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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

Have a deliriously happy week ahead!

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 17, 2021:

Farah, that is very kind of you to say. Thank you very much, and blessings to you always.

Farah N Huq from Dhaka, Bangladesh on October 17, 2021:

A little support and guidance can be all that is needed for some to find that confidence to make a place for themselves. Thank you for sharing your years of experience to guide the newcomers in HubPages. Stay blessed, dear Mr. Billybuc.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 17, 2021:

You are far too kind, Lora, but thank you! True about learning through experience. I could have read 1000 self help books at the age of 20 and still made many mistakes along the way. We are complicated creatures, my friend, and we always have a penchant for complicating life. It seemingly took me forever to simply learn to love myself.

Happy Sunday to you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 17, 2021:

Thanks for the question, Rodric. I squeezed it into tomorrow's Mailbag.

Lora Hollings on October 17, 2021:

And a happy belated Birthday to you Bill! I hope that you had a wonderful day and I hope that this year is very good to you. I loved your article looking back on your life and then looking at the present. It is a shame that we often have to experience something before we acquire wisdom. You have generously shared your gifts and knowledge with others. You have helped many along your journey and to that my friend, I salute you. Thanks for being the awesome person that you are and caring about so many others!

Rodric Anthony from Surprise, Arizona on October 15, 2021:

Bill, God be thanked for your wife! Because of her, we have you! I feel like I should have a question. I do. What more can you reveal about your upcoming book?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 15, 2021:

Thanks Mel! It's amazing to me how many people are not aware of that subcontracting thing so many writers are doing now. They actually buy the book thinking the famous author has written it, and I think that's fraud pure and simple.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on October 15, 2021:

Great mailbag as usual. My only point of contention with you is that it doesn't take James Patterson any time to write his rubbish, because he subcontracts it to his team of ghost writers. Wouldn't I love to be one of them. Anyhow, you continue to be the guiding light for many of us here, and we appreciate you sticking with Hub Pages through these trying times.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 13, 2021:

And now look at you, Denise, spreading your wings and allowing your talent to fly. Bravo to you, my friend, and blessings always.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 13, 2021:

It is my pleasure, Vidya! Thank you so very much.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 13, 2021:

Thank you Mary! Yes, send a welcoming note to someone. It will mean a great deal to them I'm sure.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 13, 2021:

I'm glad my greeting meant something to you, Greg. I have enjoyed our online friendship very much. Thank you for that, and I hope your week is filled with great adventures.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 13, 2021:

Happy Wednesday, Rosina, and thank you very much.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 13, 2021:

We all need a nudge, Devika. I can be as lazy as anyone. Thank God I have Bev to do the nudging I need.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 13, 2021:

That's very nice of you to say, Bill. Thank you! I appreciate our ten year friendship more than you probably realize.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 13, 2021:

Thank you, MG, and I hear your lament. Making money as a writer is a tough job. That's why I just concentrate on the relationships I make on HP. I find that is all the motivation I need.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on October 12, 2021:

I'm one of the many you greeted early and often too. I can probably never tell you how much it meant to me back then. We should all be paying it forward so that new writers become old writers who encourage more newbees. Thanks for another informative mailbag.



VIDYA D SAGAR on October 12, 2021:

You are doing a great job by encouraging new writers Bill. New writers need your guidance and support in their writing journey. Your mailbags are very educative and informative. Thanks for sharing your valuable knowledge with us.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 12, 2021:

Hi Bill, thanks for the reminder. I haven't done much lately to encourage new writers but I will try now. I think it is good for a more vibrant community. You have nurtured this community and your example is worth following.

greg cain from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 12, 2021:

Bill - I'm late, too, but finally was able to find this in the feed after some significant scrolling. Anyway, the whole mailbag was good and pertinent, but I wanted to point out that the reason I didn't give up after my first day on HP was because I almost instantly had follower comments from you: "Welcome to HP!" was all you said as follower and commenter #1, but it was so wholly unexpected and gratifying to me. I felt like I'd joined a great community. I still think there are lots and lots of great people here, too. It's just become more difficult to communicate with them. I hope you're wrong about HP not caring about the community aspect of things, but I fear you're not. In any case, as long as there's a Mailbag, we will be able to continue with a sense of community. That's thanks to you! Best, and have a good week.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 12, 2021:

I love that motto, James! It's a great line and I might steal it from time to time. I hope you don't mind. I'll give you credit for it, of course.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 12, 2021:

Thank you Brenda. Hers was postponed. Mine will be first, on October 28th, and hers will be on November 9th. Thank you for asking.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 12, 2021:

Thank you John! I completely agree with you about making a living from freelancing. You and I have done fine with it, but it took time and determination to reach the point we are both at. People are always looking for shortcuts, it seems to me.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 12, 2021:

Don't wait too long, Maria! That book of yours needs to be written, and the days are running out for all of us.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 12, 2021:

Mr. Happy, have fun with those tomatoes. Our attempts at growing tomatoes failed miserably this year. Oh well, and so it does. As for Ted Cruz, I cannot for the life of me understand how anyone has voted for him. He is a despicable human being in my humble opinion.

Gotta go; doctor's appointment. Thank you Sir!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 12, 2021:

Aww, thanks, Ginger! My anti-James Patterson crusade has been going on for quite some time. I think he started out a decent writer, but now he's a hack who hires out most of his writing. As for my wealth of information, thank you! I'm just trying to share that which was freely given to me.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 12, 2021:

I think I have already, Flourish. I don't think I have it in me to answer it in-depth again. lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 12, 2021:

You are very welcome, Miebakagh!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 12, 2021:

Linda, I hope you are almost done with that move. I'm exhausted just thinking about it. At my age, any move sounds exhausting. As for HP and common sense....that ain't happening anytime soon, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 12, 2021:

Or, Mary, will it discourage those with an attention span the equal of a fruit fly? LOL I'll tackle this question in next week's Mailbag. Thanks my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 12, 2021:

Thank you Pamela. I would hope that good writing would always be a little difficult. If it comes too easy, I question it. :)

Rosina S Khan on October 12, 2021:

An educative mailbag with great questions and interesting answers. I learned a lot definitely. Happy Tuesday, Bill. Wish you a wonderful week ahead.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 12, 2021:

Bill your hubs encourage us to write and remind us about life itself. Writers do feel they need a nudge at some point in their lives.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on October 11, 2021:

Nice mailbag, Bill. You’ve been here at HubPages just a tad longer than I have and if I remember correctly you were one of the first to welcome me to the community. A lot has changed over the last 9 to 10 years, but the one constant, reassuring voice has been you. I hope HubPages knows how lucky they are to have you still here after all these years. Have a great week.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on October 11, 2021:

That I agree. More than that offline dynamics are even callopsing.

MG Singh from UAE on October 11, 2021:

Your mailbag is always interesting to look forward to for the simple reason you touch on topics that interest many. Your take on writing and freelancing is wonderful. The world of writing has changed a lot and now its just plain economics . I recollect two marquee sites Helium and Suite 11 collapsed. Market dynamics, and hub would like to keep afloat; so restriction are there , not that I support them.

James C Moore from Joliet, IL on October 11, 2021:

Bill you make a good point. Stories are an effective way to get a point across. I go by this motto: facts tell but stories sell.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on October 11, 2021:

Great read.

I remember you welcoming me to Hubpages and it really helped me to have the courage to keep going.

Freelancing needs time to commit yourself too.

Here lately, it seems like I need more hours in a day.

I try to get my word out there and you are right...not easy to do if you are labeled.

But poetry has its advantages to get a message acrossed.

I hope Bev made it through her surgery okay.

It's definitely no picnic.

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on October 11, 2021:

I enjoyed this mailbag, Bill, but then I always do. I totally agree about using fiction to express how you feel about social and controversial issues so as not to appear to be preaching, I do it in my poetry all the time…coward that I am lol.

Freelancing is still a good way of earning a living or at least doing that in part. I am sick of questions on places like Quora though asking things like. “I have been freelancing on this site for a week now and still have no sales. What is wrong? How do I get my gigs ranked on the first page.” Everyone wants to become rich immediately..

I agree with making the newbies feel welcome and part of the community. I try to do that too. I see that Medium lists on each article how long approximately it will take to read e.g. “approx. 5 minute read.” Maybe that might help people with short attention spans decide whether to start or not.

Have a great week, Bill.

MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on October 11, 2021:

A great set of questions, and I loved all your answers. I've noticed a lot of writers use the voices of their characters to share their own opinions on many things -- even when writing in 3rd person. I've considered doing it myself, but have not yet attempted it. I'm still tossing ideas for books over and over in my little brain. I'll get there someday. Thanks for hosting this mailbag.

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on October 11, 2021:

Late on this one. I actually did not know it was Monday today until I found this on the feed. I'm in the middle of turning tomatoes into canned tomatoes juice for the following year so not spending much time doing anything these few days now; until I finish the bushels of tomatoes anyway.

"it probably takes James Patterson about two weeks to write his rubbish." - It probably does and we are all worse for it, haha!! What was that You were saying about "dumbing down"?

"Is it worth my effort to even try it?" - I don;t think anyone but the person in question can answer that. Why is it worth it for me to keep coming back here for God know how long now? "Worth" has many different interpretations. This is clearly not "financially worthy" for me but hey, it's gotta be "worthy" in other ways, since I am still here. So, ya "worthy" is for each person to decide in what they do, in my opinion.

"I write about social change and controversial issues all the time in my short stories and novels." - I agree, that major social issues can be talked about in fiction. Things such as abortion, or social inequality, or racism, etc. There are times though, when we need to be specific. Like: Ted Cruise is detrimental to Texas, Texans, Americans and the entire planet Earth. So, here I am calling-out a specific politician. In a piece about "Lyin' Ted Cruize", I can talk about how he went to vacation in Mexico, while Texans were freezing in their own homes last winter (as one quick and tiny example). "Ted Cruize has got to go!!" See? Can't do that in fiction. And I'll take any and all of the blow-back if need be. It's all part of the game.

"I don’t really think HubPages is listening to any of us" - I just had a momentary feeling of being a kid and talking to other kids how parents never listen to us. Haha!! Do the best with what You got, is what I say.

Thank You for the writing - cheers!

Ginger Burke from Illinois on October 11, 2021:

I totally snorted at your James Patterson comment. Thanks :) I love the advice you give about sharing our soapboxes in the form of stories. It takes more effort than just making declarative statements, but they are certainly more effective. I need to go back and read through all of your installments - you are a wealth of information!

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on October 11, 2021:

That I agree. I notice the question. It seems to be common among upcoming writers.

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 11, 2021:

Robert’s question has been asked in so many ways in various forms that you should write an article about it and direct people there.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on October 11, 2021:

Bill, thank you for the response. Happy Monday to you too. Stay health and safe.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on October 11, 2021:

Mary, if the question was direct at me, I would continue reading. Normally, I would prefer a long read of 2500 words. Thanks.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on October 11, 2021:

Bill, I'm happy I found this before HP snatched it up. I can still comment (woo hoo!)

If HP had any common sense they would recognize that they disappear if there are no writers. (All that they would be left with are the non-English speaking "writers" who cannot construct a sentence and are hoping to get rich quick.)

Thanks for all you do to encourage and make people feel welcome.

BTW, I'll be deliriously happy when the move is done.

Mary Wickison from USA on October 11, 2021:

Hi Bill,

It's interesting that you mention the ten second chunks of entertainment. I have seen at the top of some articles (not on Hubpages), a notation that indicates how long an article is. For example, it will say 'a 7 minute read'. I wonder if that will encourage readers to continue reading. What are your thoughts on that?

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 11, 2021:

I am happy to read your mailbag before it goes through that change. A doctor appt. on a Monday morning can make you do a lot of searching through your feed.

I absolutely agree with everything you wrote in that last paragraph, Bill. I think writing about social change would be a little difficult, but I liked your response to her and all the topics today. Another good mailbag!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 11, 2021:

I'm happy to hear that, Miebakagh! Thank you for your support, and Happy Monday to you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 11, 2021:

Thank you Dora! I hope this finds you well. Enjoy your week and may it be very productive and filled with love.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 11, 2021:

Thank you Chitrangada Sharan! I appreciate you and the time you take, each week, to support me. We will never meet in person, but you are a true friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 11, 2021:

None at all, Umesh! All that is required is to sit down and begin!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 11, 2021:

Thank you Misbah, and greetings to you. Truth always wins indeed.

Sending you hugs of friendship as you search for your inner light. Happiness awaits you, my young friend. Your brother would want you to be happy.

Blessings always

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 11, 2021:

Thank you Alyssa! Can you tell that I'm not a big fan of James Patterson? LOL He's probably a very nice man, but he has coasted for far too long in my humble opinion.

Early Happy Halloween to you, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 11, 2021:

I will do that, Peggy! Thank you! Have a wonderful week, my friend, and I'll catch you down the road.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on October 11, 2021:

Bill, thanks for the way you answer all the questions. It's very interesting. The last question and answer is very encouraging. Thanks.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 11, 2021:

Good day/week to you Bill, and to everyone else. Thanks for sharing your sentiments about the need for writers to advocate change. That was a great question from Sarah. Great reply to that and all the other questions.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on October 11, 2021:

Hello Bill!

A pleasant read, as always. My sentiments are the same about writing at HubPages, and I have also completed 9 years here, and into the 10th year.

Like you, I am grateful for all the wonderful friends, I have made over the years, and I truly cherish your friendship.

HP is not the same now, but we must give back to the community, and of course the new writers.

The answer to Sarah’s question has a lot of substance, and you speak with experience.

Thank you for everything. Wish you a wonderful week ahead.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on October 11, 2021:

Well covered the issues. I liked "... don’t worry about how long it takes. Just get started and ...".

I agree there are no hard and fast rules for a writer.

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on October 11, 2021:

Mr. Bill, thank you once again for a fantastic mailbag. Happy Monday to you, Sir. Sarah's question piqued my interest, as did your excellent response. I believe that authors are exceptionally fortunate people who have the capacity to influence many people's minds with the power of their ink. Criticism is inevitable, but truth, I believe, always wins. You are a wonderful and supportive friend. Much Gratitude!

Have a wonderful and pleasant week ahead.

Blessings and regards to you and your family.

Alyssa from Ohio on October 11, 2021:

Good morning Bill! Yet another wonderful installment of the mailbag. You always crack me up with your James Patterson lines, haha! I appreciate your notes on writing a novel and freelancing. I'm grateful for the friends I've made through this site and I feel the same way, it is what it is. I hope you have a brilliant week! :)

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 11, 2021:

Wishing you a "deliriously happy week ahead" also! New writers on this site may never experience the same sense of community that we old-timers felt, due to the hit-or-miss ability to leave comments these days. We need to do what we can to welcome them, as you are doing. Pet those pups of yours and give Bev an extra hug.

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