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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 234

Time Marches On

I never know what I’m going to say in these introductions until Friday morning when I finally have time to answer the questions. I just assume my muse has pondered the task which lies ahead, and she will handle it when it is time.

Four-and-a-half years . . . that’s how long I’ve been doing the Mailbag. During that time a couple friends have died, I found out who my biological family was (all dead), and quite a few acquaintances have also died. Now before you start thinking I’m obsessed with death, let me assure you I am not. But it’s a bit strange, this “getting older” thing. It’s strange being the “last man standing,” as it were. All family dead, most of my childhood friends dead, so many of the entertainers and musicians I grew up with dead . . . and here I sit, in my little writing studio, still kicking out words and feeling like I’m twenty instead of seventy.

It’s just strange!

I don’t sit and ponder the why me of it all. It’s just the way the pickle squirts, as my dad was fond of saying. “Them’s the breaks, Billy Boy, some are born today, some die, and the rest of us are killing time until it’s our turn.”

Dad was partially right. Them’s the breaks, but I’m not killing time. I’m busier than I’ve ever been and loving every minute of it, so let’s get this Mailbag thing going.

Welcome to the Mail Room!

Welcome to the Mail Room!

Short Story Success

From Ann: “For that short story question: would it not work if one published a book on a theme and had short stories around that theme, with some sort of link like a character or a place? So it could be a novel in disguise... What do you think? I've only just had that idea and I think I might use it myself!! Where did it come from? My muse of course! Seriously, though, is it workable? Sort of an easy way to create chapters!”

Ann, it is not only workable, but I’ve seen it done by several of our HP friends. Heck, I actually did that with my second novel, “Resurrecting Tobias.” Probably 30% of that novel is pieced-together short stories I had written for HP. I just glued them together into a story line and published it. Easy-peasy! Not really, but it sounds easy now, four years later.

Yes, Ann, your idea has merit and I think you should follow your own advice.

Chris, you are the one who originally asked that question. Are you listening?

Publishing novellas is one possible solution...my Billy the Kid series worked well for me; they were all slightly larger than a short story.

Publishing novellas is one possible solution...my Billy the Kid series worked well for me; they were all slightly larger than a short story.

When Is Criticism Valid?

From Mary: “Which leads me to a question. How do you know if a criticism of your writing is valid?”

This appears to be such a simple little question, but it is packed with angst and hurt feelings. Lol

I do think that getting someone else to critique your work, especially a novel, before publishing is very helpful. The problem arises, however, regarding the validity of the critique. Most of us ask this same question. If you have friends and family read it, and they don’t want to hurt your feelings, they most likely will not give you an honest critique. And what about those negative critiques? Are we willing to listen to them with our hurt feelings?