Writing Time, Part 80. 10 Minutes and 1 Strategy for Moving Along a Manuscript

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 action comes next?
  2. Chunk the next stage 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. But, what really comes next may not be Chapter Three itself, but a design:

  • on outline of the general action
  • or an arc for the POV character
  • or a design for exchange of power
  • or a sketch of the central image,

and any one of these may be done 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

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Writing Time, Part 79. Setting Goals, Dreaming Lifestyles

Here’s a question for a writer: What does the ideal day, week, year in a writing career look like?

 A friend of mine, a wise and lovely woman, filled to the gills with integrity, and inspiring to all, says Think about it on a big scale. Say you’re making a huge income through your writing every year, what would you do?

  • Three thousand words a week to a cogent outline = one long or two shorter novels a year. Would that be enough for a busy, successful career?
  • What if one wrote double that, would it be too much to deal with, for revising, editing, proofing, promoting?
  • How much of the day should go to writing in an ideal career?
  • How much of the week? Seven days writing sounds like a recipe for burnout to me.
  • There will be lots of proofs to look at, and signings. How many signings a month would be reasonable? How many readings or workshops?

Imagine the ideal day in your future writing career. I’ll bet it doesn’t sound as frenetic as all those questions do. Still, they’re fun to think about. And it’s nice to know that already we do, now and then, have that perfect day in our present writing career as well.

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

 

Posted in Time Management for Writers, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Writing Time, Part 78. Taking a Stab at It

I’m always amazed when writing websites offer “How do I get started?” as a first question for beginning writers and novelists. I’m not even sure whether I believe in “beginning writers”. We’re emerging writers, certainly, but many of us began when we were about eight. If we want to write a novel, we’ve probably been thinking about it for quite some time, and have made at the very least a stab or two at it.

Perhaps a better question might be, How do I get organized to write a novel? But that’s as individual as our kitchen and garage organizations. There’s no one right way. I remember reading that Danielle Steele’s writing room was walled with bulletin boards. Apparently she would write several books at once (which sounds daunting, except that she also had nine kids, which puts the whole thing into perspective) and had index cards pinned up everywhere with eye colours and details from each of her heroine’s arcs.

Or it might be, How do I embolden and motivate myself to get words down on a blank page? By which we mean, is it going to be good enough? To answer that worry, let me say that I listened to best-selling author Bernard Cornwell talk about starting out writing his historical novels, inspired by the classic Hornblower stories, starring his own Captain Sharpe. Cornwell thought his own work was terrible, so he copied out Hornblower, replacing Hornblower’s name with Sharpe’s, and said it still looked terrible. But Cornwell’s work is superb. So there you go. And since we’re here with Cornwell, pen in hand, in a blog beginning with How do I get started? it may be worth mentioning that copying out well-loved and admired stories or poems, as he did, is a great way to warm up with the major players.

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


If you’re a fan of 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

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Writing Time, Part 77. Creating Something New

One of the great things about being a writer, and living an author’s life, is that we can be confident that we’re making a difference in the world. Each turning point, thrill, laugh, satisfying ending we write, is an act of creation, leaving the sphere of readership a little richer.

Jean Rhys wrote, “All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky. And then there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters if feeding the lake. I don’t matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake.”

Thinking of the big picture is one of the great methods for getting down to work, feeling the energy that accompanies the understanding that what we do, matters.

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

For more Jean Rhys quotes,https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/25022.Jean_Rhys


If you’re a fan of 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

Posted in Time Management for Writers, Uncategorized, writing tips | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Writing Time, Part 76. An Editor Dishes

We’re reading manuscripts at Pulp Literature Press, and what strikes me first is the talent that comes through our e-portals. But, like most small publishers, we accept very few manuscripts in the end. It’s hard, turning down good writers. Often it’s because we’ve no more room for superheroes and wish we had detectives, or vice versa.

Other than fit, what do I look for in stories for our quarterly, and in novels for our press? Here are three great reasons I don’t stop reading to say No thanks, but read on. These are pretty basic, but worth identifying as a time-saving effort.

  1. The author nails time, place, tone, promise of genre, and a hint at the central conflict on page one, often paragraph one, and continues to do so with the start of each new scene.
  2. It’s clear that the writer has dug deep for ideas for turning points, that are possibly archetypical, but not clichéd, within the particular genre. (I don’t read pure romance, but I have a deep and sincere respect for romance writers, who can make woman meets, loses, regains man seem fresh to their loyal readership every time.)
  3. I can tell a fellow editor what this story is about in a sentence and we’ll both still want to know what happens. It’s about a guy who’s ambushed and sent into 30 years of cryogenic sleep, and has to return to his own past to get even and create a better future, second time around. (The Door Into Summer, Robert Heinlein.)

When it comes down to it, as an acquisitions editor, I’m also an avid reader and ideally a big fan of your work.

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


If you’re a fan of Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, you might enjoy her pocket-sized writing guide The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume. Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

From Pulp Literature Press

 

This week, from your Writing Muse:You’re a master at uplift, giving us the shining moments that make the darkness scarier. Your Writing Muse @pulpliterature #amwriting

 

Posted in Time Management for Writers, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Writing Time, Part 75. Towards Confidence in Narrative Structure

On a panel at the Creative Ink Festival, three of us are talking about our planning processes.

The first describes himself as a “pantser”. He writes what comes next, and doesn’t worry about outlines. He knows thinks hard about his story and its turnings; he doesn’t write it all down.

The second is a “move sections around” writer, who, like Truman Capote, believes in the scissors over the pen. She writes great scenes, trusting her inner writer that they’ll fit into the plot and move it forward. Her inner writer doesn’t let her down.

I’m the third writer on the panel. I’ve tried pantsing and moving scenes around. These approaches brought me no success, because I needed to strengthen my understanding of storytelling. I read, digested, applied and analyzed everything available on narrative structure. Now, I outline everything. Story, scenes, character arcs for everybody. I do this partly because I want to go to my drafting desk ready to write, partly because I love outlining like the first Greeks loved Prometheus’s gift of fire, but mostly because the criticism that I used to get from editors was, I can’t tell what this story is about.

I gaze at the two gifted writers beside me and reflect that each of our approaches to story planning involves a confident understanding of narrative structure. What a pleasure to know that some aspects of writing come naturally to each of us, and that the rest may be learned.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel
From Pulp Literature Press:


If you’re a fan of Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, you might enjoy her pocket-sized writing guide The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume. Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

From Pulp Literature Press

 

 

This week, from your Writing Muse: Your protagonist deals with setbacks in surprising, believable ways. Great character development. Your Writing Muse. @pulpliterature #amwriting

 

 

http://a.co/5wFHuLk

 

This week from @yourwritingmuse: Your protagonist deals with setbacks in surprising, believable ways. Great character development. Your Writing Muse. @pulpliterature #amwriting

Posted in Time Management for Writers, Uncategorized, writing tips | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries by Mel Anastasiou

“You know a story’s good when you keep finding yourself laughing out loud.”

Thanks for that review, reader! Stella Ryman walked right up to me almost 4 years ago. I was hanging about in a nursing home corridor, waiting to help move an enormous television into an elderly acquaintance’s new bedroom. I asked myself, What if I lived here? What on earth would I do with myself? How do you wake up every morning knowing that people are responsible for you, but you are responsible for nothing but agreeable behaviour towards those around you – there seemed to be some possibilities for rebellion here. We all need a good reason for getting out of bed in the morning. What would that be?

Television? Hell no. Complaining about the food? Possibly. But Stella Ryman has a better idea. And so she becomes… (tag line approaching)… an amateur sleuth, trapped a down-at-heel care home.

You’d be cranky too.

Get it here, from Amazon.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Writing Time, Part 74. Creating Suspense, 3 Ways

This is the third in a series of posts  on creating tension and one on sustaining suspense. I’m on panels talking about this at Creative Ink in Burnaby, BC, so it seems like a good moment to address ways to accomplish this. If we can create suspense, and sustain tension as we plot and draft, then we save a lot of time on revisions, as well. 

Consider these questions and possible answers:

  1. How much of creating suspense comes from a reader’s trust in the author to surprise them?  This may be accomplished by setting up a third option. Will this happen, or will that? Neither.
  2. How can anybody hope to create suspense by starting in the middle of the action? If we are not invested in the POV character, then all action gets us is readers wanting out of an ugly situation. An act of kindness, a small sacrifice, right off the bat is a screenwriting trick (see Blake Snyder’s brilliant Save the Cat) that sets us up to care, and we must care if there’s to be suspense. (A most gruesome kindness, and clever set-up for suspense, can be found at the start of the series House of Cards.)
  3. How can readers feel suspense if the POV character hogs all the emotional responses? If the stakes have just risen for the protagonist, we don’t write the protagonist’s reaction to it (unless that reaction is a surprise), so that readers may bring their own concern to the story, rather than experiencing it second-hand.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. JM Landels, Susan Pieters, and I appear March 31-APril 2 2017 at the Creative Ink Festival in Burnaby, BC. Great festival, I recommend it. Cheers Mel. To pre-order my new novel (and, thanks for the great reviews to those who have), click here:

This week from @yourwritingmuse: Your hard work pays off as you give your best to the world of readers. We’re most grateful. Your fan, your Writing Muse #amwriting @pulpliterature

Posted in Time Management for Writers, Uncategorized, writing tips | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Writing Time, Part 73. 3 Tricks for Sustaining Tension

I’m moderating a panel on creating tension and one on sustaining uspense, so it seems like a good moment to address ways to accomplish this. If we can create suspense, and sustain tension as we plot and draft, then we save a lot of time on revisions, as well.

Consider trying one or more of these:

  • Keep the story goal front and centre, so we remember that what matters 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, then that raises the tension: you know a hopeful young squire isn’t safe just ’cause he’s young and hopeful.
  • 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. JM Landels, Susan Pieters, and I appear March 31-APril 2 2017 at the Creative Ink Festival in Burnaby, BC. Great festival, I highly recommend it. Cheers Mel

This week from @yourwritingmuse: I admire your perseverance as you create time blocks for planning, drafting, and revising. Your fan, your Writing Muse #amwriting @pulpliterature

 

Posted in Time Management for Writers, Uncategorized, writing tips | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Writing Time, Part 72. Creating Tension and Suspense, With Thanks to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I’m moderating a panel on creating tension and another on creating suspense, and it seems like a happy moment to address ways to accomplish this. As well, from the point of view of time management for writers, if we can create suspense and sustain tension as we plot and draft, then we save a crazy amount of hours on revisions.

I.It’s worth taking the time to develop a protagonist the reader will care deeply about. We’ve heard of the Monkeysphere—the theory that humans can only keep a certain number of people close to their hearts. Along with family members and friends, we appear to have  room for fictional characters as well. Right, Netflix?

To develop engaging characters, it’s worth taking the time to list flaws and balancing strengths.I see so many flawed protagonists in our subs box, but few of them achieve the balance that helps the reader take them to their hearts. Balance involves developing

  1. -inner and outer longings.
  2. -kindnesses and sacrifices.
  3. -falls and redemptions.

Looking at the extraordinarily flawed and engaging Lisbeth Salander, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, she’s not all flaws; in fact, her ferocious loyalty, physical strength, and world-beating intellect balance all the imperfections that make us love her. Looking at my submissions inbox, it seems that there’s a lot of great work on developing flaws in characters, but not much attention to the strengths, as if somehow strengths were old-fashioned.

Once we create that engaging character, half our work in creating tension is done for us as the readers bring their own anxiety for the protagonist to the page. The stakes, depending on our genre, may be survival, love and belonging, power, or freedom. These same stakes resonate with us all, through a character readers can believe in and take for our own.

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

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuse: Your settings and supporting characters help drive your hero to make tough choices. Superb craft.Your Writing Muse #amwriting @pulpliterature

Posted in Time Management for Writers, writing tips | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment