Tag Archives: The Writing Life

Decisions, Decisions. Saving Mental Energy for Writing.

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits … I’m trying to pare down decisions.  I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing.  Because I have too many other decisions to make.”  Barack Obama, interviewed in Vanity Fair

All the decisions and judgements we make in our daily lives keep said lives rolling nicely along.  However, each large and small decision takes its toll on our writing powers.

Cherry Picking Decisions

Also, I like to make certain decisions.  I want to decide what I’ll be eating.  So, perhaps it’s possible to shift some decisions around, or group them.  A week’s menu put together once a week can lift the worry of what’s for supper, which can be a real judgement sapper for those of us responsible for seeing that everybody in the house stays fed and healthy.  My method is a small notebook, with a week’s rough plan on the left, and shopping lists on the right. Wastage has been greatly reduced as well.

“Never automate something that can be eliminated, and never delegate something that can be automated or streamlined. Otherwise, you waste someone else’s time instead of your own, which now wastes your hard-earned cash. How’s that for incentive to be effective and efficient?” ― Timothy FerrissThe 4-Hour Workweek

What decisions or judgements that an author makes daily or weekly, which don’t serve our writing or our family, can be eliminated?

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 you through 30 days of hints and help with narrative structure.

From Pulp Literature Press

Writing Goals and the Lion’s Share

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments,” Jim Rohn wrote. But it sometimes seems that the lion’s share of energy goes towards to the accomplishments side, and far less towards goals.

Today’s Goal

Because our lives are so busy, writing to-do lists can feel as if we’re setting goals. For many writers, the benefit of to-do lists is that they relieve the mind of having to remember non-writing tasks.  To-do lists make room for more writing brain power.  However, lists also tend to obscure the one vital action that’s needed, to take the next step in a writing career.  It may be worth writing a separate goal at the top of the to-dos:

What’s the one small or large thing I can do today to advance my writing career?

 Larger Picture Goals

For the larger picture, it’s well to keep the goals light and lofty.  After all, the idea is to be happy, enjoying our days as authors.  We want the freedoms and challenges that a successful writing life brings.  So, one enjoyable goal-setting exercise for longer-term goals might be:

Picture yourself at table, with friends or family, glasses of bubbly raised. What successes are they toasting for you, and you for them? 

“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” –Bill Copeland

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, and is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.


If you enjoy reading Mel’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 you through 30 days of hints and help with narrative structure.

From Pulp Literature Press

Writers’ Strengths, Writers’ Targets

A Writer’s Strengths

Regarding writers’ strengths, It’s helpful to know what work our inner editors can manage on their own, and what aspect of a narrative requires our full attention.

Take for example writers who excel at exchanges of power in dialogue.  Authors with this particular superpower may find their minds popping up unexpectedly with revisions notes. “I don’t think this supporting character would react that way in Act 2, that’s more of an Act 1 comment.”  No matter what stage a manuscript is at, we ignore these casual mind-notes for revision at our peril.

A Writer’s Targets

However, no inner editor knows everything. Identifying the skill that spoils the party is a vital concern, especially if a writer is finding that stories are returning unaccepted.  The top reason I reject stories by good writers, for example, is that the central conflict is slow to emerge.  If this might be the case, then rather than thinking, Well, CS Lewis took his time to develop the story or Okay, I’ll start the story in the middle of the action (not a good move, equating action with conflict), it may be worth studying works where the conflict is not slow to emerge.

For example, a writer may make a study of debut novel or emerging writer prizewinners’ first pages ( see look inside on Amazon).  It’s fascinating to see how they get the central conflict up front without sacrificing a well-paced set-up.  Take notes of great beginnings and best first sentences as if for a master class.  With so much on our plates, thank goodness our brains love learning.

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 you through 30 days of hints and help with narrative structure.

From Pulp Literature Press

The Next Step in a Writing Project

For those of us attempting to fit our full-time writing careers into our full-time lives, one great two-step strategy may help.

  1. Ask What one important step comes next?
  2. Chunk this next segment of work down, to the smallest possible size.

Of course, we keep the big picture—the whole book, series, career— in mind.  But when there are only 10 minutes to spare in a working day, it’s worth asking “What’s the one thing that comes next?” If the answer is “Chapter Three”, we’re not about to write Chapter Three in ten minutes on a Thursday afternoon.

Chunking Down the Next Step

What really comes next may not be Chapter Three itself, but a design:

  • on outline of the general action
  • an arc for the POV character
  • a design for an exchange of power through dialogue or action
  • a sketch of the central image,

Any one of these small steps may be taken towards Chapter Three in 10 minutes.  Whether we think it through, draw a snowflake, or write a quick outline, we’ve gone a long way towards writing that chapter.  It’s a mighty satisfying way to finish busy Thursdays, too.  Or crazy Mondays.  Or fly-by Wednesdays…

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


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

From Pulp Literature Press

“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.

This writer’s journal offers space for goals, reflection, outlines, and offers what no other writing guide can, the future visions of a steam-powered robot.

Creating and Sustaining Suspense and Tension, Part 2

If we create suspense and sustain tension during the plotting and drafting stages, then we save truckloads of time on revisions.

Try one or more of these to sustain tensionWriting tips from Pulp Literature
  • Keep the story goal and central conflict front and centre, with a hint at the start of each scene, so readers remember what matters most deeply to our point of view character.
  • Within the parameters of genre, establish that anything can happen.  If the author has something unthinkable happen at the start, within the genre’s context, that raises the tension.  Readers never feel a hopeful young squire is safe just because he’s young and hopeful.  See the first scene of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones.
  • Remove tension killers.  Capote said, “I believe more in the scissors than in the pen.” Check ends of scenes and chapters, make sure there’s no sentence that seems to finish things off.

More on tension and suspense next post.  In the meantime, I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers, Mel.
The Writer's Boon Companion, Thirty Days Towards and Extraordinary Volume

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

From Pulp Literature Press

Writing Toolboxes

Internet sites talk about writerstechneforfun’ tool
kits as if they were purchaseable equipment, but in truth our toolboxes are entirely inside our minds.  We work in notebooks and on computers, but if we had neither, we could still tell stories to listeners gathered around a campfire.  Writing is making something out of nothing but spirit and brainpower.

“It’s brain,” I said; “pure brain!  What do you do to get like that, Jeeves?  I believe you must eat a lot of fish, or something.  Do you eat a lot of fish, Jeeves?”PG Wodehouse, My Man Jeeves.

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

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuse: Your use of the senses in your writing is brilliant– puts the reader into your point-of-view character’s skin. Your Writing Muse

Anticipation and Time Management for Writers

Loving the work saves writers time. Actively looking forward to writing is a powerful practice for those of us working to create a writing career within a full-time life. When we love an activity, we prepare for it.

I love my drafting time like I love skiing, and If I know I’m going to be skiing on a weekend, I’ll think about it through the week, with pleasant anticipation. I’ll be ready. I’m not about to waste my skiing hours looking for my boots, or my drafting hours writing with reluctance, or without direction.

Time to do what we truly love is not time we’re likely to approach with worry or distress.

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

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuse: Your intense focus as you outline & draft, serves your writing career well. Your Writing Muse #amwriting @pulpliterature

Carving Out Writing Time

Of course, we love our work and so we’re motivated to make time for it. But, make time out of what?  Busy lives, demands from family, friends, home, and work appear to fill every day to bursting.

Carving moments of peace for employing our drafting skills — and for anything else, for that matter — is a skill in itself.  We blink, and the better part of the day is gone.  All we have left are a couple of hours best spent not with brandy in the basement, typing madly into the night, but with our loved ones, building lives and memories and getting ourselves and our writing brains  a good night’s sleep.

One way to approach carving out times of serenity is to begin by imagining the goal. Picture ourselves at our favourite time of day for drafting, in our favourite writing place. For many of us, we feel freshest in the morning.  And, we probably have an hour or two, within a morning or two during the week that is at least meant to be under our control.

The next step is to look at this block of time.   What activity fills it now?

Can it be canned, or perhaps chunked through the week, like shopping or cleaning?  Or, if it’s a wonderful activity, could it move to the afternoon or evening?

And if it can’t be canned, moved, or spread throughout the week, for example if you’re dealing with a 24/7 boss, or tiny children, it’s worth remembering the words of a friend of mine:  “There’s a time for everything, and your time will come.”

Because, when life really is too busy to write, that’s when we gain experiences to write about.

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

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuse: Stuck for an idea, you list 20 ways it could happen. Superb writing practice. Your Writing Muse #amwriting @pulpliterature

Walking, Sleeping, and Writing Better

“I have two doctors, my left leg and my right.” Historian G. M. Trevelyan

walkerbanner1We’re built to walk, and our bodies benefit.   Brains too, being part of the body (as I’m always forgetting as I hunch over and straighten up at my keyboard).

Walking helps gut health, as well, and I’m thrilled and baffled to learn that our guts are full of neurons.

Taking a tip from the Italians, who perambulate of a balmy evening, I’ve begun walking in the cold rain after supper, and by heaven, I sleep better.  There’s little better brain magic than sleep.

I’m up to 3 walks a day, at about 13,000 steps average, because, authors, I’m beginning to think that, like actors, swordfighters, and other athletes, we have a duty to our calling and our career to take our exercise, not just more seriously, but as a professional imperative.

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

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseYou work hard to give your best to the world of readers. We are most grateful. Your Writing Muse #amwriting @pulpliterature

For more on walking, see my page Walking to Write, with 100 days of writing and other rewards for integrating an hour a day’s walking into a writing life.

Writers’ Block Busting

As a mystery writer, I love misdirection, because it sets me to investigating.  Quick and unhelpful answers to writing questions are some of my favourite black boxes.

The knee jerk answer we all get when we ask, “Why am I stuck?” is, “Writers’ block”.  Litmus test on this answer:  Quick?  Sure.  Unhelpful?  Totally.  So why do we accept this answer?  I’ll tell you why some of us accept it, it’s because if we have writers’ block then that’s proof we’re actually writers. So, once we relax and agree we really are writers, just as we have always wished to be, let’s deal with the serious issue of being stuck.

If we’re stuck, it’s like being stuck in any aspect of our lives that is getting us down.  It means we don’t have excellent goals to keep us interested, excited, and on track.  In writing, goals mean outlining.  So, when brainpages adhere one to the other, one way to get unstuck is

  1. Procure a timer
  2. Set the timer for 5 minutes
  3. Outline the beginning, middle, and end of your story for 1 character.  I often use the story evolution page from the brilliant First Draft in 30 Days : A Novel Writer’s System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript(Paperback) – 2005 Edition 
    by Karen Wiesner

Repeat as necessary, for more characters, until the writing mind is raring to go.

In order to avoid getting stuck at all, outlining this way in odd 5 or 10 minute parcels of time during the week works wonders.

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

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseWriting down your great goals fuels your writing career beautifully. Admirable practise.  Your Writing Muse #amwriting @pulpliterature

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