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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

Top Ten: Make your writing count

braingasm cover1. One is the loneliest number. It’s you, the author, facing the blank page. There’s no one with whom to share responsibility to write and no one to share the blame for when you get it wrong. You are alone in here until you allow the ghosts to come forward and their voices to speak.

2. Two is you and your reader. You become invisible. The reader disappears. That leaves the story as the bridge, hanging in the air between two indefinite points and reaching through time. If the story is strong, the ethereal is made real and two indefinite points connect in mutual imagination. This is the only magic I know.

3. Three, as in “Rule of”. No one knows why the Rule of Three works. It just does. Lists of two feel insufficient and weak. A list of more than three feels pedantic, overblown, overly long, simply too much and see what I’m doing here? If you do, then you are paying attention, astute and onboard.

4. Four is the number of years you were in university, supposedly learning how to write. If you fell for that, well…I did, too. We would have spent all that money better had we hit the road, read a lot and just wrote. You may want one, but you don’t need an MFA. You need a little recklessness and exposure to the world and curiosity to lead you to what you need to know. I learned more about writing in my first two weeks as a newspaperman than I did in four years of a journalism degree. 

5. Five is age five, as in when you start to remember things you can use against your parents in your first novel. Wherever a remembered childhood begins is where you begin collecting fodder, drama and trauma (see? Rule of Three!) that you will cannibalize until the Alzheimer’s gets its hooks in deep.

6. Six times three is the Number of the Beast and it sounds like “sex” and it was my lucky number when I believed in lucky numbers. Six is the number of degrees of separation and Kevin Bacon. Six represents the tentative connections upon which all fiction is built. Less than six is too linear. Six means you’re making fragile neural connections between ideas to construct something new and fresh and interesting. Shore up that spider web against high winds and less imaginative minds with facts and a realistic context that supports the suspension of disbelief.

7. Seven is the number of things scientists say we can do at one time. Don’t do that. Do one thing at one time. Do not multi-task. When you are writing, write. Until you can make the world go away, there’s no chance of building that bridge over the fog to reach readers.

8. Eight is a good number of beta readers and proofers. Chances are you can’t find eight excellent pre-publication readers willing to comb your manuscript. However, try for half that and use the others for specific skill sets. My survival expert and cartographer, for instance, knows where Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! is.

9. Nine is the number of relatives you were sure would buy your book. At the family Christmas party, they will be disappointingly vague, clueless and heartless about your literary endeavours. Or worse, they will have read it and will shrug off the experience in crushing silence. Or worse still, they’ll ask you to ship them a free copy.

10. Ten is the top ten list you pray you’ll get on even if you don’t believe in God. Ten is the number of good reviews you need to get on many promotional lists. Ten is how you remember the date you took to the prom. Ten is a number representing what’s best. Ten is the number of digits on the hand that pulls you up from anonymity with a tweet of endorsement, a clap on the back and a congratulatory handshake. Ten equals Hope.

Today, you are one.

Write often, boldly and well.

Your writing will count.

Your readers will be innumerable.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I have a large Irish family and a large Japanese family. I wish they liked me enough to buy my books. Fortunately, #5.


Filed under: author platform, Top Ten, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

TOP TEN: The divide between the published and the self-published

At a recent writers’ conference, I was in grand company. I met a lot of cool people. Almost all of them were traditionally published authors. I watched them ask questions of panels of publishers, agents and editors.

Here’s what I noticed:

1. They don’t want to change along with the rest of the publishing landscape.
Inertia is powerful, even in broken systems. And why should they want to change? Things haven’t actually been good, but they didn’t have to worry about things they have to worry about now with the DIY route. It used to be that they were expected to write, mostly to the exclusion of all else. That was job #1 and everything else was supposed to be, in theory, someone else’s job. However, many authors have already felt this pressure change because more and more book promotion and publicity duties have been unloaded on them by publishers.

2. Some of them are excited to self-publish. Either they had bad experiences with agents and traditional publishers or they simply want more control of their books. Their out-of-print books and their unpublished books may have new life as self-published works. The digital revolution, to these authors, is an opportunity. (Also, some DIY authors see self-publishing as their way into legacy publishing.)

3. Some are still wringing their hands, aggressively…as if that will turn back time. Like the music industry, Blockbuster, milk men, buggy whips and enjoyable air travel, there was a lot of nostalgia in that room. But nostalgia isn’t an argument against the proliferation of ebooks. It’s sadness at loss and change. They mourn the loss of some of the perks. Though many authors complained about the six city book tour and hanging out in bookstores ignored and unnoticed, admit it: all those bookstore signings had cachet. Book signings were part of the dream of being published and it was nice to rely on the publisher to pay for the trip.

4. Some traditionally published authors denigrate indie authors.
That’s understandable. I admit, many self-published books are, at the very least, utter crap. Not just to my taste! Crap! If careless authors call themselves authors, their old world club is no longer quite as special in the new world. However, blanket condemnations are pretty silly. Writers on either side of the divide are amorphous and as unified as a herd of cats. That’s part of our charm.

5. I found many authors I listened to weren’t angry at indies. They weren’t pointing fingers with nonsense “pay your dues like I did” rhetoric. Instead, they were worried that they themselves couldn’t adapt. Look at the demands on the self-published: write, revise, edit, review, format, upload, distribute, promote, market, repeat, improve and next time so it all faster. So much for self-publishing being the lazy way to get published. The mantra is, “When will I have time to write in this environment?” Indies worry about this, too. Though more books will be published digitally, somewhat fewer may be produced per author. As my self-published author friend Jeff Bennington observed recently, half of his time is spent writing and the other half is spent marketing. Somewhere in there, Jeff mixes in a job and probably eats and sleeps a little, too. There’s simply so much authors have to do to have a chance at getting noticed (and perhaps even getting their books bought.)

6. Some view digital publishing as part of the decline of literature. Hm. That’s an interesting one. The digital revolution propagates more books conveniently therefore there are many more books out there. If you are very concerned about the difference between low brow fiction and vaunted literature (say “literature” with a royal British accent), then go write some literature, you big baby. If it can’t be found amid the din, that doesn’t mean it’s not available. It’s means you can’t sell it. If the argument is that you don’t like the taste of the hoi polloi, that’s not digital publishing’s fault. That’s your fault. Or maybe it’s the educational system’s fault. Or the human brain isn’t as good as you’d like. You can blame readers, I suppose, but that’s a rather unprofessional stance. Most people who claim their stuff is good but out of step with their fellow humans are really just writing stuff that can’t connect. On the other hand, lots of people (well…English majors) will love you high-lit writers after you’re dead. So there’s that.

7. Some traditional authors are very concerned about the change in gatekeepers.
It’s not a small group of editors anymore. The market is the gatekeeper. Democracy can be scary because the group may go where you don’t want it to go. There’s still a very strong market for vampire books and bodice-ripper romances and yes, even the Jersey Shore, for instance. If actual readers don’t want your fiction, there might still be a market for it with traditional publishing (which, by the way, isn’t disappearing completely) but traditional publishing is less adventurous the bigger the press. You’ll have better luck with a small press or DIY. It’s as if the kids who ran the chess club suddenly had to contend with a bunch of dumb jocks getting a voting membership…and the lunkheads want a kegger.

8. Authors want reassurance that bookstores will survive. What am I? A freaking miracle worker? You want a combination of Harry Potter and Merlin to fix it so more bookstores won’t die? Magicians are on film, TV and in books. Hey! I love bookstores, too! But that’s more nostalgia. (See point #3.)

9. Many authors will carry on with their traditional publishers. They got in early and they got in good and they’re going to ride that train right to the end of the line and hope the fuel doesn’t run out. Yes, they wonder about the pittance publishers are throwing them with regards to ebook royalties (or wonder how well those sales are recorded.) Yes, they’ve had spats with their agents. But a broken system isn’t a dead system and there is…eh, has been…much to recommend it.

10. Indies and the traditionally published agree: its about the writing.
We all love good books. We may be dubious about how it’s delivered, but the core product is no less valued on either side of the divide. The concerns about the delivery and quality may vary, but we’re all writers and readers.

It used to take a powerful store of hope to be a self-published author. Now more faith is demanded of my traditionally published friends.

Filed under: authors, DIY, e-reader, ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rant, self-publishing, Top Ten, Writing Conferences, , , , , ,

Writers: TOP 10 Objections to Self-Publishing

Amazon Kindle e-book reader being held by my g...

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As I read the growing number of success stories about self-published authors, I’ve seen some of the same worries and objections pop up again and again. Let’s deal with some.

Objection 1: As self-publishing grows, who will be the gatekeepers to keep out all the self-published books that are gonna suck?

My answer: Who keeps all the awful books off your bookshelf now? You do. The people you trust help you curate your book collection. This is really a question of taste and quantity. Your taste is still yours. The variable is going to be quantity as we’re crushed under the weight of so much bad prose. Sure, as an indie author, it will be hard to be heard above the promotional din. It’s hard to stand out anyway. However, through social media, word about good books spreads faster. Readers curate. Sounds more democratic than a small faceless editorial and sales cabal determining your destiny from an office you’ll never see, doesn’t it?

Objection 2: Without traditional publishers, authors will have to promote their own books.

My answer: Most of them do that themselves now. In fact, Margaret Atwood recently suggested that, since authors are their own publicity department, they should get a cut. For instance, one solution would be: If you, the author, spends $10,000 on promotion, you don’t have to earn that $10,000 again before you start getting royalties. (Many savvy authors—if they can afford it—plow their advance right back into promotion.)

Objection 3: E-readers are selling much faster in the United States than they are in Canada. Can Canadian authors make any money from e-books?

My answer: When you upload to Amazon, or any other platform, there aren’t any flags on your book that say “This one’s from Canada and this one’s from Tunisia so ignore this shit.” The web makes us citizens of the world so you can sell to the vast US market. The British and Australian markets are pretty big, too. We live in an Age of Wonders. Borders? We don’t need no stinkin’ borders!

There’s a deeper and much more serious answer to Objection 3, but I’ll save that for tomorrow’s post because it will sound unpatriotic.

Objection 4: But self-publishing is expensive.

My answer: It used to be but that’s old data. You can start selling e-books for just about nothing down. And many e-publishers are now looking at the paper version of their product as a nice add-on, not a necessity. Also, beware of companies that call themselves indie, but they’re really working on the vanity press business model and are out to bleed you dry.

Objection 5: Self-publishing sucks because it’s not professionally edited.

My answer: That one’s mostly true (though you could argue a lot of traditionally published books also suffer this malady as agents edit more and big houses edit less.)

I’ll take the middle road: Unedited work gets savaged in the marketplace. Few people will buy, word will get around and even fewer will buy the next book. It’s such a losing strategy that it won’t survive. A lack of editing is really the main complaint I hear about self-publishing. I think people who are serious about it will get it. I’m optimistic that as we hammer away at that complaint, writers will see they need some professional objective input.

(And yes, I’m an editor, too, so take that into consideration as you weigh the validity of my uncharacteristic optimism on this point.)

Objection 6: You can only be a financial success with the Big  Six behind you.

My answer: Anyone, even if they have a steady-paying job, dreams of winning the lottery. (Me, too!) But getting recognized by an editor or agent and getting the full JK Rowling billion-dollar deal is like winning the lottery, but with lousier odds.

If you’re good at math, you see through this objection quickly. Most books—indie or trad—don’t sell. Most authors don’t live off their writing income. There are people who are making good passive income from selling books, short stories and novellas. They aren’t in the billionaire’s club though Amanda Hocking’s now a millionaire.

As a self-published author, you’re selling your books for prices which are the equivalent of couch cushion change, but you do get a much larger percentage of each sale. JA Konrath has done the math and proved you can hold on to your rights, work for yourself and make much more money than a traditionally published author. With time, the fallacy of this objection will sink into the consciousness.

Just like my daddy said, “You don’t get rich working for somebody else.” Just like my ma said, “The Man is out to get you. The only way to control your life is to seize the means of production.” Good old Black Panther Marxist Ma.

Objection 7: Self-publishing is for losers who wouldn’t get published traditionally.

My answer: Has been true. Less true as time passes. As more traditionally published authors jump to e-books (already happening) this impression will fade. (This ties into the curation worry in #1.) It also has to do with ego. As someone with a huge ego, I’ve struggled with this, too.

Objection 8: If I self-publish and wear all the hats, when will I have time to write?

My answer: When you find or make time, I guess. My rule is, I don’t indulge in social media when it interferes with writing time. Twitter is for winding down, breaks and commercials and when I feel like it. It’s not an obligation that cuts into otherwise productive time. I’m not unsympathetic to the problem, but it’s not a new one. As I said, most traditionally published authors are hustling their books on their own anyway, without assistance or input from their publishing house.

At least we have more leisure time than we’ve ever had in all of human history. You probably don’t have to chop wood, skin your own cow and make your own clothes and rope in addition to feeding yourself.

Maybe you need to stop making excuses and sit down to write. If you missed Tuesday’s kick-ass,  light-your-hair-on-fire, no-excuses, take-no-prisoners, no-apologies self-evaluation rant, you better read it here. You don’t like me now? Ha! You are going to hate me when you read that!

Objection 9: If  I go out into the world without an agent, who will plan my career?

My answer: Okay, I’ve phrased that objection facetiously and unfairly. A lot of agents do talk about planning their authors’ careers, though. Aside from encouraging you to write more books faster and write the best books you can, I’m dubious about advice that comes after those no-surprise generalities. (For more on that lunacy, read Dean Wesley Smith’s take on agents here.)

So what will you do when you’re looking for support? You’ll talk with your friends. You’ll reach out to your network of mentors and followers. You’ll get feedback from your beta readers. You’ll learn many of the things you need to know from fellow travelers, Google and YouTube.

Objection 10: But I hate reading on an e-reader!

My answer: You aren’t alone. Not everything is for everyone. But young consumers will take it for granted. That’s one of the reasons Young Adult e-reading is exploding. YA is also extremely popular because it’s the one genre where traditional publishing is open to cross-genre books; lots of adults read YA, too. Older people were the surprise e-reader buyers early on. As the price drops, more kids getting e-readers and the age ratio is shifting.

There is resistance to change. It’s not all bad and it’s not all good. Consider that, if you’re older, you remember someone who hated mandatory seat belts. Not an objection you hear much anymore. The New Normal is a dangerous concept, though I don’t think all the paranoia applies in this case.

Also, let’s get real: Many people who hate e-readers haven’t actually tried them yet. As I was reading mine, my 11-year-old stopped and touched the screen. “Oh!” she said. “I thought that was paper at first. I thought you had a piece of paper on top of your e-reader screen! Wow, that looks so real!”

Yup. I smiled.

These are my answers to objections to self-publishing.

Do you have some, too?

Filed under: authors, Books, DIY, Editing, publishing, Top Ten, Useful writing links, Writers, writing tips, , ,

Writers: Your Thursday afternoon reward

Photo of Greg Proops.

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This week is so busy, it already feels like Friday. Tomorrow guest blogger Rebecca Senese will show you how to use Smashwords to publish your e-books. I can’t top that, so this afternoon, it’s time for an early reward post.

People ask what I listen to for fun and illumination and to escape the aching hell that is the mundane. (I can’t do laundry or go to the grocery store if I’m not armed with my iPod.)

I’m a podcast junkie. Hop over to iTunes and check out my top ten podcasts:

1. Hollywood Babble-on with Ralph Garmin and Kevin Smith: Filthy, funny pop culture.

2. Best of the Left Podcast: A political theme-based podcast that’s a survey course on what’s wrong with Republicans. It’s stimulating, irksome and often funny.

3. I Should Be Writing with Mur Lafferty: Solid writing advice.

4. The Joe Rogan Experience: Explicit, funny and philosophy on weed. If you only know Joe as “The Fear Factor Guy”, you don’t know Joe. He often hosts excellent guests who are either hugely funny stand-ups and or the uber-intelligent. Or both.

5. Slate Spoiler Specials: This is movie reviewing after the fact. The reviewers assume you’ve already seen it so they aren’t coy about spoilers and discussing everything about the move in-depth.

6. Writing Excuses: Each 15-minute episode tackles a theme about writing to help you improve your craft.

7. Irreverent Muse: I just discovered Mike Plested’s podcast this week and now I have 49 more episodes to catch up on. Oodles of publishing advice.

8. The Smartest Man in the World: Greg Proops freestyles his unique brand of comedy. You’ll feel a giddy, hallucinogenic effect listening to him bounce effortlessly from topic to topic.

9.  Smodcast: This is the Kevin Smith/Scott Mosier podcast that started the Smodcast network of podcasts. Funny stuff that’s just bent. Lots of personal stuff and then strange digressions that involve Hitler and the judicious use of time machine technology. If you’re looking for a funny Kevin Smith podcast that’s a bit more grounded, try Plus One, the podcast Kevin does with his wife Jennifer. When they talk about their kid growing up I think of my own kids and get misty right along with them.

10. Slate Political Gabfest: It goes up each Friday afternoon. I find the gabfesters are often a snooty bunch but the topics are often interesting. (I find American politics riveting, unlike just about any aspect of Canadian politics.)

Related Articles

Filed under: Intentionally Hilarious, Media, podcasts, Top Ten, web reviews, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: Top 10 of the 2010 Top 10 Chazz Writes posts


Early last year I considered going back to school to become a librarian. (I dumped that idea before I saw this graphic, but it does make me feel better about my choice.)

After some career counselling, I decided to refocus my efforts on my writing and editing. I needed (and need!) to bring art to the front burner. I began this blog as part of reorganizing my life to that end. Since last May I’ve posted 402 times and gained lots of readers, friends and even some clients (hurrah!) Things progress.

 For lucky #403, this is a look back through the Top 10 lists of 2010:

1. Authors! Part II: Top Ten Lessons from the Networking Master

2. Top 10 Ways Writers Waste Time

3. Writers & Editors: Top 10 Editorial Considerations

4. (Top 10 Things +1) Writers Love

5. Top 10 Reasons We Write Sci-fi

6. Top 10 (plus one) Publishing Conference Lessons

7. Top 10 Things Writers Fear

8. Top 10 Reasons We Write Horror

9. Top 10 Reasons We Write Romance

10. Writers Top Ten: Why blogging about publishing is important

Filed under: authors, Books, ebooks, Editing, Editors, getting it done, Horror, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rant, Top Ten, Useful writing links, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: The Edge of 2011 Happy New Year Top 10

big bang theory new season

Image by Heavybm via Flickr

Hey Cool People of the Planet! I woke in a sweat very early this morning tormented with thoughts about the annual holiday VISA bill slopped over an undercurrent of vague worries about what would happen if I forgot all my passwords at once. Let’s be honest. Worldwide, this past decade sucked. However, things are looking up in some ways. Time to focus on the positive.

My mind tends to go to the dark side, but let’s focus on today, here, now.

Top 10 reasons today is a great day: 

1. After the arid desert that is Christmas music, suddenly the radio doesn’t suck here at the oasis. For the next two days I’m listening to a marathon of hits from the last decade and rocking out hard.

2. I’m riding high from a marathon of Big Bang Theory (Season One). Despite that neurotic touch of insomnia, I then slept until 1 PM. I win!

3. I’m a columnist for Massage & Bodywork Magazine and I love working with them. My relationship with my editor can best be described as a mutual admiration society of two and this morning a Fed Ex package arrived with all sorts of goodies (corn bread, chili, soup mixes.) It was from the magazine, just to say thanks. That’s rare and wonderful.

4. I just confirmed I have a new editing gig. I’m editing an e-book for a client. I’ve edited books I’m not so interested in but I’m really looking forward to reading this book. Plus, the author is super nice.

5. My own manuscript is awaiting revision. Someone asked me how my book was. “Coming,” I said. “Does that mean you’re still writing it?” “Nope. It’s written. Now I’m editing.” It feels great to say that. I’m focussed.

6. I’ve lost 40 pounds so far and in the next few months will achieve my goal. The holidays were tough, but I’m energized about getting to sexy. At my college reunion, I expect to be the guy no one knows.

7. Just now I found out my article on what I learned from Joe Rogan about book marketing was picked up b Literary Agents & Publishers News. Nice. I’m feeling appreciated today!

8. Tomorrow I’m hanging out with friends and relaxing. The blog’s already prepared and I’m feeling loose in the shoulders. There’s so much to look forward to this year. I’m planning to attend two publishing conferences and I’ll take my manuscript to market.

9.  This is a pregnant moment. There is potential energy coiling in our resolutions as we set out to correct our courses and get our lives on the track we want. It can be done. We know that because it has been done. (Ten Lessons Received from an Evening with Kevin Smith.)

10. I’m happy to be here. I’m happy you’re here. Got any doubts we’ll make it big? Just watch me. Follow me or run beside me. We’re going to make it huge, sweetheart. Bet on it.

Filed under: getting it done, My fiction, publishing, Rant, Top Ten, What about Chazz?, Writers, , , , , , , , ,

Writers Top Ten: Why blogging about publishing is important


Image via Wikipedia


My father does not understand me.

This was a given when I was a teenager.

Time passed.

Nothing changed.

When the subject of my online work came up, my father said, in a tone that could only be termed condescending, “Why would you bother with that?” He means well, which is never soothing though for some reason it’s supposed to ease the pain of casual negation. Think of that. Have you ever not taken offense when anyone starts out with, “No offence, but…”

But to the question, why do I bother with Chazz Writes? Well, lots of reasons (beyond the simple enjoyment of bagging on my 84-year-old father.)

1. I write because I can do naught else. He really should get that by now.

2. I write to learn what I think about things.  Don’t you find your thoughts are better articulated and organized when they go through your keyboard first?

3. I write to educate and, in so doing, I become better educated about writing and the publishing industry. I research a hippo’links before I shoot them your way. Curation is a large part of what I do on the blog.

4. I write for recognition. As detailed in my previous post (immediately below), I’ve decided it’s important to become a fame whore and not just the regular sort we all are (i.e. for money.)

5. I write so clients can find me. That happy pic up there? It takes you to my business site where there’s a free trial for editing manuscripts. I also edit websites for a flat rate. I write and I edit and this, all of this, is an ad. And yet, I am unashamed.

6. I write to build a following. When I kick my fiction out into the world, I want an audience to be ready. Eager even!

7. I write for myself. It’s not just for business. Without the business side, I’d do it anyway. (I wrote a couple of blogs before this one.) In short, it’s fun.

8. I write as a distraction from my “real” writing. When one of my book chapters fails to get written or edited as quickly as I’d like, my blog post can succeed where other ambitions may (temporarily) fall short.

9. I write the blog for the energy and feedback my readers give me through their comments, their attention and the chakra vortex I have hooked up which funnels your etheric power through your tilde key, through the interwebs and into my root chakra. So, thanks readers!

10. I write for the pure enjoyment of gentle vengeance upon family members who don’t get what I do. That’s right. I said it. Vengeance. Chazz does not take condescension well! Condescension makes Chazz write of himself in the third person! It’s that serious.

Here’s a spot-on and more serious link about why you should familiarize yourself

with what’s going on in the publishing industry:

Ten Reasons to Get to Know and Get Involved in the Publishing Industry

from Pens with Cojones.

(I love that name, don’t you? Just don’t think through to the disturbing visual… D’oh!)

Filed under: links, My fiction, publishing, Rant, Top Ten, Useful writing links, What about Chazz?, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#Writers: Strengthen your e-marketing with these links

Thank God It's Friday

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23 Websites that Make Your Writing Stronger

Top Book Sales, Book Marketing and Self-Publishing Articles‏:Does What’s On Your Website Convey Trust?

The Official BookBuzzr Blog‏, TGIF Book Marketing Tips: Your 10 Point Website Check Up

Filed under: links, Publicity & Promotion, Top Ten, Useful writing links, web reviews, Writers, writing tips, , ,

How to be a Bad Editor

The phrase that pays.

Image by pirateyjoe via Flickr

Most editors are pretty good to great. Then there are the others. Here’s how to be one of those bad editors:

1. Edit without being asked. A copy editor I knew came up with a detailed critique of small advertisement I had for one of my businesses. I hadn’t asked and his manner was that he had caught me out at something. He hadn’t, actually. He didn’t like the paragraph’s wording but everyone else was okay with it. At best, his editorial suggestion was a lateral move. Worse, when I gently brushed him off, he didn’t have the grace to shut up. Then I had to brush him off with force.

2. Treat catches like a moral victory. A newspaper editor descended on me because, on my first day, I wrote Sidney instead of Sydney, Nova Scotia. I thanked her for catching my error. “This is not a minor error!” she said. “I said thanks,” I replied. “Were you looking for? Blood? I’m fresh out.” Mistakes happen. It was her job to catch my errors. I owed her my gratitude, not an apology.

3. Be very sure, and pissy about it, even when you’re wrong. A teacher, who was presumably responsible for helping generations of students, circled a word in a business document. She used her red pen as if I were one of her unfortunate, young charges (though I was about 30 at the time.) “You got this wrong!” she said with delight. (See #2) By that time I’d already edited and/or proofread hundreds of books. I knew what I was talking about and here’s the rule: You affect the effect. This is a common mistake. She stayed sure I was wrong. It was just too delightful to think she was right, I guess. That’s another common mistake.

4. Treat your writers like crap. (And refer to them as “your” writers, as if we’re owned.) Working in a big daily’s newsroom was an intense environment, sometimes unnecessarily so. For some reason, the air was also very dry. You’d think all those tears would be humidifying. Anyway, I had a nosebleed and some assignment editor (who was all of a year or two my senior) walked up and dropped an assignment on the keyboard upon which I was trying not to bleed. He didn’t say a word about my hemorrhage and went on about his work. A year later I was working in publishing with someone who had worked at the Toronto Star and she told me she’d experienced the exact same story with a person who was just as uncaring about her welfare. Weird.

5. Be a strict grammarian. Insist on obsolete rules. Insist the legendary “to boldly go where no one has gone before” was a mistake in two Star Trek series, a crime worthy of beheading. And never allow anyone to start a sentence with “And.” Also, grow visibly nauseous when anyone dares to end a sentence with a preposition. That’s something up with which you will not put.

6. Insist that new word usage is the cause of all our economic, political and moral woes. Insist we should freeze the language at some arbitrary point that makes you comfortable. Verbing nouns particularly irks you. Exclaim your objections and try not to faint with the vapours when someone says, “I’ll google that.” Civilization began to end when we started using “impact” as a verb and texting abbreviations are not analogous to a new language. Texting is a sign of End Times.

7. Be a tyrant. Change your mind. A lot. This is particularly fun for assignment editors. Expect writers to read your mind about how you want the story to go. Don’t tell them what you want. That would ruin your fun. Instead, get angry when they guess wrong. For extra bonus douche points, decree that you loathe simultaneous submissions and take forever to answer queries (or don’t answer them at all.) Pay a pittance on publication. Better, pay in bird-cage liners and tell seasoned writers they should be grateful you’re allowing them to “pay their dues.”

8. Be cruel in your rejections. When work you’ve turned down succeeds elsewhere, never doubt your judgment. Sniff at the plebian tastes of the masses instead. Better, put up examples of queries you find execrable and hilarious on your website. Mock it mercilessly. Sure, you’re a ball breaker and a soul crusher, but if you call what you do helping, it’s okay.

9. When you edit, don’t focus on making the text better. Focus on making yourself feel better. It’s that kind of prioritizing that can make you a famous infamous editor. Be sure to crow to everyone how x,y, and z author owes everything to you because you gave them their big break. Act as if you did them a favour (instead of the business decision it really was.) When your fledgling authors come to their senses and flee to work with someone sane, declare them a bunch of ingrates and try to have them banned from ever making a living or even having lunch in your town again. (Yes, these legends aren’t just in New York. I’ve met a couple of these demons in Toronto’s publishing houses,too. They’re people who never figured out that it’s not how you treat your superiors and your supposed equals that defines you. How people see you is determined by how you treat your assistant and those lowly writers.)

10. Be a frustrated writer. I once knew an editor who worked in educational publishing. She was a nice person, or at least I thought so until I saw an example of her work. While it’s true, particularly of educational publishing, that there is a style to follow, her changes to copy were gratuitous. She wanted to write, not edit. It showed. 

Follow these ten examples and you will soon be recognized as an editor to fear, loathe and avoid. Congratulations!

Filed under: Editing, Editors, grammar, Horror, publishing, Rant, Top Ten, , , , , , ,

Top 10 Reasons We Write Romance

1. We heard it was easier to break in.

2. Big market and Harlequin is a publisher that still has bucks.

3. Big fan of the Hate you/No I Hate You ad nauseam until eventually I love you/Me, too plot.

4. I like a convention with a lot of women with big hair.

5. A romance makes a quick, easy read on the bus. And there are those muscle covers.

6. Too embarrassed to buy real porn.

7. There’s a skill to creating a love scene that’s not laughable and we have that skill.

8. It’s a formula. It’s a product. It’s a book I can write. Fast! (But it’s still harder than it looks so don’t dare underestimate the genre.)

9. We write to stay in touch with that girl we once were…even if we’re a guy.

10. Vengeance on dopey boyfriends.

Filed under: publishing, Top Ten,


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

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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.

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