Dark of Night Thoughts

sleeping woman small vertical copyFrom time to time a buzzing mosquito of a thought comes to us, perhaps in the middle of the night:  There are so many books out there already.  Authors are even giving them away free.  How can I possibly hope to compete?

We don’t need to compete.  Leave competition to the big publishers to tussle among themselves with numbers.  All we have to do is write excellent books and find a readership, for which there has never been a better time.  Then, whether we publish independently or through a publishing company, our own particular stories will appeal to our own particular readers.

We are all individuals, and if we write honestly, with passion, accomplished storytelling, and a drive to become our best writing selves, we will write good books.

I’m reminded of the stories of Hugh Howey, who published independently, and when his work turned out to be so good that it couldn’t be overlooked, a publisher picked him up. (He keeps his ebooks independent.) And Elena Ferrante, of the Naples Series, who keeps herself to herself and believes that so long as her books are good enough, they will find a readership.

And if, in the dark of night, the number of authors out here still appears daunting, I always think it’s a happy break for us writers that most of us are also voracious readers.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week.

Cheers, Mel

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From @yourwritingmuse: I admire the way you create tough short- and long-term goals for your protagonist.

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8 Reasons to enter the SiWC Writing Contest!

Siwc

  1. At $15 (Canadian dollars) it’s about the cheapest contest around, yet has a $1000 prize.
  2. The winner and runner-up are offered publication in Pulp Literature alongside our 2017 feature authors!
  3. Did I mention the $1000 prize? (about $775 USD)
  4. You’ll ensure you write a finished story by the Friday, September 23rd deadline!
  5. The dozen or so shortlisted authors will be read by Diana Gabaldon and Jack Whyte, and that in itself is a reward.
  6. You’ve got good odds.  Despite the high award amount, this isn’t a well-known contest.   As far as I know, they place no paid advertisements and don’t put listings on free sites.  So lucky you for reading this blog post!
  7. Did I mention the $1000 prize?  (No wait, that’s now $800 USD…)
  8. You’ll be joining forces with a spectacular community of writers.  The “Surrey Conference” is known as the friendliest writing conference in North America, for good reason.  We highly recommend it!   (If you’re considering attending, hurry to sign up! They’ve almost sold out!)
    SiWC 2016 Contest Guidelines here!

 

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What if You Caught Some Zzzs, F. Scott Fitzgerald?

CLockforblogginThe archetypical swan-pale writer taps out chapters through the night, whiskey at hand, refusing food and slumber.  It makes you wonder how much more Fitzgerald might have done if he’d put a little bit of that creative genius into living better.  No matter how well we write when we’re feeling crappy, we write even better when we feel well.

But, when we’re looking for more writing time, it’s tempting to take our health for granted.  “I’ll go to bed later.”  “I’ll get up earlier.”  “I’ll lock myself away until it’s done.”  “No time to cook.”  “Walk? When?”  How much better to carve out writing, revising, and publishing time from what doesn’t serve us: repeated email checking, web surfing, online shopping, phone twiddling, and the rest of the close-focus time-eating opportunities offered by the brilliant network of 21st century life.

Of all the assets we bring to the reading world, a writer’s greatest strengths are personality and intellect.  Our minds shine through every word we write.  Getting exercise, particularly walking (see the the New Yorker article on thinking and walking here) improves our thinking.  Eating whole foods, including more vegetables than we ever thought possible, helps our brains operate better.  Getting a good night’s sleep lifts our moods, and helps us see what we can create, how far we can go, and how to live the writing life we desire.

I hope it’s another brilliant writing week for you.

Cheers, Mel

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From @yourwritingmuse: You take five minutes to brainstorm intriguing settings. KudosYour Writing Muse.

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Designing a Writing Life

“If you don’t desigrobotgardenersmalln your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan.  And guess what they’ve got planned for you?  Not much.” –Jim Rohn

Writing out goals shapes my days’ work. It shapes my days as well.  I’m always on the lookout for ways to shake up my day planning and goal setting for this writer’s life.

Last week I sat in the garden, gazing at the overgrown ivy.  I mused on authors’ careers, thinking,  All writers make something out of nothing.  Writers aren’t the only ones who do so, but it’s an exciting thought.  Pretty daring stuff.

And, within the same writing career, it’s an honourable business to work to support the creating of something new, for one’s own work, and for others’ careers as well.

A rough list for creation:  drafting chapters, outlining, goal setting, writing blogs, writing marketing plans, developing any new skill or superpower, such as bookkeeping.

For supporting creation:  typing up, revising own and others’ work, reviewing the week, polishing, marketing, publishing, bookkeeping.

Every profession claims lists like these.  As I try to fit these activities into my week, I can’t help reflecting that’s no wonder some professions come with assistants.

I hope it’s another great writing week for you.

Cheers, Mel

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuse: You write intriguing dialogue. Great exchanges of power. I want to read and never stop. Kudos from your Writing Muse.

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In the Swim, In Publishing

twofishsmallI hear this a lot: “It’s just not a good time for publishing  any more.  Should have been there thirty years ago.” Anybody who dealt with  getting books published in the 70s, 80s or 90s – or indeed any still earlier decade – probably gives a quiet, slightly mad, chuckle when they hear these words.

Gosh, was it difficult to deal with publishers in the olden days of typewriters and then dot-matrix paper with those damned strips of holes to rip away at the sides.  You had to produce a perfect paper copy, package it and send it away with a self-addressed stamped envelope.  Or with a international reply coupon, if you were mailing to the States, which you were.  And then the threshold guardians of the time folded the  mimeographed purple-bleeding rejection:  “…not suitable for our purposes at this time but we wish you all the best.”  And, you sent your envelopes out one at a time and waited six months, a year or a decade for a reply.  You know what people said back then? “It’s just not a good time for publishing anymore.”

Sure, you didn’t have to think about having an author page or tweeting anything — but writing for shopping newspapers was a recommended starting place, if you were lucky enough to get that gig.

But then or now, best practice comes down to this:  Use the time you’ve got to write a book that is so excellent that your readers don’t want to stop reading it.  And then write another one.  And so on.

I hope it’s another brilliant writing week for you.

Cheers, Mel.

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This week from @yourwritingmuse: I love the subtle way you connect the end of a scene to the start of the next. Great rhythms. Your fan, Your Writing Muse

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Celerity on Golden Wings

GoldenbluetitsmallOur writing careers are grounded in persistence, goal-writing, outlining, and head-down
concentration.  But now and then a celeritous writing experience flies in on gilded wings and rewards writers swiftly and surely with a kind of deus ex machina glory of plot and character development, sequel ideas, a better ending, or a fabulous start.

Celerity in writing is a beautiful thing.  From time to time we get a bit of writing time and find it possible to do some big writing job in twenty minutes, or make an important seven-league step in thirty, or finish something we never thought in a million years could be done without weeks of effort and lo!  It’s done in an hour.

I believe this occurs because writers’ minds are jam-packed with the reading we’ve done, the speakers we’ve heard, the skills we’ve gathered, turning the back burners of our minds into stewpots of expertise.  Leave them alone and sometimes our unconscious minds solve writing problems for us.  It’s like having Einstein handle all our relativity theory work while we get the shopping done, the spreadsheets finished, and the lawn mown.

Our minds did the preparation for us, and all we had to do was take action.

Don’t you love when that happens?
I hope it’s another brilliant writing week for you.

Cheers, Mel

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This week from @yourwritingmuse: All is well with your career. I peeked into the future and you’ll love your reviews. Your fan, Your Writing Muse

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Getting Past Editorial: Narrative Structure

“I don’t want to spoil the party, so I’ll go.” –Lennon & McCartney

croppersherosmallOf the three top reasons for rejecting short fiction, the too-slow emergence of the central conflict is the one I note most often.  It was certainly the reason editors cited for rejecting my own work in the past.  Now, I’m writing the same notes next to fully two-thirds of the short fiction submissions I read.  Lack of storytelling structure spoils the party every time.

We all know that in storytelling, composition and structure are vital.  Even those selections that show up in your university text, and appear to be put together with pipe cleaners and cut-out words from the newspaper, are works of structural genius.

Every reader has inside his or her subconscious mind an expert in storytelling structure.  Even a very young reader feels disappointment at the deepest level when writers miss a beat.  On the positive side, since we writers, as readers, are also equipped with the same expert critic, we have probably fewer steps to take than we realize, in order to make our stories work.

But until we do learn how to nail it, our revisions and re-submissions take far too much time.  Once we’ve nailed it, we have uncounted more hours to give to our works in progress.

There are a number of books teaching story structure.  My personal favourites are Vogler’s The Writer’s JourneySnyder’s Save the Cat, and Wiesner’s First Draft in Thirty Days.  These experts, among others, show writers the bones of the stories we love to read and those we love to write.

I hope it’s another brilliant writing week for you.

Cheers, Mel

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August Submissions Window is around the corner

Untitled-1Attention writers!  We will be opening for short fiction submissions for the month of August.  For this period we are specifically looking for:

  • Gentle humour and a light touch.  We like grim and dark, but we tend to get a lot of it.  See if you can warm our hearts or bring smile to our faces.
  • Literary with a twist.  Beautiful writing with unexpected endings.
  • Diversity.  We tend to get a lot of stories with straight, white, male protagonists.  We love you guys, but lets mix things up a bit!

Be sure to read our submissions guidelines carefully before sending us your polished prose.  We look forward to reading your work in September!

Small Steps, Superb Writing

peacocksmallEven if you’re already a wonderful writer (and you are), you want to keep getting better.  Luckily, that’s exactly how humility — the willingness to keep learning from those around us — repays us. Here are two ways to spend a few minutes learning here and there during your week:

  • Ask questions.  What are the greatest skills poets can teach novelists?  Who has the most fantastic sentence structure?  This novelist wins awards and almost all her work is dialogue, how does she do that?  When should I use
    a series of short sentences?  What figurative language am I using most often, can I widen my repertoire?
  • Write with a Titan.  Find a favourite writer.  Write out a sentence, a paragraph, or more, and analyze the craft involved.  The New York Times article This is Your Brain on Writing explains why spending time in a gifted writer’s mind this way is a worthwhile practice.

The best get even better.  We can develop more superpowers whenever we like.  These are comforting thoughts.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week.

Cheers, Mel.

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Support the Arts – Become a Patron

Issue 11Pulp Literature is a party mix designed for readers who don’t limit themselves to a single genre or fiction format:  it contains short stories, poetry, novels, graphic novels, and illustrations all under the same cover.  Beautifully printed in a convenient format, it invites a sophisticated readership to be surprised by the mix of genres each and every time.

Now more than ever, we need your help to support Pulp Literature by becoming a patron. Your donation will help ensure that we can continue to focus our efforts on selection, editing, illustration, and design to make the magic happen without worrying about the day-to-day financing.  The income we receive from our patrons helps pay professional rates to contributing writers, artists and editors.

summerAs a patron you will receive access to our Patron-only blog with sneak previews and surprise freebies, a free digital copy of our first issue, Winter 2014, as well as more free issues as we reach our funding goals.  The more you are able to donate, the more rewards are included, such as subscriptions, free books, access to the patron-only submissions inbox (always free, always open), and even editorial services for your work-in-progress.

Check out our Patreon page here.  For as little as a dollar a month you can help keep Pulp Literature sending you great reads into our fourth year and beyond!

Thank you, dear patrons!

Rachel Kuo
Marketing & Communications Assistant
Pulp Literature Press

 

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