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

The publishing revolution already happened.

Amazon policy changes. We probably don’t.

Amazon has announced that KU will pay per page. Previously, authors were credited with a “borrow” only after the reader got past 10% of the book. Now the pay will be based on how far the reader actually gets so authors of longer works will be compensated more (and, perhaps, fewer people will write shorter works or try to “game the system.”)

The above statement is how many people seem to be reading the new Kindle Unlimited policy change announcement. 

That’s not how I see it. Here’s my take:

1. It doesn’t matter. Write your books to whatever length tells the story satisfactorily. Readers don’t care about this behind-the-scenes drama so you shouldn’t worry overly much about it, either.

2. A lot of people are talking about jumping out of Select because of the surprise change. Here’s the thing: after July your revenue may go up or it may go down. That depends less on KU and more on your books. For instance, you can write a really long book and assume you’ll get handsomely compensated under the new system. However, if readers abandon the book in the early going when they encounter a saggy middle, you’re no farther ahead than if you wrote a ripper at a shorter length that the reader fully devoured.

3. I plan to write some shorter fiction. I’m not altering that plan because I’d rather have more stories in a series or in a world. I can always box them up later for length later if need be.

4. Shorter work still has another advantage everyone seems to ignore: increased visibility. Publish more often, be seen more often. Every 30 days, every author faces the dreaded Cliff. Focusing on page count alone blinds us to other variables.

5. Once again, Amazon is innovating. Don’t be afraid of change. Roll with it. Adapt. Crush your enemies and drink wine from their skulls and whatnot. The writing biz is not for pussycats.

6. Again, the other sales platforms are not changing a thing. Hm. That’s not stability you’re smelling. That’s rot.

7. If you take a hit from Amazon’s change in policy, it may be time to go wide to other platforms and build your readership elsewhere (if you aren’t working on that already.) The catch is, though Amazon may suck in one regard for you, that still does not equate to improvement on the other platforms. I make all my money on Amazon US and that’s pretty much it. 

8. Panic is not a plan. I’ll leave it to others who are geniuses with calculators to do the calculating. I’m waiting and watching to learn if there’s anything to learn (besides write more great books.) I’m also expanding my plans for serious promotional tactics in any case. Even before yesterday’s announcement of changes with KU, I’ve noticed slower sales and fewer reviews. Like it or not, ready or not, it’s time to spend money to make money to stay in this game.

9. I never tried to “game the system.” But I think people who wrote shorter after KU was introduced weren’t necessarily “gaming” anything. They were being flexible and using business acumen. Serials made a comeback. Their popularity has always waxed and waned. And what’s wrong with writing short, anyway? Many people tell us that many readers prefer shorter books because it fits their lifestyle demands, their attention span and their time management choices. Write what you want and what you think your readers want (or what you can make them want.) Fashion changes. Winds change. Leaders go out front with a lantern, a will and a plan to break the trail.

10. If you write short books, you might take a hit. Or box sets are going to come roaring back. (I have omnibuses, so cool.) You know what else is growing and only going to get bigger? Audiobooks. There’s plenty to sell on Amazon besides mobis. KU is only one segment of sales.

11. This really doesn’t change anything for me. I’ll write short books. I’ll write long books. I’ll find out what I get paid when the Amazon check arrives. It is, as always, about the writing. Arguably, judging books by pages read means it’s about pleasing the reader, now more than ever.

12. Everybody relax. We’ll all live longer if we relax. Breathe. Repeat. Continue.

Okay? Okay. Oorah.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute and I’m giving away super duper cool stuff on my author site right now. Download your free review copy here while the offer still lasts. Thanks.

Filed under: Amazon, , , , , , ,

Game of Thrones and The No Apology Tour for Writers

Successful fiction always depends on conflict and often relies on surprise. The mechanics of telling stories successfully are not secrets. That’s why this article decrying the latest developments in Game of Thrones is a little annoying. Maybe they were just going for click bait. It seems the critics want to go to Vegas and gamble, but they want everyone to come home rich.

Vegas doesn’t work that way. Neither does compelling fiction. Bad things happen. People die. Deal with it…or don’t watch or read Game of Thrones.

I’m sure some fans are earnestly distressed at things that occur in the show. However, what happens in fiction stays in fiction. Those characters people love and love to hate do not reside on Earth. They are in Westeros and that’s a terrible and dangerous place to live and die. The show’s producers could suck the scary out of it, but then everyone would complain and no one would watch.

People complain George RR Martin kills off his characters. That’s the risk that makes it worth reading and watching. The sense that “anything could happen” is what is missing from other, lesser, books and shows. If you watch a game where everyone wins, everybody’s bored. Even the winners would stop playing to seek out more challenging pursuits.

If you want reassurance that everything will work out, watch iCarly reruns (as I do.) If you want a complex story that’s a gamble every Sunday night (as I do), watch Game of Thrones.

Yes, to some degree, what happens in fiction doesn’t stay in fiction.

What happens in Westeros might make you squirm or cry or feel disgust. That’s why you’re watching. If it didn’t affect you and it doesn’t make you care (like the last season of Dexter) then we won’t watch or we’ll hate-watch. Oh, Dexter, you fell so far.

Same with reading. A good story has stakes and people lose and die. All sorts of terrible things can happen and that conflict keeps more people riveted to the screen (even if, perhaps especially if, they have to look away sometimes.) What pushes some away will pull more closer, like watching a car accident. You want to look away. Maybe you should. Most won’t.

A few other thoughts about misconceptions about fiction*:

1. It’s not “manipulation” if I make you hate or love a character. It’s good storytelling. 

2. If you recognize a theme or element from something else, that doesn’t make it a copy, a tribute or plagiarism. It just means there are only so many stories in the world. As an author, I’m only obligated to tell my story with my unique voice (and a pantload of panache, thank you very much.) There were, no doubt, other stories about similar topics. (But they lack Chazz.)

3. Just because a way of telling a story is not something you’re used to reading (e.g. second person) doesn’t necessarily make it “experimental” or “bad.” Don’t say to an author (as one friend of mine was told) “Nobody does it.” There are plenty of examples of alternate POV books.

4. The familiar plot device (sometimes observed pejoratively as “tropes”) is what makes many stories work. You could come up with something more elaborate than the old reliable ticking time bomb under a seat, but make it understandable. (GoT came up with a bad guy in an insurance salesman for mariners. You had to watch the explanation a couple of times to get the gist. They should have used a trope. Instead, they confused viewers.)

Tropes are only bad if you get bogged down in too many of them. Readers want to be surprised, but tropes are touchstones which ground the story and make it comfortable for the reader. A writer once pitched me a story utterly devoid of tropes. Unique, it was. Understandable, it was not. (Yes. I’m quoting Yoda.)

Genres also have specific expectations that you don’t necessarily want to avoid. If the couple doesn’t get together at the end of a romance, that’s not a tired trope. That’s an expectation the reader paid for. Romance readers want you to land the plane safely after a stormy flight (and possibly a slap and tickle in the washroom.)

5. If you’re very familiar with a non-fiction topic and read a book aimed at beginners, it’s churlish to snark, “Nothing new here.”

6. “Churlish” is a word that should be used more. I’m also a huge fan of “groovy.” Use it today! (But not “far out!” Forget that crap.)

7. “It’s been done,” is an dull barb. Everything has been done. It’s up to us to write it in a fresh way.

8. I don’t owe you a happily ever after ending and I never guarantee it. When I come to the end of a story, I write satisfying finales. The conclusion might be happy. Might not. Spin the wheel and find out. I don’t write soothing books for children.

9. Some people, like me, say they “hate” cliffhangers. We’re a vocal minority and we don’t really mean it. If you’re writing a series and you advertise it as a series, the reader should expect some questions to be answered and others to be raised. I “hate” Walking Dead cliffhangers. You know…that thing that brings me back to the television set for the next episode every time? People hate cliffhangers most when the device is effective.

10. I don’t write for readers first. I write for myself first. I’m at my desk or a coffee shop or on my couch when I write and I have no idea what “readers” (that amorphous mass waiting out there in the future somewhere) will like. I don’t write by committee. I can’t take a poll. I can’t work to a writing prompt. There is no formula. I just unearth the story and what ignites, burns. I know what I like and I’m hoping readers will climb aboard my crazy train. I’m not looking to board someone else’s commuter bus.

11. Politics shows up in my writing. So does religion. My worlds are populated with all kinds of social interactions (gay, straight, minorities, right and left.) No apologies. Whether the world is post-apocalyptic or I’m writing in the slow apocalypse we’re in now, my books are populated with people. People have opinions, so characters have opinions. They worry about what might happen to them after they die so God comes up for discussion. Some suffer existential angst. Not all the opinions I write about are opinions I happen to share. NO APOLOGIES! Characters come alive in readers’ minds because of familiarity. Depth and resonance come from dealing with big questions. I regret nothing. 

12. I don’t always answer those big questions in a way every reader is going to like, either. I often let the reader figure out for themselves how the big gears of the universe turn. However, if someone is prepared to send me a huge sum of money, I could rewrite a book that aligns perfectly with every ideology that person holds. I’ll hate it and only that person will read it, but I do have kids to send to college so…there you go.

13. I scratched me a book. Everybody gets an opinion, but the writer doesn’t have to listen to that opinion. If you do listen to that opinion, know this: someone will tell you something is grammatically wrong, but they are incorrect. (They’ll also tell you in the same breath they’re an authority.) Someone will declare they’ll never come back for more. You can go back and fix something and/or write another book. You’ll get better the more books you write (if you get feedback from an editor or writing group etc.) The review you read today that is depressingly kind of accurate in some regard will be a cause for laughter at cocktail parties in a few short years. Forgive yourself and assume no one else will.

14. I can write books fast. I can write books slow. If you write faster or slower, that doesn’t make it de facto better or worse. The calculation in that criticism (usually coming from slower writers) almost always deletes the crucial variables: x = the quantity of procrastination divided by y = we are all different.

15. When we put ourselves out there and stand up on our hind legs and dare to speak or write or paint or sing, someone will think they know us. They’ll make assumptions about us, even people who should know better. If you write about zombies, they might assume you’re dumb. If you write erotica, your neighbor might skip straight to slut shaming or ask you out. If you write “literary” they might assume you’re smart and rich.

Though it’s awfully tempting to think so, no one knows us through our books. Fiction reflects reality in a warped mirror. Fiction is not reality. No one knows another’s mind. The writer, in writing mode, remains a cipher. Therefore, ignore the people who are looking for clues to your psyche in your writing (even your Mom) and write whatever the hell you want. It’s not about you. It’s about telling a good story and engaging those who dig your chosen flavor of crazy. Writing crazy shit doesn’t make me crazy. Writing crazy shit keeps me more sane.

16. Don’t write what you know. Write what you care about. Supporting details will be researched or they will be made up. Unless you’re writing a textbook on thoracic surgery, it’ll probably work out.

17. It’s tempting to make people think that writing is arduous. If so, maybe you should try writing something funner. And use the word “funner” more often. (Thanks to comedian Greg Proops for that.) When people complain about the task of writing, I suspect they’re either in the wrong head space at that moment or in the wrong business altogether. I’ve done hard labor and worked retail. That was awful. Writing is a joy and, usually, it’s play.

*This blog and this post is not aimed at readers. It’s aimed at writers. I mention this because, though some readers suffer these misconceptions about the craft, that doesn’t concern me. That’s their business. I’ve met writers who fall for them, though, and that’s a worry.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute. I’m a suspense novelist who is much kinder and more patient than this post may make me appear. Visit my author site, AllThatChazz.com, for updates on new cars added to my crazy train.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , ,

San Andreas, The Rock, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and Bad Reviews

I cleared my calendar and, full of energy, I looked forward to an afternoon of writing. Then I accidentally ran across a negative review of one of my favorite books. Worse, it’s one of my favorites that I wrote. I didn’t agree with the review. In fact, this person might have been reviewing a different book because the reviewer made a point that…honestly, I have no idea what they’re talking about.

And so I started thinking about the futility of trying to please everyone and, yes, this is part of the business…it happens to all who dare… be mature…and blah-de-blah you’ve heard all that crap before. We aren’t supposed to have feelings. Certainly some reviewers write reviews as if we don’t. I’m still human so, I admit, I didn’t tough it out and set my jaw and type on bravely. My enthusiasm died. Instead of writing, I retreated to a darkened theater alone to watch a disaster movie because that seemed like the metaphor for my life.

From Wikipedia:

The Kübler-Ross model, or the five stages of grief, is a series of emotional stages experienced by survivors of an intimate’s death, wherein the five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

And so…The Writer’s Five Stages of Grief after a Bad Review:

1. Denial.

“No! Can’t be! That book is really good! Maybe even great!”

2. Anger

“My book is fantastic, dammit! Whose house have I got to burn down to get some justice in this cock-eyed universe?”

3. Bargaining

Maybe if I talked to the reviewer… (instantly rejected as a terrible idea, but that bad idea always flashes by.)

4. Depression

“What’s the point? Maybe I could do something else to finally prove my worth to Dead Mom.” When I read that bad review (and reread it over and over) I thought I might write a blog post entitled, Writing in the Post-enjoyment Age, or something similarly grim.

And then…a light.

The movie started. San Andreas is a really cheesy movie that makes me want to see the original 1974 Earthquake starring George Kennedy, Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner. San Andreas is packed full of tropes and cliches and plot holes and a startling amount of product placement and a few unintentionally funny lines that sound like a rehash of a dozen movies.

But you know what? That’s some tasty cheese! I forgot about my bad review and watched the Pageant of Crazy that is this disaster movie. I couldn’t quite decide who was prettier, Dwayne Johnson or Alexandra Daddario. (She edged him out for gorgeous, but The Rock makes me want to work out more and get huge.)

As the destruction flag unfurled before me, I remembered a review of San Andreas that complained there were no awe-inspiring moments. WHAAAAAAaaaat?

CGI is the star of this show! Nothing is left standing! C’mon! How could it not be awe-inspiring? What more could anyone possibly want from a silly disaster movie on a Friday afternoon?

Ah.

Somebody didn’t get what San Andreas was doing just like the reviewer didn’t get what I did. It wasn’t for that person.

That’s okay. I’m looking for 10,000 true fans who want to board my crazy train. There are other readers who do get it, and will. Just as people like music but they don’t like all music, people like books but my preferred form of Chazz jazz isn’t for them. It doesn’t make them wrong or bad necessarily. They just aren’t into my flavor.

Finally…

5. Acceptance.

Deep breath.

You can find what you’re looking for in the strangest places sometimes.

Back to writing….

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute and I invite you to partake of a couple of free ebooks, podcasts and a fair degree of whatnot on my author site, AllThatChazz.com

Filed under: writing, writing advice, , , , , ,

Beat the World’s Plot Against You

Life happens. It’s time for me to happen to life, not the other way around.

In the last few days, someone stole from my family and made my daughter cry. A close friend’s child died. Frustrations dot the landscape. I thought I’d be done another book by now but life keeps getting in the way. Clearly, it’s time for a pattern break.

“Rise up and take the power back.” ~ Muse from The Resistance

I am not a flake, but I speak it fluently. Once upon a time, someone told me to pick up every penny (back when Canada had pennies.) The act of picking up pennies in the street was supposed to be a message to the universe: “I am open to abundance!”

After picking up a filthy penny in the rain, it occurred to me the message I was sending the universe was, “I’ll take whatever crumbs you choose to send me.” Worse, I was sending myself a message: “This is all you’re worth.” Screw that hippie bullshit.

1. Everybody feels pushed around sometimes. Push back by doing a kindness to someone else. Transmute the energy into something positive.

2. Tonight I spotted an author’s comment on a troll’s review, thanking them for the mean review. Authors: Cherish your fans. Set trolls to ignore. You do not have to pretend to love the whip. Stop being grateful for crap. I didn’t think the author was classy and above it all for petting and encouraging the troll. It looked more like grovelling for a penny covered in dog crap.

3. Exercise. Don’t feel like taking out frustrations on weights and ellipticals? Find your jam. Dance. Make love. Make sex. Rock on. Get happy. When we act happy, we fool our bodies and brains. No? Not yet? Dance harder.

4. Get enough sleep. Black out your room. Sleep naked. Fewer blankets are better. Can’t sleep? Revisit #3, points 5 & 6.

5. Phone a friend. Complain, but not for longer than three minutes. Then ask about them. Get out of your own head. Help them solve their problem.

6. You don’t need advice. Hardly anybody does. Just give yourself the same advice you’d give a friend in the same predicament.

7. Write. Not your book. Not yet. Write what you will do (not to do. Will do.)

Choose the two top priorities. Everything else on a long list won’t get done. Mark what time you will do these things. Keep that appointment.

8. Write. Make it the first thing you do. If not that, write at your high energy time.

9. Eat something that’s good for Future You. Don’t eat what Now You wants. Now You wants a hot fudge sundae on acid. Future You wishes you’d eaten a salad.

10. Do it all again until your are out of the unproductive funk. Then keep doing it. Write on. Write harder. Can’t make happy art? Fine. Fierce art is awesome, too.

Or do what you want. This is what I’m doing.

Damn it.

One day soon, we’ll all be brilliant together….

Filed under: getting it done, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

So you want to be the next big thing?

Odium The Dead Saga cover

~ Guest post by Claire C Riley

Most writers start out on this crazy train wreck of a journey with one thing in their mind: to tell a story. Okay, so maybe they have two things on their mind.

Tell a story, and have people read it.

Oh, wait. Maybe three things if they are feeling especially ambitious.

Tell a story, have people read it, and maybe, if they dare to dream…earn a living doing it.

Throughout my journey, I’ve met many different types of writers, all with different ambitions when it comes to their words/books/stories/novels whatever. Some dream big. They write a great novel and wait for it to be snapped up and make them their millions. Others write a great novel, work their socks off to get it traditionally published, and sit back and wait for their millions to roll in.

And then there are those who are more realistic about it all.

They write a great book. They want it to be read by people, and maybe they pimp it out to the big five, maybe they don’t, either way, that book gets published. And then they…write the next damn book!

Because to be a writer, that’s what it takes. Not one great book, but several. Readers don’t like investing in one book, because that’s a shoddy investment, and it’s not the book that they are investing in—it’s you, the author. They want to know that if they fall in love with your work that there is more to come. More ready for them to buy, more for them to look forward to. Just more.

I’ve met a lot of authors who are waiting.

Waiting for sales, waiting for fans, waiting for…who the hell knows what they’re waiting for, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t sit up at night wondering when the big bucks are going to roll in.

As a reader I like to know that there’s more after I turn that final page—or slide the final page if I’m reading with my kindle. And I hate waiting for a year for a sequel.

So as a writer, I don’t. I try to get out several novels a year, both full length and novellas, and in between I like to write short stories in anthologies. That way I get to keep drip-feeding my readers my words, to keep them interested and hungry for more, and yes, invested in me. Because surely I owe them that much? After all, they took a punt on me by reading my book. And in return the more they read my stories, the more they talk about them, and the more word spreads, thus increasing my reach to potential new readers.

So for me being the next big thing isn’t about that traditional publishing contract, or making a million on my first book (though, of course that would have been nice.) It’s about continuously moving forwards, listening to feedback and improving with each book, making my readers happy, and maybe, just maybe, the next book will be the next big thing.

But I’m not waiting around to see, I’m too busy writing my next book.

Claire C Riley profile photo~ Claire C Riley is the author of “Limerence,” “Odium. The Dead Saga,” “Odium Origins. A Dead Saga Novella Part One,” “Odium II The Dead Saga” “Odium Origins A Dead Saga Novella Part Two” a contributor to several zombie apocalypse anthologies, including the upcoming ‘Fading Hope’, ‘State of Horror Illinois’ and a proud contributor to the charity anthology “Let’s Scare Cancer to Death.”

Odium. The Dead Saga is a top #100 dystopian selling book on Amazon.com for 2013, ‘Indie book of the day’ winner December 2013 and ‘Indie Author Land 50 best self-published books worth reading 2013/14’

Limerence was a featured book in the ‘Guardian newspaper for best Indie novel 2013’ and is currently a finalist for the eFestival of Words ‘best novel’ category.

Odium II The Dead Saga is a #1 Best Selling British Horror book.

She can be stalked at any of the following.

http://www.clairecriley.com

https://www.facebook.com/ClaireCRileyAuthor

http://bit.ly/clairecrileyamazon/

https://twitter.com/ClaireCRiley

https://www.google.com/+ClaireCRiley

Filed under: author platform, Books, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , ,

Writing: Find time or make time in 22 quick tips

No one will give you time to write. You have to take it. I’m in a time crunch now, but I needed a break. Therefore, here are 22 tips it didn’t take me long to come up with: 

1. Say, “No.” Do that more.

2. Schedule your writing time.

3. Steal your writing time, between the other stuff you have to do and away from the stuff that’s optional.

4. Write when the kids are napping.

5. Get up before everyone else.

6. Get the kids to bed earlier and you stay up to write.

7. Stop reading reviews, checking Amazon stats and obsessing over what you can’t control. Write the next book.

8. Get away from Facebook and Twitter. That stuff is for breaks when you are creatively exhausted.

9. Plot while watching your kid’s soccer game. I came up with a book that way recently and still paid enough attention that I didn’t miss my kid’s heroics. 

10. Someone else is cooking tonight.

11. Delegate laundry. Ask for help.

12. Do more. Write more. Talk less.

13. Dump rituals around writing. Waiting for the perfect writing environment is procrastination disguised as usefulness.

14. Write on the train commute.

15. Turn off all screens but the one you use to write. Turn off your Internet connection during writing time.

16. Look at your email once, at the end of the day, if you must.

17. Don’t just delete the emails that don’t serve you. Dump the subscriptions to all those newsletters and blogs you don’t really follow.

18. Focus on what’s productive. Getting into arguments on the Internet isn’t productive. Feed your need for drama by writing books instead.

19. Someone will try to draw you into unproductive time sucks. If they won’t take a hint, do not tolerate trolls. Unfriend, unfollow, mute. Block them across all your social media so you don’t accidentally run into each other again after you’ve forgotten their names.

20. Make a habit of planning what you will write tomorrow. Momentum carries us forward.

21. Jump into writing first. What must be seen on television (precious little) is recorded for later.

22. Stop reading this blog. Go write.

Time is life. Manage it right and you’ll write more books.

 

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Writing: Tics and traps to consider

We all have tics in our writing that show up as we revise our manuscripts. I think it was Elmore Leonard who said we shouldn’t use, “all hell broke loose,” and “suddenly.” I actually don’t see a problem with suddenly, but because Elmore Leonard didn’t like it, I’m too chicken to use it. I also think adverbs get a bad rap, though I use them sparingly.

Here are some more things that get repeated in manuscripts you should consider leaving out for a faster, easier and clearer read.

1. When you can say it in fewer words, do so. (General guideline. No, this doesn’t mean all novels should be reduced to their three-paragraph summaries. Yes, we’d all be better read, but it’s about the journey.)

2. When you can use a simpler word instead of an unfamiliar one, consider that. I use some Latin and unusual words in This Plague of Days, but all is explained and it all has a point.

3. The house across the street or right across the street? In Nova Scotia, we said “right across” often, which technically connotes “directly,” or “nearest.” But across the street will usually do. “Right over there,” becomes “Over there.” Nothing lost.

4. Eliminate gerunds where possible. This often accompanies a manuscript packed with “was.” “He was working on the plan”? Will “He worked on the plan,” serve your purpose with a more direct and muscular verb?

5. Felt. He felt this. He felt that. I’m not saying eliminate it completely. But showing is generally better than telling (though not always) and doing is better than feeling (often.) Feeling is passive. Demonstrate how he feels that his wife walked out and took the beloved dog he brought into the marriage.

6. Up and down. I go through my manuscripts looking for “up” because that’s my tic. He stood up? He stood is the same. And “she sat down in the purple chair”?  “She sat in the purple chair,” communicates the same thought, right?

7. Began. “He began to think about…” How about, “He thought about…”? Once you start thinking, you’re already into it, right?

8. Then. “She then lit the match. Then she lit the fuse and then it began to burn.” Things happen in sequence in the order you put it down  write. Then is often unnecessary.

9. And at the beginning of the sentence. It’s not that it’s wrong. Some of my old-school English teachers went hardcore on this point. It’s when it’s used too often, it becomes a placeholder that delays the action by three little letters. It’s often unnecessary.

10. So at the beginning of a sentence. It’s not wrong, but it’s a common tic. It’s often the writing equivalent of “um” in public speaking. “So, how are you doing?” versus, “How are you doing?” This can be a stylistic choice. In dialogue, maybe it’s a subtle cue to the reader that the speaker is attempting to appear casual or isn’t sure what to say.

BONUS

Look for opportunities to vary sentence length. It makes for an easier read. Run-on sentences intimidate, confuse and frustrate readers. 

~ Robert Chazz Chute is revising Season 3 of This Plague of Days. Season 3, and This Plague of Days, The Complete Series is scheduled for release June 15th, 2014.

Haven’t started Season 1 and Season 2, yet? There’s still time. Grab them here.

Filed under: Editing, writing tips, , , , , , , , , ,

Writing Process: Ten Moments in the Writer’s Life

1. You become a writer.

It’s usually not something you really decide. It happens to you, like disease. It’s a life where you’re either writing or you’re distracted and feeling you should be writing, forever. Like homework, for adults, 24/7. And some of the teachers mark really hard.

2. You escape the life of mortals.

You become so involved in the story that time flies and you don’t care that you’re cursed to do homework for life. In fact, you feel fortunate you’ve found this for yourself. You dream of seeing your name in print. And the accolades! That will be sweet! Finally, self-worth fed to you by strangers!

3. You meet your first dream killer.

Someone scolds you for daring to use an adverb and shrieks that, “A sentence fragment is not a sentence!”, as if you didn’t know. Then they tell you not to bother with writing.

“Perhaps you’ll find animal husbandry more fulfilling,” they’ll say, because they’re full of terrible advice and, oddly, they sound very confident.

This is a critical juncture.

If the person has too much influence over you or you’re young enough, you might quit. If quitting is an option, that’s okay. Writing isn’t for everyone. 

4. You enter the Octagon.

You send out queries and manuscripts and you get rejection slips but you don’t care because it means you’re putting yourself out there and you’re in the game. You’re not talking about writing like it’s a dream in a far off retirement. You’re doing it now. Every moment of it feels important.

5. You get feedback on your writing that’s really useful.

You put away the first bunch of stories or your novella or even your first novel or two and you begin again. You improve.

6. You get your first success.

It might be a writing award or an article in a magazine. Maybe you get $25 or maybe you don’t, but the money’s not important to you. Your parents will ask how much you won or got paid. That dagger in your heart comes from a place of love. Probably.

7. You get your first hater.

I won third place in short story contest and $1000. Someone was offended that my story won and wrote a screed about how it sucked, I sucked and this was what was wrong with the world (and possibly this side of the galaxy.) He didn’t win so, naturally, now we’re all gonna die!

The thing about the Internet is, people will say things on their blog that, if said in person, would lead them on a trip to major reconstructive surgery and not a judge in the land would convict. As far as I know, that dude still hasn’t written anything besides his doctoral thesis in English literature. Poor guy is still unread and still brings joy to no one. If only he’d pursued animal husbandry, we’d all be happier (though that’s a terrible thing to do to innocent animals.)

8. Your finger hovers over the mouse.

You’re about to hit the “publish” button. It’s nerve-wracking. How many mistakes have you missed? How mean will the reviews be? How good might they be? You thought this would be one of the highs moments of your writing career. Instead, hitting publish is remarkably stressful. After you hit that button, birth that book and send it out into the cold air, you might even feel postpartum depression for days or weeks. I do, every time.

9. You get your first true fan.

For some reason, vague to both writer and reader, something you wrote connects viscerally. Someone loves what you wrote and you love them for it. They are invaluable. They are your chief five-star reviewer, defender, cheerleader and advocate. They’re so awesome, you’re pretty sure they don’t poop. Inexplicably, they think the same of you.

Through the simple mechanism of words on the page, you’ve bypassed his or her brain and you have their heart. Then you start to worry that, with your next book, you’ll screw it up and lose them. The thought of losing a die-hard fan? Hello, Insomnia.

10. You go deeper with your writing.

You tell yourself you’re sufficiently seasoned now so the haters should bother you less. Maybe they shouldn’t bother you, but they will. I got a belittling letter at Christmas that knocked me so far down I didn’t write anything for a month.

But then you get back to it and you remember what cartoonist Lynda Barry calls “that floaty feeling” you get as a creative.

Publication per se? That matters less. It’s the writing process itself that is the thing. Yes, you want readers and lots of them, but you write for yourself first. You discover what you think and feel by writing. The writing journey is the reward. You lose yourself in the prose and in a small way, there’s something immortal and divine about that dopamine drip, washing your neocortex as you write and dream and create.

It’s just so darn godlike to kill people…

Um…in fiction. Right. That’s what I meant.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute and I poop. I also create worlds. If you create worlds, too, you’d probably enjoy reading this.

If you like to read stories that make you question whether the author may or may not poop, try this.

Also, right now, for a more buck, you can get a box set from me and seven other writers who are so awesome, they definitely don’t poop. Get the Horror Within box set now. 

This is the most I’ve written the word “poop” in one blog post. Or 3,000 blog posts. Why was I denying you this joy for so long? Now I feel bad. Better go kill some people…

 

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

Genre Writing: How to make your book funnier if you want to (and why funny is important)

I’m not talking about writing comedy per se. I’m talking about giving a too-serious book some oomph. (Oomph is funny. Ooh-la-la is erotica, and that’s a different post.) It’s not for every author or every book, but if you’re looking for ways to add a lighter touch to your work in progress, consider this:

1. Say what everyone else is thinking but would never say. Explore why you, too, love disco. You have always loved disco and yes, you, like everyone, have had angry sex in the back of a taxi. It made you feel disappointed in yourself and oddly Germanic. But that was this afternoon, so let’s not live in the past and…

2. Punch up, not down. This is why Jon Stewart is funny and Rush Limbaugh isn’t. Rush mocks the poor while Stewart goes after power. Mocking our betters is what betters are for, apparently. Not many of them seem to be good for much else.

3. Have a sense of humor about yourself and let your protagonist be less monolithic, too. Self-deprecating humor works because, well…few of us are really that great but anybody who thinks they’re great sounds like a donkey. Watch Grosse Pointe Blank or High Fidelity and fall in love with John Cusack (again) because of that funny vulnerability. John Cusack is a funny puppy in those movies (even when he’s killing people for profit.)

4. Juxtaposition can be funny. For instance, I wrote on Twitter that I had an awkward encounter with someone I’d accidentally insulted. I added, “Hiding in my office. Like a man!”

5. Twist it. “I love kids. Not mine, but…” Attack jokes are hard to pull off without supreme confidence. They’re more suited to villains or more minor characters who have a terrible vengeance coming to them. When the boss is caustic and sarcastic, the reader will achieve greater satisfaction when the twit is hoisted screaming by his own penis. Or someone else’s. Hey, I’m not here to judge your book.

6. Find the funny in the character. In Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon would add Xander to a scene to deliver a particular line because, though everyone on the show could be funny, a Xander joke coming from Willow’s mouth would break Willow’s character. Jokes and characters have a point of view, so make sure the joke sounds right coming from your character.

The jokes that spring from my autistic hero in This Plague of Days originate in his innocence. He doesn’t see the world as others do so he often says the unexpected, but from his unique, laconic perspective. There is nothing angry or world-weary in his observations, only wide-eyed, what the heck are they doing now and why? This is normal?

7. Don’t be afraid to deliver a line in a low-key way. In Bigger Than Jesus, Jesus Diaz gets beaten terribly. His girlfriend, the lovely Lily, finds him lying on his kitchen floor icing his blackened eyes. When she tells him that his situation does not look good, the hit man deadpans, “I don’t know why you’d say that.”

8. Outrageous works. Rants can be awesome. Give it a context to sell it and an entertaining rant can go a long way. For instance, in this little Season 3 spoiler from This Plague of Days, Shiva gets some good lines: 

“Please don’t hurt anybody.”

“Darling, I’m the Queen of Hearts.”

“So, you’ll rule with love?”

“No, stupid. I mean I can say, ‘Off with their heads,’ at any time. Love takes time, Rahab. Fear takes root in the second it takes to slap a child.”

9. Writing jokes is difficult. There are many more comedians than there are comedians who are really killing. To improve your chances of hitting the right notes to a killer joke, don’t sweat it so hard on your first draft. Jokes are easier to find and unearth when you’ve already laid the foundation of character, action and dialogue. Jokes are for the second and third pass where you’ve already got something to riff from. Lots of people aren’t quip machines on their own, but when they hang out with friends and loosen up, they can bounce lots of funny ideas off what’s already in the ether over the cocktail bar.

10. A joke is set up, punch. The punch should be fast and short. Don’t reach for it. Eschew dumb, easy jokes and never make a joke you have to explain. Use the fewest words possible to get to the POW! 

BONUS: Why is funny important?

I write suspense. I deliver on a lot of grim scenaria. Horror presents many opportunities to be funny because both scares and laughs are about playing with the audience’s brains and delivering the unexpected. When the reader expects you to zig, zag. These devices are necessary because few readers want to read a long horror story if it’s not an emotional roller coaster. The horror on the next page will have a heavier punch if I can get you to chuckle on this page.

One of the things I don’t like about some books is that they are relentlessly monotone. The reader begins to feel like there’s little emotional payoff and the book becomes a grim march to the finish. Grim can be fun, but a book with only one tone and no cookies and candy along the way isn’t rewarding the reader with enough wit. One tone for a whole book is so hard to pull off, I don’t recommend trying it in most genre fiction. Life’s tough enough. We all need comic relief. (Yes, I can think of exceptions, but I’d rather read the exceptions less often.)

Funny helps your characters. In Die Hard (the original), the hero gets a lot of funny lines. Bruce Willis was a lot easier to like when he was more of a hapless, shoeless badass instead of being the go-to smart ass tough guy out of the gate. Heroes in real danger are compelling. Heroes who face that danger with at least some appreciation for the absurd? We love a wry hero more than the strong, silent type.

Hold back on the easy joke if it saps another emotion’s power moment. In the final battle for the survival of the human race, don’t let your hero suddenly turn into Andy Dick. (If your villain in that scenario suddenly turns into Andy Dick, however, that could work.)

It’s not that hard to give your reader a story with emotional range. Send in the clowns. When you’re done terrifying them with clowns, give them something to laugh at and light some tax accountants on fire.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute and some people think I’m funny. I wasn’t always funny. I learned that when you hide your rage behind jokes, you get fired less. I’m not very funny on Twitter, but it would be cool if you followed me there @rchazzchute.

If you like to laugh, and breathe, and eat things, then continue laughing, I recommend Bigger Than Jesus. Bestselling author of Vigilante, Claude Bouchard called it “Wickedly real and violently funny!” and Claude would not lie.  Seriously, he wouldn’t. I tried to get him to write me a better blurb, but that’s it.

Filed under: funny, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing Process: How to screw it up

1. Talk about it too much without typing. Lose energy that could go on the page. Talking is so much easier than typing. In fact, maybe you should be in radio.

2. Don’t write notes as soon as great ideas, additions and twists occur to you. Better to stay in bed another few minutes than catch the lightning.

3. Don’t outline at all for fear it will screw up your spontaneity. You’re an artiste, man! Let the muse sing! Planning is for wussies and many successful writers.

4. Even if a new and brilliant scene occurs to you, don’t stray from your outline because letting OCD control you is much more important than writing a better book. Readers will understand. Well, not readers plural….

5. Take all opinions from your writing group and try to accommodate everyone. They must know your story better than you do, or you wouldn’t be asking everybody, right?

6. Write it quickly and keep going no matter what, even if it appears you’re headed for a dead end because your track coach told you to run through the pain (that spring you tore your knee up and were on crutches all summer.)

7. Write it slowly because the longer it takes, the better it will be, even if the process and the manuscript become so long and involved you can’t keep the core of the story straight in your head anymore. It’s okay, you’ll live forever so it doesn’t matter when, or if, you ever finish the book.

8. Don’t bother with taking any notes for a character guide or story bible. Who cares if your heroine’s eye colour changes eight times and her name changes four times in the space of two paragraphs? You can hate yourself forever, sure, but you were going to do that anyway, right?

9. Don’t read any books in your genre. You wouldn’t want to risk being influenced by anyone good or be aware of what clichés to avoid. That sounds like a task for nasty reviewers.

10. Don’t defend your writing time. Everyone’s more important than you and your dreams. If you don’t allow everyone to stomp all over you, how will you be the martyr who never published because…well, life is just too darn hard, isn’t it? But you could have been great! You’ll always have that.

BONUS:

Hate everything you write. There’s no time to improve it later in revisions so everything sucks and always will. Well…that’s a timesaver!

Love everything you write. History will realize your genius after death. It’s just the editors in this epoch who have you all wrong.

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

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

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

You never know what's real.

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.

Write to live

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