Your Writer’s Life: Six Ways You’re Living it Now

summerFew will argue that the path to being a full-time writer isn’t a challenging one, but then it’s also difficult to become doctors and lawyers and such.  I observe that nobody says to those aspirants, as they say to writers, “Ha, don’t quit the day job.” Instead they exclaim, “Wow, a doctor, good for you, that’s a hard career to get into. How are you going to manage that?”

It’s a good question for us to answer anyway.  And it’s a time-management, organizational question. 

Here are six ways to know you’re closer than you ever thought to success in your writing career.

  1. You think and plan both long-term and short-term.
  2. You rely on preparation and love of the craft to write, rather than the inspiration of the moment.
  3. You have already found ways to encourage and give back to other writers.
  4. You think beyond the manuscript to reaching your readers.
  5. You can answer the question, “What’s your book about?” in a sentence.
  6. You devise a way to carve out a few large (1 ½ hours perhaps for drafting and revising) and many small (3 to 10 minutes for planning, polishing, and marketing) chunks of time during the week. These blocks of time may be flexibly scheduled but are certainly sacrosanct.

All the success experts insist that we need dreams of success to help spark action, and time management common sense agrees that if you’re excited about something brilliant and feasible, you’re likely to do the hard work that’s needed to achieve it with efficiency and focus.

I hope you’ll have a terrific writing day today.

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Submissions are Open!

Submissions are now open for the month of February.

smallpenandinkWe’re placing the last stories in our 2016 schedule, and will have given final verdicts to our authors by February 15th (so fingers crossed for those of you authors out there who haven’t heard a final yes or no)!  We’re so very pleased with the amazing stories we’ve read, and truly impressed by the talent we see.

When we opened for two weeks last summer, we received 1200 submissions. Yes, twelve hundred!  We were a little stunned.  And then we were a little overwhelmed.  We were  forced to stop giving personal replies to every submission, but we still read every story that came our way, often more than once.

This time around we aren’t opening the gates quite so wide.  We have made the difficult decision to charge a small reading fee of $10 (about $7 US) for fiction submissions.  This will both regulate the flood of submissions and help us keep the magazine afloat.

As a literary magazine in Canada, we are unusual in our genre-jumping domain.  We like to think of ourselves as years ahead of the curve.  But we don’t receive any of the grants that more literary magazines receive.  We are proud of what we do, but we have to make this magazine stand on its own two feet.

pulp year 1Please know that submission fees are tax-deductible expenses for writers, and that every penny of those fees goes towards paying for the stories we print.  We are a non-profit publisher, and we’ve given our time freely so that some day Pulp Literature will be able to support all its contributors with subscription income alone, but that day has not yet come.

Starting in March we will be reading submissions received by the end of February with an eye to the Winter 2017 issue.

So let’s hear the drumroll!  We truly can’t wait to read your stories!



Time Management Tricks for Strategic Outlining

“We all do what scientists call Mermaid hunter smallmental practice or mental rehearsing when we memorize answers for a test, learn lines for a play, or rehearse any kind of performance or presentation. But because few of us do it systematically, we underestimate its effectiveness.”

Norman Doige.The Brain That Changes Itself. From Chapter 2, “Imagination”.

If we’re going to fit full-time writing careers into our full-time lives, it’s a great thing to understand how brain plasticity can help writers work on our stories with celerity and pleasure. The better we understand our brains and how focus can help us, the better we write.

The brain, in its helpful plasticity, follows lines and types of thinking. When organizing a work day, a play day or a trip to the mall, the mind of a writer is in planning mode. Authors can use that particular type of organizational focus to outline and plan our manuscripts while we’re at it. Three ways to do it:

  1. You’re checking your calendar, jotting your shopping list, your stops through the day, and if you love your writing work, it’s a happy bonus to carve out three minutes right then to use that organizing focus to think out an outline of a scene, or steps to and through a heavy choice/turning point for a character.
  2. The same strength of focus directed at non-writing tasks transfers neatly to a three-minute brainstorming session. Perhaps you try for twenty different settings, or ways that a character might make a choice, or any plot point. Thinking twenty in plotting a story takes editors from, “seen-it-so-many-times” to “well-this-is-intriguing.”
  3. If you carry a graphic organizer/outlining sheet, whether it’s a thinking web, a crystal, or simply a list of story beats, you are set up to work on a story, scene, or character for three minutes while you plan your day.

Three minutes of outlining, listing, and plotting here and there during the week will save an untold number of hours creating the finished story, with less revision required for your first draft. As well, rather than trying to split your focus by planning and drafting at the same time when you do sit down to take advantage of a treasured full hour or two, it’s pleasing to draft when you’ve already had a chance to come up with a great idea.
The beauty of using tight focus and brain plasticity to help manage your writing process is a bit like boogie boarding. You paddle and the wave rises, you catch it, and you ride it.

Norman Doige.The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, a great, heroic read.

There’s nothing like waking to know that you’re going to do the work you love today.

Gifted Storytellers and the Small Screen

smallqueentvWhenever I ask myself, “How did the Duke of Marlborough personally lead all those winning battles and then handle the whole country’s international relations across Europe?  How did Benjamin Franklin have the time to invent bifocals, write Poor Richard adages, and have French mistresses while being a premier politician?  How could Jane Austen ignore all the evening’s family and social doings while she wrote her iconic novels by hand in the evenings?”  I always answer, “Because they didn’t have TV.”

 Limiting TV and computer time will give many writers all the time they need to write a couple of books a year. That’s a vital consideration when you’re fitting a full-time writing career into your full-time life.

But television gives us a broad access to storytelling, much of it told by gifted storytellers. If you’re trying to integrate a full-time writing career with your full-time life, here are 3 ways to use television watching to strengthen storytelling skills, as you take just 5-10 minutes as you’re watching a show — reality, sitcom, drama — and jot down what these genius writers are doing to keep us coming back week after week, decade after decade to see football players learn to tango, boys lose girls, earthlings resist aliens, mothers misunderstand daughters, and fathers underestimate sons.

  1. The opening images:  What elements establish time, place and especially herald the conflict for this particular story? or
  1. Write down The big problem, linking by the word “but” to the major obstacles and “so” to the choice he’ll have to make.  Jack must save the world from terrorists but his daughter has been kidnapped to keep him out of the action – so can he take on both at once?  or
  1. Write down the big reveal.  It didn’t come out of nowhere, so how did the writer(s) set it up?

Luckily for writers, people love and desire story.  Across the centuries we’ve gathered round storytellers, bards, and gossips to suck up story in whatever amounts we can squeeze out of them.  And, if we care to take the time, to learn from them.

Time Management and The Writing Life


How we manage our time as full-time writers within our full-time lives is a story rich in conflict and joy. Like any good tale it depends on having heroes who face challenges (our writing selves) and upon transformation.  Into what?

Into writers who wake up each morning knowing we are privileged to do the work we love.

Even those of us who haven’t made a penny yet can and do behave as the people we want to be:  successful authors with generous attitudes and thriving careers.  Here are four ways we do this:

  1. Successful people give back, so we buy books, support circles of writers, and encourage our colleagues.
  2. We are pleased to give up time-sucking empty entertainments in order to have drafting time, and to keep learning our craft with an intensity of interest.
  3. We buckle down to learn new skills, even ones we never dreamed we’d need, like marketing.
  4. We have a long-term plan for the projects we are engaged with and the ventures we envision.

This world stage of publishing is a busy and crowded one.  How lucky we are that there are so many writers out here, because happiness loves company, and because writers are readers too.

What’s the Buzz?

bumblebee1Microfiction is the grey zone between poetry and prose, in my books. It all depends on how you read your words.  Do you memorize the lines and slam them from a stage?  Then it’s poetry.  If you write with your own blood and slip the page under the door of your ex-wife?  Then it’s flash fiction, or micro if you’ve restrained yourself (or run out of blood).

Microfiction is ambivalent, is cross-genre, is both/and.  It’s like the fuzzy cuddly bumblebee that could, of course, sting you and kill you if you are allergic.  Bumblebees usually don’t, but they could; they are built better than honey bees, and don’t die after they sting.  So humans have the option of killing the poor insect first, squishing it to mushed proteins on a sidewalk.  Or you can do what my local librarian has done, and tattoo the little critter on your arm. Bob Thurber

All this is to say, we’re open for entries for our Bumblebee Microfiction Contest until February 1, 2016. If you want to brush up on the jewels of the genre, look no further; our final judge Bob Thurber is an acknowledged master of the craft, and you can see his delicate gems in Pulp Literature Issue 6, online at 50 Word Stories, and through his Amazon books.

Th51UBPQnoHgL._AC_UL115_is contest is free. In addition to a full year print subscription of Pulp Literature, the winner will receive a personally signed copy of Nickel Fictions by Bob Thurber.  It that doesn’t sound like honey for the soul, not sure what will.

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Doing the Math For Your Writing Career

If you want to lead a full-time writing career in your full-time life, consider the happy twotwentytwosmallmathematics of writing books.

Writers talk about books taking six months or a year.  Or indeed years.  And of course any profession will fill the entire time you give it, including every hour of the day, if you allow it to schedule you instead of the other way around.

If you step back and look at the time it takes you to write, rather than the time it takes a book to get itself written, you find that you can probably write about a thousand to fifteen hundred words an hour or two, so long as you know what you’re going to write.

You’re going to be outlining, revising, polishing and planning your marketing strategies during the week, but unlike drafting, these can easily be done in smaller time frames.

Posit that those fifteen hundred words are based on a good outline, then they will become part of your book. If you write twice a week for an hour or two, then, you have three thousand words.  (Mind you, if you are happy to take five hours to compose a perfect paragraph, then carry on and don’t mind me.)  If you have three thousand words a week, and you use the best part of those words, then you have two short novels or one long novel a year.

There’s more to a writing career than writing your story, of course, but that is a necessary basic:  having fantastic books to build your career upon.

Have another brilliant writing day. Want more time management and writing tips? See our archives and


Retreat Afterglow

Bowen Breakfast LSTGourmet food, historic bedrooms, island sunshine, and the Muse guiding our pens … Last weekend on Bowen was a writer’s paradise in every way, and four steps towards our manuscript goals, as we used the Hour Stories cards four times in three days.Bowen writing

Writers know better than to rely solely on the Muse to inspire creativity; discipline is the only thing we daily control. But when nine writers join together for timed writing exercises, the energy flows more easily, and both discipline and inspiration combine to empower writing.  Add to this the magical environment of Bowen Island, where Pulp Literature was conceived, and it creates a recipe for literary pixie dust.  Most of us wrote 4000 words!Bowen lounge KTW

If only the walls had ears, they would have heard time-management wisdom from Mel Anastasiou, murderous backfiring from Laura Kostur, oracle-like insight from Jane Durant, bizarro machinations from KT Wagner, romantic yearning from Kate Austin, fantastic captures from LS Taylor, photographic memories from Carol McCauley, comic counselling from Susan Pieters, and the conclusion of Allaigna’s trilogy by JM Landels.

Yes, a feast all around.  We can’t wait for next time!

Bowen ferry home LST

Thanks to Laura Taylor and Katherine Wagner for the photos!


Mel, Jen, Sue & Jane

Happy New Year to the Muse!

MuseNow that the holidays are winding up we are reenergized to get back to work here at Pulp Literature!  We are tidying up the stories for Issue 10, collecting entries for both our Bumblebee Microfiction Contest and our Songbird Cover Painting Contest, and preparing for a busy year of publishing for 2016.

Before that, however, we are privileged to be able to take three days and do what we love most, and what brought the three of us together: write.

old dormWe are writers first and foremost, and this is the weekend we remind ourselves of that.  From January 8-10 we will be on Bowen Island, nurturing our Muses with good food, stimulating company, luxurious rooms, and restful surroundings while we write.  Throughout the year we are diligent about writing together almost every week, but this weekend is our gift to the Muse.  While Dan, Julia, and the wonderful staff of The Lodge at the Old Dorm pamper us we can devote our energy towards words on the page, as well as supporting our fellow writers and revelling in the stories that will be told around the fireplace.breakfast

This year we are delighted to be joined by five other amazing writers who are at various stages in their careers.  There is space for one more writer, or two if you wish to share a twin-bedded room.  If you would like to join us for this nourishing, soul-refreshing start to the New Year email, or sign up on the Writing Retreats page, and renew your vows to your muse with us this year.

Happy New Year and Happy Writing!

Jen, Mel & Sue

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Autumn harvest

JJ Lee: Fireside Al for the 21st century

JJ with hatMany of us who  grew up in Canada in the 20th century remember Christmas Eve readings on CBC by Alan Maitland, aka ‘Fireside Al‘.  Sadly Mr Maitland passed away in 1999, but a fabulous storyteller with deep connections to Pulp Literature has stepped into his size 10 Cougars.

JJ Lee, author of The Measure of a Man: the Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit, two-time feature author  and cover artist for Pulp Lit, has begun a tradition of reading one of his stories on Christmas eve on CBC.  In 2013 he read ‘The Last Train’, and last year ‘The Video Emporium’.  This year tune in to CBC Radio’s On the Coast on December 24th at 5:45 to hear ‘The Visitor’.man in the coat

We want to celebrate this new tradition with an old one: a gift.  On December 24th we will be making Pulp Literature Issue 8, containing JJ’s epic Christmas tale ‘The Man in the Long Black Coat’ available for free.  This amazing story contains Elder Gods, Nazis, Father Christmas, and a familiar-seeming Eternal Hero.

You’ll find the link to your free download here on December 24th.

Happy Reading and Happy Christmas!
Jen, Mel & Sue