On Storytelling Excellence.

I’m reading some great novel submissions to Pulp Literature Press these days, and reflecting upon excellence in storytelling.

Indicators of Excellence

Great storytellers

  • build upon structural understandings and storytelling gifts, the way GRR Martin sets up his huge cast of characters in triangles.
  • develop central and supporting characters that are true to themselves. Robert Ludlum brings his acting experience to the creation of villains who believe in their own struggles.
  • create settings that ground us in imagined worlds, whether fantastic or mundane. For example, in Emma Donoghue’s novel Room, four walls are a child’s universe.

Further Marks of Excellence

These gifted storytellers also

  • develop worlds through philosophical and insider knowledge, the way Robert Heinlein employs both his background in engineering and work in philosophy and values, good and evil.
  • transform character through hard decisions and sacrifice. LOTR. Say no more.
  • gift us with moments of intense beauty and personal resonance, that remind us what our character is struggling to maintain and create. For, what would Narnia be without its many moments of intense beauty, to remind us why these children raise swords against their enemies?

It seems a lot of excellence to bear in mind. Still, we do exactly that every day in our work. All these skills come to us hot from the furnace of intense interest in our craft, alongside our love of books we’ve read, affection for our own characters, even the baddies, and a desire to be the best storyteller we can be. We do all this for our readers, so that they too will look up from our books, the way we look up from others’, to say I’ll be there in a minute, I just have to finish this chapter.

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


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

Happy NaNoWriMo Eve!

Yes, to some, it’s Hallowe’en, to others its All Saints’ Eve, but for many writers it’s the day before we plunge into a month of furious writing, in an effort to churn out a novel in 30 days.

Can it be done?  It certainly can.  Write 2000 words a day for 30 days and you have 60,000 words — the bones of a good novel.  And you can easily write 2000 words in a couple of hours if you know where you’re going and don’t self-edit along the way (save all that editing for December and January).

So here’s the big secret:  spend 5 minutes at the end of the planning.  Jot down key plot points, twists, character growth, and other elements you want to incorporate in tomorrow’s two thousand words.  That way, when you wake up in the morning, the hard part’s done and you can let the words flow right away.

To get you started, we’ve packaged up the first few pages of our writing journal, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume by Mel Anastasiou.  This excerpt contains a Day 1 prompt: try it out tonight and be ready to hit the road rolling tomorrow morning!

Get your free Day 1 excerpt of The Writer’s Boon Companion

If you found that helpful, why not continue on with the wise guidance of Thaddeus and the  Robot Muse?  Boon Companion is 15% off this month, and as an extra bonus, we’ll send a free pdf to everyone who orders off the website.  Order your copy here.

Hallowe’en Special on Spooky 16

The Autumn issue of Pulp Literature is spectacularly spooky this year.  We have no fewer than two ghosts and one ghost town, three very different end-of-life experiences, ghouls in coffee shops, unidentified monsters in the subway, and a scarily low price of $2.99 on Amazon.com until Hallowe’en!

Pulp Literature Issue 16, Autumn 2017

With authors like kc dyer, Brandon Crilly, Rina Piccolo, Patrick Bollivar, Susan Pieters, Oak Morse, FJ Bergman, Mel Anastasiou, Leah Komar, Greg Brown, JM Landels, and Glenn Pape, this is an issue you don’t want to miss!

That Whooshing Noise: We Love Deadlines

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” – Douglas Adams

“There is nothing the wise man does reluctantly.” – Seneca

What can you teach me, deadlines? I mean, obviously I shouldn’t procrastinate, but what more can I learn from you?

Deadlines Are Promises

Deadlines force us to leave hyper-perfectionism behind us, by which I mean fear of writing. Hyper-perfectionism is a negative super-emotion, and the world of business books and lifestyle philosophy has plenty of good advice for us here. Success experts’ advice is not to attempt to banish negative thoughts, but rather to think of something positive.  A deadline accepted is a promise made, and promises are positive, particularly if made to someone or something we love, like our families, friends, and careers.

Deadlines Hone Craft

Approaching a tough deadline, like the one I’m late for today (promise delayed, but not broken, I promise) is an excellent crucible for writing craft.  I have 10,000 words due next week.  Okay, that’s 2,000 for the setup, 1,000 for the debate, 3,000 for Act 1 Part 1, 3,000 for Act 2 part 2, and 1,000 for the showdown and dénouement.  One does not have 6 months to noodle around when deadlines loom, before us or behind us.  We take the time to review and tighten each section.  We don’t sacrifice our health, of course (because honestly, we would like to live long enough to profit from the demands upon our writing) but we think while we’re walking:  How can I tighten up the action in this Act?  How can I turn this section on my hero’s tough choice? 

Deadlines Mean Success

When you get right down to it, whether we set our own deadlines or we’re writing to those others set for us, it means we’re finishing.  Finishing is vital, if we want to see our book arrive, boxed up and beautiful, at our door, and, please God, some profits in our accounts.

“Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.”  – Douglas Adams. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

 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

 

 

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

Raven Contest Deadline Extended

Due to the fact our managing editor is currently gallivanting around France, Spain and England, fiction and flash fiction authors have a few extra days to send us your stories.

Raven Short Story Contest deadline extended to October 20, 2017

We’re looking forward to reading these entries once Jen is back and recovered from sun, sand, and prosecco …

Read more about the Raven  here… 

The Raven Short Story Contest offers a $300 top prize,  print and e-publication. (Want feedback on your story?  Get a professional critique from one of the Pulp Literature editors for only $25 more.)

The Raven Short Story Contest

Show us your most scintillating treasures in the form of short fiction up to 2500 words in length and you could be the one bringing home $300 to line your nest! Enter the contest here.

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

Enter the Raven Short Story Contest

Why enter your latest short story in the Raven Short Story Contest?

Enter the Raven

With a top prize of $300, entries limited to 200, and editors eager to read your 250 to 2,000 word tale, you’ve got a great chance of bringing home a Raven prize.  

Flash Fiction geniuses take note!

Enter the Raven

Judge Brenda Carre writes gorgeous fantasy, but she loves the taste of different styles of storytelling and reads avidly across the genres.

More good news: your entry fee of $20  includes a $17.99 value 1-year digital subscription to Pulp Literature, full of more great reads all year long.

Enter the Raven

Mutiple entries welcome. We can’t wait to read them.

Cheers from your Pulp Literature Press Editors

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

Rest, Change, Revive … Seasonally

One of our greatest statesmen has said that a change of work is the best rest.  So it is. – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of Four

Changes in season bring with them some excellent thinking time.  Schedules change up in these months, and sometimes ideas for projects shake loose at the same time.

As well, new genres may present themselves.  An essayist writes a song.  A literary master finds the gateway to speculative fiction.  A mystery writer pens a thriller or a romantic comedy.  Maybe it’s just the slight lifting of the heat, or a lightening of the load that a change in the weather brings, which frees up a mind’s busy section to think about something new.

Do I contradict myself?  Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large — I contain multitudes. ― Walt Whitman

I love my genres, and I’d never change permanently for change’s sake, but only to pursue other passions.  And, returning to paragraph two of this post, maybe that’s the only song the essayist will ever write.  Still, that song changes forever the way the writer approaches essays when he or she returns to them.

Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours.  And the people there see you differently, too.  Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.
Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

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


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

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.