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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #382

The New Kid on the Block

I remember back, gosh, it must be nine, ten years ago, when I first joined HubPages. Truth be told, it was my wife who encouraged me to do it, and when my wife “encourages” me I tend to listen. She told me, at that time, that I was a good writer and I should rub shoulders with other writers to learn the craft.

I did not want to do it.

I’m happy I did.

What I found at Hubpages was an incredibly supportive group of writers, people who took the time to encourage me, support me, and at times make valuable suggestions. More than that, though, I met many people who ended up being my friends, and many of them are still my friends today.

I try to be that friend to the new HP members today. I try to reach out to as many of them as possible, and give them some much-needed support, an encouraging word, a “howdy” when they most need it. Whether they reciprocate, and many of them don’t, really isn’t the point. I’m simply trying to freely give back what was freely given to me way back then.

Yes, Hubpages is changing, but I can still do my part to make sure newcomers are greeted warmly and given the support I was given.

It’s Mailbag time!

The Mail Room

The Mail Room

Writing a Book

From Valia: “I know you’ve written novels and nonfiction books before. I’m thinking of writing one. How long, on average, do you think it takes to write a novel? Thanks, in advance, for your answer.”

Valia, thanks for the question. I wish I could give you a satisfactory answer to it, but I can’t. It takes as long as it takes, and that is as truthful as I can be. If I am motivated, and I have time set aside, I can write a novel in about six months, and that is at a ten-hour-per-week pace. I have known people to do it in four months. I knew one person who worked on her novel for four years. I believe it took Harper Lee two years to write “To Kill A Mockingbird,” and it probably takes James Patterson about two weeks to write his rubbish.

My advice: don’t worry about how long it takes. Just get started and don’t put restraints or unnecessary expectations on the process. Good luck!

It takes as long as it takes!

It takes as long as it takes!

Getting Started as a Freelancer

From Robert: “Hello! I find myself, due to the strange economy we find ourselves in, with some spare time on my hands and a need for supplementary income. I know you have been a freelance writer for a number of years. I guess my question is how did you get started? What steps should I take to get into freelancing? Is it worth my effort to even try it?”

Oh boy, Robert! What a messy little collection of questions you just unopened.

I started freelancing ten years ago. It was much easier to make an impact then than it is now. I’m not saying it’s impossible to be a freelancer today; I’m simply saying the competition is much stiffer today than it was ten years ago, and you are probably going to have to work harder for less pay today than I did in 2011.

Is it worth it? That’s up to you, but I don’t want you going into freelancing thinking it’s a get-rich scenario. It’s not. It takes time to establish yourself, and it takes time to reach the point where you are getting paid what you probably deserve.

How did I get started? I dove in headfirst. I contacted a couple of the many online freelancing sites and applied for writing gigs. I gave samples of my work. I worked for ridiculous amounts at first, like five bucks for five-hundred words. I did re-writes for no extra pay. I just tried to get my foot in the door somewhere and hoped my “talents” would eventually pay off. And they did! It took about six months, but I finally got a gig with a company out of Fort Worth, Texas, and I’ve been working for them at good pay ever since. I now work as much as I want at a pay which is equivalent to my freelancing talents.

It’s not easy. It takes determination, hard work, and a degree of writing talent. But you can still make decent money freelancing if you are willing to put in the time and if you don’t easily get discouraged. I wish you luck!

Social Change

From Sarah: “My thing is social change. I think the power of the written word could be my way to really make a difference in this world, but I’m afraid of sounding preachy, or like some lunatic on a soapbox ranting about injustices. Any suggestions so I can avoid being labeled as an angry woman with too much time on her hands?”

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Good for you, first of all, for wanting to make a difference. We need writers like you, Sarah, so please don’t get discouraged or be scared off by the angry comments you are sure to receive. Quite frankly, the world needs a lot more angry women writing about injustices.

But I understand what you are saying, and there is that very real danger of being ignored or labeled, without your message being heard. My suggestion: Be like Bill! LOL

I write about social change and controversial issues all the time in my short stories and novels. I just cleverly camouflage my rants within the stories. It is one reason why almost all of my stories and novels are written in first person. First person allows me to convey my feelings about controversial issues through the words of my protagonists. I let them, the protagonists, deflect whatever blowback I may receive. My words are read, my message is received, but because the stories and novels are entertaining, I am given some credibility without sounding like that lunatic on a soapbox. Besides, I would much rather tell stories than preach.

Try it, you might like it! The world needs more storytellers, especially ones with an important message. Our legacy must continue!

Yes, writing can affect social change

Yes, writing can affect social change

The Writing Is on the Wall, I’m Afraid

I don’t really think HubPages is listening to any of us who bemoan the fact that HP has become more impersonal. I think they are only concerned with making money for their company. HP is what it is, for better or for worse, and there is very little I can do about their policies. All I can do is be the best community member possible. I think it is important that we encourage new members. Like I told Sarah, the world needs more writers. There are days when I feel like the world is being deliberately dumbed down, and it is our job, as writers, to make sure that doesn’t happen on a grand scale. Social media, in particular, seems to cater to many who are only interested in ten-second chunks of entertainment. I hope my writings combat that instant gratification trend, and actually make people stop and think for a moment or two. If I succeed in doing that, I will consider it a win for the good guys.

Thanks to those who asked questions this week. If you have a question for the Mailbag, include it in the comments below, or email it to me at holland1145@yahoo.com.