I still remember you wrote the first few weeks about how to write articles and it was really helpful.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much, Mark. I strive to be better daily, and I want all of you to succeed.

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 2 years ago from Scotland

      Helpful advice as always Bill and congratulations on finishing your new book. Good luck with the publishers. I am sure it is just a matter of time before someone snaps up your powerful and gritty world. You deserve it. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Anna. Hopefully I have time left to see that day when someone snaps up my work. :)

    • Molly Layton profile image

      Molly Layton 2 years ago from Alberta

      Thank you for answering my question. I was just expecting to get a "go read this other article" response. Your advice is helpful. I'll take it to heart.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      Billybuc once again you've proven to be a tool.. ehh? I mean your mailbag hub is the tool.. LOL .. I find them genuine, and useful... sorry it took so long to comment.. but snow happened...

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love it, Frank. You had me laughing out loud with that one. Thanks, buddy.

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 2 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for more great advice, Bill!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much, vkwok, and have a great weekend.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I got a lot out of this, and that's what this is all about. Thanks, as always, and keep this series going, as there is a lot more to cover.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Deb. I owe it all to my followers.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      The more I read from your Mailbag, the more I like writing. Somehow, the passion to give it my best is now there. You are right. We need to give the time and the effort to produce quality work.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Aesta! That is my goal, to help people succeed and love writing.

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