Tag Archives: writing tips

NaNoWriMo rewards you don’t want to miss!

Our Kickstarter campaign, Something Novel, is just around the corner … and so is National Novel Writing Month.  That’s why we have a special gift for the first 50 backers:

The Writer’s Boon Companion

1-front-cover-roughThe Writer’s Boon Companion motivates, organizes, and invigorates you for 30 days.  This writing journal offers space for goals, reflection, and outlines, and offers what no other writing guide can, to wit, the future visions of a steam-powered robot.  Illustrated, insightful, delightful, and compelling, The Writer’s Boon Companion is a clever sidekick for the adventurous author.

Tmermaid-hunterhe print version of the journal will be available as a tiered reward on Kickstarter and our bookstore page.  However, we will be releasing an advance-copy pdf version on November 1st only for the first 50 backers on our Something Novel Kickstarter campaign.

That’s right, you can get an exclusive digital version to print and reuse as many times as you like, simply by being one of the first supporters to pledge a dollar or more!

What’s more, you’ll receive it as soon as you become a backer, long before the campaign finishes … which means if you pledge on November 1st you’ll have this handy companion to keep you motivated and inspired throughout National Novel Writing Month.

If you’d like to be reminded when the campaign goes live, visit our campaign preview page now and follow Pulp Literature on Kickstarter.  Or you can join our the Facebook event which will also notify you on November 1st.

Don’t let your Hallowe’en hangover stop you from getting a steam-powered start on NaNoWriMo!

Thaddeus, take me to Facebook!

Thaddeus, take me to Facebook!

Robot Muse, take me to Kickstarter!

Robot Muse, take me to Kickstarter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notifications: The Tail Wagging the Dog

pupsmallIt’s happening again. I’m distracted from my work on my ms by notifications sounding and a tugging at my brain that makes me want to check my phone.  I try to track down the feeling that I’ve seen somebody wearing my headspace somewhere in my past, and by gum, I hit it.

Watching mothers answer their wall phones by the kitchen when I was a kid.

I’d be in a friend’s kitchen, and the mother would be off doing something of interest only to grownups, when the phone would ring.  She would charge in, say Who is it now?! and pick up, all frustration at the interruption gracefully swept away through the conversation, hang up, roll her eyes at us, and tear off to return to what she was doing.  I would always think, but never say, If she hates phone calls so much, why does she answer?  But, of course, she didn’t hate the phone calls.  She detested interruption.

With the advent of message machines, and all that’s come after those, things have switched around.  Now, I’m interrupting myself.  Ringing to see who’s rung.  I don’t wish away innovations — I’ve been a science fiction fan since the days of kitchen wall phones — but when I hoped for an all-knowing robot, I didn’t want it making pinging noises at my face while I work.

Where does a writer who loves his or her technology stow it while working?  And, how? Posit that there’s a time in the day we’ve set aside that’s fair game for checking emails and so on, and here are three ways.

  1. This may seem obvious, but turn off notifications as well as the internet.  Because, if we have to find out when the hamburger was first eaten in the USA right now or that scene we’re writing must take place elsewise, we are going to turn on our wifi.  And ping ping ping we are loved, but to distraction.
  2. When writing, if friends and family come to mind, don’t think of emailing them, or social media.  Think about the actual people and perhaps something you did together.  Much easier to love them and return to writing if your writing mind is not drafting mental emails or fab posts.
  3. Check out Christina Crook’s work in The Joy of Missing Out, Finding Balance in a Wired World.
  4. Cultivate “green spaces” that are connection-free during the day. For example,
  • Go for a walk or shopping and don’t take a phone.  Think, Nobody in the world knows where I am right now.
  • Enter a room without phone or technology, even the bathroom, and stay there, pretending that it’s 1990 or 1958.  Read for a while.
  • Go into the garden and do something out there, leaving the phone behind as those mothers of my youth used to do.  Oh, Sorry, I was out in the garden and didn’t hear the phone.  It was long before emoticons, but I know which one they would have used.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing day.

Cheers. Mel

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseYou’ve made your writing spaces welcoming and inspiring. No wonder your story is going so well. From your Writing Muse

Storytelling Power

swordEditorial revisions will almost certainly be necessary for every story,  but we’ll be wise to approach editorial, whether paid or unpaid, from a position of storytelling power.  Stories that are not tightly revised for narrative structure before they’re sent to editors risk such broad-stroke suggestions as “You have too many characters, take most of them out.”  Or, impossibly narrow editorial desires such as “Give me a beginning like the first ten pages of MacDonald’s Lillith.”  Editors work hard to keep sharp and insightful, but when a book’s structure is very loose and tangled, we’ll look for any loose end to pull.  Just trying to help.

“No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.”― HG Wells

All readers, of all ages, want and expect a resonant, flawed hero with whom to identify; an authoritative start, incluing time, place, tone, setting, promise of genre, and a hint at the central conflict; exchanges of power and non-linear, original adventures; a teeter on the edge of real or metaphorical death; transformation; and a final face-off and a satisfying resolution.  If we can keep our solid narrative structure outlines to hand — I like to call this, doing previsions — rather than simply drafting what comes next, then we give editors solid storytelling to edit.  Our second-round revisions will be simpler, and our readers will want more of our work.

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

Suprisingly gripping reads about editors: F Scott Berg’s ‘ Max Perkins, Man of Genius’ and James Thurber’s ‘The Years With Ross’

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseEach of your supporting characters forces the hero to learn and grow towards the final conflict. Kudos from your Writing Muse

Taking the Next Step in a Writing Career

Goals get us up in the morning.  Before we rise, before the business of the world we’ve created takes over our day, we can remember that our great desire is to publish a shelf-load of stories, or to be a best-selling science fiction writer, or to write a character that will live as truly as Sherlock Holmes does.  And then ask:

What’s the one thing I need to do next? 

It might be to

  • create a unique setting for the next scene
  • make a supporting character force the protagonist to do what he’d never do (character development: see Donald Maass’s guides to writing)
  • find a better way for a character to stumble and pivot
  • write out the elevator pitch
  • write a jacket blurb
  • list 20 options for a better title
  • plan an overview of the development of a trilogy
  • draft the final paragraph of the story, even though it’s hardly begun

Whatever it is, our inner writer will be crafting it in our busy day, while we make tea, find our other shoe, fold the laundry, drive to the day job.  And create the writing career we wish for, one step at a time, in the right direction.

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

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseThe body of work you’re creating now provides a solid foundation for your career.  Congratulations on achieving so much, and on having such an amazing journey behind and ahead of you.  From your fan, your Writing Muse

Forging a Writing Future

twotwentytwosmallIf you go to work on your goals, your goals will go to work on you. If you go to work on your plan, your plan will go to work on you. Whatever good things we build end up building us.  – Jim Rohn

I started listening to Jim Rohn’s Youtube talks just after he died. When he said Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom, I straightened up and started typing.   With a smile on my face.  In terms of time management, he inspired me not to waste a minute getting to it.

Looking to the future is one of the best ways to improve a writer’s use of available time.  When big goals shine ahead of us, when we dare to believe in them, we’re more likely to use long and short free segments of time when we get them to further our writing careers.  When we know where we’re going, we’re more confident about taking the steps to get us there.  No matter how far off they may seem, to deny our brightest dreams is to halt our progress.

The journey is a difficult one, of course, but we didn’t choose it because it’s easy to be a writer.  No professional chooses that way:  Oh, I think I’ll be a lawyer, a teacher, a doctor, an accountant, because it’s easy. Ha.

And if we know we’re dealing with, say, a five-year plan, we’re going to be less impatient.  We begin to appreciate the journey, the learning, and the people we meet along the way.  And once we love the journey, we realize that we don’t have to wait a single minute to love every aspect of this writing life.

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

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseI admire the way you approach a resting project, with renewed vigor and enthusiasm. Your fan, Your Writing Muse

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How Walking Helps Writing

AnalyzesmallThe New Yorker’s article Why Walking Helps Us Think  sends a very clear message to writers. Walking helps our brains.   We have never had much doubt movement helps our bodies, or that we’re designed to walk many hours a day.

Our careers depend primarily on our writing minds, our ability to keep learning, and, above all, on keeping interested and excited about our writing projects.  We would also like to stay alive inside our useful and perhaps underappreciated bodies long enough to publish stories enough to fill bookshelves.

A year ago, inspired by the New Yorker article, and by Devon Boorman’s excellent article on posture, I experimented with walking a solid hour a day for 100 days, 6-7 days a week. Throughout that time I recorded my experiences and my Writer’s Rewards here.

Given the difficulty of adding anything to our busy lives, I wonder whether something that does not serve us or bring joy couldn’t be shortened or even excised to make room for going for a walk.  Without earbuds, because it turns out that quiet rests and revives a working mind.

Here’s to a ramble, a promenade, a constitutional for body and mind.

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

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseGreat dreams and small steps get your career revving nicely. 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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In Praise of Your Elevator Pitch

Elevator doorsOne of the finest ways to use 10 minutes in a busy week is to master the elevator pitch — that is, one sentence that encapsulates your story and intrigues the listener. You can’t figure this one out too soon.  Even if you’re on page one, with no thought of pitching to an agent or writing a blurb for your ebook for another six months, a pitch sentence will be as useful to you in your growing career as a quality pocket knife on a wilderness camping trip. Here’s why.

  • You need to be ready with your elevator pitch when relatives, friends and co-workers ask you exactly what an agent, editor, or Amazon reader is going to ask: “What’s your book about?”
  • You will need your elevator pitch to put on your author page and for your blurb if you decide to go with indie publishing.
  • You will need your elevator pitch for your query letter if you decide to go the traditional publishing route.
  • But the person who most needs to hear your elevator pitch while you’re still writing your book is you.  If you’ve got that gripping sentence in mind, it’s going to keep you on track and can save hundreds of hours that might be spent writing pages that you’ll throw out and revising chapters that go nowhere.

The best book I’ve read on building pitch lines is Blake Snyders’s Save the Cat, a favourite professional read. Here are two of his examples:

  • A cop comes to L.A. to visit his estranged wife and her office building is taken over by terrorists – Die Hard.
  • A businessman falls in love with a hooker he hires to be his date for the weekend – Pretty Woman.

There are few better ways to use 10 minutes than to write out and polish your elevator pitch.

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

Cheers, Mel

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Jane Austen and Good Company

Aunty Merkel for gallery“My idea of good company … is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.”

“You are mistaken,’ said he gently, ‘that is not good company, that is the best.”

Jane Austen, Persuasion

We all yearn for connections with interesting and agreeable people. Yes, even we writers — as a rule happy when alone, amongst our books, and wandering barefoot through the Internet — love to laugh and talk.  Most writers I’ve met when from time to time I step away from my desk are talented at making and keeping friends, because likeable company makes the world go around.  And, happiness helps the work get done.

One of the first things we can do to grow our happiness in our writing careers is to search out a few writers who will be our first strength and we theirs. Someone who is farther along the path than we are, and someone who is perhaps closer to the start.  Genre matters little.  Personality is all.

I love to watch people who sparkle with happiness as they strike up conversations in queues, on the train, in the park.  Some writers are talented in making quick connections at the drop of a hat.  Others of us find starting conversations more difficult (although it’s worth practicing—we don’t want to stand tongue tied around strangers at our own book launches) but are brilliant at forging few but excellent friendships that last decades or a lifetime.  If we can find a way to cherish both, we’re likely to be happy and productive writers.

I hope it’s another brilliant writing day today.

Cheers, Mel

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Beyond the First Book Horizon

DragonRocktitlepicsmallThis past January I watched Lady Gaga melt with tears on the Golden Globes as she received her acting award.  Her happiness reminded me of Frank Sinatra’s when he earned his Oscar for From Here to Eternity in 1955. Both these eminent and top-flight stars on the popular music scene had already received all the kudos an artist might expect in a lifetime. But they wanted the next thing, along with the first thing, and why should they not?

It takes hard work and grit to make it in a new arena. The singers’ preparation for acting – Lady Gaga with music videos, Sinatra with small roles in small films – went on at the same time they were creating their first bodies of work in music. Multitasking might have failed them, but preparation got them exactly where they wanted to be.

So if our writing goal is, sensibly, to finish this one darned beloved novel, it may be worthwhile to take time to think beyond one book:

  • to spend 15 minutes a day to visualize, identify with, and develop new skills.
  • to think beyond the odds, for big challenges brings big opportunities

Everything we do now towards that further vision will help us grow past this one book to live our ideal lives in our writing careers.

There’s never been a better time to be a writer. I hope it’s another brilliant writing day for you.

Cheers, Mel