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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Odd and unfamiliar literary genres

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

People argue plenty about genres. Is Literary Fiction just another genre or The Standard? In an age of ebooks and fewer bookstores, must we be so strict about classifying genre? When is cross-genre going to get more respect? When will hardboiled come back? Why isn’t funny neo-noir bigger?

Okay, those last two are more personal to me because of my crime fiction friction (and the first question is a snob test. If you answered “The Standard”, get out.)

Let’s talk about literary genres you probably don’t think about much (yet): 

Boomer lit

Claude Nougat introduced me to Boomer Lit with A Hook in the Sky. Tailoring fiction to an age-related niche is an interesting idea. Can Zoomer Lit be far behind?

I picture further fragmentations: Debt Lit for the trials of our depressed global economy; Sandwich Lit for the generation stuck between supporting their parents and their children; Hack Lit for needful cottage-dwellers in the cottage industry of electro-self-help in an e-commute/quasi-agoraphobic Internet world without trees.

This is worth considering:

If you can identify an audience, you can create a genre. If you can create a genre, or at least put your stamp on it, you could sell more books.

Click it to get it.

Click for suspense and hilarious frivolity in Self-help for Stoners.

Case in point: Self-help for Stoners.

Zombie Erotica

Warm Bodies introduced this idea to me. Jay Wilburn discusses this genre  further on Armand Rosamilia’s blog. Creeps me out, though I guess The Corpse Bride gave it juice and Frankenstein originated it. We romanticize the dead  all the time (Marilyn Monroe, Jack Kennedy, Marty Feldman.) 

Cropped screenshot of Marilyn Monroe from the ...

Cropped screenshot of Marilyn Monroe from the trailer for the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But sexualizing zombies? Hm. Could be a tough sell to a broad audience (depending on initial hotness, location of mortal wound and room temperature). However, we don’t need a broad audience. We need an identifiable and reachable niche of fans, fanatics and possibly freaks.

New Adult

For post-adolescent readers aged 18 to 30 or 18 to 26 (depending on whom you ask), this is mostly for those readers who are finding their way to their quarter-century life crisis. (Don’t wait for a mid-life crisis! Get started young when you don’t understand how little you really have to complain about! You still have so many crises to look forward to!) Click here for a list of popular New Adult reads on Goodreads.

New Adult is a very welcoming genre in that you can stick zombies or aliens in there, too, if you want. It’s typified by its target age-range and less by its subject. A popular misconception is that New Adult is for sub-literate people who don’t like to read. That’s not how people who write New Adult describe their work, so we shouldn’t, either.

Lad lit

Not a new genre but under-appreciated and not near as popular as Chick lit. This is fiction about young men and their lives, sex lives, failures and aspirations. It would be bigger if more men read books. Nick Hornby was crowned King of Lad Lit (by someone or other) with High Fidelity. I like High Fidelity the book, but I love High Fidelity, the movie. FYI: John Cusack is a demi-god. Also, we watched the credits to find out who that awesome young unknown was. It was Jack Black. His singing at the end of the movie was so awesome, we thought he must be lip-syncing. Nope! And that’s how I became a Tenacious D fanboy.

Dystopian versus Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic:

A cross-genre flurry about  society's collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy's love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

A cross-genre flurry about society’s collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy’s love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

I include these three not because they are new or all that odd, but because they are often confused.

Apocalyptic is The Big Bad Thing that’s coming to kill us.

Post-Apocalyptic is how the few survivors deal with The Big Bad Thing. 

Dystopian comes after the fallout from The Big Bad Thing, when it becomes The New Normal. Like George Orwell’s 1984. Or getting felt up by the TSA.

~ The events in This Plague of Days, my coming coming-of-age Aspergers plague thriller, occur as society collapses. Things go from apocalyptic to post-apocalyptic. If the series sells enough books, we’ll get to see how the world devolves into a dystopia. I’m looking forward to finding out, assuming the real world flu pandemic doesn’t kill us all first. This Plague of Days launches at the end of May. To find out more, go to ThisPlagueofDays.com.

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, readers, This Plague of Days, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Setting writing and exercise goals that work

Grab Crack the Indie Author Code here.

Grab Crack the Indie Author Code here.

Years ago I read a book by an exercise guru who encouraged people to change everything about their lives all at once. The energy of a radical overhaul, he said, would lead to an unstoppable momentum. Recently I read The Nerdist’s Way by Chris Hardwick and I think a softer, less demanding approach has a better chance at making long-term change. I think the same slow but steady approach to writing can help us, too. Don’t get overwhelmed in your race to publication.

There are many radical exercise programs out there. On The Biggest Loser, fat people go from sedentary to athletic, working out six hours a day and often getting ground down in the process. (I used to watch the show, but the subtext of “You aren’t a worthy human until you’re the right weight,” got to be too much.) Or take P90X. If you’re already in good shape, you might try it. It has its fans. However, as someone who has treated a lot of sports injuries, I can tell you that trying to go from zero to hero too fast is a recipe for injury that really kills progress. I took a slower approach after burning out on trying to do too much too quickly. I started with drinking a kale shake a day and began building back up from there. I think there’s a lesson for writers here. I tried to do too much at once, too. I lost too much sleep and feeling awful became the new normal. We need balance.

More tips and tricks to steer your authorship. This book is free to you until Saturday, Dec. 15! Please click to get it now.

More tips and tricks to steer your authorship. This book is free to you until Saturday, Dec. 15! Please click to get it now.

When you try to write too much at once, you’re going to have to do a lot more rewrites later. You probably know when your writing sucks. You go from “I’m a genius!” to “That was somewhat competent.” You aren’t happy while you’re writing badly. You look at the clock too much and think about anything besides what happens next. Writing doesn’t get better if you bear down and grit your teeth. Bearing down and gritting your teeth is sometimes what you have to do to start writing, but you shouldn’t end that way. When you begin to write, get into it and, if it’s going well, carry on. But when you’ve been writing for a while and you stop feeling the flow, take a break. Do something else. Refresh. Go to the gym even.

I begin a writing session by reading a bit of what I’ve already written, to get into the flow.  I might have a few minutes to write or a couple of hours. That doesn’t matter. What works is to begin writing and to be consistent, just like exercise. Starting is the major hump to get over and whether you promised yourself just a few hundred words or twenty minutes on the treadmill, you’ll probably end up doing more than what you promised yourself. If not, not, but at least you will have accomplished the minimum you asked of yourself for the day.

There are plenty of useful things to do, so there’s no need for anyone to get upset at themselves if they don’t achieve the superhuman every day. Expectations that are too high leads to disappointment, failure, burnout, self-loathing, self-medication with sugar and fat and eventually stalking the neighbourhood with an AK. Ease up on yourself because you can go hard or you can go long. You can’t do both for very long. Just begin. If you screwed up, begin again. That’s the magic.

I used to write short stories and still do occasionally. As a journalist, I’d write several stories a day. That was excellent training to build up to the 2,000 to 3,000 words a day I now write. For my process, I tend to think in blocks, so I don’t stop mid-chapter. Sometimes I’ll write two chapters a day, but I’m wary because that second chapter might not be as hot if I don’t get in some down time to cogitate and refresh. 

Whether you use a word count or a time limit as your daily goal, pay attention to how you feel as you write. If you lose yourself to it and you don’t notice the time passing at all, that’s a good sign. Similarly, you may feel tired or a little sore afterward, but if you generally feel better after exercise, great. That was the right amount. (For more on setting goals exercise goals that work, listen to guest Tom J Deters on The Duncan Trussel Family Hour Podcast. It’s NSFW.)

Find more tips and inspiration here.

Find more tips and inspiration here.

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes suspense, a little quirky self-help and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. Check out all the links to his books or hear the latest All That Chazz podcast at AllThatChazz.com

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#NanoWriMo Tip: How to finish with a flourish

Jodi McMaster asked a great question: Got any tips on how to approach endings? As a matter of fact, I do! I talk about story arcs and related whatnot in the writing guides, but here’s my take:

Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire both have bonus offers of free ebooks. Buy two books and you get four!

1. Some people think you have to have happy endings. I prefer satisfying endings. A satisfying ending isn’t necessarily a happy one, but it should be generally perceived as an inevitable ending in retrospect. Surprising, yet logical and inevitable when you look back on it. That’s the ticket to reader happiness. It’s a tough order to fill, but it works every time when you do it right.

2. I love surprise endings. Twist endings are shunned in some literary circles, but the readers in those circles are squares. I once read a literary critic sneer at surprise endings as “too, too O. Henry.” Oh, please. “Too” O. Henry? As in the guy who wrote some of the most memorable, popular and enjoyed fiction of his time and beyond? It’s not a cheap ending if it’s logical and entertaining. Do that and nobody minds a surprise ending.

3. No cheap tricks, such as “And then the little girl fell out of bed and realized it was all a dream.” A really bad movie called Wisdom with Emilio Estevez did something like that. It was not wise and that’s why you’ve never heard of that movie, unless some unfortunate movie goer was speaking about lousy films on which to spit.

4. Readers should not be puzzled with your ending. If you’ve read a bunch of winning short story contest entries at some pretentious lit mag, you’ve read this sort of ending. It’s the nebulous ending favored by some very expensive MFA programs. It’s the sort of ending that’s so vague, it’s unsatisfying or downright opaque. You read it and reread and wonder if there’s any meaning behind that poetic last paragraph? Then you wonder if you just had a stroke and that’s why you can’t figure out what the heck the author is trying to say. Annoying. You can have intriguing endings. You can’t have loose ends that read like a quantum physics equation.

For Higher Than Jesus, my first ending was clear-ish. One of my beta team told me to make it more explicit and less poetic because that’s the last impression the reader gets before they go write a review. He was right so I rewrote the last paragraph for more of a punch between the eyes.

5. It should be an ending but you can hint that there’s more to come. I love leaving the door open a little. When readers invest themselves in a character, it kind of hurts to say goodbye to them. Characters should be so rich that the reader feels that the heroine’s and hero’s story will continue beyond the life recorded in the book. Hope for more from your characters in the future is uplifting. It can also uplift your sales when you turn one book into a series.

6. If you’ve got a too-easy ending, think about it longer. At the end of Casablanca — a movie I love — there aren’t any Nazis at the plane checking travel documents, the point the structure of the movie turned on. They could have wrung a little more tension out of that final plot point if there was some question of an external factor keeping Ilsa and Victor from getting on the plane, too.

7. Don’t stay too long saying goodbye. This is the dreaded viscous ending. Think of the last Lord of the Rings movie. It didn’t have one ending. It had five endings that dragged on and on. This was meant to appease lovers of the book. It made my butt numb in the movie theatre. Instead, hit your last power peak in the story and opt for the short dénouement. (Note that the end of the trilogy had a little of Casablanca’s plot niggle, too: Why all the walking when you can ride a giant eagle and zip back to the Shire in no time?)

8. Be very careful about killing off your protagonist. It’s a lot to ask of a reader to go through a whole book cheering for a character and killing them off at the end anyway. (See Point #1 again.) Remember how everybody hated Alien 3? There was lots to hate, but consider (spoiler alert) that after rooting for the little girl to live all through Alien 2, she dies in her cryotube at the beginning of Alien 3. It wasn’t a great start and it did not get better. Why? Because the audience was cheated of their earlier victory. It’s not that you can’t kill off a protagonist, but be smart about it and give the reader a payoff to make the sacrifice worth it. If you’re going to kill off Bruce Willis on an asteroid in Armageddon,  for instance, it better serve the cause of saving the planet from said asteroid. (This was back when Bruce Willis was more popular. We’re okay with killing him off earlier in the show now.)

9. More specifically to Jodi’s question: Great endings and great books spring from character. What does the protagonist want? Are they  worthy of that goal? As we make the reader care and amp up the tension along the way, the story is all about the obstacles in the protagonist’s way. When we’re through the obstacles, failures and reversals of fortune, have they won the day? Does the hero or heroine mourn the sacrifice it took to get them to end of the story but at least reach a higher level (e.g. wiser, stronger, redemption, making the family unit whole, saving the world, saving themselves, vanquishing their enemies, winning love etc.,…)? The protagonist doesn’t have to meet all their goals to provide a satisfying ending, but for the reader to be satisfied, they should feel that the trip was worth the time and the stakes were high enough.

Another example from movies  (and a spoiler alert ahead): Michael Keaton is awesome in the film Clean and Sober. However, as good as Keaton is in the drama, the ending is unsatisfying. It ends with Keaton declaring his first days of sobriety, but it doesn’t feel like he’s really earned the achievement. He goes through a lot, yes, but it seems like he gets sober through an unlikely inability to get his hands on any drugs rather than an act of will and discipline. Sobriety is something that happens to him, not something he went out and did or didn’t do. Heroes own the locus of control. That’s why everyone’s a sucker for a training montage in any sports movie.

10. The clue to a great ending is often hinted at in the beginning of the book. Your opening is a statement of the core problems the protagonist faces. Your ending is the solution to whatever that problem is. At the opening of Higher Than Jesus, I’ve got my hit man, Jesus Diaz, about to kill a guy in a sleazy after-hours joint in Chicago on Christmas Day. Jesus needs money and he has to get rid of the bad guy. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that at the end of Higher Than Jesus, he’s clearer about his own character and why he does what he does. The payoff is wisdom and growth and…much more I can’t tell you.

My first clues to great endings were in reading Esquire magazine. Any great magazine article saves a little punch at the end. (Newspapers use the inverse pyramid model, so all the good stuff it’s up top and they edit coarsely by cutting from the bottom.) Magazine pieces always end on a strong note. It can be ironic or funny or powerful or triumphant or geared to make you cry. Read a bunch of those articles and then compare that feeling to the feeling you get at the end of your book. If you have a similar tickle in your brain and pull at your heart, you’ve got a memorable ending with punch.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of two writing guides: Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. They aren’t your Grampy’s and Grammy’s guides to writing and publishing. Lots more inspiration, zero scolding and tons of ideas and motivation for writing your books to completion. (“To completion” is not an orgasm joke. That’s a terrible euphemism. Don’t use that!)

 

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: Who do you want to be?

Ever been to a writer’s conference or a Comi-Con? Both kinds of conventions have something in common: Lots of people who wish they were someone else. The exhibitionist dresses as Poison Ivy (and has very close friends willing to paint her ass green.) The twenty-something is dressed up as a sad Autobot made of cardboard. The writer wants to be an author. Of these three examples, it’s the writer who can do something more concrete and lasting about his or her ambition. 

I feel self-conscious, uncomfortable and sometimes a little claustrophobic at these events. Mainly, I’m acutely aware of the Us and Them aspect of the relationship. The “celebrities” are over there, with security, publicists, handlers and an aura of wary separation. We “wannabes” and fans are in the pit, reaching up, grasping at the edges of dark holes, daring to touch the light in search of heat.

We yearn. We have not attained.

As writers, we want recognition of our work. We want privileges and respect, too. That power is illusory, sure. Knowing intellectually how fleeting and useless it is doesn’t make that goal any less tantalizing. As powerless as writers are in so many ways, the indie author feels his or her potential most. That’s the power of seething delusion transmuted into hope by our next great idea for a book. Art seduces its creator first. Indie authors have few barriers to publication and little time to wait. All that kinetic potential can make you high. Unrealized potential can make you angry.

It’s not jealousy that gives me this grim face. My annoyance is at myself. I’m bothered that I didn’t plan out my life in such a way that I am who and where I want to be. I’m not a “wannabe.” I’m a “shouldabeenbynow”. I want to be comfortable being me. I don’t want to stand on the outside of that metaphorical velvet rope, wishing I were someone suffering the problems that success brings. I want it all and, as Queen sang, I want it now.

Someone will tell me I should be happy with who I am. Bullshit. From where, then, would my ambition come? Needing to escape makes me try. I yearn for that addictive, dopamine-fueled floating sensation that comes with the composition of new life. I long for happy readers extolling me for aping God. Sharing entertaining stories with huge numbers of readers gives me stamina for the late night attack on that difficult, late middle in my manuscript. Greed and ego give me patience for solving seemingly endless formatting problems.

Let’s be clear: Wanting things is not the path to enlightenment. That’s okay. I’m not on the path to enlightenment. I’m on the path to publication. 

Some people say greed and ego and recognition are unworthy stimulants to propel you on your course. I say, take your motivation where you find it and go forward, self-aware and honest. Clearly, I’m not in the spirit of these events. I’ll go to these things again when the organizers ask me to sit on a panel. I’ll enjoy it much more when there’s someone excited to speak with me, not the other way around.

Meanwhile, my place is at the keyboard

dreaming up the lies

that make me who I am supposed to be.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Between Fact and Fiction: 10 Things I Wish I Would Have Done Differently

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

(Natalie Whipple of Between Fact & Fiction details 10 things she wishes she had done differently on her publishing journey. Good tips here and a good blog. Check it out. ~ Chazz)
Via betweenfactandfiction.blogspot.com

Filed under: authors, publishing, Useful writing links, writing tips, , , , , , ,

PayPal cracks down on erotica e-book sales | TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

So from the last post, we know that erotica is very popular on e-readers. But slow down, there, aspiring erotica fiction writer. PayPal just made Smashwords clamp down on your id with ice tongs and put your readers’ vice in a vice.

I’m probably not going to miss books I wanted to read, but the ultimatum from PayPal is a bit ironic considering that I often write about clever serial killers and nobody will bother me about it. Also, isn’t there research that shows that transgressive fiction may provide an outlet for kinks the world says it hates so said nastiness is not acted out in reality? Also, does it bother anyone that all this stuff Paypal is censoring is, in fact, legal? A group of European scientists are going to publish a scientific paper on how to weaponize an extremely virulent bird flu and nobody’s stopping them?! Wow.
I also worry that Mark Coker states up front in his warning letter to authors that “mistakes will be made.” (Points for honesty.) But will those mistakes include my book Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit) because of the title? I’d say obviously not, except someone already assumed it was porn because of the title. (It’s creepy suspense and brilliant literature in which you discover more about yourself, I assure you.) If my book gets swept up in the censors’ purge, how long will it be off the electric shelves?

Ultimately, if they’re going to censor, I wish they’d done this on a complaint-based, case by case basis so fewer mistakes will be made and authors won’t lose income.  It’s a sticky situation and I’m sympathetic to Mark’s position. To save the whole, he had to amputate a limb. If that imagery titillates you at all, I’ll have to delete this post. Click the Scoopit! link to learn more and to figure out your feelings on this. ~ Chazz
Via www.teleread.com

Filed under: censors, censorship, Genre, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ebook sales are being driven by downmarket genre fiction

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

Somebody’s going to find this piece insulting even if it’s right. Especially if it’s right. My favorite quote from this piece from the Guardian is, “The reading public in private is lazy and smutty.”   This article does raise the question, “Am I busting my brains too hard writing a literary apocalyptic novel from the point of view of an autistic child with a fondness for Latin phrases?” Or should I relax my literary aspirations and ape The Road Warrior instead?   Doesn’t matter this time. I’m already in love with my book and it’s almost done. But how much should we consider the market before we start out? I mean, baby’s gotta eat, too. Click the Scoopit! link below to check out the Guardian piece and let the outrage mixed withplacid agreement commence.~ Chazz
Via www.guardian.co.uk

Filed under: publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What’s the best writing advice you’ve received?

A couple of days ago I posted a piece on this blog about advice writers should not give or pay attention to. It was a clever, well-argued piece. However, people being who they are, some people really do want advice and need encouragement. Some of those people shouldn’t be encouraged and certainly won’t take good advice. So what can we say?

I’m putting this out to blog readers:

What’s the best writing advice you ever got that you acted upon?

I’m on the edge of my seat, anxious to read your comments.  

Filed under: writing tips, , , , ,

Polls and questions: Why do you write what you write?

 

Today, I’m revising my novel This Plague of Days: a family’s world comes apart as a plague spreads across North America. As seen through the eyes of a sweet autistic boy, they must head east to survive, hoping for a haven in Poeticule Bay, Maine. There will be loss and drama and raiders and sacrifices and a very long walk. Some will be saved. Others are already beyond hope.

I especially enjoy my coffee and creature comforts when I write of a world without the cozy and the familiar. Perhaps that’s the pull of dystopian lit. We enjoy drama’s bad news because it’s an escape from our everyday, less dramatic bad news.

That’s just my theory.

What about you? Why do you write what you write? Why that genre instead of this genre or some other genre? 

All genres and comments welcome. Please leave your answer in the comments section below.

Thanks!

Filed under: Books, Genre, poll, What about you?, , , , , , , , , ,

The unorthodox ebook license note:

Don’t worry about book piracy. If someone wants to pirate your book, they will and there’s nothing you can do about that. Worry about obscurity, not piracy. It’s much better to put your time into writing a good book and marketing it well than to slam your head against hard things you can’t control. (That got sexier than I intended.)

Anyway, instead of the usual pleading license notes about all my hard work on my books (releasing very soon now, I swear!) I opted for this as my license page:

License Notes

This ebook is licensed to you for your personal entertainment. Please do not resell this ebook or give it away to others. If you would like to share this ebook with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient.

Ebooks are an inexpensive pleasure — couch change and impulse buys! — that can be enjoyed for hours, so c’mon! Don’t be a douche.

Thank you for respecting art (and starving writers, too!)

Filed under: Books, ebooks, getting it done, Intentionally Hilarious, self-publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

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

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

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

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.

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

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