C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

The publishing revolution already happened.

What to do now that #NaNoWriMo is done

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, with jokes.

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, but still has lots of jokes.

Start another book. Brainstorm or sketch out another book outline or write a short story or just sit down and see where else you can go at the keyboard. Keep that feather pen scratching. Keep going. 

People will tell you to celebrate. Writers (because we aren’t “people”) will ask, “What else ya got?”

You could take a break, sure. But now that you’ve done NaNoWriMo, don’t you feel you’ve got a good habit going? Habits are hard to break into. To get into the daily writing habit takes practice, just like you’ve been doing all this month. Why stop now? To publish, you must write a lot, rewrite, revise and edit. Good habits are too easy to drop for you to waste all that behavioural inertia you have steaming in your skull engine.

Now isn’t the time to put your feet up.

If you still have some scenes from your NaNoWriMo project that you didn’t fill in right away, you can do those now. Now is the perfect time. The context is still fresh in your mind. Tackle any empty spaces you’ve left behind so when you come back to it, you won’t become perplexed and stymied later. Otherwise, leave your NaNoWriMo manuscript alone.

Why am I telling you to start a new project as quickly as you can?

Because someone might be tempted to dive right back in so they have a novel by Christmas. You know you need some time to cogitate while the manuscript rests for a bit. Otherwise, the Nano haters will run in circles with their hands over their ears screaming, “I told you so!” None of us wants those killjoys to be right.

Besides, if you go back too soon, you might be discouraged at how much work the book needs. Or worse, some might think their rush job is still brilliant. That’s lethal to ever having anyone tell you they’re a fan of your work.

And now for the tough stuff. I’m asking that you hold two contradictory ideas in your mind at one time and act accordingly.

1. Congratulations! You beat NaNo! Good on you! I bet there were days when the words came quickly and days where it felt like your brain was full of molasses. However, you faced down time management problems and got it done anyway. Sometimes it wasn’t easy, yet, you got past 50,000 words! You did it! This is a huge accomplishment!

and

2. Writing a little less than a couple of thousand words a day is no big deal.

Yes, some writers are more precious about their word count and make a great show of how slow they can produce. Mostly? I suspect they’re counting procrastination time as writing time. Screw that. I come from a journalistic background where deadlines are not livelines. We slam it in and knock it out and we’re good.

At least take that attitude with the first draft so you’ll have something to gut and edit. Blank screens have no atoms and pixels bouncing off each other to create new neural pathways and fresh angles to feed reader rapture. The first draft is usually simple, straight narrative. I always find the jokes, dialogue and theme in the second pass.

Professional writers write to deadlines all the time and they do so consistently.

You know that now, so it’s not about what “they”, the writers, do anymore. It’s what you do because you’re a writer. Keep going.

We’re creative. Writing’s what we do to wield god powers and get back at our brothers and sisters. We do it because it’s much cooler at the Christmas party to answer “What do you do?” with, “I write.” Say that and you’ve got a conversation. (Try explaining your wage ape existence in middle management to a hapless stranger and they’ll run for the punch bowl.)

We do it for play, for love and money and hope and for readers. It’s fantastic to find a scene to write that, even as you’re knocking it out, you say, “This! This will melt their faces and make them want to read me for the rest of their lives and tell all their friends! Ta-freakin’-da!

Mostly, writing is what we do because it is who we are.*

*If you didn’t carry out NanoWriMo’s challenge this November, what better testament to your mettle than to do it on your own? Now. You’ll feel more smug and self-righteous this time around. There are twelve months in a year. You don’t have to risk waiting another year for the next party bus to take you to your life’s to-do list.

See you in the trenches in the morning

with 3,000 more words. If it’s a bad day.

Yes, you may stop writing

when you’re out of blood.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege. Sutr-X was the pandemic. Sutr-Z's next and it's coming for you and the Queen's corgis.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege. Sutr-X was the pandemic. Sutr-Z’s next and it’s coming for you and the Queen’s corgis.

~ Robert Chazz Chute wrote a bunch of beastly books, including This Plague of Days. Season One’s in paperback. If you’re a writer looking for more inspiration, Robert also recommends Crack the Indie Author Code. But he would say that since he is me and we’re all about inspiring writers not to be weak. We’re all about the conquering and hefting the bale and writerly whatnot. And writing about ourselves in the third person apparently.

What? Still waffling? Still? After all that? Holy Jebus! Read this review of Crack the Indie Author Code then, for the love of Thor and for the love of the sweet consumer that is you and your writing career! And your family’s writing career. Don’t forget to get Mom one for Christmas, too.

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#NaNoWriMo: Take a chance. Deliver.

I’ve finally begun reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63: A Novel.

Feeling a bit burnt out, I reached for an old reliable author to get me into relaxed creativity mode. The fire in the wood

Stephen King at the Harvard Book Store.

Stephen King at the Harvard Book Store. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

stove is burning bright and hot as a cold blizzard’s squalls pull at the house. Under my wool blanket, I’m cozy and this book feels comfortable, too. Different story, same old friend in King. I’m one of his Constant Readers. To my delight, King has an Easter egg for writers right off the top. 

His hero, a teacher grading essays, complains about his students “writing like little old ladies and little old men.” Heh. Yeah, I know exactly what he means: Grammar and spelling correct, but boring. Tried and true narrative, but too safe. I want surprises. The development of the story has to be logical, sure, but please, take a chance! Dare to take the reader by the hand and shove them on the roller coaster they didn’t plan to get on. Give them the adventure they didn’t know they wanted.

For instance, in Season One of This Plague of Days, I did a lot of plausible things with strange characters (and I put the implausible in a context that makes it believable.) In Season One, you see a kid on the autistic spectrum operating in our world (i.e. at the end of it.) That was cool, but to heat up the narrative and quicken the pace, I had to go deeper into the implausible and still attempt to make it as believable as it was fanciful. 

In Season Two, the story takes some new turns and we’re in Jaimie Spencer’s world more than he is in ours. Though many people loved Jaimie in Season One, I wasn’t interested in making Two a copy of One. If One is a siege and Two is basically The Road, I had to take the crazy train to places people hadn’t seen before in an apocalypse. The virus that came to kill humanity keeps evolving and that takes us down unfamiliar roads. The Plaguers and I are happy with it.

People love Same Thing Only Different. Too different is a gamble, but some gambles pay off.

Changing a character people love is uncomfortable at times, but certainly do it if the story demands it. (By the way, nobody loves Jaimie more than I do, but he ends up doing a lot of questionable things for a Christlike figure.) I demanded development and change, so I got dreams, a touch of magic and some big questions for the surviving humans caught in the teeth of the gears of existence. If Sartre could read my apocalypse over a lunch of cold milk, ham sandwiches and angst, I think it would spark an interesting discussion about the existential subtext of ambition versus chaos theory. You know…sliding in the thin spaces amongst the bloody zombie attacks, scary new species and terrorized, grieving humans.

Dare to be wrong and, surprise! You’re right.

Sometimes it’s just simple mechanics where writers wimp out and opt for their grammar book over Art with a capital A. In Higher Than Jesus, for instance, a character uses the non-word “father-in-laws”. The correct plural is “fathers-in-law,” of course. Trust your readers to figure out that you know when you’re wrong. Better to stick with what’s true rather than what’s correct. The speaker of “father-in-laws” is an old, homeless guy whose education isn’t terrific. Talking like a Harvard law professor does not fit, so wrong is right.

Most readers will go along and the very few who will think you’re an idiot were never going to like your work, anyway. Grammar fascists don’t read for the enjoyment of reading, so relax and focus on the readers who are with you for the right reason. That reason is Story (and to forget we’re all going to die, and maybe soon, in Death’s razor claws and unforgiving, crushing jaws.)

I like prose that is edgy. Lots of book lovers love it when we’re gutsy.

I like Chuck Palahniuk a lot, perhaps especially when he cruises the experimental. I like much of Norman Mailer’s work for its simplicity. However, I love Stephen King. The narrative is straight A to B. Snobby readers might call it “muscular” or “workmanlike.” That’s old code for not “literary” enough or too pulpy by half. But who do you want telling you a story? An arid auteur who tells it correctly or a writer who get it across right? The writing I’m talking about is visceral. It affects you. It makes you think but it doesn’t have to call attention to itself too much. Have something to say and mean it. Lofty’s fine if your feet stay on the ground. 

Don’t give me fancy writing tricks. Tell me the story, please.

You know all those New Yorker short stories with the super-opaque endings where it’s so very arty you can’t figure out what the hell the last paragraph is supposed to mean? Where they try to trick you into thinking vague ends equal powerful conclusions? You’ve surely read those stories so bathed in antiseptic that they have no honest feeling or real humor. The words are all in the right order but they can’t make you care. It’s hard to define, but when a book has no heart, you know it. 

I suggest you do the opposite of all that empty scribbling and I’ll try to do the same.

A good short story, or a solid book, should deliver a punch and satisfaction (or at least anticipation of the next book in the series) with its last line. It should not generate a confused look on the face of an intelligent reader. 

A great story can be read aloud in the flicker of a dying campfire. If the story’s solid, your rapt audience will worry about the characters in the book. They will be blissfully unaware of the starving bear watching from the woods behind them, sniffing the air, drooling, and measuring the distance to the fading circle of light.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute: author, podcaster, perpetually worried. If you want to learn more about This Plague of Days, go to ThisPlagueOfDays.com. Or just zip over to AllThatChazz.com and buy some books. That would be good. Also, Season One of This Plague of Days is in paperback and Christmas is coming. I’ll let you connect the dots from there. Thanks!

Filed under: NanNoWriMo, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#Nanowrimo: You do not have Writer’s Block

This week I found inspiration for a new character. I got it from the Latin word “occubus”, meaning to rest (especially in the grave.) I love my Latin dictionaries and will miss them when I move on to projects beyond This Plague of Days. A blind stab, a finger pointing on a random page and wham! Something new to play with! A new chapter! That’s the joy of discovery in writing. The ideas don’t always flow so easily, but if you’re in a good place, the words always come.

Readers ask us where we get our ideas.

If you’ve made it out of the horrors of high school (or perhaps even more so if you didn’t), you’ve got enough material to start writing. That supply of disappointment, embarrassment and angst will last for your career.

Conflicts, fisticuffs and the world news are all fodder for the mind mill. Family, relationships, lack of relationships? Cannibalize! Books you read will feed books you’ll write. Whether you’re a monk on a mountain or a suburban wage slave, you are surrounded with input for your output.

An afternoon walk can spark an idea, especially if that walk takes you to the local courthouse. Arraignment hearings are best. One long court trial might yield a book. Bearing witness to the parade of arrests from last night will give you all the books you can write and make you wish you had the ability to type faster.

We are all dreamers, putting information together in new ways for new takes on ancient stories. If there is such a thing as writer’s block, it is not because of a lack of ideas to play with.

Writer’s block comes from a loss of enjoyment of play.

That sounds more like depression, doesn’t it? Or laziness that springs from too much sugar and wheat and not enough kale. If you think you’re suffering writer’s block, don’t complain about a muse deficiency. You can’t fight that, but you could fight an amusement deficiency.

A long time ago, I stopped writing for several years.

My “block” was really about rage. A co-worker annoyed me mightily. I went home and began to write a short story that was basically a tantrum on the page. I got about four lines into the revenge fantasy and realized, I don’t want to feel this way and I don’t want to write this. I didn’t write again until I fixed my life (or at least repaired my lifeboat.) I was unhappy with what I was doing and, instead of rage on the page, I resolved to change the underlying problem (i.e. working with twits.)

We often romanticize the miserable writer working in poverty as the creativity bubbles out of all that sadness. Mostly nonsense. You don’t get a book written when you’re so depressed you can’t face picking up a pencil. I mean that literally. I remember lying atop my unmade bed (a grubby futon on the floor, actually) and thinking, I can’t. I just can’t. The pencil stayed on the floor.

Depression sucks energy away and writing demands we put energy out. You can’t give what you don’t have.

Writer’s block is a vague, disempowering notion that, ironically, is a dangerous fiction. Instead, focus on concrete variables you can change: income, time management, who’s sleeping beside you, what goes down your throat, the exercise you do and what you allow into your mind.

Sure, inspiration is everywhere.

But maybe you need a doctor.

 

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#NaNoWriMo: Story stuck and stalled? Try this.

You’ll probably get stuck from time to time. Most everyone does, so don’t panic.

If you get stuck often, outline more to save writing time and stay on track. Keep in mind that outlines are merely guidelines. You’re just dating your outline casually. It’s not serious and you don’t have to marry it. With the shadow of commitment gone, you still have your free and fun, bright and shiny creative mojo working for you.

I’m a pantser, but I do have an idea where my stories are headed. We may take a winding trip to get to our destination, but we will get there, hoping we won’t get stuck and be forced to back up thirty pages or so before we can move forward again. I’ve had to do that. It sucks, sucks away forward momentum and saps confidence. So let’s crash through that mental block and get unstuck.

Solutions to get out of the ditch

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege. Sutr-X was the pandemic. Sutr-Z's next and it's coming for you and the Queen's corgis, among others.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege. Sutr-X was the pandemic. Sutr-Z’s next and it’s coming for you and the Queen’s corgis, among others.

A random, alluring word, place, fact or event can give spinning wheels traction. For instance, the word “chiroptera” gave me a new direction when I wrote Season 2 of This Plague of Days. Sometimes I choose words, events or facts at random and noodle with them to see how they might fit into the narrative. Or I’ll draw from mythology, philosophy, politics or religion to discover new dimensions in the narrative.

Here’s the surprise: I always find a way to make those intriguing things fit naturally into my story.

I bet you can, too. Don’t load up on $10 words when a nickel word will do, of course…or at least don’t do it for its own sake or to show off. However, if something seemingly random can serve your story, use it (or dump it if it fails.) Readers like learning things as much as you do. They like characters with depth and to discover hidden significance behind meaning.

Get random

Autism, Latin, the Existential Abyss and references to Superman. That's pretty random, but it all fits.

Autism, Latin, the Existential Abyss and references to Superman. That’s pretty random, but it all fits.

This exercise in the writing process is about bouncing new electrical flashes through the writer’s brain, making new connections and getting synapses firing to see nonlinear possibilities. Frequently, you can find something new that influences the story simply by opening a dictionary and pointing. An atlas and a Wikipedia search might give you a random fact that sparks something. I found Gas City, for instance. The name alone captured my imagination and got me thinking about a new track to follow in Season 2. New characters and furious battles evolved from the way that slapped my brain.

If you’ve got an area of interest (baseball, plumbing, woodwork, salmon fishing, animal husbandry, whatever) work it in to give your characters depth. I’ve got a sensitive soldier with expertise in military history who shows up in the zombie apocalypse. I’ve also got an Irish cop from a tiny Irish resort. The place informs the character. These are the sort of factors that make the people on the page real. Jack (Jacqueline) Spencer majored in Elizabethan poetry. That makes her feel pretty useless when society collapses, but her development now has an arc. Up from zero, she gains experience on the road east to a hoped for haven from the apocalypse.

For me? It’s pathology that fascinates.

I studied anatomy first and was awed by our biological complexity. Then I studied Merck’s Manual and I’ve been a hypochondriac ever since. It’s startling how fragile we are, so pathology often finds its way into my books, one way or another. I know a lot about how the body breaks, so I’m sure you can guess how that might play into a crime novel.

I know a lot about migraines (and the many variations of headaches.) His inability to act shows up in one of my WIPs and becomes crucial to the protagonist’s predicament when the cops come calling, asking for an alibi. My protagonist in This Plague of Days is autistic which, naturally, gives him a unique point of view on the end of the world. Another character has Desmoid tumours. This is a rare condition, but it turns out to be very relevant to the story. Her disease saves her from a worse fate than Desmoid tumours (in a way I can’t divulge yet, of course. That’s Season 3 stuff.)

Take a fragment and build your next chapter around it. Make the fragment an element.

These general suggestions are random sparks. If an atlas or a dictionary or a quick Google search can make your story catch fire, and if you can make these new variables seamless, you’ll find their inclusion can get you unstuck.

Therefore:

a summer camp in Columbus, Ohio with too many mosquitoes

the ruins of a castle hidden under heavy snow

a rusted can opener, forgotten in the kitchen’s junk drawer

a tippy chair with one short leg

angina

Captain Cooke’s death

her mother’s wedding ring inscription

Try one of some of those for a start. How might they fit in your narrative? Keep going and don’t worry if you get stuck. The next step will come to you and, if not, go find that next step. Finish your story.

Tips and inspiration for the writer's journey to publication.

Tips and inspiration for the writer’s journey to publication.

~ Hi. I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I wrote a couple of books full of inspiration to get writers to get their books done. I also write about a kid on the autistic spectrum facing the end of the world, zombies who aren’t really zombies and vampires who aren’t really vampires. There are also jokes and Latin proverbs. It’s…oddly engaging and does not suck. See all the books here.

I also host the All That Chazz podcast and the Cool People Podcast. To learn more about This Plague of Days, go to ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

Filed under: NanNoWriMo, Writers, Writing exercise, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NaNoWriMo isn’t bad. You are.

One neurotic fellow worried, in public, about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.) 

Worry 1

“If it goes really well, I’d be embarrassed to admit the published book started with NaNoWriMo.”

Yes, this was actually a concern. That sounds silly to me, but putting aside the snobby subtext, let’s answer that. More than 100 published novels have emerged from NaNoWriMo beginnings and I’m sure the authors are grateful for the kick start NaNo supplied. If you need a kick in the pants, NaNoWriMo can help make a solitary pursuit feel more gentle with the support of an enthusiastic community. Whatever helps you get past the time management hump and into actually writing is peachy with me. Starting is hard.

I’m working on a novel that emerged from a short story in Murders Among Dead Trees. That happens a lot. Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus were born from a short story in Self-help for Stoners.

Book ideas come from lots of places. We shouldn’t be embarrassed about process. Instead, embrace what works for you. Otherwise, you get lost chasing your tail. If you must be embarrassed about something, worry about how much autobiographical source material you’re using from that series of bad decisions you made in Vegas.

Or, how about this answer? Don’t be a poo.

Worry 2

“The problem with NaNoWriMo is people think they’ll have a novel at the end of it.”

No, they don’t. NaNoWriMo has warned about this syndrome from the beginning. Most people write to join in the fun and to share support they have no other month of the year. Most people know what these moralizing purists refuse to acknowledge: 

A. Non-writers, novices and aspiring writers are often (oh my Thor!) just as smart as any purist.

B. Writing is the opposite of rocket science. It’s an associative process of making neural connections in new ways that expresses a basic human capacity for creativity. There are good writers and unskilled writers, but ignorance does not equal stupidity. Take the Art seriously, sure, but writers should not take themselves so seriously. It’s supposed to be fun and engaging and many people can do it.

C. Critics of NaNo poop on the participants and say they’re wasting their time. Are all the hobbyist painters wasting their time, too? It’s their time to enjoy wasting. Stop being nasty to NaNoWriMo. You don’t sound noble and professional. You sound insecure about competition from upstarts who dare to pick up a pen, just like you must have done once. 

D. We all know this is just a quick, first draft that will later be expanded, rewritten, pummelled and edited. In most cases, it won’t be submitted or published anywhere, ever. It’s just a start, a challenge, an experiment. Its value is that you can’t edit and improve what isn’t on the page.

This straw man is trotted out for burning each November when oh-so-serious people who write in one way (i.e. like they’re constipated and too fascinated with their leavings) insist that everybody have the same process.*

Yes, some people refuse to acknowledge that their first draft is not great. I’m sure there are even a few people who fire off their first draft of 50,001 words to an agent. But so many people participate in NaNoWriMo, there are bound to be a few novices too sure of their greatness who refuse to follow instructions.

Let’s stop being mean, have a laugh and have a go if you want.

The first time I attempted NaNoWriMo, I didn’t make it to 50,000 words and I was left with a partial manuscript I didn’t like. The second time, I did complete the challenge. Now I don’t do NaNoWriMo because I write no matter what, at least 2,000 words a day. Nothing against NaNo. It’s simply that participating fully would add a stovepipe to my outhouse and the days are short.

Now, on to more troubling questions:

What’s with all the toilet analogies, Chazz?

*This post is based on actual objections to NaNoWriMo. Not all critics of NaNoWriMo deserve the thrashing I’m pointing at one particular critic. If it’s simply not for you, that’s peachy, too. In defence of NaNo, I wrote the inspired imagery with the word “constipated” in it the first time, without revising a word.

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#NaNoWriMo: And what if you don’t?

Free to you Nov. 26 – 30, 2012. If you love it, please review it. Thanks!

What happens if you aren’t a “winner” at National Novel Writing Month? The Mayan Apocalypse was set aside for you. The end is near and it’s going to be like that John Cusack movie, 2012, only longer, with burnt popcorn and more uncomfortable seats. 

Well, no, actually. NaNoWriMo isn’t another of those insipid chain letters that will kill you with a falling baby grand piano if you don’t complete it within the specified time. Fifty-thousand words and one month is an arbitrary deadline. It’s a fun and, I think, worthwhile challenge, but just because you didn’t make the quota — and there’s still time left, by the way — doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer. Mom still loves you, though she still prefers your brother Ted. Dad doesn’t think you’re any less unemployable (or more employable) than you were last month at about this time. You dog does not judge you…harshly. You still don’t take him out for enough walks, though. The status quo is preserved.

You’re certainly no farther behind than all those people who did make it to 50,000 words but will never look at their manuscript again. Their art is stillborn. Sadly, plenty of people who enter NaNoWriMo   have something worthy of publishing but will never know. The challenge, to them, was just a challenge, like how long can you go just eating pineapple and refried beans? Years from now they will sit in a dingy bar packed to the rafters with Rue and say, “Yeah, I wrote a novel once.” Before taking another long pull on a long neck, they’ll finish with a whisper, “…sort of.”

So what are you feeling so bad about? If you’re not going to make it to 50,000 words but you’re still reading this post, I bet you’re more serious than Mr. Sort Of. You’ve made it this far, looking for commiseration and a shoulder to cry on and all that. You don’t need a shoulder to cry on (and cleavage is better for that activity.) What you need is more time.

Many people don’t finish NaNoWriMo for great reasons. Stuff happens. Cats sit on your keyboard. Your sister called too many times at midnight to complain about her husband and how his new boyfriend leaves the toilet seat up. People get sick. Maybe you got tied up with work that actually pays. That’s important. Maybe you got sucked into a marathon of Hillybilly Hand Fish— okay, even my cheerleading efforts have limits. Shoot yourself.

I’m a cheerleader for anyone who writes to a daily word count, whether they are in NaNoWriMo or slogging through and constantly sweating a book out. Today I wrote a mere 1,900 words. I usually write close to three thousand a day. What’s galactically unjust is an author friend of mine reported that she just wrote over 4,000 words yesterday. (Pavarti! Dang it! That should have been me!) You see, my NaNoWriMo challenge is 365/24/7. You know books aren’t written in a month and you know this challenge is just a start. If you wrote enough so you have a good start on a novel, good for you. It can still be brilliant. Arbitrary is just so damned arbitrary, don’t you find?

Maybe you’re simply one of those tortured artists who take a little longer to write a masterpiece. If you’re a Canadian author, for instance, the government’s Royal Department of Vaunted Canlit requires that each book must take several years to write, with extra points awarded if you write about hard Arctic winters, houses made of sod and relentless, howling blizzards. To qualify, each revision must be completed in a birch bark canoe. If CBC Television scrapes any conflict out of your book and makes it into a movie (entirely in sepia tones with lots of bonnets or at least Labrador outports), you’re a serious Canlit contender. Congrats, you poor bastard. When Jian Ghomeshi interviews you on CBC Radio, answer in murmured Zen koans and only allow a small, smug smile, like you’re holding in a fart worthy of Margaret Atwood. There’s no money in being part of the Canadian literary establishment, so instead you get a trace of mystique among U of T English majors — wear a big hat and a long coat to readings — and the vague recognition that occasionally accompanies that ghostly, elusive thing that is “Canadian celebrity”.

Even if you aren’t Canadian, there are still great hurdles to overcome before you write your book and earn the respect of the literary establishment. First, you must never mention any connection between your Great American Novel and NaNoWriMo. Next, leather elbow patches are a must and always refer to the story as “the Text”. (Make sure they hear the capital T.) To really rock the foundations of letters and get Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut to step aside for a new, greater entry into The Great Works of Literature Hall of Fame (and Gas Bar), give that manuscript of yours another couple of weeks.

BONUS TIP: If you’re going to take a day off from writing anyway, avoid misery and decide that at the beginning of the day. If it flogs you all day and at bedtime you decide today’s not a day to write, you’ve paid a needless stress debt. There’s enough stress in the world without adding to it.

A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction.

~ In addition to writing about publishing in Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your book: Aspire to Inspire, Robert Chazz Chute plots murder constantly, often in relation to fiction. His latest is a delightfully violent and occasionally sexy romp called Higher Than Jesus. He begs that you buy it and read it and review it because he has no shame anymore. Pride is a luxury bought with money. Sure, that last bit sounds like Jane Eyre, but those are his words! (This is also a  good time to admit that I, Chazz, am currently writing these words about myself in the third person. I’ve rarely loathed myself more deeply.) For more on books of suspense and nonsense by Chazz or to hear the free All That Chazz podcast, slum in his grimy little author site just off the Jersey turnpike in back of a dark bar with lipstick on the glasses, AllThatChazz.com. The glasses are all dirty mason jars and the bartender is a study in jailhouse tattoos.

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#NaNoWriMo: 50,000 words isn’t the end. Learn from my mistake.

Free to you Nov. 26 – 30, 2012

Crack the Indie Author Code is free to you as an ebook, Monday to Friday, Nov. 26 – Nov 30 at midnight. As National Novel Writing Month draws to a close this week, please consider picking up the book and its  follow-up, Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. Both books are packed with information and inspiration for what lies ahead, no matter where you are in your writing and publishing journey. That’s the ad, but there’s more you need to know. Learn from my mistake: Don’t stop there.

Some say there are too many books. I’m a huge fan of choice, so I say there are too many books still in drawers and forgotten on thumb drives after NaNoWriMo is complete. Sure, let it sit in a drawer so you can be realistic when you get back to it. (Have a rest and relearn your children’s names.) However, please don’t let your trip to publication end at 50,000 words.

I believe many of the books that languish after NaNoWriMo can be salvaged with revisions and editing. Okay, maybe not all of them, but many. NaNoWriMo is a fun challenge to begin the process, like a hard swim in the ocean. In braving the waves and heading straight out to sea, you complete 50,000 words or more. That’s certainly an achievement, but it’s not the finish line. You have to swim back and make it to shore. Otherwise, all your hard work is written on water. 

An incomplete manuscript niggles, doesn’t it? I know. I have several manuscripts waiting for me. I wrote for years before I began writing full-time, so I built a bank of manuscripts to return to. It’s easier to keep your head in the game when you see one manuscript through to completion. Those big books I’ve written are awfully intimidating when I go back to them to tinker. I’m afraid to lose the thread. It helps my process to be in media res, not just for the characters but for me as I write and rewrite. I will get to those books, of course. I’ll immerse myself again and get back into it, but at first it sure feels like trying to do the butterfly stroke after a long absence from swim practice. I’m always most excited about the newest project, so those books, as worthy as they will be, get pushed farther back in the drawer.

In stopping and starting, I’ve lost energy, time and money. Please learn from my mistake and see NaNoWriMo through to its logical conclusion. Keep swimming.

UPDATES

When I wrote Crack the Indie Author Code, there was a Big Six. Now, with the merger of Penguin and Random House, it’s the Big Five. As

Find tons of tips and inspiration here.

I wrote Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire, Kindlegraph was the tool to autograph ebooks. Now authors can write inscriptions across publishing platforms using the update, Authorgraph. I mention these two updates not just because I want you to know the latest. I mention it because I published those two books on writing and publishing very recently. Publishing’s landscape is changing so fast, even ebooks updating before anyone can click the “Publish” button. Bookmark ChazzWrites, hit follow and keep coming back for the latest.

Speaking of the latest on changes in the publishing industry, you will certainly want to hear: the latest episode of the podcast, On The Media, from NPR. It’s called Adapt or Die. It’s an excellent summation about the year in publishing. Topics include: The myth of piracy, Amazon versus everyone, getting around Amazon, knockoff books, the bookstore battle over the Tim Ferris’s The 4-Hour Chef and the future of the industry.

~ Robert Chazz Chute was a martial artist when his life was still ruled by macho BS. He writes about writing and publishing, suspense and escape while making jokes to distract readers from the existential abyss that will consume us all. He likes puppies. See his author page and listen to his podcast at AllThatChazz.com.

 

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#NaNoWriMo:The mission is simple. We are not.

Find tons of tips and inspiration here.

During National Novel Writing Month, you will focus on word counts. It’s about chewing up time by filling up paper. That’s okay. That’s fine. The critics of NaNoWriMo underestimate you. They think you don’t know that this is just the first step. Strange. They know that. Why would they think you don’t know that?

Sure, there are dabblers and dilettantes and outliers who will fire off their manuscript as soon as they’ve written 50,000 lousy words. Any time a lot of people do something, there will always be those misguided people who do it very badly. But they aren’t the majority. Most of us know that first drafts aren’t our best work and we have to try harder than that. You get to make it your best, bravest stab through the work of rewriting. You have to have something to start with, on paper, to have something to revise. We know. We get it. Please don’t condemn us all.

Let’s all lighten up and know the joy of Creation. That’s the closest to godhood I’ll ever get (besides Saturday mornings when I go yell at frogs, proclaiming how much smarter I am than they could hope to be. Uh…long story. Stupid frogs.)

When you’re done, you probably share my mission: 

I want to make people laugh and think. I want to create beauty. That is all I want to do. That is all

High goals. We know it takes more than one draft to get there.

Enjoy the process.

 

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#NaNoWriMo: Evolving a series from one book

“You will laugh your ass off!” ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

Readers love books in a series. Maybe when you’re done your NaNoWriMo manuscript, you may consider turning one book into several. I’m having an interesting experience with my crime novel series I thought I should share with you because it’s a new thing for me and it may be helpful to pull back the curtain on the process as it’s evolving.

Last year, I wrote a short story about Jesus Diaz, a hit man I included in my suspense collection Self-help for Stoners. The assassin I wrote about was a mature and experienced, cold-blooded sort of guy who, at the request of their soon-to-be ex wives, killed men going through divorce. Jesus (pronounced Hay-soose) knew what he was doing and was very slick. Still, things went awry in an interesting way. That was the beginning of the Hit Man Series, but I didn’t know that then.

The revelation came when I thought, I want to write a Coen brothers’ movie! Self-help for Stoners has a lot of funny stuff in it (my favorite is the funny erotica) but I wanted to write a whole novel that played with one character in a quirky way. I thought about what origins a guy like Jesus might have to make him more sympathetic. Despite what he does as an enforcer, he does not see himself as the bad guy. No bad guy does. He’s a victim and a vigilante caught in the gears of New York’s Machine (the Spanish mob).  Think of all those Coen brothers’ movies and you’ll get some of the flavor: The Big Lebowski, Fargo, Raising Arizona, Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing. Death always waits on the wide and easy road out of town. Perfect fit. I write about Escape. All my books and every one of my stories is ultimately about Escape. Along the way, I try to find a balance between realism and funny. People don’t get knocked out too easily in my stories, for instance. There are some bad guys who are entertainingly dumb, but nobody’s dumb just to make the plot work. Everyone has a goal that conflicts with everyone else’s motives and perspective.

“Worthy of Elmore Leonard with shades of Thomas Harris…”

The first book in the series is Bigger Than Jesus. I wanted to start the action off with a bang, so when we meet Jesus Diaz, he’s hanging off the side of a building in New York. The book reads like one long chase scene with a few sparse flashbacks to give depth to the character. Dexter is driven by psychological issues. Jesus is driven by circumstance and a need for money and delusions of grandeur. He’s obsessed with movies and wants the life he see in them. In the first book, there’s no sex but lots of violence and funny dialogue. I’d call it more gritty than gory. The story often plunges the reader into a web of deception and, because everything is seen from Jesus’ limited perspective, we only uncover the mystery of what waits in locker #408 as the Cuban hit man discovers the truth. Jesus begins his story arc as a guy who can lie well and has some skills he learned in the military, but he’s certainly no master assassin.

I watched and listened carefully for feedback before and after publication. People loved the jokes and surprises. Some thought there should be more sex and less swearing. I kept that in mind as I got into writing the second book in the series, Higher Than Jesus. I put in more jokes and surprises and yes, more sex. We discover new things about Jesus Diaz’s history. (That’s kind of a fun tip of the hat, playing with readers as they find out that Jesus has been lying to himself as well as others.)

Higher Than Jesus has a fast pace, but not quite as fast as Bigger Than Jesus. We slow down long enough for a funny and somewhat poignant chapter in which my hit man is failing at group therapy. We get into issues around addiction, too. From the first chapter, the tension slides in like a knife between ribs with a quarter twist as Jesus kills a bad guy on Christmas Day. Complications ensue around an arms deal that has national and historic ramifications. He’s learning and getting better at his job, but things still go awry.

Free on Amazon until November 23: A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction.

Through each book I used research and consulted with friends, one who’s ex-military and another who is a SWAT trainer. Some clever aspects of the plot turned on technical details my research supplied. As I write Hollywood Jesus, my hit man is still on the run from the mob and the FBI. The events from the first two books are by no means erased. What’s different as I write the third book in the series is Jesus’s confidence and competence. He’s still at the mercy of Murphy’s Law, but now the book includes the latest technology and techniques in espionage and counter-espionage. Jesus is a troubleshooter for a security firm, specializing in dealing with celebrity stalkers. He deals with them in very unorthodox ways, often using their own tactics against them. None of the tactics or tech is too far out there, so it’s not like a Bond movie, with Roger Moore. However, there’s a lot of very cool spy tech that’s available to anyone commercially. 

What’s the arc of the series so far?:

#1 was a pure crime adventure with dark childhood secrets driving the character and a mystery leading to escape. That whipped the action across the finish line.

#2 goes deeper into the character, but at its heart it’s hardboiled action with a chapter that drips with sex and a lot of violent action broken up by fast, witty dialogue. There’s less swearing, especially since one bad guy hardly says a word and the other sees himself as quite pure and above all that. I’m proudest of the psychological gameplay throughout, the funny chaos, the clever kills and a fight scene that actually reveals something about the character and his past instead of fighting for action’s sale alone.

#3: I’m still writing Hollywood Jesus, but I think that, though the story starts fast, the tension cranks up with more range of emotion. Yesterday, for instance, Jesus confronted a very deadly and powerful stalker to make Jesus (and the reader) understand the enormity of the danger he faces. That night, Jesus scans the audience at a comedy club for the celeb stalker as the client does her act onstage. We got a sense of why this celebrity is so special and worth protecting. I loved writing that scene because every line is from the stand up act I’ve had in my head for a while and I think it’s pretty hilarious. (I’ve been thinking about doing an open mic at Yuk Yuks sometime, so maybe I’ll try my material onstage myself before publication to see if I get the same laughs as Legs Gabrielle.)

The tech stuff in Hollywood Jesus fascinates me and always has. I’m drawing on a large library of dirty tricks, revenge fantasies and bad guy techniques I’ve researched for years. This is an amazing time to be a crime novelist. There’s so much information to draw on.

What’s stays the same among all three books so far?

The humor. One thing I share with Jesus is smart-assery, especially when in danger. Reversals and bad fortune plague Jesus, often because his plans and my plots are so elaborate and my hit man is not as smart as he thinks he is. The assassin’s character does change through the books. By the third, he’s wary of falling in love too quickly, which is a fatal flaw with him. He begins to see himself differently by the end of the second book so, though he’s always been clever, by the opening of Hollywood, he’s more proactive and in control…or so he thinks.

Things are rarely as they appear in the Hit Man Series. I have an outline, but I’m not sure of all the details of what’s coming. For Jesus, I’m more of a pantser than a plotter. I can’t wait to see what he does about what I throw at him tomorrow.

Grab Higher Than Jesus before midnight, Friday, November 23rd

and it’s free!

(There’s an intriguing offer for more free ebooks inside and, fair warning, all the prices will be going up soon.)

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes hardboiled suspense with quirky twists. He’s also written two books about writing and publishing: Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire.

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#NaNoWriMo: You’re tired. Dream some more.

Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire both have bonus offers of free ebooks.

Writers are a tribe bound together in loose nomadic groups travelling in the same direction along parallel lines. We are  slathered in poverty and fear and unrealistic hopes. But we are also sharers and people pleasers. We are the dreamers.

If you are a writer, someone in your life is trying to wake you from your dream: You are a child lost and frantic in a busy marketplace and that chasing frenzy will pull you from sleep’s safety. Readers are beautiful objects of desire but your love is unrequited. You have disappointed yourself and fallen into the gap between the great vision you saw from far away and the lesser book you crafted with your hands. Everyone falls short, but nomads keep moving. Writers continue to stretch and reach. Sometimes you will curse your blessing and you will wake, startled and disoriented and blocked. Go back to sleep.

Stay asleep and dream. Burrow down under the blankets. Pull the quilt over your head. Some people — busy but still somehow accomplishing little or nothing — can’t bear to see someone warm and comfortable. Busy people in busyness are blind to your mind. They can’t see that you are happily occupied in Creation, elsewhere and elsewhen. We are Zen masters, actively doing nothing for a larger cause that awaits us in paper and pixels. New futures demand that you be different.

Write and, when you run out of space in your dreams, read to make more room for the next night’s escape. You have the creative virus. Those who would wake you from your dreams can’t understand the compulsion your disease insists upon.

Write and make worlds. Your dreams are important. Never doubt that. Your night work is important because we are the creators of escapes from the waking world and busyness.

Writing, above all, is a kind thing to do.

 

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Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

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