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Type Hard. Type Fast. Make Dough. That was the formula of old-school pulp fiction—plot-driven, popular and gobbled up by a reading public hungry for more. And it produced many writers who hammered out a living selling “cash-and-carry” stories and novels. Some of these writers were among the best America has ever produced. Writers like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett Type Hard. Type Fast. Make Dough. That was the formula of old-school pulp fiction—plot-driven, popular and gobbled up by a reading public hungry for more. And it produced many writers who hammered out a living selling “cash-and-carry” stories and novels. Some of these writers were among the best America has ever produced. Writers like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and John D. MacDonald. Others are numbered among the bestselling authors of all time, including Erle Stanley Gardner, Lester Dent, and Frederick Faust (better known by his pen name, Max Brand). What were the secrets of these successful pulp writers? And how can any writer, of any genre, use them to produce fiction that sells? How to Write Pulp Fiction will teach you: • how to be more prolific • the secrets of pulp plotting • how to elevate your pulp prose • the fiction “formulas” of some of the best pulp writers of all time • the bestselling genres • how to harness the power of the series character • the most effective publishing strategies • how to market your pulp fiction Added bonus! The Start-A-Plot Machine, a brainstorming partner that will help you instantly generate a story or novel idea. You’ll never again wonder what to write next. There has never been a better time to be a writer. By tapping into the vibe of the pulp writers of old, and making use of the tools of publication available now, any hard-working writer has a serious shot at realizing steady income from their fiction. “James Scott Bell is my go-to writing guru!” - Terri Blackstock, New York Times bestselling writer


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Type Hard. Type Fast. Make Dough. That was the formula of old-school pulp fiction—plot-driven, popular and gobbled up by a reading public hungry for more. And it produced many writers who hammered out a living selling “cash-and-carry” stories and novels. Some of these writers were among the best America has ever produced. Writers like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett Type Hard. Type Fast. Make Dough. That was the formula of old-school pulp fiction—plot-driven, popular and gobbled up by a reading public hungry for more. And it produced many writers who hammered out a living selling “cash-and-carry” stories and novels. Some of these writers were among the best America has ever produced. Writers like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and John D. MacDonald. Others are numbered among the bestselling authors of all time, including Erle Stanley Gardner, Lester Dent, and Frederick Faust (better known by his pen name, Max Brand). What were the secrets of these successful pulp writers? And how can any writer, of any genre, use them to produce fiction that sells? How to Write Pulp Fiction will teach you: • how to be more prolific • the secrets of pulp plotting • how to elevate your pulp prose • the fiction “formulas” of some of the best pulp writers of all time • the bestselling genres • how to harness the power of the series character • the most effective publishing strategies • how to market your pulp fiction Added bonus! The Start-A-Plot Machine, a brainstorming partner that will help you instantly generate a story or novel idea. You’ll never again wonder what to write next. There has never been a better time to be a writer. By tapping into the vibe of the pulp writers of old, and making use of the tools of publication available now, any hard-working writer has a serious shot at realizing steady income from their fiction. “James Scott Bell is my go-to writing guru!” - Terri Blackstock, New York Times bestselling writer

30 review for How to Write Pulp Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Armand Rosamilia

    Lots of insight and tips. Most of what the author talks about should be common sense if you're a fan of pulp fiction, but he gives it to you straight-forward as a refresher course and quite a bit of it you'll see in a new light. I took away a lot of new tricks to use.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Wayne Marinovich

    Does what it says in the tin. Good read, for some great ideas. Recommend it to new authors

  3. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    Some good stuff here, especially on plotting (although even that is mostly cribbed from other writers), but overall this was disappointing. The big deducts? Continually referencing that more details can be found in his other books, so that this comes off as and advert. Extensive block-quoting from other writers books on craft, not even bothering to paraphrase or recast, just simply quoting another writer's methods (probably public domain stuff that he could quote freely). Some good tips by nothi Some good stuff here, especially on plotting (although even that is mostly cribbed from other writers), but overall this was disappointing. The big deducts? Continually referencing that more details can be found in his other books, so that this comes off as and advert. Extensive block-quoting from other writers books on craft, not even bothering to paraphrase or recast, just simply quoting another writer's methods (probably public domain stuff that he could quote freely). Some good tips by nothing substantive.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    Great book! I grew up reading Edgar Rice Burroughs, Doc Savage, The Shadow, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Erle Stanley Gardner, and others in pulps. I loved revisiting this era and all the writing insights!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    This author has written a TON of writing books. I would encourage you to go through the reviews to find out which one has what you're looking for. This book was more enjoyable than his 27 Fiction Writing Blunders, in that it has a lot more information that's not publicly known. Specifically, Bell references a lot of the pulp fiction and its history (that it was printed on "pulp" paper" and condensed in size so that it could fit on the wire-spinners at magazine stands). He also had a lot of anecd This author has written a TON of writing books. I would encourage you to go through the reviews to find out which one has what you're looking for. This book was more enjoyable than his 27 Fiction Writing Blunders, in that it has a lot more information that's not publicly known. Specifically, Bell references a lot of the pulp fiction and its history (that it was printed on "pulp" paper" and condensed in size so that it could fit on the wire-spinners at magazine stands). He also had a lot of anecdotes about the greats, and I remain in awe of how prolific they really were. 175 books in a lifetime? Writing fourteen pages a day, rain or shine, sick or drunk? (I believe my long-time fav, Marion Chesney, would fall into this category of pulp--nonstop action and less on the characterisation.) I like my how-to books to be less manual-like and more history-book-like, so this one was far more to my taste. As to whether it's helpful in improving your writing...I would say there's a little bit of that in there, to let you know that we now live in an age where publishing is less grinding than eighty years ago. On the other hand, you'd have to understand that you could probably never live up to the utter mad production rates of those desperate typists of an earlier era.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laure Reminick

    Got several ideas I used immediately Who knew the venerable tradition of pulp? I aspire to this pace, though far to go into the deep dark night. Bell gives a roadmap and hope

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kenya Wright

    There was a lot of winning advice in this book. There were also some moments where he could've expanded on the topic of what is a pulp. However, there ware so many great details and additional writing advice that it didn't matter. I've been writing for years and was pleased to find some reasons to take notes, during this read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Fast read. Like a blog post.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Meryl

    40% of this book was really useful, but like most of Bell’s self-published writing books, a good chunk is repeated from his other books. This one also had a large chunk of fluff. But the useful bits were useful.

  10. 5 out of 5

    George Billions

    Some of my biggest literary heroes are the authors who bang out prolific numbers of high-octane page-turners. This book gives some practical advice toward becoming one of said authors. In brief: write lots, be exciting. The writing is as smooth and engaging as it better damn well be if it’s giving these kind of tips. I read it in a sitting and was disappointed there wasn’t more, which is what you want in pulp. Bell’s advice on twisting cliches and making them your own is something that will stic Some of my biggest literary heroes are the authors who bang out prolific numbers of high-octane page-turners. This book gives some practical advice toward becoming one of said authors. In brief: write lots, be exciting. The writing is as smooth and engaging as it better damn well be if it’s giving these kind of tips. I read it in a sitting and was disappointed there wasn’t more, which is what you want in pulp. Bell’s advice on twisting cliches and making them your own is something that will stick with me, and that I will definitely use.

  11. 5 out of 5

    G.S. Wright

    So I've had this dream of developing my writing skills to the prolific level of the old pulp writers. I follow the blog (occasionally) of Dean Weasley Smith whom I credit for really bringing awareness back about how authors used to write to make money (i.e. make a living). This is a good book on the craft, with advice taken from the greats of the past. There's a few other gems in the book from the author that makes it well worth the price. Does this book provide me with everything I need to writ So I've had this dream of developing my writing skills to the prolific level of the old pulp writers. I follow the blog (occasionally) of Dean Weasley Smith whom I credit for really bringing awareness back about how authors used to write to make money (i.e. make a living). This is a good book on the craft, with advice taken from the greats of the past. There's a few other gems in the book from the author that makes it well worth the price. Does this book provide me with everything I need to write at pulp speed for decades? No, but it's definitely a step along the path.

  12. 5 out of 5

    B.K.

    Short, sweet, and simple; How to Write Pulp Fiction takes a cue from its source material and gets right to the point. If you are ready to unlearn everything your literature professors taught you and get to WORK writing pulp fiction, read this first!

  13. 5 out of 5

    L.J. Longo

    I loved this writing book. It's got a great tone (very noir-ish which I found delightful on the first read and super helpful when I tried to copy it for my writing). The recommendations are fantastic and every chapter left me wanting to go out and do more writing.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Vesna

    Although I didn't necessarily agree with everything, this book was a fun and quick read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Max Mulholland

    I found this short but very detailed, instructive book on writing genre fiction to be exceptionally helpful and motivating. If provides straight forward talk on what it takes to write and an excellent updated section on publishing and marketing. It left me inspired to start writing again!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Waraji Sama

    This was a fun book to read, but what it is NOT is a book on the nuts and bolts of writing, which is fine because I have read enough of those, really. This book has a lot of anecdotes from pulp writers from the "era," which I found fascinating! There's also some interesting plot stuff in this book for random idea generation which comes straight from the pup writers. I guess that's how some of them were able to churn out so many stories so quickly! I'd say this book is an entertaining read if you' This was a fun book to read, but what it is NOT is a book on the nuts and bolts of writing, which is fine because I have read enough of those, really. This book has a lot of anecdotes from pulp writers from the "era," which I found fascinating! There's also some interesting plot stuff in this book for random idea generation which comes straight from the pup writers. I guess that's how some of them were able to churn out so many stories so quickly! I'd say this book is an entertaining read if you're interested in pulp fiction, or the work ethic of pulp writers. But if you're looing for a "writing book" this isn't really it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Tumlinson

    Probably the best guide for will-be indie authors I have a new favorite. Bell’s approach to embracing pulp fiction methods as a guideline to your writing career may be the best tack I’ve encountered. Less about craft, and more about strategy and technique, this book lays it out plain and makes the process sound as intriguing as the writers who inspired it. I’m a fan, and I’ve already picked up more of Bell’s books on writing. This one is a must-have for every author’s bookshelf.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Zoe Cannon

    Does anyone besides writing teachers actually care about this sharp distinction between literary fiction and genre fiction? I tend to see literary fiction the same way I see the romance genre - I'll read one from time to time, if it looks interesting enough, but more often than not I'll come away disappointed because I don't care for a lot of the common tropes. I'm reminded of a writing book I read a couple of years ago, where the author presented the supposedly groundbreaking idea of writing a Does anyone besides writing teachers actually care about this sharp distinction between literary fiction and genre fiction? I tend to see literary fiction the same way I see the romance genre - I'll read one from time to time, if it looks interesting enough, but more often than not I'll come away disappointed because I don't care for a lot of the common tropes. I'm reminded of a writing book I read a couple of years ago, where the author presented the supposedly groundbreaking idea of writing a book that is (gasp) something in between literary and genre fiction... and then went on to describe more than 90% of the books I've read. This book, meanwhile, talks as if nothing exists but the snootiest of literary fiction and the pulpiest of pulp. But while this vision of the literary world doesn't make sense to me as a reader, I do want to write my next series in the pulp mode, so I did find it useful. It's a short book, but dense. Heavy on both inspiration and practical advice. This book put into words some things about plotting that hadn't quite made it into my conscious awareness yet. And this book manages to make grueling writing schedules sound not only appealing but downright inspiring. Plus there's a fun story-idea generator (this thing works; try it). I do wish the author had left out the chapters on publishing and marketing. Chances are most of the people reading this book have already read this same advice a dozen times in a dozen different books. And anyone who hasn't really should read a more in-depth book (which will cover the same ground - because every. single. book. on self-publishing devotes its first few chapters to the exact same self-publishing 101 spiel - plus a lot more). The chapters at the end I could also have done without - the gimmick of delivering writing advice written as an old-fashioned pulp story was too cutesy for me - but I could see it appealing to someone else. I would pair this book with a piece of advice I recently read in another writing book - be attached to the process of writing, rather than the individual books. Love the work, not the works. It seems to go right along with this book's philosophy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    A.M.

    I am fascinated by the old pulp writers. Wikiperia defines the age as: Pulp Fiction (often referred to as "the pulps") were inexpensive fiction magazines that were published from 1896 to the 1950s. The term pulp derives from the cheap wood pulp paper on which the magazines were printed. In contrast, magazines printed on higher quality paper were called "glossies" or "slicks". The typical pulp magazine had 128 pages; it was 7 inches (18 cm) wide by 10 inches (25 cm) high, and 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) th I am fascinated by the old pulp writers. Wikiperia defines the age as: Pulp Fiction (often referred to as "the pulps") were inexpensive fiction magazines that were published from 1896 to the 1950s. The term pulp derives from the cheap wood pulp paper on which the magazines were printed. In contrast, magazines printed on higher quality paper were called "glossies" or "slicks". The typical pulp magazine had 128 pages; it was 7 inches (18 cm) wide by 10 inches (25 cm) high, and 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) thick, with ragged, untrimmed edges. They sold up to millions of each edition. A lot of the authors are now considered the great writers, but it takes a special skill to produce thousands of words a day; and on a mechanical typewriter which would make it physically demanding as well as mentally challenging. Plotting and preparing what you write before you write it isn’t cheating. In this age of instant publishing, there are a lot of people who are looking back at these wordy titans for advice. That’s pretty much what this book is. Bell takes quotes, examples, and entire sections from previous sources. He even makes up his own random generator. For the record: I tried this and it was fun. I’ve read Plotto by William Wallace Cook, and bought my own copy. It’s also great fun to mess about with. I just found his book on Gutenberg: the Fiction Factory so its added to my TBR list. And I did a Dean Wesley Smith course based on Lester Dent’s plot formula. But there’s a few more plot recipes I hadn’t heard of; Frank Gruber, and Erle Stanley Gardner had their own formula, too. Of course , an author is free to write experimental fiction , which is also known by its unofficial name , Fiction That Doesn’t Sell .(Kindle Locations 408-409). Bwahaha. Whatever works to get those words down! 4 stars

  20. 4 out of 5

    Robert A Chalmers

    Vince Vicious finds a Gem It was the book’s cover that caught my eye that cold foggy night as I waited in the shadows of the store on Oxford Street. I’d been searching for this for some time, and now as I read the words I realized that the gems I had been seeking were within it pages. My dark hat shaded my eyes and cast my face into deeper shadow. “How much?” I whispered to the blowzy blond behind the counter as I rattled the small chang in my left hand. “That’ll be fifty P Mr,” she replied. The Vince Vicious finds a Gem It was the book’s cover that caught my eye that cold foggy night as I waited in the shadows of the store on Oxford Street. I’d been searching for this for some time, and now as I read the words I realized that the gems I had been seeking were within it pages. My dark hat shaded my eyes and cast my face into deeper shadow. “How much?” I whispered to the blowzy blond behind the counter as I rattled the small chang in my left hand. “That’ll be fifty P Mr,” she replied. The book was clutched tightly in my right hand. From what I’d seem the advice it offered was pertinent to my needs. Very pertinent. The wind whistled along the concourse, autumn oak leaves rattled against my legs as I hurried away from the store. I hadn’t gone far when I noticed the man in the trench coat hurrying after me. I picked up my pace. This book was a great find. It told me all I needed to know. I could extract the key points and put them on cards on my cork board. The case against that low life Slack Procrastination would be solved in double quick time. The man was closing the gap, I had to do something. This book could not fall into the wrong hands. My reputation as Vince Vicious was about to be restored, thanks to the value of this little book. I reached into my pocket, the cold metal of the P38 filling my hand. The man stepped closer. “You bought the last copy,” he hissed. “I need that book to kick start my career.” “That’s tough Mac, you’ll have to buy a copy from Amazon.” He stepped back and I eased my grip on the gray metal in my pocket. “Follow it’s advice and you’ll be ok.” I turned away and hurried to my office. I couldn’t wait to get started.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mama M

    Interesting A lot of quotes from various writers. The examples of fiction that the author has included is not really my style so I skipped them, but I gained some useful knowledge: that people used to write pulp fiction to feed their families during the Depression and they had to move to NY to cold-water flats and try to sell their books! So hard compared to today, when you can publish on Amazon Kindle! The bestselling genre of pulp is romance and that’s what I like to read. Wish he had included Interesting A lot of quotes from various writers. The examples of fiction that the author has included is not really my style so I skipped them, but I gained some useful knowledge: that people used to write pulp fiction to feed their families during the Depression and they had to move to NY to cold-water flats and try to sell their books! So hard compared to today, when you can publish on Amazon Kindle! The bestselling genre of pulp is romance and that’s what I like to read. Wish he had included romance as the fiction examples. But guess that’s not his style. Great book nonetheless. On page 36 on Kindle, the author writes that a character for a series should have a likeable quality. I don’t necessarily agree. Nip Tuck, one of the best shows of all time, contained many characters with no likeable qualities. Take Christian Troy, for example. He was such a jerk who did all sorts of awful things. We could not stop watching! So, these books on writing that keep on saying characters need to be nice and kind are confusing the would be writer. All the books on Kindle about affairs would not sell if characters need to have a good moral compass.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

    Contains maybe 20% Pulp Like pulp fiction itself, this book was an easy read and took me less than 2 hours to finish. Tips are given throughout with examples from celebrated pulp writers, to illustrate how snappy dialogue and memorable characters help move along the plot of story. The book also addresses the more commercial aspects of making it as a writer using current marketing methods, tips and tricks. The overall tone is encouraging to the would be author but doesn’t shy away from the commitm Contains maybe 20% Pulp Like pulp fiction itself, this book was an easy read and took me less than 2 hours to finish. Tips are given throughout with examples from celebrated pulp writers, to illustrate how snappy dialogue and memorable characters help move along the plot of story. The book also addresses the more commercial aspects of making it as a writer using current marketing methods, tips and tricks. The overall tone is encouraging to the would be author but doesn’t shy away from the commitment and passion needed in order to succeed. Throughout links are given for additional material written by the author regarding plot, character, voice, marketing etc which I felt should have been part of this book as one all inclusive source on how to write pulp. A good overview of pulp fiction and entertaining at that!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gwyn Haller

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is a book I know I will re-read; It turned me on to the early pulp writers and I have gotten a few Chandler books and other writers of the time. These writers were creating stories during the Great Depression (USA) with the intention of selling them to support themselves. Times have changed. But I know I happened on "veins of gold, valuable gems, and the treasure map" inside this book. Now I need to dig into these prolific writers works and see what applies to "now". Another thoroughly enjo This is a book I know I will re-read; It turned me on to the early pulp writers and I have gotten a few Chandler books and other writers of the time. These writers were creating stories during the Great Depression (USA) with the intention of selling them to support themselves. Times have changed. But I know I happened on "veins of gold, valuable gems, and the treasure map" inside this book. Now I need to dig into these prolific writers works and see what applies to "now". Another thoroughly enjoyable book, Mr. Bell!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tracey Pedersen

    This is one of the few books that will stay on my Kindle after I've finished reading. The information is quite interesting and I enjoyed the comparison's to writers in the 50's and 60's. There are some valid things to remember if you want to write fast and hard and I'm sure I'll refer to this book again. Some of the information is common sense but it's a great reminder for writers who want readers to plow through their back catalogue, desperate to find out what's in your other books. Recommended This is one of the few books that will stay on my Kindle after I've finished reading. The information is quite interesting and I enjoyed the comparison's to writers in the 50's and 60's. There are some valid things to remember if you want to write fast and hard and I'm sure I'll refer to this book again. Some of the information is common sense but it's a great reminder for writers who want readers to plow through their back catalogue, desperate to find out what's in your other books. Recommended reading.

  25. 5 out of 5

    David G

    Master Professor James Scott Bell is a master professor. He explains, illustrates, and applies wisdom as only a seasoned practitioner who dances on conference tables could. He inspires you to stop saying you are too tired and you are not in a creative mood and kicks you in the pants to get upstairs and finish what you started so long ago that by now you have almost forgotten the most beautiful ending ever dreamed but not yet typed. Read this book and get to work. Somebody’s life just might depend Master Professor James Scott Bell is a master professor. He explains, illustrates, and applies wisdom as only a seasoned practitioner who dances on conference tables could. He inspires you to stop saying you are too tired and you are not in a creative mood and kicks you in the pants to get upstairs and finish what you started so long ago that by now you have almost forgotten the most beautiful ending ever dreamed but not yet typed. Read this book and get to work. Somebody’s life just might depend on it. Your dream life most certainly does.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Louis

    A useful guide to wannabe pulp writers everywhere, Bell looks at the art of "cash-and-carry" stories. In brief, entertaining fashion, he tells how to write prolifically and better. He discusses the genres and the value of creating a series. He also offers good advice on how to market your work. Best of all is the chapter covering his "Start-A-Plot Machine," a handy guide to all us writers. If you aspire to this profession pick this book up; in a few hours you will be set on the right (write?) pa A useful guide to wannabe pulp writers everywhere, Bell looks at the art of "cash-and-carry" stories. In brief, entertaining fashion, he tells how to write prolifically and better. He discusses the genres and the value of creating a series. He also offers good advice on how to market your work. Best of all is the chapter covering his "Start-A-Plot Machine," a handy guide to all us writers. If you aspire to this profession pick this book up; in a few hours you will be set on the right (write?) path.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Robin Riedler

    A Unique and Refreshing Take on Writing Well I love fast stories. Long, drawn out one are apt to lose me far from the end. Am I a product of the digital age? I don’t believe so. I just love fast stories. Keep me interested so I can move on to the next one. How much more fun then, to discover a fast paced book on writing past paced books that’s fast paced! I love it! And, I highly recommend it. This book on writing isn’t the standard one. I think you’ll probably learn a new thing or two.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    Minces no Words Straight and to the point, practical, encouragement. I appreciate the many tips and bits of advice about how to move your story along with action and suspense. I will try my hand at a story, based on this advice. There were quite a few noticeable typos, but they were not too distracting.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kait Nolan

    Smart marketing on his part. References a bunch of his other books 'Hey go buy this to find out more on x,y,z.' Includes whole series of previously written blog posts, gobs of quotes from pulp writers of the day, a short generic infodump on publishing methods and maybe a day or two's worth of writing of legitimate new material. Probably better for complete beginners.

  30. 4 out of 5

    James

    One of the best I grew up reading my dad's old pulp stories and bought scores of then in the 70s, 80s, and started buying the again now that the old out of print ones are on amazon kindle. This book show you how to write them yourself, something I always wanted to do. Do yourself a favor and buy this book.

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