Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

A Pulp Fiction Handbook

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51wEr7Wo74LI have to admit that it feels weird to read James Scott Bell’s How to Write Pulp Fiction back to back to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Steering the Craft.
And yet, I could easily say the two books complement each other – Le Guin’s a blueprint for a writers’ workshop (even a solo writer’s workshop, if so the reader wishes), while How to Write Pulp Fiction, that’s full of suggestions and straightforward advice, appears to be more of a guide to a mindset.
Both books are excellent, and having written a post about Le Guin’s, let me now praise James Scott Ball’s handbook.

How to Write Pulp Fiction is a lean little handbook that couples wisdom from the giants of the past with recent market data, and adds the insights acquired by the author in a long career as a writer of character-driven fiction.
We can’t really say there’s anything new or revolutionary in this book1, but the author provides a new look at old standards, seem from the point of view of the pulp writer.
The name of the game is writing to market, writing fast and being prolific to make enough money to pay the rent – and that’s something I can relate too. Chapters cover the basics to survive and possibly thrive in the new pulp era harbored by the dawn of self-publishing.
A good selection of tools, links and suggested readings round up this one-stop primer to writing fiction aimed at entertaining the readers. And it really gives one ideas – about trying new genres, about writing faster and harder, about remembering that if writing is not a reward in itself, the readers will notice.

This book will also come handy as I develop new courses, but most of all it served to rekindle my spirit.
Both books did, actually.
Ursula K. Le Guin’s book rekindled my enthusiasm for writing. James Scott Bell’s book rekindled my enthusiasm for what I write, and how I write it.
Writing’s a lonely job, and sometimes it’s important to be set straight and be given a pat on the shoulder.


  1. nor there was anything new or revolutionary in Le Guin’s book. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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