Category: writing

Why PulpRev?

Late in the most recent episode of Geek Gab, the inestimable host asks (relative) newcomer to the PulpRev a very interesting question: Why Pulp Revolution?  Her answer  (at 35:00) is very telling:

“The enthusiasm.”

It was great to hear that question asked of Dominika.  Her first novella, I, The One, is an outstanding work of creativity and literary craft.  It reminded me of a number of the Hugo nominated works, but done right.  (By which I mean without all the navel gazing and axe grinding.)  Ever since reading her novella, I have wondered why Dominika – or anyone for that matter – would choose to associate with the misfit and unabashed gutter style prosesmiths of the PulpRev.

Just a few short minutes later, while wallowing in the mire of Twitter, a post crossed my feed in which a writer dropped a jokey little bon motte about why she had an hour to write and chose not to.  Those jokes are like weeds among most writer’s groups, and they are a big reason that I could never stomach the few writer forums that I visited in my ‘pre-writer’ years.  For some bizarre reason, most writers think making excuses is cute and clever rather than self-defeating and off-putting.

The guys that you follow in the PulpRev don’t do it.  I can’t think of a single example of a PulpRev writer treating not-writing lightly.  In those rare instances where they discuss a reduced out-put they treat the situation very matter-of-factly.  They admit to an issue that keeps them away from the keyboard, but focus on how to overcome that issue, or they focus on how long before they can put it behind them and get back to cranking out words.

You can call it enthusiasm.  I call it mindset.  The PulpRev crowd has a very output focused mindset.

They don’t dwell on process – except as it relates to output.  They don’t dwell on problems – except as it relates to finding solutions.  They don’t dwell on being unmotivated – except as  means to find motivation and get back to grinding out those words.

It’s different.  It’s refreshing.  It’s inspirational.

And it’s why I’m part of the PulpRev.

Modern Sci-Fi, A House Build on Sand

By way of a comment at the Castalia House Blog, an interesting analysis of the shifting sands of The  Politics of Star Trek by Tim Sandefeur.  Worth noting is how the modern refusal to ground Star Trek in the fertile soil of actual, no-fooling morality characterized by stark contrasts between good and evil has drained the weight and import from the genre.  If you refuse to accept the existence of objective good and evil, if the only thing that ever motivates your villains are ‘daddy issues’, if you bridle at the thought of judging people for their vices, then you cannot create compelling storylines that draw people in and inspire them to read more and be better people:

Over nearly 50 years, Star Trek tracked the devolution of liberalism from the philosophy of the New Frontier into a preference for non-judgmental diversity and reactionary hostility to innovation, and finally into an almost nihilistic collection of divergent urges. At its best, Star Trek talked about big ideas, in a big way. Its decline reflects a culture-wide change in how Americans have thought about the biggest idea of all: mankind’s place in the universe.

Once you notice this rootlessness, you start to see it everywhere.  Marvel comic books have no idea what makes anyone a villain other than ‘LOL so random’ and ‘white guys because…that’s just how white guys are’.  Star Wars with its vague Empire-Lite who wipes out five planets because five is more than one.  Game of Thrones where every villain gets their moment of zen likability.  Even an otherwise great movie like Doctor Strange with its open admission that the villain delved too deep into the dark arts shies away from considering the full ramifications of the existence of dark arts.

Even the little movie that could, Dredd, for all that it does right, can’t help but bow before the modern throne of ‘it’s somebody else’s fault’ by showing Ma-Ma – a bloodthirsty savage of a woman – as a victim of circumstance.  It’s like, all relative, man.  Dredd’s just some guy with a badge.  But for the chance roll of the dice, he could have been Ma-Ma.  It’s all nonsense and it undercuts the meat of the film.  It doesn’t present Ma-Ma as an unmitigated evil we are glad to see die.  It doesn’t justify the long, lingering, and graphic scene of vengeance Dredd visits upon her.  It doesn’t add nuance and color and gravity to the film, it just undercuts Dredd’s virtue and heroism by forgoing the opportunity to show him as the direct opposite of what he fights.

The world needs heroes, but a Hollywood divorced from heroisms literary, religious, and intellectual foundation cannot conceive of such a man, and so cannot create media in which such a man is shown.

Thank God for legacy and independent publishing, or we’d be starved to soul-death for such things.

Proofreading For People Who Hate Proofreading

No joke, I didn’t see the misspelling until I rotated this image.

A literary pal asked for a proofreader for one of his projects, and as a fan of the guy I leapt at the chance.  Editing, I have no experience with, but I can find a mis-spelled homophone like a boss.  (At least when it isn’t my own work I’m proofreading.  *tugs collar*)  Besides, I’ve had considerable help from my own readers, so it’s high time I paid that forward.  And here’s how you can help an author-brother out when you decide to pay it forward.

Read it backwards.  Read the last paragraph first.  This allows you to focus on the words and sentences without becoming distracted by the narrative itself.  You can focus a lot more on the task at hand – rooting out odd punctuation and mis-spelled words and pure grammatical errors – when you read a story this way.  Starting at the end and looking at a story one paragraph at a time triggers different parts of your brain.  You can’t fall into the fugue state in which the story appears in your head as a movie, and so you can’t just skim past words that you’re supposed to be studying.

Believe me, the stories that I proofread were great.  Had I tried to read them from front to back, I’d have gotten three paragraphs in and been so distracted by the fun of the action that I’d have missed the point of the exercise!

The Company He Keeps

Looking down the length of the barricades in the culture war on which I stand, I see nothing by faces I’m proud to fight alongside:

Makes me feel like one of the Gondorian knights standing behind Aragorn and Gimli and Théoden King at the Black Gates.  How the heck did I wind up standing behind these guys?  Eh, I survived the disaster at Osgiliath and Pelennor Fields.  I might be just a swordsman, but these guys can always use another writer at their back.  Every swipe at the enemy, every purchase denied the Narrativists, serves the cause of the alt-west, and I’m proud to stand among such luminaries.  There isn’t a name on that list I’d pass up a chance to read one of their books.

Learning From Everything

By now you’ve all heard about Diversity and Comics.  He watches the train wrecks so you don’t have to, but he does it in a way that really helps readers understand WHY current Marvel sucks worse than [insert Razoerfist analogy here].  Now, the man talks about individual comics for the most part, and the teachable moments are spread all over his channel, but after a few videos you start to notice a few trends about Marvel’s bad writing, specifically when it comes to writing women.  Those trends are worth looking for, because his laments about what was lost when the Pigs took over the Marvel Farm provide solid advice for ways to make your female characters more well-rounded, more diverse (in the classical and not SJW sense), and more believable.

Basically, don’t make them all mannish women, and don’t make them all walk, talk, think, and act like immature Manhattan millennial women who think the world is out to get them.

For a more concise commentary on writing female characters, look no further than this video by Mr. Plinkett.  For all his faults, the creepy serial killer knows his story structure, comedic timing, and characterization.

That video right there is a clinic on how to write better characters, how to write better pacing, and how to deliver a punch line  Take his commentary to heart, don’t be Paul Feig, allow your characters a little vulnerability – especially your female characters – and you’ll be writing at a level well above that of your average milkshake drinking millennial.

The Mollison Method

Dorrinal interviewed the Mark Kern on yesterday’s edition of Game Night, part of the Geek Gab Multimedia Entertainment Conglomerate.  The chat for all of their shows is worth the price of admission alone; the regular crew features faces familiar to those of you following the PulpRev social media circles, and in addition to the running commentary, you can always find fascinating side conversations.  BAR-1 Studios surprised me when he mentioned that he had recently had discussions with others about “The Mollison Method”.

Apparently, you could hear the needle scratch in my brain from Daddy Warpig’s house.  BAR-1 explained what he meant, and in retrospect it makes sense.  It’s how I kicked off my writing, and how I recommend any budding writer get over their cold feet and uncertainty about the process.  Writing a 1,000 page mega-novel featuring multiple view-point characters can be daunting, and many writers crash and burn before completing even the writing process.  Or they complete the first draft and then suffer jitters over things like formatting the document, finding beta-readers or proofers, producing a cover, uploading to Amazon, and you’re talking about one tall mountain to climb.

The Mollison Method dispenses with all of that and provides a relatively easy way to “fail faster”.  In mindset terms, this is the slogan for the process by which one embraces the early parts of a learning a new skill and puts their head down to grind straight ahead through the process.  Know and accept that your early steps are going to be rough so that you can put them in the rear view mirror and get to the smooth stretches of the road faster.

Here is the process in a nutshell:

  1. Don’t write a thousand page novel.  Just set yourself the goal of writing a 10,000 word novelette.  That’s longer than a short story, and enough to justify a Kindle purchase.   This may seem short, but see Step 3, below.
  2. Look at the first few pages of any book on your shelf – not the narrative, the book itself.  These pages have copyright and credits.  Copy those into your story.  Poke around and get your document formatted for whatever online sales outfit you want to work with.  (I recommend Amazon, but others have had success with Lulu.com.)
  3. Upload that first story and charge a dollar for it.  It may seem cheap, but if you are just starting out, cheap is good.  You just want to get that first sale, and a price point cheaper than a candy bar makes it easy for readers to hit that  big, yellow “Buy With 1-Click” button.
  4. Once you see people are willing to give you money for your words, you’ll be motivated to write a second story, this time maybe a 20,000 word novella.  You already have the template.  You’ve already figured out the uploading process.  You already have a few people that have demonstrated a willingness to give you money for entertainment, and they’ll probably do it again.
  5. Repeat steps 1. through 4. until you have 80,000 – 100,000 words available.  Stuff all of those stories into a Word file and upload that to Amazon.com with a new cover.  Charge a couple of dollars less for the collection than you did for the rest of your works, total.  This way, new fans can choose between betting just a dollar on your brilliance or go for the big bulk discount. 
  6. As an added bonus, you now have enough pages to justify selling a hard copy of your book.  I recommend writing another 10,000 word novelette exclusive to your collection, for those fans you have that are completists, too.  It’s a nice little incentive for your fans to pay you twice for the same work.

Consider a theme to your first book, too.  At a minimum, you should probably stick to one genre.  That will help guarantee future sales to previous buyers, and it will keep you motivated.

As proof of concept, I offer my first book, series of short stories featuring a modern day action hero, Karl Barber.  Each of the short stories was available individually, so I added a fourth tale about the titular street fight as an incentive to buy the more expensive book over the three shorts.  In this case, you could buy each of the three shorts for a dollar, or buy all three and get the bonus for three bucks.

Click to see the proof.

My second collection consisted of four novellas, each featuring a different dragon slaying hero.  I added a story from the dragon’s perspective to round out the collection.  In this case, I’ve removed all but one of the novellas down from my author page.  Too many titles makes it hard for readers to figure out which one to buy, and we want to make it as easy for them as possible.  So I have one cheap intro, and then a more expensive collection of all five stories.

Using this process, I was able to get two books onto Amazon in about six months.  After that, sitting down to write a 50,000 to 60,000 word novel doesn’t seem so bad.  You’re already standing on the top of one hill, and while the next one is taller, you already know you can climb it.

It’s Research, Not Gravedancing

My morning commute has slowly evolved into the Diversity and Comics Roadshow.  For those not in the know, the nameless creator of this YouTube series talks comics.  Usually, he reviews a single issue of a comic book, but he also produces episodes on various subjects, many of which revolve around Marvel’s self-inflicted gunshot wounds.  Not only does he provide interesting historical background information, he spots trends, and calls out the good and bad of every issue.  From his analysis of the artwork itself, it’s obvious the man knows what he is talking about.  He is also a funny host with a dry wit and often a barely restrained rage that entertains even as it informs.

Most of the information that he provides in his autopsies of what doesn’t work does me no good.  The constant litany of SJW and barely past their teens writing mistakes are not the sorts of things that I need to guard against.  But it’s darn fun to be able to vicariously experience the dreadful writing and erratic plotting and clumsy left-wing preaching through D&C.  The guy tries to bridge a middle ground, but the egregious own-goals of Marvel are clearly pushing him hard into the welcoming arms of the alt-right.  His SJW takedowns and thorough and professional and hilarious.

The field of comics serves as a useful case study in the cancerous effects of SJW culture in general and feminism in specific.  Comic books themselves did about $1 billion in sales in 2016, compared to a global film market of $38 billion and video games market of $91 billion.  As a content creator in the literary world (the biggest of the four mediums at $127 billion), this serves as a powerful incentive to rein in any impulses you might have to sip from the SJW kool-aid.

With a smaller environment, we can more easily see the market effects of a little thing like erasing the biggest names in the industry (Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Spidey, etc.) and brown-washing them with brand new demographic placeholders.  Spoiler alert!  It’s not pretty on either the creative or the financial side.

Or take this classic example of what happens to the sales of a comic book as it’s main writer and intellectual shepherd continues to drink from the SJW kool-aid spigot:

 
That’s a drop off in readership of 75%, and you can make chin music about dying industries and the death of print media all you want, and you’ll still be left with a minimum 25% dropoff in readership due to the quality of the work produced.
 
While comic books are only directly analogous to literature, they are a powerful analogy.  All of the rules of plot, pacing, characters, personality, writer’s voice, underlying messages, and so on apply equally to my chosen medium as they do to comic books. 
 
The dearth of quality writer’s podcasts has long been a complaint of mine.  Oh, sure, it’s easy to find podcasts full of NPR’s “Writer’s Almanac” style wankery.  It’s easy to find writers talking about their own work.  Finding nuts and bolts analysis of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to stringing sentences together is a lot harder.  Luckily, D&C doesn’t just produce that style of critique, he floods the digital airwaves with it.
 
And my commute is all the better for having him along for the ride.
 



Two Paths Converged

Two paths will lead you to the heights of literary success, and neither of them are free of rocks, wrong turns, and pitfalls.
 
 

One path is paved with hard work and dedication.  Years of long hours, careful study, and constant effort are necessary to climb this path.  Some say a million words must be written before producing a writer worth reading.  If you take this path, the world around you will constantly roll rocks your way.  They will tempt you to turn back, or to stop and rest.  This path is a long and lonely path that no one can walk for you.  Along the way you might meet a few fellow travelers who will point out the rocks, warn you away from dead ends, and offer encouraging words now and then.  But the actual process of climbing is up to you.  Call this path, “What You Know”.

The sign at the base of the other path reads, “Who You Know”.  Instead of dedicating long hours to tradecraft, the hikers on this path opt to spend time ingratiating themselves to those at the top of the path.  They rely on the hard won successes of others, grasping at coat-tails in the hopes that they may be able to ride them upwards.  Lined with fan conventions, cocktail parties, and rigged award ceremonies, it appears to be a life of relative ease, but it is not without cost.  To ascend this path, one must actively discourage fellow hikers lest they usurp your position as the chosen one.  One must carefully guard his speech lest he offend their patrons and be cast back down the hill.  Part of the price of this path is the loss of freedom the author suffers – the author who chooses this path will forever be subject to the whims of his patrons, unlike those who take the former path.  Call this path “Who You Know”.

Naturally, the two paths intersect and intertwine.  Even the most brilliant author must rely on the generosity of publishers, critics, and readers to spread the word of their latest masterpiece.  Even the most unctuous author must at some point put words to the page, and every patron has his limits.  The market will only bear so much incompetence, and every patron’s patience with authors who lose money has its limit.  As a result, every author spends some time on the first path and some on the second.

As for me – that first path looks like so much more fun.  The people I’ve met along that path sure are fun, I can tell you that!

High Quality Writing Advice

Most writing advice strikes me as the coloring on a tropical frog – it’s bright and obvious and tells you to stay away from the poison.  You would think that those who write for a living would be better at writing advice, but typically I make note of the advice-giver’s name to add to my list of authors to avoid.  If the best you can offer is nothing more concrete and actionable than, “write what you love” and “seek inspiration everywhere,” then it’s a safe bet you won’t offer anything more interesting in your fiction writing. 

Enter Russell Newquist.  The man has been tearing up the scene lately.  His spirited defense of his publishing house’s writers are epic, but it’s his writing advice you should really study.  His latest, a two-parter on how to write page-turners is particularly illuminating.

In part one he provides actual mathematical numbers:

Be the page turner. Keep your chapters short. My average chapter length for Post Traumatic Stress is 1450 words. That’s only two manuscript pages, and only about a half dozen book pages.

Part two provides more structural advice:

One easy way to end your chapter on a hook is to take the first sentence of your next chapter and move it to the end of your current chapter.

 If you want people to say they couldn’t put your book down, go thou and do likewise.

A Newcomer’s View of the PulpRev

Dominika Lein, author of, I, The One, posted an in-depth look at her experience with the #PulpRev.  It’s gratifying to read about her experiences, as this is exactly the spirit that I’ve been pushing within the community.  I’ve lifted a few choice quotes, but you should really go read the whole thing:

It’s been a little over a month since I emerged from lurking to larval wiggling about in the PulpRev trenches. Time flew fast.

In my time as an independent writer for the past four years, I’ve never seen support like I’ve already experienced in the PulpRev community. 

I would have never gotten that kind of support from a regular writing group or a place like NaNoWriMo…An aside: the only kind of support NaNoWriMo knows how to give is of two kinds; Rabidly cheerleadering “approved elements” to include in stories (you know) along with word counts regardless of quality and yet parroting the “proper ways to write” which ranges from mangled quotes of Strunk & White to Wendig blatherings to generic marketing/myths (which always includes “GIVE AWAY FREE COPIES …(so I can get it for free)”).

The #PulpRev has experienced phenomenal growth over the last six months, with no sign of let up.  We’ve attracted newcomers like Dominika and old hands as well.  In addition to serving as a ready-made fan base, the #PulpRev features some of the most supportive fans around.  We don’t just buy each other’s works, we do beta-reading, marketing, and encouragement, too.  At least for now.

One thing that I don’t have a firm grasp of yet is how well this atmosphere will scale.  As the crowd continues to grow, will we ossify into the NaNoWriMo self-absorption, or will we continue to show the same level of support for each other?  My guess is that it will scale perfectly.  As more writers of good will enter the lists, they’ll bring their own talents and time into the fold.  That will increase the amount of support even as the number of people who need support increases.  The overall level of support that any given writer receives won’t increase – you’ll still have two or three people beta-reading and reviewing and recommending your work – but the volunteerism will grow as the culture does.

The one thing to watch out for is the moochers.  The guys who always beg for help, but never offer anything up in return.  They will come, have no doubt about that.  It’s surprising that we haven’t seen any of them yet, or if we have, I haven’t seen them*.  Perhaps they fade away when they realize that the #PulpRev crowd isn’t stupid.  We notice the little things, and without question, those who don’t give shall not receive. 

My advice, for what it’s worth, is to continue welcoming new writers with open arms.  Be wary, but welcoming.  And start looking for ways to build up a stronger reader base rather than a writer base.  Our weak link right now is that the people most drawn to the #PulpRev are those who have thought about what modern literature is missing and set out to correct its shortcomings.  But there are throngs of readers out there looking for us who just don’t know we exist.  Once we crack that nut, you’re going to see a quantum leap in our profile.  Jon Del Arroz has been doing yeoman’s work to that end, but the movement as a whole has a long way to go.

Which shouldn’t be discouraging, but inspiring.  We’re going to be around for a fair few decades, even if it dwindles back to a few gaming bloggers writing stories for their own amusement.

Also, if you want to support one of the authors of this growing movement, you can do so by purchasing a copy of my latest #PulpRev novel, A Moon Full of Stars.  It’s post-apocalypse the way it was meant to be!

https://www.amazon.com/Moon-Full-Stars-Jon-Mollison-ebook/dp/B071VSF68L?ie=UTF8&keywords=moon%20full%20of%20stars&qid=1497061983&ref_=sr_1_1&s=digital-text&sr=1-1