Write Like a Pulp Writer


Not Purple Prose, But…


Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

I’ve read several books about this:

These aren’t affiliate links.

How to Write Pulp Fiction


Pulp Era Writing Tips

You shouldn’t try to write the style of pulp. It’s purple prose, bad writing for readers today.

However, as these books say, parts of their methods we could learn from:


Speed


Pulp writers produced much content as fast as they could to pay their bills. Costs were lower than today, but the funds were too. If one story was rejected, others were ready to try their luck at the same time.

Another aspect of speed:


Quantity, Not Quality


We do this for NaNoWriMo. When you crank out so much material in a short time, you don’t wait for only your best work. If it’s readable, it goes out. The more you do, the better it gets.

Jump Straight to the Action

In their speed, pulp writers also don’t use prologues or character introspection. Those are, in their view, for literary works. Instead, these writers usually start with action. If it has to be explained, that comes later in the tale.

The action gets you in first.

Maybe we should all be like them.


I’m a commercial writer, not an author. Margaret Mitchell was an author. She wrote one book. 


Mickey Spillane

Originally appeared on The Writers Guild on Medium

Why Ninja Writing Will Change Your Life

Ninja Writers logo

Your writing life anyway. It changed mine.

Before Ninja Writing

I began a novel in 2013. I finished the first draft in early 2014, and didn’t touch it again until November 2018.

As I’ve mentioned many times, I’ve been in the Montreal chapter of NaNoWriMo since 2012 and won it four years in a row. All the times I’ve done it filled me with confidence to go to the step of going forward to a finished novel.

One problem:

It’s 2019. I Still Haven’t Finished It

In 2009 I won a Prix Boreal/Aurora for a newsletter I write called The Original Universe. Because of medical and other reasons I stopped. I want to relaunch it. As a result, I started to write it ages ago. There’s a problem with that, however…

Logo for the Prix Boreal/Aurora Award
Logo for the Prix Boreal/ Aurora Award

It Sat on My HD Forever

Ninja Writing to the rescue! Fist, so that you don’t feel that I’m inventing a term:

What Ninja Writing Is

There are a few different methods named this term. The one I use was created by Shaunta Grimes. She was inspired by the prolific writer Ray Bradbury.



“Ray Bradbury”
 by Alan Light is licensed under CC BY 2.0

During his life he wrote a lot of short stories, collected into books like The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes… many short stories I’ve read in many publications.

He was a big proponent of the notion of writing and reading daily:

Based on his words, we write for 10 minutes every day, and read for another 10.

Why 10? Many potential writers get intimidated and overwhelmed by the idea of writing for longer.

If you write 10 minutes per day it’s easier to do it than to ignore it. With a time commitment like that, you may find you get a lot done. You can then work on other things.

Thanks to this:

My novel is now into editing. I’ve started Act Two.

My newsletter is now mostly written.

Give this method a try. The results may surprise you. Your writing, because you’re doing it regularly, will also improve.

Welcome, 2019!

I’m becoming an old man: I fell asleep, missing the ball drop, and woke after 3 AM… in the new year.

Many folks will make resolutions for the year. I’m not one of them.

Folks Always Fail Them

Instead, I do things differently, and get a lot of stuff done as a result:

I Make Goals

This year will be no different. Some goals are obvious. some not as much:


Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash
  • Update this blog more. I’ve written a lot on Medium in 2018, but not a lot on this blog. I need to fix that in 2019.
  • More movement on my novel. I finished my first draft in early 2014. I have been using Ninja Writing to write revisions (more on that in another post). I’m into Act Two now.
  • Justify my award. In 2009 I won an Aurora Award for a newsletter. I stopped in 2012. I’ve been writing my next issue for a long time. I hope to publish it soon.

I’ll stop my list there. We’ll see how well I do by 2020.

Changing Views

Over time my views on different facets of writing have changed, in some ways contradicting other, previous posts on this blog:

Reading While Writing

Here’s my past view on this. Things changed from a quote by Stephen King. I don’t like King as a person thanks to a meeting years ago, but I still think he was right about this:


“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. …”

Stephen King

I modify this a bit: I write –and read — fiction and non.

Each one uses different ‘muscles’, different genres. different styles.

So: I read both now, each with their respective style.

Work For Free

I posted two differing views on this here and here.

Well, I don’t write anything for free like Wil, with exceptions: I still write for the newsletter at work, this blog, and Medium… but when I join their Partner Program,  I have a chance to earn on it. 

So,

I may seem wishy-washy, but I have a method.

GOR: The good, the bad, and the Ugly

I haven’t posted here in a long while. Medium with it’s bigger audience lured me away. I’m trying to fix that…

The art for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; a Western movie by Sergio Leonne.
I don’t have the artist’s name. Please, enlighten me so I can give proper credit.

Cue the Ennio Morricone music…

The Gor novels are mostly forgotten nowadays (although Politically Incorrect Games [P.I.G.] have released a Gor game; l have to find the email). I’m not surprised. The series began well, got bad very fast, and became worse after.


The Good

Gor is also called Counter-Earth. It’s in the same orbit as Earth, just equidistant on the opposite side of the sun, so we’ll never see it. The planet has a lower gravity than Earth.

The civilizations are a mixture of Roman, Greek, Native American and Viking, other cultures too, transplanted by spaceship from our Earth by an insectoid race that they call the Priest Kings. They are allowed to advance in architectural, agricultural and medical skills (including life extension), but are forced to remain primitive in the fields of transportation, communication and weaponry (at approximately the level of Classical Mediterranean civilization) due to restrictions on technology imposed by the Priest-Kings. This limitation is imposed to ensure the safety of both the Priest-Kings, as well as the other indigenous and transplanted beings on Gor who would otherwise possibly come to harm due to humans’ belligerent tendencies.

This was the first novel. Written by John Norman — the pseudonym of Dr. John Lange, a professor of philosophy and a classical scholar — it drew a lot from the Barsoom novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs (although poorly marketed, the movie John Carter was based on the series.

John Norman’s main character here, Tarl Cabot, was loosely inspired by John Carter (I may be wrong about that).

This was the Good. Then it went bad, and quickly.

The Bad

“I’m not for censorship but I am for strategies which marginalize stuff that works to objectify women and suggests women enjoy being beaten.-


Michael Moorcock


Around the fourth book, it got its own style. Unfortunately, not a good one: women were often slaves, often beaten until they were docile and submissive (often by the hero of the novel) and fell in love with the men who beat them.

This may make them popular among the alt-right, but for those of us more enlightened, it’s disgusting.

I stopped reading the series then, but from what I’ve read on Wikipedia, it gets worse.

and The Ugly

Science fiction/fantasy author Michael Moorcock has suggested that the Gor novels should be placed on the top shelves of bookstores
Later books became (I’m quoting Wikipedia here) “sadomasochistic pornography”. The author claimed to draw inspiration from philosophy, Earth history, Homer, Freud and Nietzsche… then came in with… this.

Surprisingly, this series not only got reprinted in several languages, and is a strong seller in Ebooks… but before I did research for this article, I’d mostly forgotten.

Like What You Read? Get More!      

Definition of Dramedy, part one

My short story and novel – and the series that they’re a part of – supernatural dramedy, is fairly new to fiction (although technically Janet Evanovich does it in all but name), but it has a long history on television.

The word ‘dramedy’is a combination of ‘drama’ and ‘comedy’. As a genre, it combines them too: the subject matter is dramatic, with moments of humor mixed in.

English: Joss Whedon at the 2010 Comic Con in ...

English: Joss Whedon at the 2010 Comic Con in San Diego (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joss Whedon has made his career in this genre; see Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and more… but there were other series before them.

One of the most popular (although there were others) was LA Law. It ran from Sept. 15, 1986, to May 19, 1994.

 

David E. Kelley was showrunner until the end of the fifth season of the show, and it also gave new life to the career of actor Susan Day (Laurie Partridge on The Partridge Family) as Grace von Owen.

The series was set in the fictional law firm McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney, and Kuzak.

What makes this an example of dramedy: the show deals with serious issues (AIDS, LGTBQ issues,racism,domestic violence, etc.) but wrapped around the issues were running gags and other bits of humor.

For example partner Chaney dies of a heart attack in the opening of the first episode, but at first, nobody knows because all we see is his hand clutching a tax manual. At his funeral, we learn that the secretary he last hired is transgender and that they met originally at a gay bar (this revelation comes to his wife just now). He paid for the secretary’s surgery, and the hire was meant to be the first real world test. One of the surviving partners fires her immediately due to his transphobia.

(This was in the late 1980s, and the firing character was an over-sexed womanizer. Regardless, I don’t find that funny now.)

This series was co-created by Steven Bochco, and it had a large ensemble cast. Rigger, Mortiz and Shivver doesn’t have as big a cast, but there is an ensemble nonetheless.

I’ll continue this in my next post.

Writing Mood: My Way to Get Into it

Not everyone does this, so I’m not making this concrete advice — but you may find it helpful to put you in the writing mood…

To get into the mindset for writing fiction, this may seem redundant but try freewriting.

Here’s the Wikipedia entry on what it is.

Doing it is not hard:

Freewriting (Mood) How-to

icon for notepad

icon for notepad (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      • Open up a simple Notepad (On a computer is good for this).
      • Set a timer for 10 minutes.
      • Just write for all of that time, whatever comes to your mind. No edits. Don’t worry about making sense.
      • Don’t save it.
      • When time is over, close the Notepad (or the paper if you wrote by hand.

The purpose is just to get your mental pathways open to writing after. It’s  a warmup process.

I made a PDF of tools for this on Windows, Linux or Mac OSX. Join my list and I’ll send it to you. Update: it’s now a Checklist.

 

Robert Heinlein, SF YA Precursor

When I researched this on Wikipedia I found that I’m not the only person to make that link. 

Robert A. Heinlein, with Ginny Heinlein Robert...

Robert A. Heinlein, with Ginny Heinlein Robert and Ginny Heinlein in Tahiti 1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Robert A. Heinlein was   one of the three people seen as pillars of the Golden Age of science fiction (that’s another post). He wrote many books and short stories, but a period of his novels are considered as the start of YA, although he didn’t consider them as such.

Books by Robert A. Heinlein

The books that I’m referring to are his juveniles.

Between 1947 and 1958e had 12 such novels published by Scribner, with another (Starship Troopers) published by Putnam instead (Scribner rejected it) and another novel (Podcayne of Mars) listed as a juvenile, though he didn’t consider it one.

Heinlein didn’t consider these books as juveniles, at least not by nature. They were written for younger readers, but Heinlein had great respect for these younger readers, so he tried to write more challenging fare for them. In fact, this got him into hot water with his editors at Scribner, and often,  after he brought guns into his novels, starting with Red Planet.

He also wrote 2 short stories in Boy Scout magazine, Boy’s Life. He created them after his tours in WW II, trying to diversify his writing from only pulp SF magazines. These stories were serialized.

Not only focussed on boys, he took a challenge to write for girls too, which led to 3 Maureen “Puddin'” stories in Calling All Girls magazine. He liked the character so much that he lowered her weight and relocated her to Mars for Podkayne of Mars.

I have to re-read this book. The original ending was hated by fans, so Heinlein rewrote it, then had it published with both endings. I don’t remember what they were. It’s been  more than 3 decades since I read it.

Pundits call it a juvenile, but Heinlein himself did not. His involvement with Scribner and the juveniles line ended when they rejected Starship Troopers. As an aside, I don’t see a novel about interstellar wars as a book for young people, it was just not a great book to me.

What made the juveniles a step toward YA: youths are the protagonists of the stories. Not bad, considering they were written nearly 80  years ago.

Preparing for NaNoWriMo

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to ...

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to be portable. Long exposure lit by sweeping aLED flashlight over the scene. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 (I began this post before this event; I’ll state what I didn’t do.)

… or Camp NaNoWriMo, which I’m doing right now… which is why I haven’t updated this site in a week.

Camp scene, preparing for dinner, by Buell, O....

Camp scene, preparing for dinner, by Buell, O. B., 1844-1910 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are some tips to achieve your word goal in the month (50, 000 for NaNo, variable for Camp – I’m writing a 20, 000-word project, for example):

1. Avoid distractions

Scrivener can do distraction-free writing via its full-screen mode. The text editor part  is all that you see. You don’t see the Binder, or the menus,  or anything else. All you have to focus on is writing.

Scrivener (software)

Scrivener (software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are more distractions that you should avoid. Avoid e-mail, Twitter, and (especially) Facebook; most of it is flashy graphics that draw your attention away.

Twitter

Twitter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I failed on most of this. My blog subject list is in Drive, so I was usually in Gmail. I had my Twitter feed open at all times and kept it open to check on. As to Facebook… there’s a good reason that it has the nickname ‘Wastebook’… I was on it constantly.

2. Word-Padding is Your Friend

Always write full character names. Don’t use contractions; spell each word. Your fingers accidentally space words out? Leave them in. You don’t need the word ‘that’ in a sentence? put it in anyway. Adverbs slow a sentence down? Doesn’t matter. Use them anyways.

For NaNo / Camp NaNo quantity is your goal, not quality. The next point will talk about that fact.

At first, I didn’t  fully embrace this. I tried to correct my typos. I got out of it eventually.

3. This is the First Draft

Cleaning up what Ernest Hemmingway said about first drafts, they are not pretty.

Feel free to write scenes that you will cut in later drafts. They will add words now; you can cut them in later drafts.

I did this one. I wrote some scenes that I know I’ll cut later.

4. Ignore Your Inner Editor

As you write you’ll hear a voice in your head correcting your words and critiquing your scenes. Ignore it.

It’s the voice of your Inner Editor trying to slow you down. It will stall you  if you let it.

I didn’t.

** update **

Here's a tip that some people use, but I don't:

Some people count the words that they write for other projects in this one. I'd consider doing this cheating myself.

conclusion

Use these tricks and (unlike me) you might win.

 

Pat Flewelling, on alternative plotting

It’s quid pro quo time.. over a year ago I posted on Pat’s blog (here‘s a link to the blog), now she’s returning the favor.

With me writing for Camp NaNoWriMo right now, this is an appropriate post.

I’m not as prolific, but few people are!

At last count, I’ve written 59 novel-length manuscripts since 1993, and I’ve just come back from a weekend-long novel writing marathon with the better half of # 60. Some have been completely pre-planned. Some were written off the cuff. Most haven’t been published, because they just haven’t been solid enough.

When I thoroughly plotted the story in advance, one of two things would always

The Marathon

The Marathon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

happen: either I would deviate wildly off course, or I would get so bored that I’d just stop writing altogether. I often mistook a tangent as some kind of award-winning plot-twist, and having to delete 10-15% of the manuscript was a real killer to my motivation. And sometimes, I was just bored, because there was no sense of discovery left over, no room to play around. I was choking my own creativity.

At the other extreme, stories that had no predestination took longer to finish. I’d often spend hours staring slightly cross-eyed at the ceiling, trying to remember where I was taking that last thought. I’d also ended up spending countless hours editing after the fact, removing tens of pages of verbal dross.

But for this year’s novel writing marathon, I decided to try something new. I planned only so much, but I also left major plot points blank.

I thought of it like a vacation itinerary. Let’s say that I knew I was leaving Montreal on a Monday at 7:00 a.m., and that I had to be in Toronto by Saturday at noon. Let’s say, furthermore, that I also wanted to visit Ottawa, Brockville, Kingston, and Oshawa, before finally heading into the Big Smoke. As long as I got to Ottawa by 4:00 p.m., I could take any route I wanted. I could take the back roads and enjoy a longer drive through the country, or I could stick to the highways and get there sooner, then park the car and stroll around on foot before leaving at 4:00. I wouldn’t decide which route to take to Ottawa until I was in the car with the radio on and a coffee in hand.

During the marathon, I discovered not only that I actually stuck to the plan, but I wrote in an unforeseen major character, who made the plot more engaging and resolved a lot of plot holes. I finally had a planner that would direct my story toward a fun and logical conclusion, but one that left plenty of opportunities to make stuff up as I went along. Most surprisingly of all, because I had a known destination and unknown roads, I found my narrative pacing became the strongest it’s ever been.

But, after this many novels, I know that what works for one project doesn’t necessarily work for another. Likewise, what works for me may not work for you. All I can suggest is that you keep experimenting until you find what works best, and have fun with it along the way.