Thursday, March 29, 2012
I’m In A New Pulp State Of Mind…♪♫♪
Yeah, it’s like the song says, I like to get away now and then, see what’s going on out
there, writing wise. So last winter I signed on to guest review a mainstream fantasy novel.
I have to admit, after not having read anything but pulp for a couple of years, it was a bit
jarring to have in hand a far bigger book of almost 600 pages, and a story that took its
time to set up. There were a lot of lush and interesting details in it that I know I would
never have the time or space to add to one of my current manuscripts. I used to devour
stories like that, and yes I very much enjoyed this one—once I made up my mind it was
perfectly all right to slow down and savor it. It was a very well written book, and reading
it reminded me that my writing roots have always been in mainstream fantasy, where the
stories are far longer and often more complex.
Sometimes it’s good to go back to the old hometown and look around, to see where
you’ve come from. These days however, I live in the New Pulp world, and that’s okay,
because they actually know me here.
Would I write a mainstream novel? Oh sure, I’d be nuts not to! The material I’ve
scavenged for FORTUNE’S PAWN and its sequels came out of one of those big tomes,
though it got divided up and rewritten to appeal to the pulp crowd. I’d be more than
thrilled to be tapped for a big book of some kind—especially one that could wind up
on chain bookstore shelves (providing there are any still in business by then). But in all
honesty, I find myself gravitating more toward a pulpy perspective these days when it
comes to writing. I’ve become completely enamored with that hectic pacing and high
action and adventure of the New Pulp world of fiction. I like being able to turn out a
novel and a couple anthologies in one year. In the past seven months I’ve seen two novel
length books with my name on the cover. I have two more due this year, as well as short
stories and various other projects. I have even been given the honor of having my own
personal imprint under the company banner, and I also get to work with other writers in
my position as assistant editor. So I’m feeling plenty fulfilled, as far writing goes.
I recall when I first started writing; someone told me that the best way to learn to
write tight was to take on a local newspaper correspondent position. The idea was that
the columns are short and space is at a premium, so editors are quick to red pencil
superfluous material and demand rewrites. You learn rapidly to be clear and concise. I
can see the wisdom in that, though simple reporting is far removed from fiction writing,
where the reader has to be able to see the story setting and characters through your
carefully chosen words. Writing New Pulp has shown me how to describe scenes more
directly, and I know I’m far better at it now than I was before I sort of fell down the
rabbit hole into the pulp world. That pacing I mentioned helped me learn to concentrate
on just the nuts and bolts of the story, not adding extraneous material that doesn’t move
it forward. It also taught me the wisdom of keeping the action going to keep those pages
turning, which a lot of mainstream novels seem to miss for long stretches. I still tend to
write longwinded, but there’s more meat to it these days. And it has paid off, because
I’ve had more than one reader’s feedback that the books or stories of mine they read were
hard to put down.
That’s music to any writer’s ears!
I really would love to be able to support myself through my writing someday. It’s
something I think about every time I sit down here at the PC. It’s the thing that glues my
butt to the chair and gets my fingers dancing over the keys. To have a second chance
in this life, and instead of working at some 9-5 job or choosing a career path I’m only
mildly enthusiastic about, I’d love to be able to make a living doing what I enjoy so
much. Oh sure, writing gives me fits some days, and all the self-promotion and fanfare
about getting your stuff out there to be read is very wearying. I love it anyway. I’d love it
even more if I got paid well for doing it though… For me it’s not about the fame; nothing
like being able to walk into a fancy restaurant and instantly be recognized, or even flying
first class. I’d just love to see regular royalty checks that help pay the bills, and maybe
offer me a chance to have some retirement years’ health insurance. I’d like just enough
money coming in at a reasonably steady clip to have a comfortable and fairly secure old
With that said, if I never make it above this level, where we’re all scraping money
together to put out books and attend conventions, I’ll still be satisfied. I am writing
stories I feel really good about, and getting them into the hands of readers fairly quickly.
It’s pretty exciting to know you have something new coming out on a regular basis. I love
sitting down here to work at the keyboard, watching the story evolve on the screen before
me, thinking about what new twists and unexpected events I can toss into it this time.
I wouldn’t want to ever lose that feeling of wonder when a project is completed, and
become jaded and pessimistic about what I do. This is just too rewarding for me, at least
in the mental and emotional sense.
So when I read that big book—which has been #2 on the New York Times Bestseller
List—I did it without any trace of envy. The author earned her kudos, because it’s well
written and captivating. But I am no less ashamed of my own small novel and the tinier
circles it moves in. Like that author, I’ve been writing for a while too, and this is also my
first published work of fiction; the initial book of a three novel series. I’m sure we both
had the same sleepless nights, lost afternoons, pie-in-the-sky hopes and dreams for what
was coming out of the keyboard and winding up on the page. The process is the same,
even if the end result varies. I’ve been blessed in my own small way to have been able to
grab hold of that gold ring on the publishing carousel, something many people never get
the chance to do. I’m not in any place to complain.
So yeah, I’m going to keep writing New Pulp, and see where it takes me. At the very
least, I am doing something I love and feel good about, which is more than a lot of folks
can say today. I’ll keep promoting it and chatting with people about it too, because that’s
a passion of mine. This is not just some small underground group of pseudo publishing,
but a seriously committed and exponentially growing movement toward getting action
adventure tales back into the hands of eager readers. That’s a really fine goal, and if all
I ever get to do is contribute to that, I’ll be content. But if things heat up down the road,
and I manage to lift my work a couple more rungs up the ladder of success, I promise
you, I won’t forget the lessons I’ve learned these last two years. I’m very proud to be a
member of the burgeoning New Pulp community. That feeling I’ll never lose.
Now I am going back to writing, and you should too.