We all know pulp fiction is dead. The magazines have dwindled down to a handful and there are no new ones starting up. How dead is pulp fiction?
Pulp fiction books are alive and well in the action genre and any other genre that allows you to write an action packed story. They are better written now. Book publishers pay more than magazine editors. Thorough revision is the norm now, but there are still pulp fiction elements driving the stories forward.
If you read action novels, you’ll recognize what I mean by quality pulp fiction. There is a hero who is the best fighter ever and the story involves many conflicts leading up to a boss character that takes a lot of work to kill. There are usually dozens of books in the series and each follows a similar plot with differing locations, enemies, and weapons.
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of non-pulp writers whose stories are action packed. Action doesn’t require a book to be pulp fiction. The difference is in the quality of the plot. I’ve read plenty of novels that used pulp fiction methods and were great reads.
Pulp as a First Novel
If you’ve been trying to write a novel for years and have been plagued by sentence problems, story problems and typos, pulp fiction might be for you. Write your next novel heavy on action and all in one straight pass without correcting anything until it’s done. To increase your odds of getting the right word count, create an outline first with 25 chapter headings that tell the whole story. Go for 4000 words per chapter on average when writing it. If a chapter is low, stretch the next chapter. When you’re done, read your 100,000 word novel through a few times, correct anything that jumps out at you and you’re ready to start sending out queries. If you already have a few “shelf” manuscripts, plan on the average chapter length you already write. Calculate the number of chapters you will need to hit 100,000 words. Publishers have been sticking with that length for first manuscripts for decades.
Pulp Can Be Revised into Quality
If you don’t want to write pulp fiction, there’s still no reason not to use it for your first draft. To write better quality novels, all you need to do is add a second and final draft. The first draft is pulp, which gets it done fast. The second draft is re-writing bad sentences and paragraphs, adding a little, cutting a lot, and fixing story problems. The final draft is several passes of proofreading with a bit more editing where needed and you finish with a much better book than the single draft pulp writer.
Amazingly, Ryoki Inoue, the world’s most prolific writer, doesn’t seem to know this method. He wrote over 1000 pulp novels and sometimes wrote up to three books in one day. Then he decided to switch to writing higher quality books and it’s taking him months to write each one. Hey. He’s the same as us now. What’s going on? He never learned the multiple draft writing method. He wrote all of those books in one pass and did no revision. He said he hasn’t read most of his own books. He doesn’t seem to have learned how to write a bad first draft and then use second draft editing and final draft proofreading to make it good. When he does learn multiple draft writing, I’m sure he’ll be taking off again with quality books.
You may never crank out a pulp fiction novel in a day, but by writing your first draft with no intention of being good you’ll have the hard part done. The hard part is getting the word count up, by the way. Your bad first draft can wander all over the place as you sit there cranking out words without a care about quality. Rambling is preferred. You never know where you can take your story beyond the outline. Since everything can be cut in the second draft, every idea can go into the first.
By writing your first draft as pulp fiction, you’ll have a book length manuscript finished so fast you wouldn’t have thought it possible.
Article by Ivan Izo.