Tag Archives: The Writing Life

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.

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.

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