The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Thirty-Seven
It is sixty-four degrees in Olympia as I write this. As a friend recently stated, through wind and snow, sleet, hail and sunshine, the Mailbag always delivers, so welcome back to the Mailbag.
You ask, I answer, and hopefully we all benefit.
Just this week I finished my third novel, “Shadows Kill.” Six months of my life went into it, and yesterday it seemed a bit strange not to be writing on it. And that leads us to the first question of the day. Remember, if you have a question, just leave it in the comment section below and I’ll get to it next Monday.
From Jeannie: “Bill, I recently finished a novel I’ve been working on for the past year, and I’m oddly depressed about it. Why is that do you suppose? I feel I should be celebrating instead of moping around.”
Jeannie, I understand completely and I don’t think it’s strange at all. For me, it is like I lost a dear friend when I finish a novel. My characters become real to me….they are my friends so to speak…and when I have to say goodbye to them it somewhat depresses me.
The other aspect of this phenomenon, I think, is that writing the novel daily for a year has become part of your routine and really part of your life. When you finish there is a gaping hole in your routine, and I think for many writers that gaping hole needs to be filled again as soon as possible. That’s why I have chosen to start in on the sequel to my novel. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to those characters, and I loved the book premise so much that I wanted to continue with it.
From Sha: “I have a question regarding the resume issue. At one point, I had a writer's resume in addition to my regular chronological one. My writer's resume resulted in a gap of about 25 plus years between now and when I had a copyrighting career in the 1980s. So, now I use the chronological one. The downfall there is, in order to cite my previous writing experience, I have to go way back. Fortunately, I didn't have a gizzillion jobs in between, but it brings my resume to just over three pages (In addition to employment info, I include my certifications and publications, and hobbies). I know a lengthy resume is as much a no-no as having a huge gap in employment.
How do you suggest I find a happy medium yet have a resume that will be read?”
One great question after another.
Actually, Sha, I was just reading about this the other day. What a coincidence! With the advent of computers and attachments, the concept of a one page resume is not as important as it once was. I have no idea why that is, but polls are showing that employers don’t mind job applicants going over one page.
If, however, you still want to shorten it, then I guess I would ask how important that writing experience from way back is…and is it worth including? If it is, then I would suggest skipping some of the jobs that do not apply to the job you are applying for. For those of us who are a certain age, skipping some years and having gaps in a resume is not all that strange. We can always fill in the gaps if the one hiring has questions about them.
Learning to Become a Writer
From Claudia: “Here is the question I'd like to ask with the hope you will someday answer it in your series. Of course, since I've only read one, there may be a chance you've previously answered this already.
I'd like to know if you have any advice for someone who desires to be a writer, but does not come by it naturally, like most writers do. Wanting to share, what is in your heart and head, with the world can be a very daunting task when you struggle just to express yourself.
Of course I know writing, even for a natural writer, is work and everyone struggles to a point. I believe that a natural has a God given talent for expressing themselves in their writing. How can someone that does not have that ability naturally, find a way to cultivate it.”
Wow! Let me repeat, Claudia….WOW!
I wish I could be your writing coach. You and I could do wonders.
The first advice I will always give someone who wants to improve their writing is to read, read and read some more. We learn by seeing and experiencing, and I do believe it is possible to improve our writing by osmosis when reading the works of others.
The second piece of advice I have is to trust your senses. All readers and all writers share the senses. We all see, smell, feel, etc. Play to that fact when you write. Don’t worry about being grammatically correct and concentrate, instead, on telling your readers what your senses are experiencing with regards to the topic of your article. Plug into the senses of your reader and you will make a connection, and writing is all about connections. I just had this lesson taught to me by a beta reader. In one part of my new novel I wrote that the characters sat down and had breakfast. My beta reader informed me that I should describe what the breakfast was since she reacts strongly to food descriptions.
There is so much more to tell you…email me if you want and we can work on it.
From Emese: “I have no idea what beta readers are,”
And from Jim: “I have a question about Beta-Readers that Melissa asked in your article. Can you please clarify what a Beta-reader is for me? Sorry maybe I overlooked the answer as I made my way through the article, and if I did. Then I apologize for that. Keep them coming and voted 2 thumbs up as well!”
My bad for not mentioning this earlier. For whatever reason I just assumed that people knew what beta readers were.
A beta reader is usually a non-professional who offers to read your manuscript and give feedback on it. This is before publication, of course. This really isn’t an edit, because editing usually relates to grammar as well as story line. Usually a beta reader won’t be asked to comment on grammar, but rather gives suggestions about rhythm, flow, voice, plot, etc.
And usually a beta reader will do it for free, which of course is very valuable.
Serving Several Mistresses
From Linda: “But it makes me wonder--I have several "passions". Does having more than one dilute the impact any one of them can have? Does dividing my time among 3 different interests (not counting family) result in three mediocre endeavors rather than one great achievement? I feel like I'm caught in a lovers triangle.”
Linda, I don’t see any possible way for me to answer this other than subjectively. I doubt there are scientific studies about this.
In my opinion yes, I think you definitely dilute the impact when you divide your time between three passions. Can it be done? I’m sure it can be done by very organized people, but I’m not one of them. Writing is my passion. It fills my every waking moment other than my responsibilities to family. I want to be the best writer I can possibly be, and I don’t see how I can do that if I have other passions as well. I think that explains why I have no hobbies. I have no time for them.
Having said all that, if you have three passions, and you receive great pleasure from all three, then I think you should follow all three. Life is too short to ignore a passion, so I say go for it if that’s what you want to do.
How’s that for a wishy-washy answer?
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- William Holland | Helping Writers to Spread Their Wings and Fly
What do you want to know about writing? Whatever it is, you can find it on this writing blog
And That’s It for This Week
What a great week of questions! I thoroughly enjoyed this, and I hope all of you found something you can use in the future. Keep those questions coming and the Mailbag will return next week with more interesting questions and answers.
Have a great week of writing! Remember that the words you write today will live on for centuries, and isn’t that a very cool thought?
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”