Writing Treasure Hunt – To Pulp, or not to Pulp?

This here Writing Treasure Hunt is going to be a recurring segment, where I find hidden (writing-related) booty to plunder, and share it with ye. Yarrrrr!

The treasure I’ve unearthed this time around is a post about a post about a tutorial… Itttt’s more straight forward than it sounds. Let’s begin:

Apparently there’s this guy called Michael Moorcock (who I intend to read) who once explained how to craft a seriously entertaining novel in three days. A pulp, formulaic tale guaranteed to keep the audience with you for a minimum outlay of time and effort. This sounds to me like a marathon-lung-capacity breath of fresh air, well worth a read for anybody time-poor and dream-rich. Besides, who hasn’t secretly wanted to write enjoyable trash at one point or another?

That said, the article I originally stumbled across (on the blog of XJ Selman) was highly critical of this approach. They found the notion of quickly wrought fiction to be dangerous: that every self published hack would abandon original thought and spew-forth formulaic quick-set word-crete onto the page. Fair enough, any novel written in a weekend, no matter how great the formula, seems dubious at best.

The article is fascinating (and a writing treasure in itself) for the brief history of pulp fantasy that it uses to illustrate the point (and speaking of illustrations, there’s some great Weird Tales covers and other bits-and-pieces to enjoy). It does however, shoot straight at the heart of all that is formulaic and contrived in fiction writing.

They might be right to some degree: perhaps what many self-published writers do need is to slow down, hold back, seek an editor, and hone their craft. A back catalogue is only a good thing to have if the roses smell stronger than the manure… Then again I’m sure there are plenty of others who might have held back too long from publishing anything, and probably need more advice about getting something out there.

That’s what tutorials like Moorcock’s can offer a writer: how to take arty, overlong, slowly fermenting / composting literary waffle, and give it a spine. We need formula to help us find the pulse of our story under all the fat, and cut to a core of entertaining content that still serves the writer’s vision… but doesn’t bore the everloving crud out of the reader. It’s a continuum I think, from under to overwrought… with neither extreme making for a good read.

What are your thoughts on pulp, formulaic writing? Is a formula important to your writing, or not so much?

So anyway, share in the bountiful writing treasures at the links above. Yahrrrr!

Best regards,


About D.R.Sylvester

A Clinical Research Associate by day (google it), writer by night, D.R.Sylvester lives in Sydney, Australia with his patissiere wife and Siberian Wolf. His interests include travel, music (predominantly Metal), reading, & archery.
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7 Responses to Writing Treasure Hunt – To Pulp, or not to Pulp?

  1. wildbilbo says:

    Cool – saved those links. Look interesting. I need some motivation to get some words on the page!

  2. Millie Ho says:

    Obviously I’m for formulaic writing now that I’m digging into this whole plotting thing. I like the analogy of giving your work a spine via formula. There are no original stories, just different ways of executing them. I think that’s where your originality shines.

  3. seleneymoon says:

    Reblogged this on Moon, Stars and Beyond and commented:
    Here’s a bit on pulp writing from a blogger I follow, D.R. Sylvester. Thought it to be quite fun!

    • Thanking you kindly for reading, enjoying, re-blogging, and generally being awesome.

      Who doesn’t love a bit of pulp writing though, am I right? 🙂 It’s the explosions and swashbuckling that do it, I think…

      • seleneymoon says:

        And then there’s that music from “Pulp Fiction” accompanied by the images of Samuel L. Jackson in all his Bada** Mother******* self! Well, heck! This blog practically BEGS to be shared!

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