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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

Writers Needed

It’s too easy to devalue the writing profession. At a cocktail party, someone asks a writer what she does for a living. Upon learning they’re in the presence of a writer, the cocktail swiller smiles and says, “I’ve often thought I should write books once I retire. How hard can it be?”

“And what do you do now?” the writer asks.

“I’m an engineer. I build bridges.”

The writer smiles and replies, “I’ve often thought once I retire, I’ll give building bridges a go. How hard can it be?”

How hard can it be?


No need for self-aggrandizement here. I’m not equating building bridges with writing books. They’re distinct skill sets. In our defense, I’ll say many people begin to write books but far fewer finish them. And to quote Thomas Mann, “A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

People tend to underestimate any calling that is low tech that has a low bar for entry, of course. With all that is going on in the world, writers can be forgiven for feeling inconsequential next to the heroics of doctors, nurses, and scientists currently trying to save the world. Many workers are risking their lives to keep civilization rolling on, despite…well…everything.

But non-essential does not equal unimportant.

If you write non-fiction, you’re serving specific need and solving people’s problems (I hope). If you’re writing fiction, that has plenty of value, too. We provide a respite and, by Thor, we sure do need some distractions from the onslaught of news. Too much news can be harmful to our health. Stay informed and stay as safe as you can, for sure, but don’t get addicted lest depression, anxiety, and sleeplessness set in.

Fiction does something else besides mere entertainment.

Fiction is an exercise in empathy. When we immerse ourselves in a narrative, we experience the world of the book. Writers put movies in readers’ heads.The story allows them to feel for the characters, follow their journeys, cheer for the protagonists and boo the villains. Children who read more show a greater capacity for empathy.

From the electro-webs:

“A 2013 study from the New School concludes that ‘reading literature improves theory of mind’ – ‘the capacity to identify and understand others’ subjective states.’ As the authors note, theory of mind is critically linked to empathy, that all-important ability to intuit and experience the feelings of another.”

That’s important, perhaps especially now. Yesterday, I read an article about how the decimation of the United States Postal Service will slow the mail. The damage done affects not only the hope of universal mail-in voting during a killer plague. Americans depend on the USPS for their checks, their businesses, and even their medications. One example is diabetic doses arriving two weeks late! The crippling of the post office will hurt people dwelling in rural areas worst. Courier companies don’t do that work and are far more expensive for the services they do provide. The USPS is so important, it’s in the US Constitution. It was a useful service before the US Constitution was written.

Then there was this gem:

In the comment thread of the same article, someone wrote, “I’m receiving my medications on time just fine.”

Great. So this guy’s observation boiled down to, “This issue hasn’t hurt or killed me personally yet, so everything’s peachy.”

Trouble isn’t real until it knocks on this uncaring bastard’s door. That’s a critical lack of empathy. That dude needs to read books that transport him into other people’s experience. If he doesn’t, an uncaring bastard he shall remain!

Writers, you are needed.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute and I need readers. Check out my apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers at AllThatChazz.com.

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

Do you believe in writer’s block?

Ever feel like a second-class citizen? Of course you do. Read this.

I last published on Christmas day, 2019. I’m very proud of Citizen Second Class and entered the year eager to dive into producing more novels and audiobooks. Then COVID-19 hit and, expecting to die horribly at any moment, the fire in my belly was extinguished. My OCD tendencies turned all their energies to wiping down doorknobs, hiding in my blanket fort, battling insomnia, and nagging my son about safety protocols. (To be fair, though he’s lost a year of school, the kid’s a real sport and I’m glad to have him on our team.)

As 2020 ground slowly on (what was May, 83 years ago?) my creativity and productivity faded. I’m still not the killer crusher I was on the word count front. I am improving for sure, but I still feel like I’m crawling out of a deep hole. Publishing five times a year without sacrificing quality or my senses was normal for me. I expect to publish two new books by Christmas: a prequel to This Plague of Days set in Ireland and a novel in the Citizen Second Class universe (which looks remarkably like plague-ridden Florida and Texas at the moment.)

I have a lot of books, so instead of writing, much of this year has been devoted to shorter bursts of fun stuff and to-do list chores: posting to social media, marketing and Amazon ads. The administrative stuff I used to do between writing sprints became the main thing. I’ve turned that model upside down and I’m back to prioritizing writing again. I promise myself to do one adult task a day. The rest of the time is for diet, exercise, and getting my writing career back to firing on all cylinders.

What are my weapons in this battle?

  1. Distance and distancing. Sorry, Americans, but being Canadian is soothing me at the moment. It’s generally safer up here in America’s hat. However, my wife works in the school system and will be returning to work this fall. Our relatively safe situation could turn to shit quite easily. We haven’t figured out how to handle her return to work yet. Dousing her in hand sanitizer and setting her on fire at the end of each day has been discussed, but I’m told that proposition is “shelved.” I’m not sure what that means, but now I’m afraid to ask.
  2. I am Captain Comorbidity. If I get it, I’m in grave danger. To give myself a chance lest I wind up on a ventilator, I went vegan almost two months ago. I’m losing weight and trying to eliminate a couple of the pre-existing conditions that could mess me up permanently. It’s working pretty well so far. I feel better and lighter. I even started growing my own food in our quarantine garden. So far, that’s yielded some lettuce and a cucumber crop of one cucumber. (Follow my daily accountability posts on food, exercise and writing on Instagram at robertchazzchute.)
  3. Insomnia absolutely robs my productivity. I feel run over the next day and can’t work. It’s been bad for years. Since COVID, it got worse. I have a sleep specialist to help with my sleep disorders and I spoke to him this week. The news was a bit disappointing. All he really had for me was sleep hygiene (protocols I know intimately already). However, with no other way out, I doubled down. Last night, I got three hours sleep. Two nights in a row before that, however, I got seven fairly solid hours. After the good nights, I have creative days and crush my word count goals.

    Healing my sleep is a process. I’m sticking with it because the alternative is miserable. Besides, with me sleeping in the cool basement under an open window and She Who Must Be Obeyed still in our bedroom, her sleep has improved.
  4. I stay home, of course. With the sunny days, I’ve taken to working outside. The blanket fort is nice for cold weather. Getting fresh air and sunlight are parts of my sleep hygiene protocol. Writing on the back patio is quite pleasant. I’m getting more words down. Good words. Words to publish, words to last.

    If you can change where and when you work, you might change the negative associations you may have with the attempt to settle down behind the keyboard. Try reframing and you might like the picture better.
  5. Very few people feel like running hard every day (and those few are being chased). I mean, THE COUCH IS RIGHT THERE! Lazy is easy. Distractions are easy. Doing shit is hard.

    Here’s how to make it easier:

    The hardest part is pulling on your sneakers and getting out the door. If you don’t feel like running five or ten miles today, tell yourself you’re going light, an easy two miles, all downhill and slow, with a tall cold glass of Guinness at the end as a reward. Once you’re out the door, resting inertia is overcome. You’ll probably go farther.

    So it is with writing. Don’t tell yourself you’re writing a book today. Your just going to put down maybe 500 words and see how it goes. The hardest part is starting. After that, momentum will probably carry you beyond those first, modest goals. And if not, not. A little done consistently is better than nothing done ever. It’s okay to take a day off. Writing is fun, remember? If you try and you’re really not feeling it, it’s okay to take a little time to recharge. You’re the boss.
  6. As detailed last week, I’m using accountability to keep me going: progress meters (see mine and the link to get yours from my author site AllThatChazz.com.) I’m also enjoying word sprints each Sunday, inspired by the Mando Method Podcast.

    Harness the power of a pre-existing writing community post your word count success to Twitter with the hashtag MandoMethod. Let #MandoMethod know and maybe author extraordinaire Armand Rosamilia himself will give you an attaboy!

That covers accountability. What else you got, Rob?

A friend of mine, author Gordon Bonnet, wrote a very down-to-earth post about his travails with writer’s block…or is it really writer’s block? Could changing fonts really help? Gordon’s got the scientific goods on his excellent blog. Have some tea and load up on the sympathy as you read his post on Skeptophilia. The post is titled Font of Creativity

Anything else?


When all else fails, grit your teeth, bear down, and deliver that baby.

~ I write apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. Find all my books and more blog posts at AllThatChazz.com.

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

Two simple tools that work for writers

Two productivity tools for writers are making me happy and spurring me to up my word count. This can work for you, too.

  1. Show off your word sprints/word counts every Sunday via Twitter!

    Authors and master podcasters Armand Rosamilia and Chuck “The Great Buuuuda!” Buda of the Mando Method Podcast pump up writers’ mojo with the carrot and the stick of encouragement and accountability. When you report your word count each Sunday, simply add the hashtag #MandoMethod. Their ever-expanding writing community will pay attention. Attaboys are waiting.

    Regular readers here will know I’ve had a hard time living the writing life in 2020. That’s true for many of us, for obvious reasons. This hack helped me immensely. Over four writing sprints through the day, my word count shot up to 7,223. Normally, I top out at 1,200 to 2,000 new words a day. This Stella is getting his groove back!

    You can’t edit a blank page. Write more, get the words down on paper or up on the screen and get that draft done.*
  2. Word count meters!

    I now have two on my author site for a couple of my works in progress.

    I searched for progress bars for writers. My research led me to several broken links and a bunch of tools that were sub-par. Then I found exactly what I wanted. If you have a cover, you can add that. Want to stick a link on it (to a teaser or a sample, for example)? You can do that, too.

    It’s a simple widget to add to your blog and easy to update. It also serves as a promotional tool that lets your readers know what great things are coming their way.

    The meters really get me amped and moving. I don’t want to see a static progress bar and measurement gives me a sense of momentum. That which cannot be measured will not be improved.

How did these productivity hacks work out?

Last week, one of the novels I am working on was an idea spun from a nightmare. The entire book dumped into my head as I awoke. I got out of bed immediately and took notes. The new manuscript was 2% complete on Saturday. Two days later, it’s up to 11% thanks to reporting word sprints and the dopamine hits I get updating the progress meters on my author site.

Check out my word count meters on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

If you want to add a meter for your website, you’ll find the link “GET YOUR OWN PROGRESS BAR” under the word count meter for this book (down the right-hand side of the page.)

Note: That progress meter tool is not an affiliate link. I just try to find what helps writers and share the good stuff.



*I am so in love with word sprints now, I’ll be posting my progress via Twitter regularly, not just on Sundays. See you on Sundays, though. Remember to add #MandoMethod!

Follow me on Twitter @RChazzChute.

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

When you are blocked

We are surrounded with things to write about, enough to fill all the novels you could write in a long lifetime. If you are feeling blocked, go down into your feelings. Mine your emotions and reactions to inform your characters.

We don’t have just one epidemic. Besides COVID-19, we have epidemics of:

  • loneliness
  • existential angst
  • ignorance
  • willful ignorance
  • plain old stupidity
  • fear
  • poverty
  • frustration
  • anger
  • sadness
  • grief
  • loss
  • claustrophobia
  • emptiness
  • loss of identity
  • feeling our best times are behind us
  • helplessness/lack of power

For drama to arise from conflict, before your narrative arrives at love, renewed love, redemption, or resolution, you’ll probably have to go deep on the lack of those ideals.

Name your poison. Write about it.

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. Check out all his books at his author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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

A Warning for Writers

I’ve used Google Docs to work with editors and beta readers for most of my books. Not anymore.

In addition to working as a suspense novelist since 2011, sometimes I take on book doctoring projects. I’m collaborating on a paranormal series with the Armand (The Great) Rosamilia and working with Gari Strawn of strawnediting.com on something right now. All of these book projects depend on the use of Google Docs. I got a nasty surprise recently and, if you’re a writer, you need to know about it.

I had just completed my second round of edits on a book project for another author when I discovered that Google docs had failed me. I doubted myself, at first. Then the realization set in: I’d made edits and corrections but the changes I thought were saved came back!

This set off a wave of disappointment, irritation and not a little anxiety. I thought I was nearly done with the project. I’d already pulled my trusty editor, Gari, into the mix. However, the truth could not be denied. We had worked from one master file in Google Docs and we couldn’t trust it anymore.


You can’t trust Google Docs, either.

What to do? What to do? To quote Ed Harris in Apollo 13, “I believe this will be our finest hour.” Gari and the project manager were understanding and supportive, focused on solutions.

I had no choice. I had to switch to an alternative immediately. There are several alternatives to Google Docs. Some are free or have premium options. After reading a recommendation from another book publisher, I decided to try Zoho.

I went with the premium version since I’m managing book projects for myself and others. Fortunately, I could make Gari part of the Ex Parte Press team through the app but the Zoho Writer app is free.

Signing into Zoho, I was a bit frustrated at first. I found the interface a bit clunky and non-intuitive. All I could think about was how I had to get past this problem to meet my deadline. Time was of the essence and I didn’t want to have to deal with a steep learning curve.

Unsure Zoho would be a smooth transition, I tried the free Microsoft’s free online platform. They needed confirmation that I wasn’t a robot so I clicked the button for them to send an email confirmation to activate my free subscription. That email never came. Neither did the text to my phone. While I was waiting or Microsoft to get their act together, I figured out Zoho.

Zoho wasn’t so bad after I did a little bit of checking, experimenting, and googling. Perhaps my initial disorientation was because I was so used to Google Docs. Zoho isn’t terribly expensive for the power user, but it is a primarily a business application. That means it has the mojo for major collaboration, but it’s not built with writers and publishers in mind. (To be fair, neither was Word. Plenty of people used Track Changes in the old days. I always hated Track Changes. Reading those little red squiggles, I thought I’d go blind.)

Because of its orientation toward formal communications in the business world, Zoho’s correction engine throws up a lot of flags you won’t need. It’ll question contractions, for instance. Possessives, like “parent’s house” got a squiggle under it, too. I wish Zoho was integrated with Grammarly. It’s not. If I could make one change, that would be it.

For comments and collaboration, Zoho is better than Google Docs and Word. You’ll get a lot of false positive flags of foreign words, for instance, but at least the notations are clear and easy to resolve. If you leave the browser too long, you’ll have to reload, but reloading is quicker than Google Docs. I found the application was much faster, allowing me to bounce around the document.

There are other alternatives besides Zoho you could choose. (Here’s a link to alternatives to Google Docs.)

Whatever you choose, be aware that the changes you make in Google Docs may revert or fail to save. You could lose a lot of time and effort that way. I sure did. This setback came late in our editing workflow, so I’ll be pulling all-nighters through to the end of June to get back on track.

Fair warning.

~ You write books. Do you read them, too? I recommend that. I recommend you read my books. I’m a suspense novelist who writes apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. Check out the glories and a whole lotta whatnot on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Looking for more work/life balance? Me, too. More of that on today’s post about the writing life, how I’m battling insomnia, losing weight (and winning).

Filed under: Books, Editing, Editors, getting it done, publishing, writing, writing tips, , , , , , ,

Should Writers Double Back?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how things change. Before the pandemic, I would eat up book publishing podcasts like a fat guy scarfing down fudge donuts. I had to retreat for a while before I could move forward again. Dark paths through the woods are like that sometimes. I’ll get back to those podcasts, but I had other things to do for a while, like wonder when COVID was coming to kill me and losing sleep over nightmares of talking panthers (which were also trying to kill me). Not a joke. Happened last night. Talking panthers with green teeth are unnerving.

A few other things have changed (besides permanently giving up on writing at a coffee shop).

  1. My first anthology was Self-help for Stoners. I’d won a bunch of short story contests and SHFS was my first self-publishing experiment. I had a few dry runs before I figured out the publishing process. Inspired by director Kevin Smith and Joe Rogan, I dedicated that book to them. I’ve met Kevin and he could not have been sweeter. He liked the book, too. However, his movies over the last few years have disappointed me. The guy who broke into Hollywood with the clever writing in Clerks has fallen into reiterating his cult films now. Red State was okay, but that was 2011. He can’t get back to doing anything as compelling as Chasing Amy or as original as Dogma. Creatively, he’s stuck in park. That’s less inspiring.

    As for Rogan, I used to listen to all his podcasts. Now I listen when he interviews a scientist. My politics don’t jive with many of his guests and he sometimes spreads misinformation. I’m more a past fan than a current enthusiast. He also gives Alex Jones way too much rope. This is not me “cancelling” Joe Rogan. He’s got the most successful podcast on the planet and who gives a shit what I think? The point is, were I to write that book today, he wouldn’t be included in the acknowledgments. Things change.

    Note: If you’re looking for a thoughtful and funny podcast where the hosts listen to Alex Jones so you don’t have to, I recommend Knowledge Fight. They break down his claims in humane and surprisingly serious ways that show how deeply that man needs help.
  2. When I began writing This Plague of Day’s back in 2009, Aspergers was among the preferred nomenclature. Now “on the spectrum” seems generally preferred (though individuals on the spectrum have their personal preferences, of course). I would say and write “on the spectrum” now. Diagnoses of autism have such a wide range of implications. What it means for the individual and their families is a vast continuum. On the spectrum is perfect in the diversity the phrase reflects. I wasn’t ahead of the curve on the vocabulary a decade ago. This is not an apology. It’s an acknowledgment that I do not own a time machine.

    On the plus side, I have heard a lot of positive feedback from many readers on the spectrum. They and their families appreciate that I touched on the issues of diagnosis, labels, and the varied coping skills possessed by parents, siblings, and caregivers. It’s a very small part of a huge zombie apocalypse trilogy, but since the protagonist is on the spectrum, those issues came up naturally. The mother and father did not deal with their son identically, but I portrayed their viewpoints sensitively. I know that because everybody loves the mute hero of the apocalypse, Jaimie Spencer. Despite their differences, nobody hates his parents or sister, either.
  3. Since I wrote This Plague of Days, health professionals have largely changed how they feel about masks, too. Years ago, I served in healthcare and was part of a meeting about planning for the emergency measures we’re dealing with right now. The expert advice was different then. Hell, the expert advice was different at the beginning of this year! Remember when massive global pandemics that affected everyone were a thing of the past? Good times.

    The consensus when I wrote TPOD was that, due to moisture in the breath, a mask did not protect the user after about 20 minutes because the barrier would soon be compromised. Look around now! You can’t get into a Costco without a mask and you know what? I’ve changed, too. I accepted the new expert advice readily and wear a mask whenever I venture out beyond the walls of my blanket fort. Not that I get out often. I stay put unless my mission to the Badlands is essential.

    Is there a next step?

    The logical question is: Should I go back and revise history to fit the present day? First, the blanket refusal, then the nuance.

    In my current circumstances, I have neither the time, energy, resources or bandwidth to go backward. So no, I won’t be combing through huge books I wrote a decade ago to ensure they vibe with a tiny number of people who might choose to be graceless in their reading. However, I am writing a prequel to This Plague of Days so I will update what I can in the new book.

    I would need a really good reason to double back. Besides, would I have to change it when the medical vocabulary changes again? The nuanced answer is: possibly. If I live long enough for words to be too far outdated, I would consider editing again if I had the capacity to do so. I never used it, but as a for instance, the term idiot savant used to be common parlance. That is unfortunate. So is the misuse and offensive use of the word retarded. I have not used that term unless I’m talking about fire prevention.

    In any case, I doubt I’ve written anything worthy of cancelling me. Might someone on the planet be offended? Of course. This isn’t my first day on the internet. What alarms me about some outlying readers is their demand that a fictional character’s experience reflect their own reality identically. That’s simply not possible and, not for nothin’, I’m writing entertaining novels aimed at making a splash and a wide appeal, not a boring biography for each reader.

    (Hint: Some ghost writers get paid big bucks to write those biographies for no one to read.)

    I do my best to get details right, of course. Authenticity in the contextual nitty-gritty provides the thrust and lift that allows the more fantastic aspects of a narrative to fly. There is also creativity and artistic license. One rather condescending reviewer gave me high marks creatively, but berated me for not using real street names. She suggested I was lazy. I’d named her city and she demanded it be represented accurately.

    To which I say:

    Fuck, no. Yes, of course I know what Google Maps is. I made conscious choices for good reasons which became apparent later in the series. With my artistic license, I can drive anywhere. No kibitzing from the cheap seats is required. She’s entitled to her opinion, but I don’t write novels by committee. I wouldn’t have been offended, but it stuck in my craw that it wasn’t a casual reader calling me lazy. It was another author. I’m sure she knows what artistic license is, so I guess that leaves being bossy.

    As for Kevin and Joe

    I used to like what they did so much more. I might again. I don’t think they’re bad people and everybody gets to like what they like. I expect others to show some grace, so I’ll aspire to transcendence, too. The dedication stays. They don’t inspire me now, but they did. They might do so again.

    Everybody ease up. We’ve all got enough to worry about. I’m really focused on trying not to die right now.

    ~ Feeling existential dread? Need a break? How about a rallying cry for some positive societal upheaval? I recorded a story from my anthology All Empires Fall. It’s called The Face of Victory and you can listen to my reading of it on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: COVID19, publishing, Rant, updates, writing, writing advice, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Help for the Anxious Writer

If your book idea feels thin at first, consider that Ice Road Truckers barreled on for 11 seasons and found an audience. If you’ve got a grand idea for a novel, but it’s not springing onto the page fully formed, I have some suggestions. If you’re unsure of yourself as a writer, I’ve got ideas about that, too.

When you lack confidence:

  • You don’t have to stop where you are today.
  • If you write more than one book, each level of success will vary. Think in terms of moving forward instead of dwelling on failures.
  • Go deeper into characters’ back stories to find the way forward.
  • Elucidate motivations and deny what each character wants. When desires conflict, you’ve got drama.
  • Do you have the basics? Who, what, where, why, when and how.
  • Play to your experience and strengths, but it’s not necessary to write what you know. Write what you care about.
  • Go deeper on specifics without beating the reader over the head with your deepest research.
  • Get the details right. For many readers, procedurals and process are porn.
  • Set the scene to give the reader a sense of time and place. Don’t forget the smells and feels, the sense and impact of the location, but don’t go too hard on the weather report.
  • Find the next step in your plot by finding a logical move, but don’t succumb to the first easy answer that springs to mind.
  • Discover the logical surprise twist. Defy the reader’s comfort in thinking they know how the story will unfold.
  • Smooth out the bumps later so it looks like you planned the entire narrative from beginning to end.
  • Too much editing as you go will impede progress. You’ll have a sharp Chapter One with no Chapter 2.
  • Make your characters distinctive. Giving one twin a porkpie hat he adjusts and readjusts for 200 pages isn’t special enough.
  • If two characters sound alike and perform the same function in the story, they might as well be one person.
  • Put the manuscript aside and give it more thought so you look like a genius later.
  • Put it aside and don’t think about it. The answer often appears when you come back to it fresh.
  • Don’t put a manuscript aside for too long.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed or too precious about storytelling. Plenty of half-drunk half-idiots sitting around campfires have told entertaining yarns for thousands of years.
  • Focus on the A to B to C in the first and second draft. Action flows from character and is character.
  • Themes will emerge later. Don’t set out to write a theme. A manifesto has no plot.
  • Entertainment is Goal #1. Don’t set out to educate with a novel. That souffle will fall flat.
  • Your main character needs a fatal flaw or they’ll be boring. Too perfect is boring and inhuman.
  • Your protagonist needs more obstacles in their way. Heroes and heroines have to be smoked in the oven a long time before they’re done.
  • Your villain needs the complexity of nuance and a purpose they believe is noble. No one thinks they’re the villain.
  • No character should feel like a red shirt, easily sacrificed. Henchman #3 has a family and feelings, dammit!
  • Don’t allow a smart person to do a dumb thing just to make a plot work. That’s the sound of gears grinding in a rusty machine.
  • Avoid a story with one tone, particularly if it’s one grim tone.
  • Heroics and horror both have room for humor when the wit is well-placed (but if you aren’t funny, don’t force it).
  • Fight scenes and sex scenes are similar: they both need to acknowledge the breath, heat, emotion and effort involved.
  • Read more in the genre to make sure you’re hitting the tropes without surrendering to cliche.
  • Drop the boring parts and concede that not every idea is worthy of a novel. Your idea for a full-length novel might make a better novella or short story.
  • Make your characters more relatable but don’t succumb to the critic who says, “People don’t act like that.” This character, your character, acts like that.
  • Decide your protagonist is unchanging and the series is episodic (e.g. Sherlock Holmes) or decide on a story arc that allows for character growth. Ignore reviewers who demand your character be fully actualized immediately. They don’t have the patience to understand what you’re doing with that character in the next book.
  • Dare to write a bold plot point, but too many coincidences are death.
  • Disguise your deceptions until the big reveals strike.
  • Contextualize the fantastic with normality to enhance the suspension of disbelief.
  • Read your manuscript like a reader, not like a writer.
  • Pick your allies carefully. Writers are much harder to please than casual readers and their motivations are sometimes suspect. (Hint: most readers are of the casual variety looking for distraction and escape, not an argument over comma placement.)
  • Let go of what isn’t working. Harvest wheat, cut chaff.
  • Go deep to create an immersive page turner. Make a movie in their heads.
  • Find an editor you trust who is out to help you, not tear you down. Some editors get into this biz for the wrong reasons.
  • The right length is the word count that gets to the end of the story.
  • Rely on feedback from your real readers, not randos.
  • Rewrite to make the reading experience richer.
  • Revise for clarity.
  • Edit to get where you’re going at the right speed, avoiding detours, potholes and plot holes along the route.
  • Drop the ten-dollar words but don’t talk down to your audience.
  • Do not overwrite character descriptions. You’ll interfere with the movie in their heads.
  • Have fun. If you’re having fun, readers probably will, too.
  • Are you getting up from the desk often enough? Moving? Getting some air and enough sleep? Feed the body, energize the brain, charge up Ole Ink Hill.
  • The only reason you dislike your manuscript might be that you’ve reread and rewritten it too many times. Your personal draft limit will vary. Send it to your editor when you hit the wall.
  • Cute can work. Too twee? Less so. So much depends on what you’re writing. Consider the variables. Listen to your heart when you write. Listen to your brain when you revise. Listen to your editor before you publish.
  • These are broad guidelines. Sometimes it is better to tell rather than show. If it plays, it plays.
  • Some write like they talk. When done well, it will sound natural.
  • Some try to write as if they’re 17th Century British nobles.
  • Let the words come from you. With revisions, You the Writer will come across smoother than You the Person with Cookie Crumbs Down Your Shirt.
  • Stop being so precious about writing. This is art, not a procrastination project. You want it to be excellent, not perfect.
  • Lives do not hang in the balance, not even your life.
  • Finish.
  • Edit.
  • Proof.
  • Publish.
  • Some will love you no matter what you do. Some will hate you no matter what. Most don’t give a shit. Let go of demanding that your family care about your high calling. Stop caring about anyone outside your target audience. What does your brother know, anyway? He’s obsessed with golf and foot fetish porn.
  • Don’t depend on one book to make you famous.
  • Write another book.
  • Somebody’s going to hurt your feelings. Nobody hits a home run every time and not everyone’s opinion gets equal weight. Look for support in the right places.
  • You’re not writing a novel. That can feel overwhelming and possibly a terrible waste of time. Instead, you’re writing a little short story each day (or most days of the week, anyway). Each short story just happens to connect to the next short story. These stories are your chapters. Writer 45 to 55 or so, and behold! A book! See? Easier than it sounded at first!
  • Relax. Enjoy telling your stories. Focus on process now, not outcome.
  • With enough at-bats, you have a better shot at hitting home runs.
  • Don’t talk about writing more than you write.
  • Don’t give up unless you hate writing.
  • If you hate writing, there are plenty of other things to do that probably pay more.
  • If you love writing, there’s not much else to do.

    *If you prefer outlining, there’s nothing wrong with that and you might end up writing faster with fewer hiccups and less anxiety. Your mileage may vary and that’s a blog post for another time.

    ~ If you enjoy apocalyptic epics or killer crime thrillers, I’m your guy. Find all the books by Robert Chazz Chute at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: the writing life, writing, writing advice, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , ,

Not Writing but Coping

We want to accomplish great things, but what happens when we don’t want to do a thing? Managing energy is one key to productivity and energy doesn’t come from an infinite supply.

Do you ever stop in the middle of some chore and think, wow, these sure are odd times in the Upside Down? Remember the Before Times? Barely.

Not long ago, most of us had no idea how much or how fast the world would change. Worse, we don’t yet know how or how much things will change in the future. Oh, yeah. There’s also that…you know…existential dread thing.

If you’re still adjusting, that’s okay. If you are lonely, reach out. If you are struggling, seek support. I know our culture is often very oriented toward achievement. Do more! Be more! Succeed more! And particularly among our tribe: Write more! Aspiring to achieve is fine but under certain circumstances, head-down grinding and striving become pathological tyranny.

Rugged individualism can only go so far and, in times like these, it’s a dangerous myth. Not everyone is up for our usual workload. Stress tolerance, support, responsibilities, and advantages are not distributed equally. Maybe you’ve turned your energies to something soothing with a short-term outcome, like baking bread. Perhaps your focus has to be homeschooling your kids or taking on the role of a caregiver. Darker: There’s a chance you’re sick or in mourning.

If you aren’t writing now, I want to tell you it’s okay. We cope how we cope. Some will write more, some less and some not at all. Are you eating more? Eating less? Sleeping more or less? Under stress and such strange circumstances, why would anyone expect our appetite for writing should vary?

I recently had a chance to take a marketing seminar. I signed up for it, but as the date approached, I looked at the cost-benefit analysis. I decided I didn’t have the energy to devote to it. I’m not getting a lot of writing done just now. After I deal with taxes and prepare a garden, I think I’ll be able to throw myself into writing more. Until then, I’m prioritizing what has to be done now and managing my energies without too much shame. (A little shame, yes, but not too much.) After I deal with the highest priorities, I expect writing will be a comfort again.

We will each react differently and with varying degrees of patience. What’s not a panic today may vary with time. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Things are stressful enough, aren’t they? I’m not saying wait for the muse, but you may feel too tired to go hunting for the muse.

The coronavirus needs hosts to spread. If you are isolating, please take some solace knowing that every successful day in isolation means more lives saved, fewer carriers, and fewer people falling ill. If you are essential, thank you. I hope you will be safe, receive hazard pay, get better recognition for your service, full health coverage, and better benefits long after this crisis passes.

I’m not going to tell you to stay strong. Instead, I’ll ask you to forgive yourself when you don’t feel strong enough to do something optional.


Recommendation:

The latest podcast from Cracked.com features an interview with Jason Pargin. It’s called Common Beliefs that Make Disasters Worse. It’s an interesting and excellent take on what people and governments get wrong amid disasters (and how we might do better).

The interview is based on Pargin’s article, 5 Common Beliefs That Make Disasters Worse.

Whether you prefer print or audio, both are highly recommended.

Speaking of audio, a reminder:

Lie back and train your body to help ease your mind. You might not want to, but you may need to. Try the audio of my short relaxation exercise with How to make your nervous system less nervous.

Next step:

If you’re on the edge of writing again, but the energy is not quite there, it might be time for a dopamine detox. Check out a video about that. It’s called How I Tricked My Brain to Like Doing Hard Things.

Whatever your state of mind, you’re loved and needed. Take care of yourself.

Be safe. Much love,

Chazz

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. Check out all his work at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: All That Chazz, COVID19, writing, writing advice, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Deciding to Jump


Remember that summer feeling of standing on the edge of a swimming pool, convincing yourself to jump? The water is warm, but it’s colder than the air so it’s going to be a short shock. The swim will be great, but you still hesitate to make that leap. That’s my experience staring at a blinking cursor just now.

I just woke up from a nap. I can’t wait for the next nap. Do you find your sense of time is thrown off? March lasted eight weeks. It feels like April 1st was a month ago yet Friday whipped around again quickly, didn’t it? My internal clock is confuzzled and I’m having trouble getting things done.

I’m no Farmer Jones, but concerned about the security of the food supply chain, I started a garden. I’m waiting for seeds to arrive. I made cornbread this morning. I play Scrabble and Boggle on my phone a lot. The days slip away and each evening arrives as a fresh surprise. Where did the day go?

I did manage to write 2,000 words yesterday. I feel good about doing that much (or that little). I’m working on a prequel to This Plague of Days. For all the pages I’ve not written yet, I’m giving myself a break. We’re all in extraordinary circumstances. Whatever you do to cope, it’s more or less okay to accomplish more or less. Circumstances are stressful enough without piling on more stress.

For me, getting started on a writing session is the hardest part. Once I take that leap and start swimming, I feel much better. It’s wonderful to lose yourself to a story. I love to read and write. Books make the world go away. Maybe framing the work that way will help to make that jump into creativity a little easier.

For your entertainment and edification, here are this week’s updates from my author site:

My Movie Moments

Preparing for a Post-pandemic World

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. Find your next escape from the world at AllThatChazz.com.



Filed under: COVID19, getting it done, pandemic, This Plague of Days, Writers, writing, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing: Pet Peeves

The following post appeared on my Facebook fan page. Thought it might be of interest here, too.

Last night I told you I didn’t care for characters doing dumb things to create artificial drama in a story. It’s fine if the characters are already dim. It’s annoying when they’re supposed to have bare minimum intelligence but act like morons to get to the next plot point.

Classic example:

The slasher victim runs upstairs where she’ll be trapped instead of sprinting out the back door. They’re often athletic cheerleaders in those movies. My daughter’s a cheerleader and tumbler. She could backflip away from a masked killer with a knife faster than he could run.

What else makes reading a chore?

1. Big blocks of text, run-on sentences and sentences that are not varied in length.

2. Exhaustive physical descriptions of characters. Readers usually fill in those details based on a few broad brushstrokes.

3. Cruelty for its own sake. Jesus Diaz has endured torture, but it does not devolve into torture porn. Instead, the dialogue is witty and clever, and the scene advances the plot. He’s a hitman, but he often talks and cons his way out of trouble.

4. Footnotes. I’m reading a novel called Dietland at the moment. The descriptions are fresh. (“My heart fluttered like a moth caught in a lampshade.”) However, the footnotes are a superfluous gimmick meant to lend credulity to the fiction. No need.

5. Chapters that go on too long.

6. Ending the story forty pages short of the end of the book.

7. Getting bogged down in so many technical details that the reader is beaten over the head with the writer’s research.

8. A story with one grim tone. I want a roller coaster ride where I can cry one minute and laugh the next. I slide lots of jokes and irony in amongst the horror. When done right, it doesn’t spoil the tone. It enhances the reading experience. Talk to any nurse, funeral director or cop. Gallows humor abounds in the face of horror.

9. Lazy writing turned The Walking Dead from somewhat interesting into a hilarious hate watch. Lazy writing asks you to overlook too much and makes the adventure too easy.

Another example is an old legal drama called The Rainmaker. The premise is a young, inexperienced lawyer takes on the system and wins. The problem with the screenplay is things go far too smooth and easy for him at every turn. He breezes through the plot unopposed. It’s a win without a triumph if the bad guys fall over just because you show up.

10. An unsatisfying ending. Hate ’em, but there are all kinds of endings.

I can do happily-ever-after. (Citizen Second Class yields an unexpected kind of happy-ever-after, for instance.) Sometimes it’s happily-ever-after-for-now. Triumph that comes at great sacrifice is good. I like to offer slivers of hope for the future, even amid chaos. I enjoy Twilight Zone endings. I don’t mind a good cliffhanger at all as long as I see it coming. (Hence, This Plague of Days, Season One is called This Plague of Days *Season One*, just like a television series should leave you breathless for the next season.)

What’s an unsatisfying ending? Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds was a triumph of special effects for its day. I guess that’s why no one noticed that screenplay was missing a third act. It’s kind of like how Johnny Cash was a great success but he didn’t sing so much as talk.

Johnny Cash, the original white rapper. (Did I just blow your mind?)

What are your pet peeves?

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write killer crime thrillers and a lot of books about the end of the world. Check out all my books at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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

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

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

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

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

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