- Books, Literature, and Writing
The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Twenty-One
Here We Go Again
We’re still going strong, thank you very much. This is the game where anyone can play. All you have to do is ask a question about writing and then sit back and wait for me to answer it. There are no fees, no requirements, and no player to be named later. How simple is that?
So here is the latest batch of questions. Hopefully I’ll answer them to everyone’s satisfaction.
If you have a question, leave it in the comment section below. If you don’t have a question, then just kick back and learn from others.
Shall we begin?
What Do You Do When…..?
From Patti: “What do you do when you get discouraged? Do you ever get discouraged? There are days when I just want to throw up my hands and scream.”
Do I ever get discouraged, Patti? Oh, yes, at least once a week. I’m just good at hiding it.
Seriously, is there a writer, or musician, or artist, who does not get discouraged? If so I’d love to meet them and try some of that juice they’re drinking.
When I get discouraged I talk to my wife. She is my greatest cheerleader, and she just won’t allow me to get too down about this insane path I’m on. It always works. She keeps my head on straight.
I also, from time to time, will read about famous authors who struggled, the Steinbecks and MacDonalds who labored for years in obscurity before someone noticed them. I draw strength knowing that almost all writers have to pay their dues in blood, sweat, and yes, tears.
My wife’s son has his own band. They have played the tavern scene for ten years now, hoping to be discovered. Ten years! I asked him why and he told me the answer I knew he would….because he loves creating music.
Well, I love creating stories.
Books That Just Don’t Have Legs
From Peter: “I’ve been working on a book for six months, but try as I may, I can’t seem to stretch it out to book length. I’m at 50,000 words and don’t have anything else to give. What can I do?”
My first response, Peter, is to walk away from it. Put it on a shelf and leave it for a few months, then come back and see if the characters can stretch it out for you. I’ve written often about getting to know our characters and then allowing them to tell the story. Try it!
The second response is that you may just have a short story or novella, and it will never be a book, and that’s okay. If it ain’t there it ain’t there, so to speak. You can’t force that which is not there. After you have told the story, fleshed out the characters, and expanded on the scenes, there is very little else to be done.
The Ebook Revolution
From Shane: “What do you think of ebooks and their impact on literature?”
My goodness….where does one begin with a question like this one?
There is no doubt that the evolution of ebooks has changed the book industry, but I don’t know that it has changed literature at all. If it has changed literature, then it is by lowering the standards a bit. The good news is that anyone can write and publish an ebook. The bad news is that anyone can write and publish an ebook.
I could ramble on about this forever. I still believe that the cream will rise to the top. Good writing is good writing, whether it be a traditionally published book or an ebook. Conversely, bad writing is bad writing no matter what form it takes. My biggest problem with ebooks is that it is too easy to get published, and that means that for some, little effort will go into the writing of the book, and I think every single book written and published should be stained with blood, sweat, and tears.
Just my opinion, so there you go, and if that opinion sounds a bit snobbish, well, I guess it is. I believe in the power of finely-crafted words.
Making Money on Hubpages
From Lisa: “Does anyone really make money on HubPages?”
Well, okay, I guess we need to know what kind of money Lisa is talking about. I know that I make money. I’m assuming that my friends do as well. They tell me they do, and I have no reason to think they are lying to me.
Do people make good money on HP? I know some writers who make hundreds each month and again, I don’t think they are just saying that. I think it is possible if you write the right kind of articles. Craft articles are huge and can generate big money. “How to” articles can do the same. Articles about saving money and finance do well. It really depends on the subject matter and how well you market your article with pics, sidebars, polls, etc.
Those of us who do none of those things, and write poetry, short stories, or essays, well, let’s just say the money is smaller in amount and leave it at that.
You have to be patient on HubPages. It can take six months to a year to start seeing payments, but once you do see them, then they come on a regular basis…until Panda arrives, the earnings drop for a few months, then slowly go back up.
That’s just the nature of this game.
Making a Name for Yourself
From Bob: “What’s the best way to become known in the writing business?”
Yep, good luck!
Okay, I’m being silly. Sorry about that. I don’t know if there is a best way. I know what has to be done to have a chance at being known. I know you have to work hard. I know you have to market your writing like your financial life depends on it. I know you have to interact in the writing community, and I know you have to continue to study the craft and never stop learning.
And then you have to have some luck. Your writing has to be in the right place at the right time, seen by the right people on a day that they are receptive to a new writer. The stars have to be perfectly aligned, and the angels have to smile down upon you.
I gain strength from the great writers before me, like Steinbeck, who labored for years without being known, and then one day it all came together perfectly and they were “discovered.” I know of no short cuts in this business. I only know to work hard, make sure I’m doing what I can be doing, and then wait for the celestial bodies to get into position.
From Trish: “What is the one piece of advice you would give to new writers?”
Okay, fine, here it is, the one piece of advice I would give: learn your craft!
There are so many factors that are out of our control in the writing business, but the one factor we all can control is improving our writing skills. There is no excuse in this area. No matter how bad a writer you are, you can improve. No matter how good a writer you are, you can improve. If you want to give yourself a fighting chance in this business, then you need to learn how to write. Without that skill, your chances of succeeding are so poor that it isn’t even worth discussing.
That’s It for Another Week
Thanks to all who asked questions. I’ll be back next week with another installment.
Keep writing. Keep improving. Keep listening to that voice in your head that spurs you on. We write because we love to write. That right there is a pretty good incentive to continue.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”