The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Thirty-One
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.
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?
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.
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.
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- William Holland | Helping Writers to Spread Their Wings and Fly
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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.”