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A.C. Strange
10-22-2006, 08:32 AM
Hi, I hope I've posted this message in the correct forum ...

I'm writing a story in the tradition of the old hero pulps like The Shadow and Doc Savage. But, I'm not exactly sure how long my story should be.

Lester Dent (aka, Kenneth Robson, who wrote Doc Savage) once did a break down of storyline structure for his pulp stories as 4 units of 1,500 word sections. Hence, his stories are supposedly 6,000 words long. Here's a link to his breakdown ... http://www.miskatonic.org/dent.html

I find this hard to believe, though. Shadow stories were 80 pages (can't remember Doc Savage, but I'm sure it's the same). I have some of Walter Gibson's stories saved as MS Word documents. One in particular counted by MS Word comes out to almost 40,000 words.

Can anyone help me out with the discrepency between what MS Word is counting of a Shadow pulp story and what Lester Dent is counting for his pulp story breakdown?

Thanks ...

A.C.

Jamesaritchie
10-22-2006, 07:04 PM
Hi, I hope I've posted this message in the correct forum ...

I'm writing a story in the tradition of the old hero pulps like The Shadow and Doc Savage. But, I'm not exactly sure how long my story should be.

Lester Dent (aka, Kenneth Robson, who wrote Doc Savage) once did a break down of storyline structure for his pulp stories as 4 units of 1,500 word sections. Hence, his stories are supposedly 6,000 words long. Here's a link to his breakdown ... http://www.miskatonic.org/dent.html

I find this hard to believe, though. Shadow stories were 80 pages (can't remember Doc Savage, but I'm sure it's the same). I have some of Walter Gibson's stories saved as MS Word documents. One in particular counted by MS Word comes out to almost 40,000 words.

Can anyone help me out with the discrepency between what MS Word is counting of a Shadow pulp story and what Lester Dent is counting for his pulp story breakdown?

Thanks ...

A.C.

Lester Dent's Doc Savage novels were 60,000 words long, on average, not 6,000. He was commissioned to write a 60K novel a month for nearly fifteen years. Word count went slightly above or slightly below this, but 60K was what the publisher wanted, and what Dent tried to hit.

The 6,000 word stories were short stories for pulp magazines, and the formula worked fairly well. He used it almost all the time.

But magazines did a bunch of serials back then, and serials might run from 40-50K on a regular basis. They were really short novels. Most were first serialized in a magazine, and then later released as a novel.

Unfortunately, very few magazines use serials today, and those that do generally want no more than 15-30K, so they really can't be published as novels at a later date.

But if you're writing anyting for publication today, you have to look at the word count guidelines magazine and book publishers have posted. What matters is not how long a Lester Dent, or any other story back then might have been, but only how long a given magazine or book publisher wants a story today.

Stories then were written teh same way. The writer gave the magazine or book publisher the length they asked for. You have to do the same thing now.

A.C. Strange
10-23-2006, 06:55 AM
Thanks for the info on Dent's pulp word counts. I didn't realize his formula was for shorter stories rather than his own Doc Savage tales.

soloset
10-23-2006, 10:09 PM
I always liked that article. I can't say it's any more or less useful than other "formulas", but sometimes, when I just feel *stuck* it's nice to have something to glance at to get the gears turning again.

If I had a writing coat of arms, the motto on it would probably be "swat the hero with a fistful of trouble". Well, that or "exercise sadistic license".

Kate Thornton
10-24-2006, 12:18 AM
And you might check out Kevin Burton Smith's Thrilling Detective for the kinds of stories you are writing...
http://www.thrillingdetective.com/

Kate

OmenSpirits.com
10-24-2006, 05:46 AM
Kevin works in the detective field, some pulp info is there, but nothing in the vein of The Shadow or Doc Savage.

You might want to check out this site if you want current examples of what you are writing.

http://www.blazingadventuresmagazine.com (")

Heard there are writers like you writing in the pulp tradition.

Gillhoughly
10-24-2006, 06:57 PM
Walter B. Gibson, who did The Shadow novels, has been my inspiration since I first discovered them. He kicked out a 60K book every 10 days for about 2 years--on a MANUAL TYPEWRITER.

Whenever I think I have a block I remember him.

In the case of YOUR book--check your target publisher for what THEY want to see in terms of word count. I've read modern versions of pulp adventure and those books are 80-100K words, same as anything else in the catalogue.

If you have a mind to restart an old trend you have to get established first. No house is going to do that for a new writer. Even one with a great track record for sales will have a hard time convincing the Suits that the pulp is back.

Some comic and graphic art-oriented presses (like the ones reprinting The Shadow & Doc Savage novels) might think it's cool, but their bottom line is cash flow. Sales are limited to a very small market in specialty shops, compared to general chain bookstores. I've worked with them and the money is pretty terrible. I did it for the love of the character, which is just as well. (In one sale I was paid with case of books to sell and keep the money. I didn't mind, but then I really, REALLY love the character. Silly of me, but my other books sales and day job allow me to have a blind spot.)

I like the idea of bringing back the pulps, but modern reality is in the way of that. Big money in 1932 is what you find lost in the couch cushions today.

Look at your target publishers and write to their length as specified in their writers' guidelines, not to what-used-to-be enough. They are going to be looking to see if you're able to follow directions.

I would also suggest you try your hand at short stories aimed at what is left of the grand old pulp mags. Ellery Queen, Hitchcock, etc. are a good place to get your feet wet. Places like that were good enough for Bradbury, Hammett & Chandler, after all!

A.C. Strange
10-25-2006, 12:26 AM
Thanks to everyone for their suggestions.

I'll check out all aforementioned websites. For now, my story remains merely an exercise. I'd like to try my hand at the genre, shelve it, then come back someday when I might have a better shot at getting it published the way it should be.

It kills me how hard it is to find these old gems (speaking of Shadow and Doc Savage). Conde Nast is sitting on some pretty good properties, if they were marketed correctly. Hollywood isn't much better. So, I figured I'd give it a shot myself. Wish I could get a Rozen cover painting of my character ...

Gillhoughly
10-25-2006, 07:11 PM
Conde Nast ain't sitting on the properties, they want TOO much money for them. The smaller publishers just can't afford to pay. C.N. doesn't seem to get that stuff like The Shadow is not Big Money, but Steady Small Money. They get slow dollars instead of fast quarters, the latter of which I'd take any day since it adds up.


For a pulp fix try THESE guys! I don't know if they're taking submissions, though.

www.moonstonebooks.com (http://www.moonstonebooks.com)

Jamesaritchie
10-25-2006, 08:07 PM
Thanks to everyone for their suggestions.

I'll check out all aforementioned websites. For now, my story remains merely an exercise. I'd like to try my hand at the genre, shelve it, then come back someday when I might have a better shot at getting it published the way it should be.

It kills me how hard it is to find these old gems (speaking of Shadow and Doc Savage). Conde Nast is sitting on some pretty good properties, if they were marketed correctly. Hollywood isn't much better. So, I figured I'd give it a shot myself. Wish I could get a Rozen cover painting of my character ...

Conde Nast has made a bunch of money with the Doc Savage rights over the years. They really haven't sat on them at all. Under a deal with Conde Nast, Bantam published all 181 of the novels, and even released a couple of new ones, though poor sales killed the new ones.

They also made money from the Doc Savage movie, and one of the reasons Conde Nast guards the rights so carefully is that discussions on new Doc Savage projects are almost always happening in one way or another. There's now talk of both a new feature movie, and an animated series.

Now, I wouldn't begin to say that a new pulp style series can't sell today. Find the right, and original, character for the times, write the novels well enough, and anything is possible.

Axler
10-25-2006, 09:16 PM
Conde Nast has made a bunch of money with the Doc Savage rights over the years. They really haven't sat on them at all. Under a deal with Conde Nast, Bantam published all 181 of the novels, and even released a couple of new ones, though poor sales killed the new ones.

Actually, I'm pretty sure Bantam released six new books written by Will Murray, most of them based on pre-existing outlines by Lester Dent. It wasn't so much that poor sales killed them, but that Bantam decided not to renew the license.

In my capacity as editor of Millennium Publications, I dealt with Conde Nast on the Doc Savage comics license. Athough the rights weren't cheap, they weren't stratospheric either. The company was very easy to deal with, in fact.

Nostalgia Ventures is currently reprinting the Doc Savage novels starting with Fortress of Solitude and The Devil Genghis. They're also reprinting The Shadow novels. Will Murray acts as the editor.

As for new pulp-style novels...well, even if I say so myself (and I do, I do;) ) the Outlanders series written by uh...er...me for the last ten-plus years incorporates a great deal of pulp sensibilities, particularly those associated with Doc Savage. I like to think that's one reason the series has lasted so long

In fact, the book out next month, Hydra's Ring, features a villain who may or not be Shiwan Khan, Yen Sin, Wu Fang and that ol' Debbil Doctor himself...not to mention my tribute to Milton Caniff's Dragon Lady.

http://jamesaxler.com/modules/Bibliography/images/ol39.jpg

Jamesaritchie
10-26-2006, 01:27 AM
Actually, I'm pretty sure Bantam released six new books written by Will Murray, most of them based on pre-existing outlines by Lester Dent. It wasn't so much that poor sales killed them, but that Bantam decided not to renew the license.

In my capacity as editor of Millennium Publications, I dealt with Conde Nast on the Doc Savage comics license. Athough the rights weren't cheap, they weren't stratospheric either. The company was very easy to deal with, in fact.

Nostalgia Ventures is currently reprinting the Doc Savage novels starting with Fortress of Solitude and The Devil Genghis. They're also reprinting The Shadow novels. Will Murray acts as the editor.

As for new pulp-style novels...well, even if I say so myself (and I do, I do;) ) the Outlanders series written by uh...er...me for the last ten-plus years incorporates a great deal of pulp sensibilities, particularly those associated with Doc Savage. I like to think that's one reason the series has lasted so long

In fact, the book out next month, Hydra's Ring, features a villain who may or not be Shiwan Khan, Yen Sin, Wu Fang and that ol' Debbil Doctor himself...not to mention my tribute to Milton Caniff's Dragon Lady.

http://jamesaxler.com/modules/Bibliography/images/ol39.jpg


You're right, it was six. I was told by an editor at Bantam that low sales were why they didn't think it made sense to renew the license. Six of one and half a dozen of the other, probably. But low sales at Bantam would be consider good sales at many other publishers.

And didn't someone do a takeoff on the Doc Sabage novels? I think the series was called Doc Kaliben, or something like that.

Anyway, I'll definitely have to give one of your books a try. I love the old, pulp-style novels. I've thought about writing one for at least fifteen years, but other novels, screenplays, and life itself just keeps getting in the way.

Plus the fact that I have yet to invent a character I love enough to invest so much time with. But one of these days. . .

Axler
10-26-2006, 04:00 AM
And didn't someone do a takeoff on the Doc Sabage novels? I think the series was called Doc Kaliben, or something like that.


You're thinking of Philip Jose' Farmer's Doc Caliban...a pastiche, homage or parody of the character. Nobody is quite sure, including Mr. Farmer himself.

Doc Caliban, along with Mr. Farmer's Tarzan doppleganger, Lord Grandrith has the distinction of debuting in a pornographic novel, A Feast Unknown...

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/n2/n13927.jpg

...and reappearing in the family-friendly The Mad Goblin.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/n2/n13929.jpg

Jamesaritchie
10-26-2006, 04:36 AM
Yea, Caliban! Should have Googled it. Thanks much. I didn't know about the Lord Grandrith novels.

Maybe I'll have to find a couple of these and see how they read.

Axler
10-26-2006, 07:07 AM
Yea, Caliban! Should have Googled it. Thanks much. I didn't know about the Lord Grandrith novels.

Maybe I'll have to find a couple of these and see how they read.

Actually, A Feast Unknown was told from Lord Grandrith's point of view and The Mad Goblin was one part of an "Ace Double Novel"...the other being Lord Of The Trees, featuring Grandrith.

http://www.cafes.net/ditch/lordtrees1.jpg

So Caliban and Grandrith only appeared in two books apiece. I once asked Mr. Farmer about him spinning the characters off into other works and he said he doubted that Burroughs estate or Conde Nast would let him get away with further books.

In the second editon of his Holmes pastiche, The Adventure of the Peerless Peer, the Burroughs estate forced him to change Tarzan to Mowgli.

Shadow_Ferret
10-26-2006, 07:15 PM
Conde Nast is sitting on some pretty good properties, if they were marketed correctly.

I'm wondering if Conde Nast doesn't have something planned for The Shadow and Doc Savage. They are very aggressive in the protection of their trademarks. Many websites that were around just a few years ago based on these characters have been shut down by CN's lawyers for copyright infringement.

Axler
10-26-2006, 07:25 PM
I'm wondering if Conde Nast doesn't have something planned for The Shadow and Doc Savage.

Well, Conde Nast doesn't have something planned, per se...but according to my sources movie-type folks do indeed have something planned for not just The Shadow and Doc Savage but The Avenger as well.

And actually, CN went after some dumb-asses for copyright infringement because they were illegally reprinting and selling Shadow and Doc novels in the belief the copyrights had expired. As I understand it, they ignored numerous "cease and desist" letters from the CN attorneys.

So, because of that, CN went after everybody. Up until that point, they had a fairly live and let live attitude.