Tag Archives: how to write

The Consequences of Hastiness

24 Oct

“There are consequences to being hasty, Bill.”

Words spoken by my Uncle Jim when I was, gosh, maybe eight years old.

My Uncle Jim was a dredger by trade and a carpenter in his spare time.  Carpentry was his love; dredging put food on the table.  He would be gone to Alaska for three or four months each year, helping to dredge out harbors for the towns up there, and then he would return to Tacoma and build things in his garage.

Sometimes I’d go in the garage and watch him.

I loved the smell of newly-cut wood.  Loved watching him work with the grain, and listening to him talk to me about lumber being a living thing, and watching him take pieces of wood and create something beautiful from them.

One day I asked him if I could build a toy boat and he said his garage was my garage, as long as I remembered to put all the tools away where they belonged . . . very important to him, returning those tools.

Well I was in a hurry to slap that boat together, so I did the job as quickly as possible, finished it, put the tools away, rode my bike down to the waterfront, and set it in the water for its maiden voyage.

I think it might have sailed ten feet before a wave capsized it and it sunk.

Back to my Uncle Jim I went, totally pissed and swearing to never again try my hand at carpentry.

“There are consequences to being hasty, Bill,” he said.  “The key to a sea-worthy boat is not in what you see but rather in what you don’t see.”  He then went on to explain ballast and how it works, how a ship’s hull is not solid wood but rather it is the air inside the hull which actually keeps a ship upright and functioning properly.

“You would have known these things, Bill, if you had taken the time to ask.  Don’t be in such a hurry to learn.  Take your time and learn properly.  There’s joy in the process if you are willing.”


I was thinking about that time last week when someone asked me what was the secret to success in writing?  My answer to that person is the same as my uncle’s answer many years ago.  Don’t be hasty!  Take the time to learn the craft of writing.  Learn how good writing works.  You can’t fake it.  You can’t pretend.  Good writing is good writing is good writing, and fakers, and those in love with shortcuts, need not apply.


My new book is out, “Shadows Fall On Rosarito“….check it out!

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

The World Is My Stage

17 Oct

As a kid I was an observer.  I was shy, so in group situations you could usually find me off in a corner, eating whatever was available, watching the festivities.

Even back then I was adding to my compilation of observations, to be used later when I began writing.  Of course I didn’t know it way back then; it wasn’t a conscious decision on my part; but today I can sure see how it all unfolded.

When my family would head off on a car trip/vacation, I would sit in the backseat, not reading a book but studying the passing landscapes, storing it all in my brain for future use.

I was reminded of that this past weekend when my wife and I went on a mini-vacation to see friends in Southern Oregon.  It was about an eight-hour trip one-way, and most of the way Bev spent that time listening to music and playing with the puppy, while I observed everything we passed along the way.

I think writers are just wired differently.  I was consciously thinking of certain sites and tucking them safely away until I need them in a new novel.  That’s basically what I do every single day I’m out and about running errands . . . I’m observing!  I even caught myself mentally writing some scenes for my latest novel while driving.  I saw this great old mansion in Ashland, Oregon, and that mansion deserves a spot in the next novel.

I love everything about the writing process.

One of the people we visited on the trip asked me to explain how I write a particular scene.  What process do I use as a scene unfolds, and I found it difficult to answer that question because it just happens, but it can only happen because of all the observations made over the span of my life.

Does that make sense?

If you’re a writer you are nodding your head right now.

We’re just wired a little bit differently.


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Everything We Do Matters!

19 Sep


“Sometimes, in the night I feel it
Near as my next breath
and yet, untouchable
Silently the past comes stealing
Like the taste of some forbidden sweet

“Along the walls; in shadowed rafters
Moving like a thought through haunted atmospheres
Muted cries and echoed laughter
Banished dreams that never sank in sleep”

Lyrics by Dan Fogelberg from his song “Ghosts”


That song is not about writers, but it has always spoken to me.  I think of my muse when I listen to it, how she speaks to me constantly, demanding of me that I record memories from my past, insisting that I create new stories, stories which will capture sixty-eight years of experience, pleading with me to choose just the right words so that my story becomes a story every reader can relate to.

We’ve all heard it said that there is a bestselling novel inside each of us.  That may be so, but not everyone can tell it properly.  A writer can.  A writer has the ability to take seemingly mundane occurrences and turn them into a captivating story.  A writer understands the common threads which weave through all human beings, and a writer uses those threads as connective tissue, bringing us all together, cementing our bonds, and adding to our common history.

It is magical when it happens, as you all know, and I feel blessed that it has happened to me, as you all surely understand.


I know a young man who recently took care of his father-in-law in a hospice situation.  He sat by the dying man’s side for two days, seeing to his needs, taking care of some really disgusting bodily discharges, and generally provided invaluable comfort to the man.  It was a remarkable display of humanness, an example of empathy we all could learn from.

I mention that because I believe the really good writers have such empathy. They understand the raw emotions inherent in our species, and they find a way, through words, to awaken those emotions.  This is the connective tissue I mentioned earlier.  We all have, and understand, emotions.  We all have, and understand, the five senses.  These are the things we, as writers, must use in order for our stories to be truly memorable to the reading public.  Without empathy, without an intense understanding of emotions, our words will fall short of our goal.

Remember that the next time you sit down to write.  Your words are not meant for a vacuum.  They are meant to be injected into the subconscious of the reader, and the only way you can accomplish that is to find the common thread we all share.


I’ll leave you with something my dad told me once which has stayed with me for fifty years.

My dad and his parents

“Everything you do matters, Bill,” he told me.

I try to remember that when I sit down to write.


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”



I Am the Walrus

28 Feb

003Let’s start this off with some lyrics by The Beatles:

“I am he
As you are he
As you are me
And we are all together”

That first stanza of “The Walrus” always reminds me of my job as a novelist.

Let me explain . . . but first, a quote . . .


“When you are having fun and creating something you love, it shows in the product. So when a woman is sifting through a rack of clothes, somehow that piece of clothing that you had so much fun designing speaks to her; she responds to it and buys it. I believe you can actually transfer that energy to material things as you’re creating them.” Tom Ford

When I’m writing a novel, and I create a main character, it is my job, as the author, to transfer all of my energy into the creation of that character.  I must become that character. I must understand how he thinks, how he would react to certain situations, and what his motivations are.  I think this is vital for good writing to occur.  A good writer has the ability to make characters seem real to the readers, and I think this is done because the author has become those characters.


So, how do you do this?

I know my character, but how do I slip into his persona so easily before writing?

I give myself time.

When I’m getting ready to resume writing in my novel, I take a break from writing, usually for an hour or so, and I use that time to reflect on my main character.  I review what he has done in the past.  I review his background, and then I read back to earlier chapters and I accustom myself with his habits.  Only after I have done that do I allow myself to continue writing as that character.

Give it a try.  Hopefully you’ll find that tip useful.


Listen, I’m a former teacher, so obviously I’m all for research and doing one’s homework . . . but . . .

I was just looking at the latest offerings from Writer’s Digest, all the books on writing that they are selling, and I got dizzy looking at the vast array of books on writing.

My first thought, after looking at the forty-two books they were hawking, was “how would anyone ever have the time to write if all they did was read those books?”

There comes a time when you have to put the homework away and actually write.

It’s not that frightening, really!

Start with this basic fact:  we are all storytellers.  We all come from a family of storytellers, and we all have rich history of storytelling.  Storytelling is a basic means of communication among civilizations.  It is one of the most common ways of advancing culture, and it is a natural for most of us.

So why worry? Do what you’ve been doing forever.  Little kids tell stories.  Parents tell stories.  We all share stories of our pasts.

So take that natural ability and use it to write a story.  It’s in you; you just have to release it and give yourself permission to do so.

The world needs storytellers.

Join us!


This is a first.  I’ve never made a political statement on this blog . . . until now.

Word has it the current administration wants to cut back budgets for the Arts and Humanities.  I’m not shocked by this but I am saddened.  As a former teacher I’ve seen this before.  Every school I ever worked for had budget concerns, and one of the first programs to be cut when it came time for budget cuts was always the Arts Department.

Save Science, save math, but cut the Arts!

What a bunch of bullshit!

Excuse my language.

I’m afraid I have grown accustomed to seeing this happen on a school level, but nationwide?

It is inexcusable!

We need the Arts!

I would hope you agree, and I would hope you’ll do whatever you can to speak out against the rape of our culture.


I’m done with two of my coloring books and I think I’ll stop there. They turned out pretty good…one very good…and now I can sell them at the farmers market this spring and summer, as well as some local stores.  We shall see how it goes.


See you next week, hopefully!  You are all appreciated!


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”



Snow, and Life, Melt Away Quickly

8 Feb

003It snowed here yesterday!

It’s a big deal for us in western Washington.  We don’t get much snow here in the lowlands by Puget Sound, so six inches of snow is a treat.  It will all be gone soon enough, so I plan on enjoying it while it lasts.

Hmmm, that gives me a thought . . .


“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” Charles Darwin

Take that quote and think of it in the context of the talents you’ve been given as a writer.

I’ve read your work and yes, you have talents.

Are you wasting it?

Like the snow we just received, life is limited.  It will be gone soon.  Believe me, I’m painfully aware of that fact.  I still remember, clearly, much of my childhood and teen years, and I’m absolutely shocked that I am now sixty-eight with only what, ten years, fifteen, left to live?  How in the hell did that happen?  But happen it did, and the question now is how am I going to live those remaining fifteen years?  How much of that time do I plan on wasting?  How much of my remaining talent do I plan on wasting?winter in my little slice of heaven 014

It’s a question we all should ask.

We’ve been given a gift, my friends.  Very few in the world have the talent to take random words and unite them in such a way that they create a story, or a poem.  And a very, very few have the talent to write those words in such a way that they elicit emotions from the readers.

Don’t waste that talent!


Stop reading this and write.  It’s what you do as a writer.

And please support one another.  Share the work of others.  Give words of encouragement.  Keep the light burning for all writers.

For those who asked, I’m still devoting my time to coloring books, so the novels are still on hold.  Such is life!


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


Looking for Opportunities

31 Jan


I recently posted on Facebook that this was the first time in five years that I wasn’t working on a novel.  People immediately took that to mean I wasn’t writing at all, or I somehow came down with “writer’s block.”

Sorry about the confusion…I’m simply working on a different writing project that I need to get completed before March.  As soon as I finish that I’ll return to “Shadows Fall On Rosarito,” the novel I’m two-thirds done with, and then I have four other novels I want to write…so you see, there is no writer’s block at all.

Now that we have that all cleared up, let’s move to today’s blog posting.

But first…


“The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.” Lao Tzu

I met a character from my next novel yesterday.

Read that sentence again and let it sink in.

I met an imaginary character from a novel I haven’t written yet.

Cue the caretakers…get that straightjacket ready for me, please!

But as strange as that sentence seems to be, most writers will understand completely.

I’m always on the lookout for my next character.  I’m always observing.  I’m always jotting down mental notes for future stories and books.

I just assume all writers are like that.

Are you?  Please say you are or I’ll feel like the weirdest human being on the planet, and writers will be using me for their next homicidal/suicidal/mentally-unstable character.street fair Aug 2012 013


Short but sweet . . . observe!  Be aware!  You’ve got five senses.  Use them!


You all know what guerrilla marketing is, right?  It’s using unconventional methods to market your goods or services when you have a very small budget to work with.  Most writers can relate to that, I think.  I love finding new ways to market my writing, and I’m currently taking a break from novel-writing to try one of those new ways.

I’m making coloring books!

I love that coloring books are making a comeback in today’s society.  It seems like every single time I go into a retail shop, I see a display of coloring books, and since I love coloring books and I love trying new things, it is the perfect avenue for my guerrilla marketing.

I’m just finishing up my first coloring book, “The History of Olympia, Washington Coloring Book.”  It combines my love of history with my love of writing with my love of coloring, and I plan on selling them at the farmers market here in Olympia.  My next will be an urban farming coloring book, which I’ll start next week.

Will I sell a ton of them? I doubt it, but I’ll sell some, and those sales will combine with the sales of my novels and the money I make freelancing, and it all adds up.

I use a free computer program called GIMP, which takes photographs and changes them into sketch drawings….there are quite a few programs out there that do the same thing…Photoshop…Pixlr….and they are all user-friendly.   Then I format it all for CreateSpace and presto, I have a coloring book. The cost to me, including shipping, is less than three dollars per book.

Anyway, I just thought I’d mention it in case you are looking for something new to try.


I hope you have a superb week of writing and marketing. Thanks a ton for spending part of your Tuesday with me.


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


On This Day in History

10 Jan

003January 10, 2017!

On this day in history, in 1964, the first Beatles album, “Introducing the Beatles,” was introduced in the United States.

On this day in history, the first vinyl record was released, in 1949.

On this day in history, in 1917, Buffalo Bill died.

On this day in history, in 1944, the G.I. Bill of Rights was signed into law.

On this day in history, in 2017, William D. Holland wrote ten more pages on his novel “Shadows Fall On Rosarito.”


That’s my alter-ego speaking. He speaks to me often.  Sometimes I listen and sometimes I tell him to shut the hell up.

Like today!

So, some pretty cool things happened on this day in history, and then I toss in the latest addition to my latest novel, and where in the world is my head in doing such a thing?

My head is exactly where it should be, thank you very much.

But first…..


“My mother always told me that as you go through life, no matter what you do, or how you do it, you leave a little footprint, and that’s your legacy.” Jan Brewer

One of the very cool things about being a writer, and I mean super ultra-cool, is that our words will be preserved for eternity.  Long after we are gone, let’s say one-hundred years from now, some little girl or boy will stumble across an article or a book we wrote, and they will read it, and in so doing they will be given a gift we sent to them across the expanse of time.

How cool is that?

Now I don’t know about you, but when I give a gift, I want that gift to be perfect . . . and so I write, and I try to improve my craft, so that the next gift I give will be the very best gift I could give at that moment.

My writing is part of my legacy and as such is a very important thing for sure.  It is important to me and your writings should be equally as important to you.

Forget about the naysayers. Forget about the lagging sales of your books.  Forget about the lack of support.

What you are doing is important!


End of discussion!


Improve your craft!  Never stop trying to be better, because when you finish your next piece, and you wrap it up in pretty paper and a bright bow, you want it to be the very best gift possible.


I highly recommend signing up for Janet Reid’s blog.  You can find it here.  You may not get Janet to sign you up as one of her writers, but her blog is filled with great information.  She shoots from the hip, tells it like it is, and hey, it never hurts to have another contact in this business.


Remember what I said earlier.  What you are doing is important.  These are troubling times, and more than ever the world needs writers.


Quit Making Excuses!

7 Jun

003Let’s start with a quote.


“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. “ Muhammad Ali


I could ramble on for quite some time about Ali, my childhood hero, and what he meant to me, but this blog is about writing, so let’s look at this quote with writing in mind.

Is writing a novel a daunting task to you?  Are you finding it hard to write each day?  Do you suffer from a lack of confidence? Do you have self-doubts regarding your writing abilities?

Nothing will change if nothing changes!

And you can quote me on that!


Quit making excuses!


I just finished my fourth novella in the Billy the Kid Chronicles…..”Home is a Dangerous Place.”  This one is brand new, never before seen online or on HubPages.

And that leaves me at a crossroads. What do I do next?  I could keep writing about Billy the Kid for the next five years.  He’s easy to write about, and I can do a novella in about a month…but…

I feel like taking on another novel, which leads me to the next quandary….a new novel in my “Shadows” series, or a coming of age novel set in the 60’s, or the sequel to the “12/59 Shuttle?”  So many choices!

So right now I’m taking a break.  I think I’ll take a break for the entire month of June….a break from book-writing, that is…and when my muse speaks to me, I’ll start up again.


Someone asked me the other day in the Mailbag where they could look for high-paying freelance gigs.  I hesitated on my answer…there are quite a few sites where you can get paid crap or you can get paid good money, depending on your writing ability….if any of you have any suggestions I’ll pass them along to the person who asked that question.

But the bottom line for all of you is this: if you don’t have the skills then you aren’t going to get paid top dollar. Work on your craft first before you worry about making money.  This is my number one pet peeve in today’s world with regards to writers.  The internet has made it possible for everyone to proclaim that they are a writer!!!  After all, they’ve published their swill online, so that must mean they are writers, correct?  They’ve even gotten paid $5 for 400 words of rubbish, so they must be writers, correct?

No, it is not correct, and never will be in my mind.

Work on your craft until it holds up under scrutiny. Climb the ladder from awful to sub-standard to merely okay, and then work your butt off and become good, and then very good and then, maybe, excellent.

Then come back to me and tell me you’re a writer and you deserve top dollar for what you’ve written.


Who ya going to call? Call Mike Friedman and tell him what you need.  Mike does a great job and he’s a good man.  What more could you ask for?


I’ll give you a break and stop here.  Thanks, as always, for taking the time to stop by.  Have a great week of writing and remember, “impossible” is just a word used by people looking for an excuse.


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Year End Review

30 Dec

003Welcome back to my blog!  I hope you all had a great Christmas.  Ours was very nice and I’m glad it is over.  I don’t mean that to sound Scrooge-like.  It was nice and now it’s time to move on and get back to normal for this writer.

And here we are in the final week of 2014.  As a writer, how would you summarize your year?

That’s the question we’ll be discussing today.


One of the hardest things for me, now that I’m famous, is finding people who can read my stuff and give me an honest critique.

Ken Follett



I love that quote by Follett.  I know how he feels.  It’s really nice having so many supporters who say such nice things about my writing, but there are times when I really need constructive criticism.  That’s how I grow, by getting kicked in the butt from time to time.  Resting on my laurels will not foster growth, and I am certain you all understand that.

So, on the subject of critiques, how is it going for you?  Do you get honest feedback from other writers?  Do you get honest feedback from yourself?


The end of the year is a time for reflection, but it is also a time to check our inventory, to review our past actions, and to adjust accordingly in the New Year.

What did you do that was helpful? What did you do that didn’t work?  What adjustments to your writing do you need to make in 2015?  Are you on pace according to your business plan?  What opportunities have you missed?  What dead horse are you riding that you need to hop off of?  These are questions that any business owner asks at the end of the year, and writing is a business…so ask them!

Take some time this week and review your year of writing, and ask yourself those questions as you formulate your 2015 plan.


There are disappointments in this business.  As you all know, I published my second novel in 2014, and there are members of my family who still haven’t read it.  Too busy I guess.  Not important I guess.  They don’t give a shit I guess.

That’s just the way it is.  People have their own set of priorities and that’s the way it always will be.  It in no way can discourage you, though.  A writer must have skin as thick as a rhinos to make it in this business.  Wallflowers and wilting Lillies need not apply.


For you visual learners out there. See what you can do with this photo.

010 - Copy


I’ll get us started by promising you this:  if you need my help, I’ll be there for you if it is at all possible.  Mind you, I’m not talking about loaning money. LOL  But I will give advice and support for your writing endeavors.  All you have to do is ask.


I’m not sure when I will return, but soon.  That’s the best I can do.  Until then, have a great week of writing and Happy New Year to you all.


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Writers Need Mentors

26 Mar

003Happy Wednesday to you all!  I believe this is the first day I have not had a fire in the woodstove since October.  Thank the heavens for spring and I know many of you will join me in giving those thanks.

My new manuscript has been sent to various writer friends for their review.  While they do that, I have another friend (love you Lizzy) who is doing some preliminary sketches for a book cover, and I am trying to craft the perfect synopsis and tagline.  After that I have query letters to write, videos to film, a website to construct and a re-write of the manuscript based on suggestions to do.  Then, and only then, it will be time to publish the ebook and start contacting agents about hard-copy publishing.

How long will it all take?  I’m hoping to have the ebook published by the end of April.  I think that’s realistic.

And just about the time that is published I’ll begin my month of writing classes at the community center. I am thrilled to be teaching those classes and I hope attendance is huge and spirited.

And then, of course, it will be time to begin my new novel.

So that’s it with my life.  How about you? What are you working on currently?  Let me know in your comment section if you don’t mind…..and don’t forget that you are always welcome to do a guest blog here on the subject of writing any old time you feel like it.  Just send your blog to holland1145@yahoo.com and I’ll give it priority.


To be given the opportunity to help shape new artists’ careers and mentor them to see their dreams come to fruition is a task I welcome with open arms.

Christina Aguilera
And guess what we are talking about today?


Mentoring….it is a subject near and dear to my heart.  With eighteen years of classroom teaching, mentoring comes easy for me and I love every minute spent working with other writers and helping them when I can.

I’ll be writing an article about mentoring in the next week or so, but briefly let me say a few things about it.  Finding a mentor is like discovering gold in them thar hills.  Learning from the best….picking the brain of one who has already walked your path…that is invaluable for anyone in the arts….heck, in any walk of life.

For we writers, our mentors can be successful writers, former teachers, or just trusted friends.  Remember that the goal of finding a mentor is to help you grow in your craft, so choose wisely.  Remember also that they are doing you a favor by helping you.  Start out with small requests and build a working relationship based on trust and admiration.  Remember, also, that the mentor owes you nothing and may not be able to help you all the time….just be grateful for whatever mentoring they are able to give you.


summer of 2010 005

My mind has turned to nice weather and summertime events…so enjoy this picture and hope that one day soon your area looks like this.


Say hello to a dear friend of mine, Suzanne, or Suzie HQ on HubPages.  Suzie has carved out quite a niche for herself with a series of articles about homemade concoctions and remedies and herbal products….she really has done a marvelous job of establishing herself in this field.

Suzie lost her father several months ago, and then found herself in the hospital several weeks ago for a rare ailment, so she hasn’t been writing of late.  Go visit her site and see a perfect example of niche writing, and if you know her wish her well while you are there. She could use a little support right about now.


Welding Power Essay Contests are taking submissions for their current contest which ends May 4th.  This is a great opportunity for those of you who like to write political essays and there is no entry fee. Check them out here.


But I’ll see you again on Friday. Until then, I’ve got a ton to do and time stands still for no man, or so I’m told.


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”