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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

WRITER’S BLOCK. EXPLODED.

Augusten Burroughs advises that when you’re stuck, write about the block itself and you’ll uncork. Or…

Maybe you need to take a break and recharge.

Maybe you need to go out drinking and start a fight and wake up on the floor of a bathroom covered in piss and puke and blood. It was good enough for Henry Miller.

Maybe you need to reevaluate if writing is really for you and if you gave it up, maybe you could, finally, be really happy.

Maybe you need to move to the desert for forty days and forty nights. Go naked but take extra socks and some weed. For more material, get there walking, from your front doorstep. At noon.

Maybe you need to walk down the road, Bill Bixby/Incredible Hulk-style with nothing but a backpack and dangerous gamma ray poisoning.

Maybe you should write something else. Anything. But not fan fiction. You toad.

Maybe you should write something short to build your confidence.

Shorter than that.

Maybe you need to stop being such a perfectionist. I mean, with your level of skill, perfect isn’t really achievable is it?

Maybe you need to channel an ancient God since the more current ones are so silent as you writhe in pain.

Maybe you should learn how to spell first. Or become a grammar fetishist so real working writers can come to your house at two in the morning and bludgeon you with ice axes. Then you shall be free. Dead. Whatever.

Maybe you should write like you don’t care who reads it. (Like I’m writing now. Just as an example.)

Maybe you should take a chance for once in your miserable life. You might finally write something fresh and unexpected.

Maybe you should write love poetry on bathroom stalls and make new friends in those stalls. Standing up and not getting caught add an exciting degree of difficulty and urgency to bad sex.

Maybe you should realize The New Yorker does not and will not give a shit about you until you don’t need them anymore. They publish people by soliciting their agents. Stop crying, strap on a pair and grow up.

Maybe you should realize you are not Stephen King. Sadly, you might be the next Dean Koontz, however.

Maybe you should get over yourself, College! Stop bagging on what’s popular. Your stuff is sensitive Oulipo MFA surreal writing exercise bullshit. Sure, your incestuous bunch of toadies loved it, but it’s only a writing exercise that’s so “inside” that, as for reading, it’s more than an exercise. It’s exhausting.

If you’re non-MFA –just one of the regular kinds–maybe you should go look up Oulipo. It’s fun, but please don’t send it anywhere. Please!

Maybe you should take up painting. When it sucks, call it abstract. Even if it’s good, call your representational art “ironic” to stave off batshit critics.

Maybe you should get an agent. Just stop saying you should get one.

Maybe you should garrote the agent you have.

Maybe you should give up for the good of society. At least give up on the great American novel and write something they’ll read. (Porn. Affidavits. Moronic websites about testicular torsion–for medical purposes or for fun and profit.)

Maybe you should get outside. You’re pasty and have forgotten the smell of roses.

Maybe you should stop breaking your parents’ hearts and get a real job.

Maybe if you worked on an oil rig you’d have something to write about.

Maybe if you had a brain in your head or were eight years older you’d have something to say.

Maybe if you were ten years younger–and prettier–you’d have a shot instead of a shit.

Maybe you should care less and write more. Maybe you should care about Swine Flu pandemics and write far less.

Maybe you should make a schedule and finally stick to it you whiny wannabe.

Maybe you should shoot up. A vein. A mall. Whatever. (You’d be much more marketable either way.)

Maybe you need to get the pipes cleared. Go have sex with somebody who you find vaguely detestable and then write about that. (Best if they’re a celebrity or a homeless person. In between? Less marketable.)

Maybe you should start a blog. Or a magazine. Or sleep with someone who does and then blackmail them so you can appear on same for far less money than you’d charge if you were a self-respecting whore.

Maybe you should have a baby and then complain it ruined your life and killed your ambition. Everybody will feel better when you’re on your deathbed. Next week.

Maybe you should have a baby and then live through them so they can do all the hard work of becoming a bestselling author someday and you’ll have a small smarmy piece of that, won’t you?

Maybe you should start a publishing house and give ’em what for.

Maybe you should look at your writing again, fall out of love with it and ask yourself honestly, what for?

Maybe you should procrastinate some more.

Maybe you should look again at character. There’s lots of action happening, but it’s clear you care about the characters about as much as you care about what happens to Mario on your Nintendo game.

Maybe you should get a plot. I’ve seen glaciers jump around with more frenetic energy.

Maybe you should read more of your genre. Don’t get me wrong! Steamships in different dimensions could sell…if you were much more talented.

Maybe you should call your mother and tell her how hard it is. If she’s a good mom who cares, she’ll tell you to shut the fuck up and get back to work cuz Mama’s ciggies don’t buy themselves. (On the other hand, a bad Mama will be so sympathetic, leaving you feeling better about yourself, simple and even more pathetic.)

Maybe you should call your Dad and tell him how hard writing really is. He can tell you (again!) how his leg was shot off in the war and today he was up on some prick’s roof, tarring it while the sun beat him senseless, getting skin cancer for minimum wage. You’re at Starbucks plotting out a really tough short story and he’s enjoying his golden years in so-called retirement plotting to kill your mom for the insurance money because she won’t shut the fuck up about what a genius you are despite the fact you dropped out of college and didn’t tell them for two years while you found yourself. (By the way, your great realization in the end? You’re half a smart as you thought you were, you’re a coward and weed sure helps you get really deep in the creative process. If only you could write it down. Also, you’re short.)

Maybe you should hang out with a friend. He’ll have lots of good ideas about the hilarious antics and paperwork snafus down at the Quantity Surveying Office that would make a great book. Sure.

Maybe you should compare yourself to JK Rowling again, except you still don’t even have a book to send out to be rejected. You are a single mom, so you have that in common…actually, any similarities pretty much stop right there. Yes, you both breath in oxygen, but she’s produced an industry worth billions and you’re still sitting there stupefied reading this shit and producing carbon dioxide.

Maybe you should feel sorry for yourself some more. That’s been very helpful so far.

Maybe you should join a writing group so you can get shredded by losers who aren’t published either.

Maybe you should trust the instincts of your acquaintance in publishing who’s very clear she hates everything and won’t tell you what on earth she might ever approve of. (And if she goes on for five more minutes about how you’ve captured “a sense of place” pull out your nickel-plated .38 with rubber-handled grips and the mercury-pointed bullets. Shoot her first, then you. Five bullets for her, one for you.)

Maybe you should reread something you wrote. Anything! Please! Do not put it in the envelope without doing this several times. Please! Please!

Maybe you should cut the five-page preamble and open the chapter in the middle of the action.

Maybe you should finish a chapter with a cliffhanger instead of boring us with your bullshit about “cheap tricks” and–God help us–your “integrity.”

Maybe you should whore yourself out to the greeting card industry. You’d have a better shot and, given the length, you could get a feeling of accomplishment every day! Imagine! (Agh, get over yourself. We’re all whores to somebody.)

Maybe you were meant to be a shoe salesperson. Admit to yourself that you’re really 90% foot fetishist and only 10% writer, not the other way around.

Maybe you should succumb to the lure of a regular paycheck. Your next high school reunion will come up fast. Saying you’re a writer is cool. Praying for an asteroid strike when your asshole high school buddy (who became a plastic surgeon) asks what you’ve published is distinctly uncool. Worse, he knows you haven’t published a thing and still live with your parents. Meanwhile he’s spending his days elbow-deep in tits, crotch-deep in sexy nurses and knee-deep in cash. You’ll be taking the bus home. He’ll be flying first class. “Poor Margaret/Josh/whatever. He/She is such a dreamer but never got it together. More tequila to lick off my nipples? Birgit? Heidi? Russel?”

Maybe you should finally get it that being a dreamer is great. In fact, before you’re expected to pay taxes, it’s fantastic.

Maybe you should stop thinking this list is too harsh. You’re too old for summer camp, too. Get serious and write your goddamn opus or stop pretending to try.

Maybe you should cut the last hundred pages. You know, the denouement. That part after all the action ends and the reader starts wishing you had left him wanting more.

Maybe you should become an editor. You’re already a frustrated writer so you’re halfway there.

Maybe you should forget about college and go to a library. Unless you want to major in being a conversationalist. That’s what a liberal arts degree and that expensive tuition is for, you know. After graduation you won’t be building bridges into publishing with your pissant thesis in Elizabethan poetry. You could build lattes, though.

Maybe you should go to a studio and get your author photos done now. You’re getting older and uglier and fatter by the week. If lightning strikes, you do want to be ready.

Maybe you should use that inheritance to splurge on a real author website. Your meteoric prose that could change the face of literature is useless since you don’t already have a platform. (Your child’s burst appendix can probably wait. Tell your adorable six-year-old to suck it up and walk it off. Daddy has to pay a web designer, not another doctor for every little boo-boo.)

Maybe you should do us all a favor and quit.

Maybe you need to begin again.

Maybe I should stop before I kill again.

You should definitely pick up a tangent from the above list of maybes, pick up a pen, and explode your writer’s block.

Oh, and gentle reader, leave a comment, please. I’d like your vote on your favorite of the Maybes…

Filed under: Rant, rules of writing, Writers, Writing exercise, , ,

Witness the power of a few lines of dialogue

When my mother dying, her patched hair thin and falling out, someone said, “Make sure she’s not hoarding pills.”

“Why?” I said.

“So she won’t kill herself, of course.”

I shrugged. “She’s inevitably dying a slow painful death.”

“It’s up to God to choose our time.” She saw my eyes and shrugged back at me. “I’m pro-life.”

“You’re pro-suffering,” I said.

Take a look at what’s going on here. You’re thinking cancer, but the word isn’t used. Did you picture two different kinds of shrugs? You don’t know who the speakers are, but you have an idea where each is coming from with little information. There’s no telling here. I don’t say the first speaker is “perplexed” or “angry” or “irritated.” I don’t state that the unwanted advisor is rigid or stern or oblivious. It’s not all spelled out for you. The reader has room to draw conclusions.

As a writer, you don’t want to leave the reader at sea for long as to who the speakers are, but passages like these draw people into your story very quickly.

Filed under: rules of writing, Writing exercise,

Cut That Out

I have several tics that show up in my writing  first draft.

TICS THAT MUST BE DESTROYED:

1. In Nova Scotia we say, “I’m going right across the street right now.” 

This becomes “I’ll walk across the street now.” Eliminate right and use a better verb.

2. Use active verbs. Not “The kid was sucking his thumb.” Write “The kid sucked his thumb.” (And you know not to use adverbs right? If you use an adverb, it means the verb you’re using is a weak sissy.)

3. Eliminate the unnecessary wherever you find it. Sometimes I fall into explaining explain too much or go for the too clever (i.e. obscure) joke.

My wife is my first reader. She went over a story I edited last night and noticed how my writing is now a faster read.

“Yes,” I said. “It’s improved immensely recently. A quantum leap, I think…which by the way used to mean a very small leap but somehow the meaning of quantum got converted to its antonym so, a very big leap. Ironically, this is exactly the sort of bullshit-who-cares tangent I no longer include in my writing.”

Cut that out right now.

Filed under: rules of writing, Writing exercise, ,

If shorter works, you’re not done editing

There are a couple of TV shows you need to study to learn to perfect your story. Watch Dexter and Breaking Bad. There’s one element common to both: no wasted words. Every element deepens character and advances plot. Each character’s wants and needs drive the plot forward so people can end up doing crazy stuff, but it makes sense.

Writing Exercise:

Write a scene. Now cut out as much as you can and see if it still works. Now cut again. When you can’t cut anymore (meaning it’s not underwritten) see if the scene is better (i.e. readable, compelling, and advances the story.)

I write a magazine column that’s only 600 words. I often find that the first draft is closer to 1,000. It can be tough, but the cleaner it reads, the happier your editor and reader will be. Dickens wrote long, but  you’re not Dickens, that stuff wouldn’t fly today and he did that because he was paid by the word.

Filed under: Writing exercise, ,

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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