52 books in 52 weeks: How to Write Pulp Fiction

I set myself the goal of reading and reviewing 52 writing guides over the year. Here is book 33.

How to Write Pulp Fiction by James Scott Bell is probably my favourite how-to-write book from this author. Before the end I was already making notes, trying out the random plot generator and thinking up characters and seedy settings.

The author starts with a history of pulp fiction before going into how the same techniques can be applied to today’s ebook market, and particularly to self-publishers who are building their own brand.

He also gives away some secrets, such as using serial characters to save on the planning work, which can be applied to any genre really. And he shows how to take your work to the next level by pausing and going deeper into a situation before coming back to the main plot.

Once you’ve written the book, there is advice on how to get published, in which the author goes into the pros and cons of both traditional publishing and self-publishing. And then there’s a little bit on marketing.

At the end of the book is a delightful little vignette about a new writer who learns his trade from a hack pulp fiction writer, written in glorious pulp fiction style.

I absolutely loved the random plot generator, to the extent that I saved both the random number generator (you need to read the book to see what this is) and a random name generator to the home screen on all of my devices, and I wrote down all of his plot machine prompts in a notebook, just so I always have access to them.

In order to get the absolute best from this guide, I think it’s important to read some of the suggested authors. I already have a full set of Raymond Chandlers, but I also treated myself to the first Perry Mason by Erle Stanley Gardner. (I’ve read the first page and am already addicted.)

The guide is written just like the pulp fiction it’s describing. It’s easy to read in a no-nonsense conversational style and makes you think that maybe you could give this a go too. Even if you don’t particularly want to write pulp fiction, it’s a nice entertaining read.

“Type hard. Type fast. Make dough.”

How to Write Pulp Fiction is available on Kindle for £2.96 ($4.10) and in paperback for £8.36 ($10.99).