The Writer's Mailbag: Installment One-Hundred and Five
Production Lapse….blame It on Summer
I don’t know about you, but this writer is lagging far behind in production this summer. The weather is just too beautiful and I’ve got far too many outdoor activities and chores to do to kick out my normal amount of words.
And that’s okay! Writers do not live by words alone. Yes, you can quote me on that. LOL
Shall we get the third year of the Mailbag underway? There aren’t too many questions this week but I have strong feelings about the ones we do have…..and two days after writing that, more questions came in, so we have a full bag.
Let’s do it!
Answers to writing questions by yours truly
Watered down Quality Hurts Us All
From Chris: “Sometime in the very near future I'll be publishing a book, e-book or both. It will be a collection of flash fiction and short stories. I've looked at flash fiction books for sale on Amazon and find there is a wide range of quality regarding stories. I have a feeling the term "Flash Fiction" is taking a beating and am considering not using that term at all. Do you think words flash fiction as well as the format itself have been damaged or cheapened by writers who publish low quality writing? I am inclined to use the terms short story and short, short story when I finally have something to put on the market. Would you consider that a wise or unwise course to take?”
Chris, first of all, best wishes on that upcoming book. I’ve been a fan of your writing for quite some time now, and I know you’ve got the talent….now on to your question.
I happen to think the entire ebook movement has been cheapened by writers who publish low quality writing and not just flash fiction. Every Tom, Dick and Harry can publish a book now despite the fact that most Toms, Dicks and Harrys can’t write a good grocery list, let alone a novel. Listen, I’ve got nothing against anyone writing a book. I think it’s great therapy for some, and it’s really cool to see your name on the cover of a book, and you can give it to your kids and whoopy and all that, but not every one of those people should be on Amazon. As more and more self-published books flood Amazon, the overall quality of the site suffers. It’s like a cow pooping in a lake. One pile of poop will pretty much go unnoticed during a year, but if fifty cows are pooping, chances increase that you will be swimming in shit sooner rather than later.
Did you like that simile? LOL
I think flash fiction has a problem with structure more than anything else. I happen to love flash fiction, and I love it because I don’t have a lot of time for reading during the day, and it’s cool to read an entire story in two minutes…but….to pay for it? The same thing I like about it, its brevity, makes me hesitate when it comes to actually paying money for it. What is the return on my buck with flash fiction? Not much, quite frankly, no matter how good the writing is.
Now a collection of flash fictions? That might be a different story, excuse the pun. There might be enough there to appeal to an Amazon buyer….or not.
The closest I come is my series of “Billy the Kid” novellas. We’re talking, on average, about 20,000 words each, and I price them as low as Amazon will allow…..they aren’t exactly bestsellers, but I’m going to keep writing them and keep publishing them and we’ll see what happens.
One final note: flash fiction is just another way of saying “short story,” right? Hemingway didn’t do too badly writing short stories. Is there a market for them today? Are they of higher quality if they are called “short stories” rather than “flash fiction?” Honestly, I really don’t know, This literary game we play seems to change rules quite often.
I doubt I really answered your question satisfactorily, but that’s the best I can do on a tricky topic.
Converting Short Stories into a Book
From Mary (not really her name but I’m not sure she wanted the question on the Mailbag so there you go)
“Just out of curiosity, when you're posting chapters of what might later become a book on HP, do you edit more before placing them together as a book? I guess, more or less, what I want to know is the process? I ask because I've considered doing that for some projects I've been working on. Thought it might motivate me a bit more to finish somethings I started and keep letting life allow me to procrastinate. (Yes, it's life making me procrastinate, not myself. Not to mention, I am never satisfied with half the things I write and constantly rewrite as I am writing) Another thing that keeps me from actually pushing forward faster is the editing. I am aware of many of my weaknesses and know that an editor would help control that and point out what I miss. People on HP are too polite to do that. LOL They just point out what they like about things. Anyway. . .I'm just rambling now. Haha”
Well, Mary, I’ll ignore the ramblings (yes, friends on HP are too kind) and mention before I begin that I’ve read quite a few of your poems and they are excellent….now let’s get to the question.
Yes, I edit my short stories before making them a book. Perhaps a better word than “edit” would be “embellish. The first “Billy the Kid” novella was a collection of four short stories totaling about 7,000 words. The actual novella ended up being 22,000 words, so you can see I did quite a bit of “embellishing” before I published.
So, you asked for the process. In the case I just mentioned, the four short stories were basically the framework for the novella. I copied and pasted them on one document and then I got to work. I fleshed out the characters in more detail. I did a better job of describing the scenes. I added little vignettes, tossed in a dash of reflection and mixed it all together. By the time I got done, I had myself a novella.
I don’t pay anyone to edit my novellas. I don’t make enough on them to justify the expense. One advantage to having the short stories published on HP first is my readers will make suggestions as the stories unfold, and then I can incorporate those suggestions into the finished book…but the actual editing I do myself and yes, that goes against advice I gave last week that a writer should never edit his own work, but at times, unfortunately, it is necessary.
Did I answer your question?
What to Do When It Isn’t There?
From John: “Has this happened to you? There are days when I just don’t have it. It’s like my brain is fried and everything I write sounds like mush. I know writers are supposed to kick out a certain number of words each day, but it seems to me that mush is mush is mush, and what’s the point of writing mush?”
I agree, John! On those days, don’t write. We have enough mush being published on Amazon. Don’t add to it! The literary world needs more quality and less mush!
Seriously, if it ain’t there it ain’t there! Don’t force it!
From Tarun: “I am posting the question here thrice. If this time also it doesnt reach then I shall have no choice but to send it to your email id. Here it goes - Any idea what should be an ideal typing speed per hour for a writer? I know it would vary from writer to writer but still wanted to have an idea. I have read online about this and some people say they take hours writing (typing) a blog post and others suggest they write 800-1000 words an hour. I myself am able to write 400 words an hour including research. Since we live in a world of deadlines it would be nicer to know what should be an ideal speed one could strive for. Also are there tools which help enhance productivity?”
It’s an interesting question, my friend, and one I’ve never been asked before.
It depends, so much, on the type of writing you are doing. If I have a freelance assignment that requires research then I’m happy if I do 400 words in an hour. However, if I’m writing a novel and the words are flowing, I can also do 1,000 per hour without working up a sweat.
If I were to toss out an average figure, taking into account that different types of writing take longer, and different writers vary in speed, I would say 400-500 per hour is a figure to shoot for, but if you are doing less than that but it’s high quality, then be happy.
Personal Fun Question
From Faith: “I have a fun question for you ...but it's more along the lines of an interview question of you. If this does not qualify for this series, I understand. If so, it may be too late for Monday's Mailbag.
If you were deserted on an island, which three people would you want to have with you? Why? Criteria:
a.One fictional character from one of your books
b.One fictional character from any other book
c.One famous person who is not a family member or friend”
Well, Faith, it qualifies and it was fun, so let’s go.
a) Without a doubt, the character I created I would most like to spend time with is Sheila. Why? The other characters kill people, and I don’t know if I can trust them if they get hungry on that island. LOL Plus Sheila is all about love and damn if we don’t need more of that in this world.
b) Considering “To Kill A Mockingbird” is my favorite novel, one would think I’d choose Atticus Finch for this answer, but instead I’m going to choose Dave Robicheaux from the James Lee Burke series. He is a tragically-flawed man who I would want in my corner and a person I would understand quite well.
c) A famous person? It’s a toss-up between Bernie Sanders and Scarlett Johansson. Don’t ask!
And with That I Bid You Farewell
But just for a week! I’ll see you all next week for another installment of the Mailbag. Thanks for stopping by and if you feel like it, check out one of my Billy the Kid novellas….there are four now, and the last one, “Home is a Dangerous Place,” is brand new, never before seen as a short story on HP.
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”