Category Archives: Writing Tips

There’s Never Been a Better Time

There’s never been a better time for many aspects of our authorial lives, including re-issuing works. I’m very grateful that my work can go out in re-issue. However, it’s not a process I take any more lightly than a first publication of a novel.

You owe it to all of us to get on with what you’re good at. – WH Auden.

In recent days I’ve been working on a re-issue of one of my murder mystery novels. This one set in 1934 Hollywood and starring an amateur sleuth schoolteacher with ambitions to star on the silver screen. She finds the dead body of a famous actor on her sofa.

Nevertheless, it’s wise to know when to stop. When I revise, I remember Auden, and how he wished to un-publish poems he wrote when he was young. I read in The Atlantic that his wish would have included, to our loss, one of his most enduring and admired lines, “We must love one another or die.”

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

There’s a new Stella Ryman book in town: The Labours of Mrs Stella Ryman.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and the Monument Studios Mysteries starring Frankie Ray as The Extra. Mel 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.

 

Sunshine, Writing, and Stephen King

I walked and made no effort to think – an old trick from my writing days. Work your body, rest your mind, let the boys in the basement do their jobs.

Stephen King, Bag of Bones.

Writing conferences are thick with authors for whom Stephen King’s On Writing is a great support. Certainly, Stephen King’s words resonate with me as well.

I’ve always been a great believer in letting inner writers do their jobs. Not only does it save work, but it feels good  to put one’s trust in the driven, mysterious inner self that makes a career in writing possible.

Furthermore, these kinds of happy and relaxed thoughts often grow tall in golden sunshine. Take a break when the weather is particularly fine, and try not to feel even one percent guilty. Instead, continue to cultivate an appreciation and gratitude for a holiday from toil and ambition.  The writing work we love will be waiting for us upon our return.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week resting from, and returning to, your writing career.

Cheers Mel

There’s a new Stella Ryman book in town: The Labours of Mrs Stella Ryman.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and the Monument Studios Mysteries starring Frankie Ray as The Extra. Mel 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.

 

Tagline Tip for Storytelling Magic

It’s tricky — sifting through tip after tip for our  writing careers to find ideas and strategies, searching, above all, for those that suit our unique schedules, rhythms, and working styles.

Here’s one great tip to help almost every writer:

This one-minute tip  serves us all. After that, you can repeat it anytime for the same story or another project…

Write out your tag line.

Write the whole story in a sentence, and the task becomes clear. It’s such a useful practice, and so quick, that it works like magic for most storytelling. Furthermore, it takes only moments to jot it down. Here’s mine:

Mrs Stella Ryman is an octogenarian sleuth, trapped in a down-at-heel care home. You’d be cranky, too.

For more on writing tag lines, I recommend Blake Snyder’s engaging and invaluable Save the Cat.

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

There’s a new Stella Ryman book in town: The Labours of Mrs Stella Ryman.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and the Monument Studios Mysteries starring Frankie Ray as The Extra. Mel 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.

 

Four Notes from an Acquisitions Editor

Here, some notes taken from the last 1000 stories I’ve read as an acquisitions editor. I took a close look at why some stories read better than others.  Naturally, every editor is different, but these were my personal observations, presented here for whatever help they may be to beginning writers.

Some leashes that jerk at readers’ necks:

  1. The word ‘As’ at the start of sentences.  eg:  As she walked out the door she looked over her shoulder.  The reader’s brain is tugged to a stop by dealing with two actions at one time.
  2. Excessive ‘-ing’ words. for similar reasons.  eg:  Walking away, Chas whistled into the wind.  I know we all had sentence-combining lessons as students and got gold stars for doing this. We get to keep the stars, but it’s well to lose a lot of gerunds.

Some styles that look strong but read weak:

  1. All caps, and nearly every single  exclamation mark. There are more powerful ways to say almost any of these.  Naturally, like everything in the world, this isn’t true for everyone. Ray Bradbury and Tom Wolfe use exclamation marks beautifully, and Stephen King uses all caps.
  2. Sounds spelled out.  It looks a bit early-reader and takes away the our pleasure in imagining the sounds.

I’m glad authors differ in styles, strengths, and emphases, because I like to read new books, and there are only 26 letters in the alphabet.

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

There’s a new Stella Ryman book in town: The Labours of Mrs Stella Ryman.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and the Monument Studios Mysteries starring Frankie Ray as The Extra. Mel 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.

Be Your Own Developmental Editor

Why would an acquisitions editor reject a story by a good writer?

The answer is often,  I can’t tell what the story is about. This response, or its cousins The conflict was slow to emerge, and There’s no story here, shows that structural problems are spoiling the party and you need a developmental editor.

But developmental editors are pricey

It’s handy (and inexpensive) to learn some of the tricks of the trade of the developmental editor. Here are a few, remembering that everybody, of course, works differently:

  1. If you’re a planning outliner, you might outline, not just the plot, but the plot for every character. (You’ll still surprise yourself when you draft.) If you’re more of a “pantser,” then outline after you’ve done the job. You’ll see what, if anything, is missing.
  2. Act 1 is the set-up; Act 2 is the Fun and Games (see Blake Snyder, Save the Cat) and Darkest Hour; Act 3 is the Showdown and Finale. If you have all these, and you’re still a good writer getting turned down, then you might be writing in a linear fashion. You’ll need to tweak unexpected, previously set-up, twists and turns. You get these when characters make tough choices they would never previously make. (see Donald Maass, Writing the Breakout Novel.)
  3. To set your POV, make sure the first page, and every scene start after that, sets up the following: Time of Day, Place (setting, era), the Promise of Genre, Tone, and a hint at the Central Conflict.
  4. To keep readers, including acquisitions editors, carrying the torch of interest from the end of one scene to the start of the next, look at each scene ending and remove any last sentences that seem to finish things off.

“I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” – Truman Capote.

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

There’s a new Stella Ryman book in town,The Labours of Mrs Stella Ryman. Get it here.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and the Monument Studios Mysteries starring Frankie Ray as The Extra. Mel 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.

End With a New Beginning

The End:

EXT. SPACE AROUND THE DEATH STAR

Vader’s ship spins out of control with a bent solar fin, heading for deep space.

 INT. DARTH VADER’S COCKPIT

Vader turns round and round in circles as his ship spins into space.

Spinning that Vader craft out into space saves a great enemy for use in the next Star Wars film. But, it also brings just the touch of doubt and darkness that the hyper-positive medal-awards scene needs, as it concludes the film.

Even stories that will not be reprised, need a hint at conflict after the end of the story.

It’s vital to leave a plot aspect or two un-sorted at the end. With future conflict, we readers feel the satisfaction of knowing that the story is part of something bigger than itself.

For example, Sarah Waters in her literary paranormal novel The Little Stranger, opens the end out wide at the end, in a most satisfactory manner. This reader sat muttering, “Is that what I think it means? Yes. Yes, it is.” Readers feel satisfied with the ending, understanding that there won’t be a sequel, but confident that the story still continues somewhere out there, creepy, brilliant, and beautiful. Metaphorically speaking, it’s one way great writers give us the big sky we long for.

Writing Tip 22

Note down the conflict that will continue after the end of the tale, even if, in your book, the entire cosmos is demolished. Good one.

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.

Draft Your 5-Year Plan

Your 5-year plan inspires with big results, as your future success motivates today’s work.

 “You may wish to write down your 5-year plan for writing, year by year.  What a splendid vista of accomplishment, I must say.”

-Day 23,  A Writer’s Boon Companion : Thirty Days to an Extraordinary Volume

Dorothy Parker famously announced, “I hate writing. I love having written.” That facile little mot has been quoted much too often, and no doubt is flitting about Facebook, making writers feel small and defensively ironic about loving to write, all around the world.

I believe we ought to feel big about our careers. We writers are working hard, not in order to pump out discouraging words to the world of other hopeful writers, but to add to the rich selection of reading material in our genres.

Writing Tip: Write your author bio, as it will read five years from now.

Imagine the next 5-year s’ worth of writing. Think about the money you intend to make from it (stifle that irony). Imagine how you’ll manage it, and pay taxes on it. Think about the shelf of stories, physical or virtual, and how many volumes you intend it to hold. Write your bio for 5-years from now. It’ll give you great direction, like writing the end of the book first, and that is another excellent practice.

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.

Developing Strong Characters

Whether a manuscript crosses an editor’s desk, or is loaded onto an e-reader, readers will read on if the author invents characters in which they’re invested.

Intention vs Reaction.

There are a lot of ways to do that—resonance, unique situations, careful plotting–but the clear path most often missed in the manuscripts I read, is “protagonist’s choice, not reaction.”

It’s easy to miss opportunities for the protagonist to make choices.

Events happen in Act 1  that feel strong enough knock the protagonist into Act 2. But, it doesn’t matter how perilous or unique the events we devise for a story may be, if the hero is simply reacting to events, then we don’t have an engaging character.

Events force choices.

Those choices should be grindingly difficult for the protagonist to make. In this way, the same events that provoked mere reaction in a first draft, create satisfying character development in a second draft.  And the reader reads on.

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.

Climbing Mountains, Placing Description. Writing Tips from Pulp Literature Press.

It kills me when I hear readers complain that there’s too much description in a book. In my experience as an acquisitions editor, most “unneccesary” description is only misplaced.

“When you’re writing a book, it’s rather like going on a very long walk, across mountains and valleys and things, and you get the first view of something and you write it down.” -Roald Dahl

3 places readers need us to give them description.

  1. While the POV character is pursuing the story goal, it’s vital to show what’s going on. Not during the planning, not during the reaction to raised stakes, but during the active quest for the goal.
  2. When the reader is gagging to know what is in the letter, under the carpet, or outside the door. Make the reader wait with a bit of description.
  3. After the POV character has reacted to the raised stakes, there is a moment to remember what’s at stake. Descriptive writing is absolutely necessary here to remind the character, and readers, exactly why the struggle is necessary.

“Then you walk a bit further, maybe up onto the top of a hill, and you see something else. Then you write that and you go on like that, day after day, getting different views of the same landscape really. The highest mountain on the walk is obviously the end of the book, because it’s got to be the best view of all, when everything comes together and you can look back and see that everything you’ve done all ties up.” -Roald Dahl

A great example of description perfectly placed and timed to move the story onwards.

Take a look at the scene in Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when Charlie has found a dollar and will buy a chocolate bar. Magic.

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.

Swan in morning

Designing Great Writing Mornings. Writing Tips from Pulp Literature Press.

“The desk in the room, near the bed, with a good light, midnight to dawn, a drink when you get tired…” -Jack Kerouac

Good old handsome Kerouac, rolling up his shirt sleeves, drinking and typing at speed through the nights into the mornings. Who doesn’t love On the Road, jouncing around in the back of a flatbed, arguing that the best road trip money spent on nutrition must be apple pie with ice cream?

But Jack, some of us writers like our sleep. And, family and friends, at the end of a day, not slam-writing all night.

We want great lives, as well as excellent writing careers.

“I start early in the morning. I’m usually out in the woods with the dog as soon as it gets light; then I drink a whole lot of tea and start as early as I can, and I go as long as I can…” – Robert Stone.

Writing Tip: Your Great Writing Mornings

There’s got to be a personal happy medium. So on this first week of the new year, take a moment to list 3 ways to devise a tradition to bring even better mornings to a writing career.

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.