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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Writers: Reality check

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPGPassion is more important than discipline.

Passion is the why. Discipline is the how that comes after the why. If you have passion for your writing, you won’t have to whip yourself to get to your keyboard. If you love what you do, it’s not work. It is play.

If you’re having fun, chances are your readers will have fun along with you.

Are you having fun with your writing? Is it alive and lively or are you forcing it? If you’re complaining about the work of writing, you haven’t hauled a huge wood stove into somebody’s basement down steep stairs, crawled through itchy pink insulation in a hot attic or dealt with some jerk from the wrong side of the Customer Service Counter. “I’m sorry, but if you don’t have a receipt for this blender…sure, you can complain to my manager about what a bad person I am for enforcing the rules everyone who isn’t a pinhead knows…sir.”

Writing isn’t for wimps, though.

As you write your next sentence, paragraph or chapter, dare to take the story in an unexpected direction. The expected direction is too easy. Your audience is people who read. They’re smart. They’ll spot the easy trajectory, the facile solution and clichéd dialogue. They’ll yawn and put down your book. Don’t let them. Keep them up all night, wondering. Challenge yourself and your characters more. Sure your heroine wins in the end, but who saw the inebriated monkey with the bandsaw coming? Only you could make that story arc work (wow, how awesome are you!)

Stretch.

Dare to be funny. Do some research so they’ll believe you and do some more so you can tell them something they don’t know. Let them hear your distinctive voice in their heads as they read. I once heard an author do a reading of a crime scene. It could have been any opening scene to a Law & Order (i.e. jogger finds beautiful corpse in Central Park/cops discuss). But she gave us flat characters and added nothing to make it different or memorable. It wasn’t just boring. It insulted the audience because the author expected to roll out her most minimal effort and earn applause. She received polite, golf green applause and I hated her a little for having to give her that much.

Write like it matters because it does.

In writing, you are creating new neural connections and giving your brain a dopamine bath. You’re reaching out to readers through time and space to distract them from our collective doom. Entertainment isn’t a “mere” entertainment. It’s an escape from existential horror. It’s respite from the retail hell for some poor girl in Idaho who needs a break after slaving all day in a Mrs. Field’s outlet at the mall. That girl needs to fill her brain with love, adventure, giggles and false hope or she won’t make it through another day of standing at that godforsaken counter praying for an asteroid strike and doling out diabetes.

Writing is one of the few things that is simultaneously brave and joyful.

Your profession is a daily act of compassion. Writing is Art, dammit! Besides feeding a loved one, kissing a boo-boo or strangling a mime, what could be better than a hot cup of coffee and the privilege of exploring the mysteries in an undistracted hour?

Writing is the best meditation.

When I can make myself laugh or cry with my words (and hope to touch another) it almost makes me doubt I’m soulless. When it’s especially good, our work has the power to stir emotions, learn the secrets our minds keep from us and maybe even squeeze meaning from stars. Don’t you dare complain you had a tough go at it today. You’re nothing less than a psychonaut divining what’s real and valuable from the deception others call The Ordinary. Writers know nothing is ordinary and our vision takes us to greater depths to pull our readers to heights. We help people fly through an otherwise egregious hour and make it feel like minutes in a better world. We’re the drug in the doctor’s waiting room. We make getting trapped, housebound in a snowstorm, worthwhile. 

Love yourself and love others by writing today.

Aspire to inspire others with your words and let your actions fall into natural alignment with your mission. Write!

We are writers.

We are the lucky ones.

Make it a great day.

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Book Marketing: World Literary Cafe Tweet Teams and how to tweet more effectively

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

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

 You can now vote for the funniest and bestest entry in the Seven Words or Less Contest to determine who gets their name in my next thriller, Hollywood Jesus. Just take a look at the comment thread here and email your vote for the best entry to expartepress AT gmail DOT com. Enjoy!

Do you use World Literary Cafe Tweet Teams? It’s a free promotional tool for authors and, with Christmas approaching, I see a lot of new faces over there today. To use the tool, go to the Tweet Teams menu at World Literary Cafe. Each team has ten members, so you’ll tweet nine others through the day and they’ll tweet you in return. Here’s how it works to spread your word:

1. You will input two Twitter-friendly messages, so make sure you stay under 140 characters. (When people don’t, it’s annoying and I feel bad editing the author’s tweet to make it fit.)

2. Your message must begin with RT @yourtwittername and end with #WLCAuthor

3. Tweet all your team members the same day. Use TweetDeck or some other tweet scheduling program so you don’t beat your Twitter following over the head too hard.

4. You must also tweet the WLC daily tweets as a payment and courtesy to the folks at WLC. They provide and maintain this service free, so do that. They do a lot for authors at World Literary Cafe, so check out all their services. They’re useful for lots more besides Tweet Teams.

5. Please read and reread the instructions carefully to make sure you’re compliant with the rules. Daily tweets are randomly audited to make sure everybody plays fair.

Those are the basics, but I’d like to add something more: Add something more to your tweets besides, “Here’s my book + Amazon link.” I understand doing it that way. I’m not saying don’t. I’m saying do something more and different. If that’s all you tweet, it’s not seductive. I see some curmudgeons handwring over how much Christmas book spam clots our Twitter feeds. As I’ve said before, I’m not some tweet narc telling you what to do. However, there’s stuff you can do to tweet more effectively. For instance: 

People like gifts. Do a giveaway so you’re giving them a sample of what you’re about:

RT @rchazzchute FREEBIE! Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire Jedi mind tricks to get it all done + much more http://amzn.to/TuXSxB #WLCAuthor 

RT @rchazzchute Free to download Write Your Book Top 10s so writers become authors, #promotip tools http://amzn.to/TuXSxB #WLCAuthor #inspire

RT @rchazzchute #GIVEAWAY Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire For anyone who wants to #publish http://amzn.to/TuXSxB #WLCAuthor #Amazon #free

Instead of just tweeting “Orangeberry Book Tour”, make it funny or informative: 

RT @rchazzchute Author interview for the #crime thriller Higher Than Jesus  at http://www.ravinaandreakurian.com #WLCAuthor #hardboiled #sex & #violence

 Or send them to a useful link on your blog or a podcast:

 RT @rchazzchute #PODCAST The Death by Ewok Edition #Unicycling is cool http://bit.ly/UQOLYK #WLCAuthor + free book @ #writing & #publishing

 RT @rchazzchute Marketing Your Book: #11 is really harsh. Sorry. http://bit.ly/X2QAzw #WLCAuthor plus a #free book @ #writing & #publishing

Sure, it powers your tweet if you’ve got a podcast or your free Amazon days are on, but you’ve got a blog so bring them back there a bit  instead of just shooting out the sales link without context. Give people a chance to fall in love with you a little. If they like your tone, your information, book covers or even your amazing eyebrows in your author photo, that’s a better shot at a sale.

Some of those curmudgeons I mentioned don’t like quotes from books showing up in tweets. So what? I love quotes. If you love it (and have compelling quotes that nab eyeballs, hearts and minds) then go ahead and do that. And if you don’t love it, don’t do it and unsubscribe. This is the Internet. There aren’t many rules, only guidelines. That’s why I love the Internet. 

Think about what works on you. What compels you to click a link? Then do that.

How about it? Really. What does make you click a link? Does it all come down to the title of the book, area of interest or mentions of sloth genitalia? Today I mentioned that the book that I’m giving away cures bad breath, pigeon toes and athlete’s genitalia. That worked.

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

“You will laugh your ass off!” ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of books about writing and publishing, the Hit Man Series, suspense and very quirky self-help. Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire is free until Saturday. Since you’ve endured reading all the way down here, you’ll no doubt grok it. Grab the giveaway here and if you love it, please review it. Cheers!

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Marketing Your Books: #11 is really harsh. Sorry.

 

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.

Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire is free on Amazon Tuesday to Saturday. 

Here’s where to get it on Amazon. 

 

(No Kindle? Get a free kindle reading app here.)

 

Now, continuing from yesterday’s post, let’s talk more about book promotion:

6. Try a variety of approaches. In Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire, I talk about my successes and

Click here to get Higher Than Jesus, #2 in The Hit Man Series

Click here to get Higher Than Jesus, #2 in The Hit Man Series

failures. I learned a lot from the failures and I hope you will, too. What has worked best is appearing in more than one spot at a time. (Amazon free days plus blogging plus World Literary Cafe Tweet Teams plus appearing on other podcasts, for instance, is an example of repetition across different platforms.) Too often, we bet the farm on one thing and end up disappointed. Some guest blog their brains out, but their level of success varies widely. Pace yourself to avoid burnout.

7. Be willing to be flexible. There’s still a lot of resistance to podcasting among authors, for instance. They worry about the cash outlay (which is minor by most standards) and the technology obstacle (which is easily dealt with, especially if you get help as I suggest.) Resistance to marketing isn’t any different from resistance to sitting down to write or a reluctance to dealing with paperwork or exercise: Begin and it’s not so bad. I’m sympathetic. I put off getting my tax number for the IRS for some time. When I sat down with a scotch to finally deal with it, it was over and done long before the scotch was gone.

8. There is no magic bullet. I’d be very suspicious of anyone who says they have The Answer. I’ve read many books from people who say they have it, but they sometimes suggest things that don’t make sense to me, don’t apply to me or my book or are unethical. Look at these proposals as if you’re the consumer. Have you ever bought anything off a Facebook advertisement? I haven’t, so I’d never buy Facebook advertising. That’s not being inflexible. That’s doing what makes sense to you.

9. Beware of gurus. In my writing and publishing guides, I warn authors to be careful about one-track prescriptive advice. Instead, I present encouraging information about what you can try, but to help, not to pontificate on how to “Do it my way!” There is no one way for all books or all authors! Some experts have been in the field so long, they should be appreciated for their experience, but some of their information is dated. I approached the writing guides as a fellow traveller. I’m not the guy telling you what to do to succeed. I’m the guy walking beside you saying, I tried that trail. It’s pretty steep and dangerous. Try this. See what you can handle. See what works for you. 

10. The only sure thing is to write a good book and put a really good cover on it. Okay, there are good books that get ignored all the time. However, when you go through all those heavy marketing efforts, make sure you’ve hitched your wagon to a star, not a stump. The answer is certainly not to put out a bad book with an ugly cover. I tried a do-it-yourself cover and it hurt. Write the best book you can. Put the best face on it you can. Then write more good books to expand your chance at being found. A big bookshelf is your friend at home and on the web.

11. (Given the title of this post, you skipped right here, didn’t you?) Here’s the blasphemy you’ll hate: You are not above marketing. If you think you can poke along and do nothing to be discovered, your odds of failure shoot way up. Brilliant prose doesn’t count for near so much as we’d like to think. Writers tell other writers that the prose is paramount. Meanwhile, readers flock to Fifty Shades of Gray. I wish literature mattered as much as writers say, but the readers’ sensibility determines our success in the market. I’ve read plenty of suspense that, frankly, I don’t think is all that great. Though I can write rings around them, those authors are doing better than me financially. Bitter pill. I’m sorry. I hate it, too.

12. Ease up on the gas pedal. Your daily word count and the editorial side of production is your first priority. Do not exhaust your network and blow out the marketing engine by trying to push too much all the time. The guy who announced he now hates Rafflecopter might lighten up if he saw fewer half-assed promotions with uninspiring prizes.

13. Get help. I read as much as I can stand about publishing, of course. (Note to anyone writing about writing and publishing: Please make it more fun. Thanks.) But I also mean delegating where possible. I have been resistant to advertising in the past, but for a few dollars, Masquerade Crew helped me move more books recently than I could have on my own. I’m seeing the benefits of that small outlay now as I roll closer to achieving escape velocity. I had to admit to myself that I can’t do it all. I tried and it led to sleepless nights, bad health and my wife crying.  Progress is being made because I asked for help. Friends and fans and colleagues stepped forward to assist. (Thanks again, guys!)

14. Change a losing game. Most indie buddies of mine are going the same route. Either they’ve already abandoned KDP Select’s exclusivity or they do it once for 90 days and then open up to the wider market on more platforms. Market share is in flux. Amazon is still the big dog with about 60%+ percent of the ebook market, but iBooks are getting bigger because Apple’s devices are becoming more ubiquitous. Kobo’s revamped their platform and they’re present in more countries. When I first approached Kobo, they acted like they were trying to get rid of me. They’re apparently much more user-friendly now and I look forward to taking them for a test-drive after Christmas when my own KDP exclusive contract runs out.

Those are my thoughts on book promotion. What are yours?

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

“You will laugh your ass off!” ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Self-help for Stoners, Bigger Than Jesus, Higher Than Jesus, The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories, Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit), Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. Check out all the samples here or for all the links and the All That Chazz podcast, check out AllThatChazz.com.

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#NaNoWriMo: 50,000 words isn’t the end. Learn from my mistake.

Free to you Nov. 26 – 30, 2012

Crack the Indie Author Code is free to you as an ebook, Monday to Friday, Nov. 26 – Nov 30 at midnight. As National Novel Writing Month draws to a close this week, please consider picking up the book and its  follow-up, Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. Both books are packed with information and inspiration for what lies ahead, no matter where you are in your writing and publishing journey. That’s the ad, but there’s more you need to know. Learn from my mistake: Don’t stop there.

Some say there are too many books. I’m a huge fan of choice, so I say there are too many books still in drawers and forgotten on thumb drives after NaNoWriMo is complete. Sure, let it sit in a drawer so you can be realistic when you get back to it. (Have a rest and relearn your children’s names.) However, please don’t let your trip to publication end at 50,000 words.

I believe many of the books that languish after NaNoWriMo can be salvaged with revisions and editing. Okay, maybe not all of them, but many. NaNoWriMo is a fun challenge to begin the process, like a hard swim in the ocean. In braving the waves and heading straight out to sea, you complete 50,000 words or more. That’s certainly an achievement, but it’s not the finish line. You have to swim back and make it to shore. Otherwise, all your hard work is written on water. 

An incomplete manuscript niggles, doesn’t it? I know. I have several manuscripts waiting for me. I wrote for years before I began writing full-time, so I built a bank of manuscripts to return to. It’s easier to keep your head in the game when you see one manuscript through to completion. Those big books I’ve written are awfully intimidating when I go back to them to tinker. I’m afraid to lose the thread. It helps my process to be in media res, not just for the characters but for me as I write and rewrite. I will get to those books, of course. I’ll immerse myself again and get back into it, but at first it sure feels like trying to do the butterfly stroke after a long absence from swim practice. I’m always most excited about the newest project, so those books, as worthy as they will be, get pushed farther back in the drawer.

In stopping and starting, I’ve lost energy, time and money. Please learn from my mistake and see NaNoWriMo through to its logical conclusion. Keep swimming.

UPDATES

When I wrote Crack the Indie Author Code, there was a Big Six. Now, with the merger of Penguin and Random House, it’s the Big Five. As

Find tons of tips and inspiration here.

I wrote Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire, Kindlegraph was the tool to autograph ebooks. Now authors can write inscriptions across publishing platforms using the update, Authorgraph. I mention these two updates not just because I want you to know the latest. I mention it because I published those two books on writing and publishing very recently. Publishing’s landscape is changing so fast, even ebooks updating before anyone can click the “Publish” button. Bookmark ChazzWrites, hit follow and keep coming back for the latest.

Speaking of the latest on changes in the publishing industry, you will certainly want to hear: the latest episode of the podcast, On The Media, from NPR. It’s called Adapt or Die. It’s an excellent summation about the year in publishing. Topics include: The myth of piracy, Amazon versus everyone, getting around Amazon, knockoff books, the bookstore battle over the Tim Ferris’s The 4-Hour Chef and the future of the industry.

~ Robert Chazz Chute was a martial artist when his life was still ruled by macho BS. He writes about writing and publishing, suspense and escape while making jokes to distract readers from the existential abyss that will consume us all. He likes puppies. See his author page and listen to his podcast at AllThatChazz.com.

 

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#NaNoWriMo: Tools to get you back on track & stay inspired

Right about now, if you’re doing National Novel Writing Month, you’re feeling a little tired and you have two complaints: Where do I take my story from here and how can I better manage my time to meet my writing goals?

I can help. First, here’s a link to my guest post on Masquerade Crew today. This excerpt from my book, Crack the Indie Author Code, is an easy, fun and  genuinely intuitive exercise that will turbocharge your NaNoWriMo efforts and make your manuscript fresh. I call the strategy my Trio approach to story creation. You’ll love it and your readers will, too.

And now your free time management tool: The SlimTimer. I found it through The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick. (With all those Star Wars jokes and references in my books, you must have guessed my nerd secret, huh?) This tool will help you track your activities and find time. Only what is measured can be improved. Measure your day with this timer.  Then make time you didn’t know you had, get back on track and stay on track.

Crack the Indie Author Code is Book One. Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire is Book Two in my series on writing and publishing. For fresh inspiration, I offer this uber cool image to motivate you to persist with writing your book so you, too, can have a cool ad like this!

Click the image to get Higher Than Jesus

Often when we think of graphic designers, we only think about book covers. Kit Foster from KitFosterDesign.com sent me this ad this morning. I’m using the white variation above in the Orangeberry book tour. Pretty cool, huh? Kit is not only an author and the sponsor of the All That Chazz podcast, he’s also an amazing designer. He does book covers, web banners, Quote Art and much more. If you have a podcast, you need art. If you need an ad, check out Kit’s portfolio and go get help. Great images grab eyeballs.

Graphic designers can do more than just book covers. Kit is a great consultant. For instance, it was he who suggested that I add a tag line to my covers using the ten commandments to reflect some aspect of the plots through the series. In Bigger Than Jesus, it was “Thou shalt not steal.” In Higher Than Jesus, it’s “Thou shalt not kill.” In the next book, Hollywood Jesus, it’s “Thou shalt not covet.” That tweak added a lot to the look and tone I wanted to achieve. Tweak your covers. Don’t let them lie there, weak and ugly.

I’m so excited about how my books are turning out (which explains how linktastic I am today), I want you to be excited about your books, too. Go write one.

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#NaNoWriMo Tip: How to blast out of the gate

Find tons more tips and inspiration here.

As you write your manuscript, grab your readers by the eyeballs right away. Here’s how:

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. Start late and bait the hook. When writing guides say, “Come in late,” they mean to bring the reader into the action quickly without throat clearing. Stick your media in the res.

2. “Throat clearing” means  focussing the back story and distractions more than the action. (Usually weak first draft paragraphs tarry too long over the weather, flora and fauna.)

3. Instead of taking too long to set the scene, let character be revealed through action and dialogue.

4. Look for the unusual and strong verbs in to give your hook strong bait.

5. Preserve mystery to pull readers in. Don’t give it all away at once. For instance, if your protagonist is chasing someone through a dark warehouse in your opening paragraph, don’t tell me she is FBI right away. Focus on the pursuit and the danger around the next corner. Let the details leak through. It’s much more intriguing to have a woman chasing a bad guy when you don’t know right away that she’s on the righteous side of justice, has a ton of training and resources and her back up is on the way.

Free to download Nov 5 to Nov 9, 2012.

Here’s my opening to Bigger Than Jesus (which, ahem, happens to be free to download here from Monday, November 5 to Friday Nov. 9.)

Water drips from the soot-black gargoyle’s tongue like thin saliva, as if the grotesque statue is mocking you and eager for blood. Panama Bob Lima clings to the gargoyle, using it as a shield. You are on a thin ledge on the side of a very high building and for once you wish you wore your Nikes instead of twelve-hundred dollar Tanino Crisci shoes. So far, this job is not going at all as planned.

Rationale: A mood is set in an unusual situation. Weather (the water through the gargoyle) is mentioned because it’s relevant to the danger the protagonist faces and we get a taste of the crazy to come. The second-person, present tense brings the reader into the middle of the action and provides immediacy. The second-person present tense and reference to the ominous gargoyle is purposely disorienting in the first sentence, just as the threat of the long fall is dizzying. It’s an opening that poses questions: What is the job and why the pricey shoes? The protagonist is probably not there to help since Panama Bob uses the gargoyle as a “shield”. The opening tells the reader they can expect a fast pace and the ironic last line is a clue that the story won’t be told straight. Dry humor is ahead.

6. Open every chapter with a baited hook and action. Give readers action that propels and compels and you’re on your way to a better book.

Higher Than Jesus, the follow-up to Bigger Than Jesus, is available here.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of five books of suspense and two writing guides that, if you’re reading this far into this blog, you obviously need. They are Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. Check out all of Chazz’s books here.

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#NaNoWriMo: The key tip to write a much better book

When we plunge into writing a book, there’s lots of enthusiasm on the front end of the challenge. But how will we fill all those pages, especially in that saggy middle where we really don’t know exactly what’s going to happen? How will we give our story verisimilitude? How will we make readers care about our characters and give the book depth? Where will all the conflict come from? How will we sustain our enthusiasm all the way to the end of NaNoWriMo?

There is a solution that many writers shy away from to their detriment. They want their protagonists to be likeable so they make them Christlike figures. This saps a lot of juice from your book. Here’s why you must make your characters more flawed:

1. With flawed characters, there’s much more to write about. A former writer on Seinfeld said recently that stories that focussed on Jerry were always the hardest to write because he had the fewest flaws. George and Kramer and Elaine had plenty of neuroses and quirks, so that allowed the writers plenty of material with which to play. Give your detective an obsession or a hobby that doesn’t help him. Nero Wolfe had the orchids upstairs. Monk has OCD. Everybody has a blind spot or maybe even a fatal flaw that your plot can turn on.

2. Flawed characters have an interesting past that has a bearing on the present and future. My hit man in Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Then Jesus was abducted and abused as a child. Those scars interfere with his love life now. He wears very expensive suits and can’t stand to have sex without his clothes on because he has emotional scars. He also doesn’t want a lover to see the physical scars across his chest. His psychological quirks go deep, dealing with PTSD, addiction and his relationships with women. He falls in love too quickly always searching for a woman he can idolize and worship. Or is he really looking for mom?One of my favorite chapters in Higher Than Jesus is the one in which my hit man goes to group therapy (and fails miserably at it.)

You don’t want to stop your narrative cold with flashbacks too often, but if you can weave those flashbacks into the story well — and if those flashbacks are compelling enough — you’ve got a tool to give your readers a much richer story.

3. Flawed characters create tension. Your plot should spring from character. For instance, Jesus Diaz is prideful. If there’s a problem, he feels he has to handle it. Other circumstances conspire to make him feel he can’t simply call the police to handle his issues, but his resolve is key to that plot point. Higher Than Jesus would be at least a third shorter if Jesus solved problems the same way normal people solve problems.

4. Flawed characters have more conflict with their world. Jesus has a hard time relating to anyone else as a “boss”, for instance. He’s not a guy who is meant for the 9 – 5 world, especially with his limited skill sets in finding people, his inability to work in law enforcement because of his shady history and the creative uses he finds for super glue. Tension and heat increase from friction so be mean to your protagonist and make at least some of his problems his own damn fault.

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!

5. Readers relate to flawed characters. A novice writer asked me to read a chapter from her paranormal romance. The hero was very heroic — blandly so — and had an impossibly heroic name. The heroine was everything you’d expect from a heroine and more. They’d never done anything wrong and never would. They were always right, always predictable and always relatively safe because they were amazingly capable. Meanwhile, most readers think they should get to the gym today and most of us won’t make it. When you write your hero as if he’s Superman, he’s boring and you have a book the length of a comic book with just as much believability. Go Batman. In the ’60s comics, he was written as The World’s Greatest Detective, kind of Sherlock Holmes in a cowl with a cool car. The character’s real surge came when writer Frank Miller tuned into the underlying subtext of Batman’s vibe: He’s a billionaire with Daddy issues who trains himself to become a psychotic badass vigilante who won’t kill, but he’s no boy scout, either. That’s much more interesting than relentless virtue.

My hit man is obsessed with movies (just like me). Movies are our society’s touchstone, so Jesus has seen the same movies you’ve seen and sees the world through that Hollywood prism. He not only wants the Happily Ever After ending; he thinks he deserves it. Through movies, I make readers share a common interest and knowledge base with a hit man.

Consider Elmore Leonard’s characters: They’re often a bunch of criminals doing crazy things you’d never do, but some of their traits remind you of your crazy, racist Uncle Larry or that nutty girl you shared a room with in second semester before she dropped out to go to Art School. Flawed characters are people we know and believe because we’re surrounded by people who are flawed.

Resist the urge to make your characters better than human. In fact, we’ll like and believe them more if they aren’t perfect.

For more tips, inspiration and motivation for National Novel Writing Month, check out Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire, on sale now.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Crack the Indie Author Code, Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire, Self-help for Stoners, The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories, Bigger Than Jesus, Higher Than Jesus and Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit).

BONUS:

A fresh podcast is up at AllThatChazz.com which explains how you can get free ebooks. 

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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!)

 

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Ta-da! Motivation, Inspiration & Information for Writers

Whether you’re about to throw yourself into the teeth of National Novel Writing Month or every month feels like a NaNoWriMo frenzy, I have two new books (in pixels and paper) to keep your writing and publishing flow: Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. Boiled down from over 1,000 posts on this blog, I’ve edited again, added bonus writing and publishing  tips plus new content that’s never been seen on ChazzWrites. 

Need more? How about free ebooks? When you sign up for my newsletter at AllThatChazz.com, you automatically get a shout out on the All That Chazz podcast and a plug for your website. However, there’s a new and different cross-promotion you can’t get anywhere else. Sign up for the newsletter, answer a qualifying question in the back of the books, and you get a coupon to receive a free ebook of suspense. Complete the easy giveaway instructions and you get the podcast plug, and/or Sex, Death & Mind Control and/or Self-help for Stoners! If writing and publishing books aren’t for you, there’s a similar offer in the back of Higher Than Jesus, the next instalment of The Hit man Series. (#1 was Bigger than Jesus.)

Jump in for the hardboiled fun. Higher Than Jesus promises a little less swearing, snappy dialogue and jokes, more sex, more twists and more clever violence. My Cuban hit man is embroiled in a conspiracy around an arms deal in Chicago that has dire ramifications for the entire United States. It’s a classic tale of Bad versus Evil.

LATEST PODCAST: The Halloween edition of the All That Chazz Podcast is up with a reading of “The Way Out is Through”, a chapter of Bigger Than Jesus. Hear the podcast at the AllThatChazz author site.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Bigger Than Jesus, Higher Than Jesus, The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories, Self-help for Stoners, Crack the Indie Author Code, Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire, and Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit). 

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We’re Indie. We don’t lie down.

I’m revising Crack the Indie Author Code: Aspire to Inspire, a book I’ll soon release that is basically the best posts, chosen from over 1,000 articles on this blog. As I edit, rewrite, add and subtract, I’m struck by how I return to a certain theme of independence among indie writers. We need that stubborn streak. The voice in my head asks others to take the risks I take. I encourage other writers to follow their dreams. Encouraging others is part of my dream, too. My tone is sometimes matter of fact and, at other times, defiant. Sometimes the advice is contrarian. If that doesn’t suit your taste, at least sometimes it’s whimsical and I kill a mime.

It’s not easy being indie. We’re still largely ignored by mainstream media. It’s hard to get reviews. Bookstore managers tend to look at us with nail heads for eyes. But I’m doing the thing I always wanted to do and no one stands over me telling me how to do it. That’s worth a lot to me. The writers and publishers who read this blog are a very helpful group. I appreciate that.

It’s Thanksgiving in Canada. I’m thankful for my family of believers, the people who support my campaign and the suspense lovers who read my books. Crack the Indie Author Code will be available very soon, but the blog will continue after publication. I will continue to aspire to inspire. (To the doubters: You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!)

Thanks for reading ChazzWrites.com. 

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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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