Category Archives: Writing Tips

The Writer’s Pause. Reflect and Revitalise.

To do what you love can sometimes be stressful. -Toni Braxton.

Books are big work

What’s more, we have to think up every bit of them, and choose the right set-ups and surprises for our readers. Making these judgements can take a lot out of writers.

Choices take Energy

I’m not saying we’re unique in having to make hundreds or thousands of great and small decisions in a working day. All professions demand the study and dedication in their areas of expertise. But many also have built-in moments of reflection and revitalization, with retreats, study groups, and vacations.

Appreciate Your  Advancement

The beauty of these pauses is that we can take whatever time we like to look back and see how far we’ve come. Then we can adjust our braces and tighten our bootlaces for the road ahead.  What’s more, we can thank our lucky writing stars that we’ve chosen work that goes a long way towards satisfying our need for challenges, over which we have a lot of control. Work we dreamed of doing when we were little, perhaps, and which we’re still fortunate to enjoy.

I hope you’ll have another great 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 the Monument Studio Mysteries starring Frankie Ray. She is a founding editor of Pulp Literature Press.

Growing a Writing Career

What moves us to take on a writing career? First, the spark. Then, a sense of determination. And a love of hard work. But at some point, as for our stories’ protagonists, we run into problems that present difficult choices. Here are two of the most common obstacles we face.

The Inner Obstacle

The inner obstacle tends to be either a lack, or a surfeit, of confidence; the former can freeze us into inactivity and sorrow, and the latter creates writers who are unwilling to learn.

For both these conditions, the determination to make learning about writing a lifelong goal, is a sovereign cure.

The Outer Obstacle in a Writing Career

The outer problem is often lack of hours in our day. Because we can’t expand the earth’s orbit around the sun, we must make tough choices.

As it happens, most of these involve breaking the addictions that are peculiar to our millennium. Less time on whatever these may be for each of us — bingewatching shows, or perhaps playing with our phones — gives more time in the day to draft, outline, revise, and market, without impoverishing our relationships and health.

I wish you another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel.

Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries was long listed for the 2018 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, and won the May 2018 Literary Titan Book Award. The Labours of Mrs Stella Ryman, volume two of the series, is here alongside volume one.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and the Monument Studio Mysteries starring Frankie Ray. She is a founding editor of Pulp Literature Press.

 

 

Gearing up for Writing: Writing Tips from Pulp Literature Press

First, picture a great spot to write in.

Better still, imagine several great spots, because a writing career shouldn’t depend upon a particular spot, or even a particular time of day. Imagine yourself happy at work, dealing cheerfully with interruptions, (or devising a way to avoid them), and returning to work.

Second, you might decide your next step.

Just one next step, because writing is complicated enough without multi-tasking. What is that next step?

If it’s too big for the time you have, you might chunk it down and identify the first bit of work. Imagine what it feels like to finish today’s writing work. What would it look like if the writing went smoothly?

Third, consider the drafting math.

The math is encouraging. If a writer has a cogent outline to write from – you might carry an outline notebook or blank outline graphic organizers through the week, for 5 to 10 minute free preparation time now and then – then 3,000 words drafted a week equals 2 short novels, about 70,000 words, or one longer novel, a year.

Have a great writing day. And I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career.

Cheers Mel

Did you know, 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.

 

Fewer Steps, More Time to Write

“You know that Pepperidge Farm bread, that stuff is fancy. That stuff is wrapped twice. You open it, and then it still ain’t open. That’s why I don’t buy it, I don’t need another step between me and toast.”

-Mitch Hedberg.

Fewer steps, more toast. I mean, more of your story written.

Drafting time may end up frittered away with necessary preparations for writing. Luckily, writers can take care of most of those necessary time-eaters in five to ten minute intervals. These can be slotted into a busy day throughout the week.

Four useful tasks that may be worked into 5- or 10-minute time slots

  1. Outline the next scene, or the character arcs.
  2. Write taglines and elevator pitches for the book as a whole.
  3. List 10 ways the next turning point might occur.
  4. Devise a central image for the next scene.

In fact, you may find that with these steps taken outside of drafting time that peaceful drafting hour, when it finally arrives, can really get a writer somewhere fantastic.

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

Cheers, Mel

Did you know, 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.

 

Writing Confidence: Ready, Steady …

Some days the story almost writes itself, doesn’t it? So, how can a writer keep and grow the writing confidence that feeds success?

Maintain Your Writing Confidence

  1. Dismiss the chattering, critical interior back-monkey. Your deep interest in the work is a great sign of talent. Just keep an open mind to adding new skills.
  2. Relax in the company of writers you admire (I spend a lot of time with PG Wodehouse, although he passed on some time ago.) All of them had to maintain confidence in themselves.
  3. Still feeling unmotivated? Get some rather thrilling goals going. Go for a walk and imagine the shelf of books, the acceptance speech, the book cover, the lovely review, the cheque.

You have the aptitude, or you wouldn’t want to take the time to do the work. As for outside critics, it may be worth keeping in mind what Anthony Hopkins said.

“It’s none of my business what people say of me and think of me. I am what I am, and I do what I do.”

I hope you’ll have another successful 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.

 

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.