Updated date:

The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #350

It’s so Weird, You Know?

2020, spilling into 2021, weird times for us all, right?

Truth be told, I’m relatively untouched by it all. As a card-carrying introvert, and stay-at-home self-employed worker, my life hasn’t changed that much because of the pandemic. Social distancing is something I have always been comfortable with; it’s just strange, for me, to have so many others living my lifestyle.

And financially my wife and I are actually in better shape than we were before all of this COVID stuff happened, which is really a strange position to be in considering the economic upheaval for so many. I feel, at times, guilty because of it, but that’s just the real of our situation.

Still, there is this black cloud overhead, and it is impossible to ignore it. The new normal is a stifled normal, even for those of us accustomed to isolation. Things just aren’t quite right, and the uncomfortable strangeness of it all is almost like a physical presence. There has been a shift in our reality, a shift we were not expecting, and we’ve all had to adjust, one way or another, and that adjustment just isn’t easy to embrace.

Let’s just hope we all find our way through to the next reality, and that the journey will not take too many more victims. Let’s just hope the light chases away the dark cloud, sooner rather than later, so that the laugher is a bit less forced, the smiles are a bit more genuine, and normalcy again resembles the memories of our past.

Let’s open some mail and embrace the normalcy of the Mailbag.

The Mail Room!

The Mail Room!

Number of Characters

From Mary: “Bill, I sometimes wonder if there is a number of characters to use in a novel, a number that a normal reader is able to absorb easily. What's your rule on this?”

Mary, this is a great question. To answer it, let’s first look at the type of characters you will find in any novel. There are primary characters, there are secondary characters, and there are what are known as tertiary characters.

Primary characters drive the story; they cause the story to happen. Secondary characters influence how the story will happen. And tertiary characters allow the story to happen, not really influencing it at all.

The best answer I can give to your question is this: you should use as many characters as is necessary to tell the story. Great writing should be minimalist in nature. It is not necessary to flood a novel with characters. It only muddies the water and confuses the reader.

Choose wisely and be miserly!

The feel of 2020

The feel of 2020

COMMENTING

From Robert: “How much time do you spend on HP commenting on articles? Do you really think it does any good to comment? How does it help you and your career to comment on other articles?”

Robert, you’ve opened up a can of worms with these questions. There’s a lot to cover here and remember, what I say is just my opinion.

How much time do I spend commenting? A half-hour each day. That’s it! It was more in years gone past, but a half-hour it is now.

Does it do any good to comment? Any good for what? If you are talking about comments increasing the number of views you receive no, I don’t think it does any good for that at all. Does it increase your Google ratings? No, not at all, at least not that I know of.

Does it help my writing career to comment? Maybe, a little, by cementing relationships with potential book buyers, although that is nebulous at best. Good careers in writing are achieved through talent and a ton of marketing; I’m not sure commenting on the writings of others affects success at all.

So, why do I do it? For me it is reciprocation for those who comment on my articles. If they can take the time to read and comment on my stuff, the very least I can do is the same for them.

In addition, for me, it is a way to belong to a community of writers in a very active way. I have stayed with HP for many years now, and I stay here, not because of the money, which is a joke, but because many of my online friends are on HP, and this is a way for me to contact those friends, support those friends, and give back to those friends who have freely supported me in the past.

I personally think writers are missing out if they don’t comment, but that’s just my opinion.

The feel of 2021

The feel of 2021

The Biggest Challenge

From Tina: “I’m about three months away from self-publishing my very first novel. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing a newbie in promoting a new novel?”

That’s an easy one to answer, Tina, but before I go any further let me congratulate you on a big accomplishment. Writing a full-length novel which is cohesive and entertaining is not an easy feat, and you should be proud.

The biggest challenge? The over-saturation of the market! Self-publishing has created an explosion of available books, and that explosion threatens to swallow up any new author. At any given time, a new book is one of millions being published that month, and those are formidable odds.

You said you are three months away from publishing. If that is so, the marketing of that book should begin now. If you are serious about this, you will need an author’s website. You will need to learn as much about guerilla marketing as possible. I will assume you have a limited marketing budget, so you will have to learn how to get the biggest bang for whatever marketing bucks you have.

That’s really all I can tell you in the limited space of this article. Just one more thing: good luck and I wish you well.

The Dark Cloud

What don’t kill you makes you stronger . . . I guess I agree with that to a certain extent . . . but we are talking about a dark cloud which can kill us, and we’ve been living under this dark cloud for over a year, with probably another year of precautions and unsettling conditions ahead of us, and I understand that it is getting old very fast.

Stay strong! Reach out and talk to people if you are feeling yourself sinking down a rabbit hole of despair. There are good people out there willing to help if you just reach out.

And remember, all of you, do all things with love. Now, more than ever during my lifetime, we need patience, empathy, and understanding, but above all, we need love. Toss aside the politics and conspiracy theories and the blaming for just one day, and spend that day, instead, on supporting one another. Wouldn’t that just be the cat’s meow, if we all did that?

And if you’re having troubles and need someone to talk with, hit me up on Facebook, or drop me a line to the email address below, and I’ll be happy to listen to you. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone who is not family, you know? Someone who will listen without judge – that’s me in a nutshell, a World Class Listener!

Questions for the Mailbag? Add them to the comments below, or email me at holland1145@yahoo.com.

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Comments

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 04, 2021:

Mel, I love your final statement. Seems like a person wouldn't have to ask "why" about commenting, right?

My mind is too old to handle too many characters in a novel. I'm afraid "War and Peace" is beyond me now. Good thing I read it in college.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 03, 2021:

Venkatachari M, that is a question I never expected. I would say, on average, three times each day. I am not as meticulous as I should be, the risk-taker rises in me at the strangest moments. :) Good to hear from you, always.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 03, 2021:

Thank you for your loving kindness, Audrey! I think you make me sound better than I am, but I'm grateful for it.

love,

bill

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 03, 2021:

Good to hear from you again, EK! Welcome back, and thank you for the kind words.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 03, 2021:

Of course, Miebakagh!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 03, 2021:

Thank you Rosina! I hope this finds you well.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 03, 2021:

Bill, for you, I hope those travel restrictions are lifted by summer's end. I think they will be. It sounds good on the vaccine front for all of us.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 03, 2021:

For sure I am grateful, Alyssa! I'm glad to hear your family is doing as well as can be expected during these tough times.

Enjoy your week, young lady!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 03, 2021:

Thank you, Linda, and I hope you are doing well my friend. Enjoy the sunshine of spring!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 03, 2021:

LOL yes, Flourish. I don't reckon I got into writing with crickets in mind.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 03, 2021:

Thank you Heidi! Yes, news of the vaccines is great news. End of May for all adults? I sure hope so. Just in time for fun in the sun. :) Have a great week and yes, ours is full of sunshine for a change.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 03, 2021:

I agree with all of that, Sha, but then I find it is a wise thing to agree with you as often as possible. :) If it weren't for the comments on HP, I don't know what the value of the site would be for me. I crave the interaction with my friends.

Happy Wednesday to you, dear friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 03, 2021:

Thank you Mary! I just feel like we would all be better off if we learned to stop and listen to others once in awhile. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 03, 2021:

Thank you Devika! I think you summed it up pretty well for all of us. Concentrated on what makes us happy indeed!

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on March 03, 2021:

On characters, I have read lengthy novels where you literally needed a scorecard to keep track of them. Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy actually had a scorecard in the beginning, to help. I think War and Peace did too. My mother has a large family, with a multitude of cousins that are too many for me to keep track of, but she can do it. After 1300 pages of Vikram Seth's novel I found myself like my mother, knowing who was who without looking at the scorecard, and I felt sad to leave them at the end. But not too many authors can pull that feat off.

On commenting, I know you do it because it is just the right thing to do. The decline of decency in human relationships is woeful and disturbing. If people have to ask "why," something is definitely wrong with society. Great mailbag.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on March 02, 2021:

A good mailbag with interesting questions and your views. You expressed your thoughts on the present looming conditions of life very nicely.

I am unable to devote much time to reading and commenting for many months. I simply select one article per day here on HP after my login and through my mail or browsing, then read it, and express my reactions, that's all.

Now, I have a question for you. It is not related to writing, though. It relates to our present living norms. How many times do you wash your hands in a day? Do you wash whenever you touch a grocery pack, etc? It is a very odd question. Isn't it?

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on March 02, 2021:

I love your big heart! Offering our HP brothers and sisters to open-up to you confirms what a wonderful human being you are. You are one loved man, and that's what it's all about.

Thanks for another helpful mailbag.

Love and a huge thank you for being my editor.

Audrey

EK Jadoon from Abbottabad Pakistan on March 02, 2021:

Good to see you again, Bill. I really was missing you all, but couldn't

keep in touch because of exams. I always love your style, quite humble and understanding.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on March 02, 2021:

Thanks Bill, for responding.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 02, 2021:

Hello Misbah! Thank you for commenting. I love it when new HP writers take the time to become a part of the community. I will reciprocate and comment on your site, and that's how it works here.

Best wishes to you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 02, 2021:

You are stronger than me, Mary. I can't read just before bedtime. My eyes get heavy and I only read about two pages before dozing off.

Characters should not be confusing. I think the author you mentioned missed the mark.

Happy March, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 02, 2021:

Not that it will happen, Peggy, but it's a nice thought. I can only do my part, and I hope that what I do helps in some small way, because I'm dead tired of the petty bickering. We need to learn to play nice and get along.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 02, 2021:

Mr. Happy, it does look like something Van Gogh would have painted but yes, it was Munch.

I do time myself on comments. I don't want to go down the proverbial rabbit hole. I have too much I want to do each day, and no time for random distractions. I know, I'm anal, but I'm a happy anal, so there you go.

I hope the move went smoothly with your buddy. Happy March, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 02, 2021:

Thank you Miebakagh! I do believe it builds readership, in a small way, but more importantly to me, it builds friendships.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 02, 2021:

Thank you Gyanendra! I hope this finds you well and happy, my friend. Slipped disks are no fun at all. Best wishes to him.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 02, 2021:

Ann, I'm glad I made you feel better. I was just trying to clarify what I was feeling during all of this; it is nice to know others feel the same way.

As for your question, I'll have to do a little research on that. I hope I say something which will help to relieve your reticence.

Have a lovely first week of March, my friend.

bill

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 02, 2021:

Happy March, Rasma! We had spring-like weather yesterday for the first time, and I rushed outside to do chores in the sunshine. Lovely!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 02, 2021:

Thank you Pamela! A quick answer to your question is yes, I read every comment on my articles but no, I do not return to someone else's article to see what they wrote in response to my comment. I just don't have the time.

I'm sorry you won't finish those books. For whatever reason, that makes me sad.

Happy March, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 02, 2021:

I wish you the best with your publication, Dora! I look forward to seeing the final result.

Rosina S Khan on March 01, 2021:

Great mailbag indeed, Bill. Interesting topics covered which made my reading worthwhile. Thanks for sharing. Happy March to you as well.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on March 01, 2021:

I do miss the comments. Hopefully they come back soon. It’s good to hear that you have weathered this pandemic and are doing well. What I do miss is the opportunity to travel. As we get older every lost year is one less year to go somewhere. We are hoping that perhaps by the fall we will be able to travel a little, but I have a long list of overseas destinations I would like to get to and that might not be until 2022. Great mailbag, have a wonderful week.

Alyssa from Ohio on March 01, 2021:

Another great mailbag, Bill! I look forward to reading a new edition each Monday. I'm happy to hear things are going well for you and Bev. Much like you, my family's life hasn't changed a whole lot -- definitely a reason to be grateful! I hope you have a wonderful week!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 01, 2021:

You've shared some good advice, Bill. I'm glad things are going well for you and Bev.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 01, 2021:

It's important to receive comments so you know you're not writing for a black hole. Hearing crickets is disconcerting.

Misbah from The Planet Earth on March 01, 2021:

Happy Monday! Mr. Bill,

I am your new follower, My name is Misbah, its the very first time I comment on your mailbag

and I found it quite interesting

In my opinion, comments are very important for a new writer,

It helps them to make corrections to their unknown mistakes.

It's about 7 weeks since I joined HP and many nice fellow hubbers guided me throughout the way, Manatita, BevG, Jodah, and GwennyOh are the people who guided me a lot on forums and the articles comment box as well.

I appreciate your efforts in listening and answering people's questions.

I enjoyed reading the mailbag.

Blessings and kind regards

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on March 01, 2021:

Happy Monday!

Re: Commenting. Whether it's the Mailbag, groups on FB, or elsewhere on social, I can't not comment. One, it's supportive of others. Two, I've learned a lot about people in how they comment or respond to my comments. Selfishly, though, sometimes the convo or content gets me all riled up and if I don't comment, I'll stew about it all day.

Re: The Biggest Challenge. That subtitle says it all. The over-saturation of the market in every genre and topic is just getting worse all the time. And it will never go back. The internet and content world is additive, because the old stuff ain't going away.

Re: Dark Clouds and Silver Linings. Like you, my life didn't change all that much over the pandemic. Some of my routines and activities got curtailed. But it could have been so much worse. The news on the covid vaccine front is really positive. So I'm glad we're in March 2021 and not March 2020.

Hope your week is full of sunshine!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on March 01, 2021:

Hi, Bill! Happy Monday!

I think commenting is very important to the writer simply for the feedback. It's also a good gauge as to how effective - or ineffective - the piece is, especially when it comes to fiction. Now that I think about it, it's a good gauge no matter the genre. Writers need to know whether or not they have a readership. Short of looking up stats, the quality of comments, range of reactions, and even the quantity provides a good indication to the author.

Have a great week, my friend!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 01, 2021:

What a beautiful thing to offer, to listen to the other. Many of us live on our own that, at times, we find we talk to ourselves. Thank you so much for enlightening me on the types of characters and what they do to a novel. This will make me appreciate more the characters in the book I'm reading.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 01, 2021:

Hi Bill this lifestyle has made some people feel suffocated and others frustrated. I wish for that normal life, but it seems like that won't be anytime sooner. However, I enjoy every day and focus on what makes me happy. Thank you for an interesting for us all. Useful tips for writers and I am glad I got the chance to say what I feel about this ''new normal.''

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 01, 2021:

Thank you John! I'm happy I'm part of your Monday routine, even though it's midnight Monday. :) I'm thinking by mid-summer we will have taken a big chunk out of this virus. By then the U.S. will have most people vaccined, or so we are to believe. Let's hope its' true, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 01, 2021:

Thank you Chitrangada Sharan! I an very grateful to you for always being here, my friend. Happy Monday to you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 01, 2021:

Brenda, I don't think anyone has ever asked that question. Let me do some research on it. I know how I would do it, but that's not necessarily the easiest or most efficient way. Stay tuned!

Brighter days ahead, my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 01, 2021:

Manatita, we are in no way floating in money, but we certainly aren't hurting, either, and that is a blessing. Let's hope we can all return to some normalcy sooner rather than later, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 01, 2021:

I'm with you, Linda. I could go on like this indefinitely, especially with the weather warming and outdoor chores, but I wouldn't be happy about it. I need people, and that is so weird for me to write. :) Have a wonderful week, my friend.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on March 01, 2021:

Hi Bill,

I'm glad Mary asked the question about the amount of characters. I'm currently reading a book by Robert Goddard. He has several characters that are referred to by their Christian names and also nicknames.

Because I do my reading before bed when I'm tired, it is confusing. Luckily they are steadily being 'killed off', which helps with my comprehension. LOL

Have a wonderful week.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 01, 2021:

Whether we are introverts or extroverts, I think that we are all getting weary as the death count keeps rising. Everyone is looking forward to better days ahead.

Your most important message, in my opinion, in this mailbag is the following:

"And remember, all of you, do all things with love. Now, more than ever during my lifetime, we need patience, empathy, and understanding, but above all, we need love. Toss aside the politics and conspiracy theories and the blaming for just one day, and spend that day, instead, on supporting one another. Wouldn’t that just be the cat’s meow, if we all did that?"

Amen to that idea!

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on March 01, 2021:

This was a bit confusing. I somehow always thought that "The Scream" was painted by Van Gogh but it turns out it's Edvard Munch. That threw me off but ya, that's not how I feel anyway, haha!!

A half-hour each day. That’s it! It was more in years gone past, but a half-hour it is now." - Do You time yourself? Just curious. I never time anything other than my hiking and baking. Not timing things slows time down. I haven't owned a watch in just about over 20 years lol

"I’m not sure commenting on the writings of others affects success at all." - You can promote your writing in comments but I would not recommend that. I have seen some do it but it's a "no-no" in my books.

"guerilla marketing" - "guerilla ": "A member of an irregular, usually indigenous military or paramilitary force operating in small bands in occupied territory to harass and undermine the enemy, as by surprise raids." - Awful term to use for the writing world. We're about writing not murdering people, haha!! (That term is such a turn-off.)

"What don’t kill you makes you stronger . . . I guess I agree with that to a certain extent . . . but we are talking about a dark cloud which can kill us" - It didn't click-in that I had moved-on to reading fiction and at this point, I was thinking: "What's he talking about? Covid?" lmfao At this point, I guess I'm traumatized too LOLOL

Okay, I gottta go help a buddy move. You have yourself a good one!

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on March 01, 2021:

Hey Bill, I like your opinion to comments. It help build readership. Thanks.

gyanendra mocktan from Kathmandu,Nepal on March 01, 2021:

Bill, Dark cloud will disappear soon. It is always fantastic read your article and get inspired.

These days I spend at least half an hour who has slip disk. He's from U.K. He's safe in Nepal.

Thank you.

Ann Carr from SW England on March 01, 2021:

You've described my feelings exactly in 'the uncomfortable strangeness of it all is almost like a physical presence'. For someone who wasn't bothered about self-isolation either, I'm actually getting rather depressed with it all. I know why - it's all to do with not seeing my children and grandchildren. But there is something else, that something sinister which weighs on us all. I try to dismiss it but it lingers in the background. So, having said that, I thank you for giving it a description because it helps to deal with it and it helps that someone else feels it in a similar way. Linda put it well in 'I want the joy back'. This all sounds as though I'm feeling bad but you've actually cheered me up! U-oh, I'm rambling again!

Great mailbag; it seems like everyone is publishing or working towards it. That encourages me too but I'm still reticent about taking that step. I've no idea how much it's going to cost me and I don't want to waste money on picking the wrong way to do it. I know I've asked you for advice on this already but I wanted to ask you what you think of 'The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook' as a publisher/self-publishing advisor. I know it has a different title in the US but I think you know what I mean. I didn't realise until last week that they covered all that angle, as well as listing publishers etc. It's changed quite a bit lately, but then maybe the British one is different. Does that make sense?

Glad I've got in quickly this time. I'm really fed up with chasing my friends' hubs around the ether!

Enjoy this beautiful day, bill! We all need to spread the love, as you say, so I'm sending some through the ether to all my HP friends and anyone else who wants it.

Ann

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on March 01, 2021:

Your mailbags always inspire. Welcome to March. I am hoping to make this a really good month for my writing at least will work very hard at it. It is encouraging now that spring is coming and every day birds greet me with song,

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 01, 2021:

Happy Monday, Bill! This is another interesting mailbag. Our lives have not changed that much either since we are retired. When we go out it is usually to a doctor. LOL. I do have virtual appointments sometimes.

I never thought about the number of characters that should be in a book, but I think advice was spot on.

Reading all the articles and commenting can be time consuming. I try to comment on those people who have been supportive of me first. Do you go back and see what people have written about your comments?

I imagine Tina is quite excited as her publishing date is fairly close by. I have had 2 different books that I never finished, and now I just don't have the energy to finish and promote.

I hope you have a very good week, Bill.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 01, 2021:

Bill, I also intend to publish this year, God willing, and you answered the question I didn't ask about opening up a website. Thank you.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on March 01, 2021:

Good to read another Mailbag, Bill. It is always a good start to the week even though I usually get it around midnight Monday here in Australia. Even though it isn’t as easy as it used to be I think it is still very important to comment on the articles of others who read and comment on yours.

I’m another introvert and not greatly affected by the present situation, and the fact Australia is so isolated is a real benefit. Financially, well, I have even been knocking back writing work, so I feel guilty for that.

For those who are really suffering the effects of the lock downs, restrictions etc. I hope the vaccine rollouts soon see things begin to return to some semblance of normality.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on March 01, 2021:

Hello Bill!

Nice and thoughtful introductory paragraph. We all are wishing for normalcy in the World, and I hope it comes sooner.

Good questions and your helpful answers. I liked your answer to the question about comments. I am always grateful to the fellow writers, who take out time to read and provide feedback on my work.

Thank you for sharing. Wish you a Happy week.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on March 01, 2021:

Bill,

I enjoyed reading your mailbag as always.

Thanks for answering the question about comments. I usually feel guilty if I don't find the time or if I can't find people's articles in the feed.

Congratulations to Tina! May you find success.

I do have a question I'm hoping you can help me with.

I recently submitted a book length version of my poetry to a no fee contest.

I had to submit a table of contents inside the word document.

I had loads of trouble figuring this one out. I must admit I just found a way to make it work, but it wasn't the correct way.

Is there a simple way to do this? One that is not too complicated to understand.

Thanks in advance if you can show me how to accomplish this one.

I will be glad when this dark cloud looming above us dissapates. Here's to hoping it will be soon.

manatita44 from london on March 01, 2021:

'Social distancing is something I have always been comfortable with; it’s just strange, for me, to have so many others living my lifestyle.'

I couldn't have said it better, Bro, but right up my street. I don't have the money though. Lol. It's decreased!

I wrote a piece called The New Normal. Read it on Zoom last night. You reminded me of it. I think I'll post it.

Another lovely mailbag and some familiar questions with new input too. Sweett!!!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on March 01, 2021:

Bill, like you, I feel that dark cloud (I think of it as a shroud). I'm not unhappy (introverts really fit in today's lifestyle), but I can't say I'm joyful. I just "am," and that isn't enough. I want the joy back.

And here you are. This Mailbag brings me a little joy every Monday (no pressure, right?). Until I actually get to see you face to face again, at least there's the Mailbag--my connection to the real world.

Thank you for being here, and thank you for reaching out and offering a kind ear to everyone. My love to you and Bev.

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