All posts by Melanie Anastasiou

Running with the Theme

Here’s a fun game—spot the theme, as stated in the first half of the first act of the novel or film, usually by a supporting character or similar. What about the moment in Spectre when Moneypenny, on the phone with Bond, tells James she can’t help him just then because she has a life, and he should get one too?  Because, there may be shooting, peril, fab inventions, and mad escapes, but in my view (not the only view, obviously) the film’s theme is, It’s hard to get a life, when you’re Bond.

 Your Writing Tip: Run with the Theme.

In The Wizard of Oz, look for Professor Marvel to state the theme in his conversation with the runaway Dorothy in Act 1. The theme is repeated throughout. There’s no place like home. So, for a strong line, write out the theme 3-6 different ways. You can use each of these in strong but subtle ways to draw out the theme throughout the story.

One Theme, Several Ways.

Here’s part of a list of different views on the same theme that I wrote for ‘Stella Ryman and the Ghost at the End of the Bed’, the ninth Fairmount Manor Mystery novella starring my octogenarian sleuth, trapped in a down-at-heel care home. (Pulp Literature, Issue 16.)

  1. Reach out or die.
  2. Without connection, we’re just bundles of cells in fleece warm-up suits.
  3. If we can let go of loving people, we might form new and greater passions. What would they be?
  4. Or, maybe it’s the other way around, and all the love we feel makes supports for more passions.
  5. In Fairmount Manor we residents are like hermits or saints, who must connect to nature because we’ve cut ties with the world.

(The author takes no responsibility for the views of her characters.)

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Senior Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume.  Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

 

 

Five Minutes, Five Stories: Pulp Literature Writing Tips

Even at the start of a new tale, it’s worth thinking about the next five stories in your body of work.

“Yes, the story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it.” Jules Renard.

Talk about your cool self-confidence, Jules Renard. But it’s possible, even probable, that all our stories exist in Renard’s “some place,” viz. the fertile fields of our writing minds. It’s tempting to push these upcoming stories away to concentrate on the work at hand.

Visit five future tales

Without sacrificing progress on a work-in-progress, it’s worth taking a look now and then at the broader creative vista.

Your writing tip: take five

Take five minutes to list the next five tales before you. Your writing mind will benefit from this ‘heads-up’ (pun intended) on future plotting. And, in this way you remind yourself that you are not only writing, you are a writer by trade, and yours is a great future in our field.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career.

Cheers, Mel

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Senior Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here. 

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

 

 

 

The One Word Writing Tip

Some movie titles resonate over the decades, with just a single word:
GreedSupermanHeistMementoCharade.

 One Great Word

I’ve been reading Michael Connelly’s The Crossing. I admire the way he joins the inner and outer conflicts in the single word, crossing. The outer problem is finding the point of crossing between victim and murderer. The inner problem is that hero ex-cop Bosch faces crossing a line he swore he’d never cross, in order to solve a murder mystery.

Your Writing Tip: One Word Two Ways

Find one word that describes your protagonist’s story. You get bonus points for pulling off a similar grand feat as the one above. That is, connecting the inner and outer struggle through a single word with two meanings. Moments of clarity like this may help inform an entire story and save truckloads of revision time.

I hope you’ll have another  brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, pick up her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume.

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

 

This is the End. Writing Tips at Pulp Literature Press

Sometimes the end of the book seems so far off that a writer starts to feel that fashions will have changed and technology moved on to a still more distant generation before we’re likely to finish it.

The End is Closer Than You Think

Still, objects in the rearview mirror, and all that. The end is nearer than you’d think, so long as you keep this writing destination in mind. The writing brain knows its business, but if an author can’t picture the final scene, the brain is likely to follow its many interests, tracking a long and winding road through the story map. And then … massive rewriting.

Start With the End in Mind

When starting a story, take a few minutes to write the end. This could be

  • the last word,
  • the last sentence,
  • the last paragraph,
  • the final scene.

Set a timer and write for 10 minutes. Remind yourself that you are the respectful and fun boss of you, and you can change it completely if you like.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

 

Tough Choices = Character Development

“True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.” ― Robert McKeeStory: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting.

Consider a number of things that are wrong in a protagonist’s life at the start of the story. Listing them, either before or during development,  produces a template for character development.

Character Development via Tough Choices

Inner and outer problems set the stage for tough and even impossible choices.  The protagonist will have to do what she or he would never have done earlier in the book. That, in a nutshell, is character development. Supporting characters and antagonists go through this process, too, but their real job is to force the protagonist to make those choices.

Choices: Your Writing Tip

Make a list of 6-10 things wrong in your protagonist’s interior and exterior life at the start of the book. The protagonist’s tough choices in dealing with these inner and outer problems drives your story ahead.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens.  She is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here. 

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires

 

 

 

 

Brainstorming Turning Points

Listing at least ten ideas for each turning point in a tale is tough digging. Still, brainstorming is a reliable practice for raising stakes and ensuring brilliant character development in a narrative.

Digging Deep via Brainstorming

For example, your Act 2 or, as Campbell and Vogler* call it, the “Belly of the Beast” section, is packed with energy. It’s filled with trials and learning for your protagonist and allies. I see a lot of good writers rushing into writing a first, not bad, but somewhat obvious idea, when they might have found a great one by digging deeper. Quick plotting shows. An Act 2 succeeds when authors dig deep for ideas. That shows, too, and keeps us all turning pages.

More Brainstorming, Less Revision

When writers take time for this sort of intense planning, stories grow in strength and originality.

Your career is right on track. I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career.
Cheers, Mel.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume.

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

 

 

* Christopher Vogler. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Third Edition. Michael Weise Productions, Studio City Ca, 2007.

 

 

Reflective Practice in a Writing Career

It’s been years since we realized that becoming a writer is not about arriving someplace. We never stop becoming writers. We try our craft, inspiration, and imagination against those of our most admired models and masters. They would have done the same in their time.

Reflective Process

Journaling, or stream of consciousness writing about a growing career may bring even greater satisfaction with our progress in writing, publishing, and other facets of a writing career.

Reflective Practice

Charging ahead with planning, drafting, and revising a work in progress is basic to our enterprising spirits. However, looking back over the week is a professional habit that brings new levels of learning.

One Week at a Time

Everybody’s practice varies. Still, taking a few moments once a week to set down the week’s learning, in anecdotal or even point form, can go a long way towards creating a solid platform for  the next week’s work.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career.

Cheers, Mel.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, why not try her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume.

The Writer’s Boon Companion is a quiet, thoughtful chap.  Boon offers daily hints and exercises to support your narrative along its road to completion.  You’ll also find generous servings of motivation and philosophy to help you forge ahead over 30 days of drafting towards a completed novel or novella.

The thirty days may be profitably spread out over a longer writing period.  The author using this reflective journal may wish to draft between the pages; that is, for every day in the book, drafting 2,000 to 3,000 words to a cogent outline will get you your novella or short novel in short order.  For briefer or longer works, multiply or divide as wisdom dictates.

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

 

 

Mary Rykov’s Essay ‘Abyssinian Maid’ in CNQ

Congratulations Mary H Auerbach Rykov, poet, essayist, fiction writer, and Pulp Literature proofer extraordinaire. Mary’s essay “Abyssinian Maid” was released in the landmark Issue 100 of Canadian Notes & Queries.

*some conditions apply*

As well, Mary signed this year with Inanna Publications and Education, Inc. to launch her debut poetry collection, *some conditions apply*.  A Fall 2019 release for this book is planned.

On her website Mary writes some great advice for authors:

Just Keep Writing and Sending Them Out

When the prolific poet, David W. McFadden, won the 2014 Giller Prize for Excellence in Poetry for What’s the Score? (Mansfield, 2013), my first poetry manuscript was still seeking a literary home.

“David,” I asked, “what advice can you give me?”

“Just keep writing and sending them out.”  …keep reading on Mary Rykov’s page.

You can find more of Mary’s poetry in Pulp Literature Issue 2, Spring 2014, and Issue 9, Winter 2016.

Reflective Practice for a Writing Career

Writing is a demanding profession. That’s partly why we chose it. And, as with all exacting professions, the learning process continues forever.

It’s About the Process

It’s been years since we realized that becoming a writer is not about arriving someplace. We never stop becoming writers. We try our craft, inspiration, and imagination against those of our most admired models and masters, who will have done the same in their time.

Reflective Practice

Of course, charging ahead with planning, drafting, and revising pleases our enterprising spirits. However, looking back over the week is a professional habit that brings new levels of learning.

One Week at a Time

Taking a few moments once a week to set down the week’s learning, in anecdotal or even point form, goes a long way towards creating a solid platform for next week’s work.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here. 

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

 

Coming soon from Pulp Literature Press: The Writer’s Friend and Confidante, a 30 day guide to narrative progress, written and illustrated by Mel Anastasiou.

Averting Writer’s Vertigo

Sometimes we go a bit crazy with the work, and for a while there’s no vertigo and everything is fine. We’re in final edits for one project, another is in development, and a third is at 30,000 words.  And then, without warning, the cliffs of story loom above and descend below. It all seems too much. We think, maybe there’s an easier way to live. (And of course there are many easier ways, but we don’t write because it’s easy.)

Vertigo. It seems like a long way down.

We take a day off. A month. And pretty soon we’re calling it writers’ block and scowling at
the laundry (or equivalent) which somehow takes over our creative spirit and becomes central to life. Don’t ask me why I picked laundry here. Okay, maybe I’m waxing a bit autobiographical.

Four steps to help avert writing vertigo

  1. Write or say aloud one sentence that describes your ideal career. (Resist getting all writerly-ironic or apologetic about this.) For example, “I am a world-class fantasy writer, and I reward my many readers’ expectations with pure entertainment in two published books a year.”
  2. Identify the project that most advances that career.
  3. Ask, what’s the smallest, certain step forward I can take towards that goal?  For example, identify the darkest hour and hero’s sacrifice. Set a timer for 10, 20 or 40 minutes. Do the thing. Then leave it. Now, everything else done that day is gravy.
  4. Next day, back to step one.

I mean, there’s still going to be laundry. But clean laundry and a happy writers’ heart? Not a bad outcome for a better today.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers, Mel.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here. Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires