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

Write and publish with love and fury.

How to write more, faster, now

After I publish a book, I tend to fall into a mild bout of postpartum depression. To head that off, I’m writing a new crime novel as I prepare to launch the finale to This Plague of Days. This new one has a very fast pace and I’m also writing it fast. This isn’t going to fall into a plotting versus pantsing discussion because, Thor knows, we’ve all hit that gong plenty hard already. Today, let’s talk about how to discover your story.

Here’s four writers to pay attention to, in case you don’t care what I think:

1. Anthony Burgess had a cool trick I’ve used. Pick three words at random. Those words will appear in your next chapter.

Go! You’ll find gooey, fudge brownie richness with that one tool alone.

2. E.L. Doctorow said writing a book is, “like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

When I wrote my first crime novel, Bigger Than Jesus, I knew the last line of the book, but I had no idea from one night to the next what tomorrow’s chapter might bring. It worked out in a really peachy way.

3. Stephen King talks about excavating the story, discovering and unearthing dinosaur bones.

Some people start with character. I often find my brush and trowel to dig the dirt away is conflict. Everybody wants something. It’s more interesting if everyone’s competing for the same thing but use different methods to get what they want. (Game of Thrones, anyone?) Through conflict, character and snappy dialogue often emerge. Direction and velocity will reveal themselves as you discover how the story evolves. It may divert from your outline. That’s okay. Follow the drama. It might lead you off the map to a beautiful place.

4. Chuck Palahniuk suggests writing each chapter as a short story.

As each story connects to the next until the end, this process cuts down on a lot of intimidation. It also lessens the danger of a saggy middle because you’re demanding more of each story element instead of relying on the reader’s patience. Each chapter is a pillar. Don’t build a weak one and depend on it to hold up the structure.

I’m going to suggest the writing process as an exercise in free association.

Free association emerged as a counselling approach in Freudian analysis. The core of the therapy was to let the mind wander and for the patient to tell his or her own story rather than take on the worldview of the therapist. This was resolution by exploration.

The key is to let ideas bubble up and connect unhampered by the choke valve of self-criticism. Criticism is for later. In the creative process, let it go and flow. You’ll go faster and arrive in places that aren’t mundane and expected. Using these methods, you’re going to cut down on procrastination, too. You’ll write more because you’re having more fun. Stop agonizing. This is entertaining fiction you’re writing, not a eulogy.

In This Plague of Days, the autistic hero of my zompoc epic (Season 3 coming June 15!) is Jaimie Spencer. He’s obsessed with the dictionary. That’s me. I collect odd factoids. I let one Wikipedia entry lead me to another and to another until I free associate my way to new plot developments. The world is made of details and small components build bigger things. That’s also true if your world is fictional. The dictionary and Wikipedia are full of the atoms of your next story.

For instance, take a swig of Doctorow.

In my current WIP, I know the destination and I have a hastily drawn outline of how to get there. It’s not deep in details. I came up with most of it while watching my son’s soccer game. The first atom was a small conceit. The idea exploded when I had my hook. More on this later this summer.

Enjoy a tall, cold glass of Burgess.

Take a random fact from Wikipedia and see where that leads you. Your foundation is already getting poured.

In the crime story I’m working on, I needed to show the love interest’s character. She’s an underdog determined to win. That led me to a story from Wikipedia she could identify with. By showing the tragic, yet heroic story that guided her life, we understand her better and we like her immediately. (Me? I’m big on pathology. Give a character a medical problem and I can use that, for them and against them. Desmoid tumors saved the life of one character in This Plague of Days, for instance. Read the books. You’ll get that reference.)

Free association comes faster from good questions.

Quick! What are the hits playing on the radio in 1974? Which manager was first to get kicked out of a baseball game twice in the same day? What was happening to your protagonist that day in 1974 when he was thinking about baseball and listening to the radio? What song titles spoke to his state of mind? These are the connections I made to write a chapter (a pillar, if you will) that could stand on its own as a short story. Hello, Mr. Palahniuk!

As the factoids build and scenes connect into a river of stories that collect and flow into one ocean of words, new connections are made. New developments float to the surface. You’ll discover new intersections in the network of your story you didn’t suspect were there when you began to write.

That’s Stephen King’s story archeology.

Good stories aren’t written. They are discovered. It is the nuance we find in the depths of free association that contribute to verisimilitude and character interplay. It’s nuance that builds, not just a book, but a believable world.

Those details you’ll use through free association? It’s not the only key to Creativity’s lock, but it’s a good one. Try it.

~ I wrote Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book, Aspire to inspire. Check out AllThatChazz.com for affiliate links to all my fiction. That would be double plus cool. Thanks.

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NaNoWriMo isn’t bad. You are.

One neurotic fellow worried, in public, about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.) 

Worry 1

“If it goes really well, I’d be embarrassed to admit the published book started with NaNoWriMo.”

Yes, this was actually a concern. That sounds silly to me, but putting aside the snobby subtext, let’s answer that. More than 100 published novels have emerged from NaNoWriMo beginnings and I’m sure the authors are grateful for the kick start NaNo supplied. If you need a kick in the pants, NaNoWriMo can help make a solitary pursuit feel more gentle with the support of an enthusiastic community. Whatever helps you get past the time management hump and into actually writing is peachy with me. Starting is hard.

I’m working on a novel that emerged from a short story in Murders Among Dead Trees. That happens a lot. Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus were born from a short story in Self-help for Stoners.

Book ideas come from lots of places. We shouldn’t be embarrassed about process. Instead, embrace what works for you. Otherwise, you get lost chasing your tail. If you must be embarrassed about something, worry about how much autobiographical source material you’re using from that series of bad decisions you made in Vegas.

Or, how about this answer? Don’t be a poo.

Worry 2

“The problem with NaNoWriMo is people think they’ll have a novel at the end of it.”

No, they don’t. NaNoWriMo has warned about this syndrome from the beginning. Most people write to join in the fun and to share support they have no other month of the year. Most people know what these moralizing purists refuse to acknowledge: 

A. Non-writers, novices and aspiring writers are often (oh my Thor!) just as smart as any purist.

B. Writing is the opposite of rocket science. It’s an associative process of making neural connections in new ways that expresses a basic human capacity for creativity. There are good writers and unskilled writers, but ignorance does not equal stupidity. Take the Art seriously, sure, but writers should not take themselves so seriously. It’s supposed to be fun and engaging and many people can do it.

C. Critics of NaNo poop on the participants and say they’re wasting their time. Are all the hobbyist painters wasting their time, too? It’s their time to enjoy wasting. Stop being nasty to NaNoWriMo. You don’t sound noble and professional. You sound insecure about competition from upstarts who dare to pick up a pen, just like you must have done once. 

D. We all know this is just a quick, first draft that will later be expanded, rewritten, pummelled and edited. In most cases, it won’t be submitted or published anywhere, ever. It’s just a start, a challenge, an experiment. Its value is that you can’t edit and improve what isn’t on the page.

This straw man is trotted out for burning each November when oh-so-serious people who write in one way (i.e. like they’re constipated and too fascinated with their leavings) insist that everybody have the same process.*

Yes, some people refuse to acknowledge that their first draft is not great. I’m sure there are even a few people who fire off their first draft of 50,001 words to an agent. But so many people participate in NaNoWriMo, there are bound to be a few novices too sure of their greatness who refuse to follow instructions.

Let’s stop being mean, have a laugh and have a go if you want.

The first time I attempted NaNoWriMo, I didn’t make it to 50,000 words and I was left with a partial manuscript I didn’t like. The second time, I did complete the challenge. Now I don’t do NaNoWriMo because I write no matter what, at least 2,000 words a day. Nothing against NaNo. It’s simply that participating fully would add a stovepipe to my outhouse and the days are short.

Now, on to more troubling questions:

What’s with all the toilet analogies, Chazz?

*This post is based on actual objections to NaNoWriMo. Not all critics of NaNoWriMo deserve the thrashing I’m pointing at one particular critic. If it’s simply not for you, that’s peachy, too. In defence of NaNo, I wrote the inspired imagery with the word “constipated” in it the first time, without revising a word.

Filed under: NanNoWriMo, Writers, writing tips, , , , , ,

Fight Club: How 6 Rules of Combat Will Make You a Winning Writer

The mind virus is created. Spread the infection. Each of five episodes is only 99 cents each. Get the whole Season for the discount at $3.99. (And if you already have read it, please review it.) Thanks! ~ Chazz

The mind virus is created. Spread the infection. Each of five episodes is only 99 cents each. Get the whole Season for the discount at $3.99. (And if you already have read it, please review it.) Thanks! ~ Chazz

I’m teaching my son hand-to-hand combat. He’s such a friendly, funny, sweet little guy, I’m sure his character will keep him out of lots of fights. However, there are things to learn that are applicable to the forces you and I combat. For instance, it’s often easy to predict who will win a street fight. Similarly, I can tell you why some authors will win the fight to have their work discovered.

The bigger person usually wins the fight.

The fighting analogy is obvious, but it applies to our book ventures, too. If you have published many books, you’re in more Also boughts. More shelf space means easier discoverability. The longer your book is available, the more sales it will eventually accrue. (My bestseller is still my first book.)

If you aren’t big yet, write more good books.

The person who strikes first usually wins the fight.

I’d rather my son run from any fight, but if threatened with no escape route, hit fast and hit hard and hit first. End it before the drunk gets a head of steam on the courage he got from a bottle.

If you got into self-publishing early (i.e. before the Amazon algorithms changed) or if you were a popular traditionally published author, you have the advantage of experience and legacy. You had a profile. You still have an advantage now. You hit early, hard and first. You’re still feeling the benefits of throwing the first punch.

The person who is better prepared wins the fight.

A trained fighter has an obvious advantage over a novice. The trained fighter will be less likely to panic when things go wrong and will know how to compensate for a temporary reversal of fortune. After losing sparring matches in training, the experienced fighter has knowledge that will allow victory.

Similarly, if a writer has written a long time, he or she will not lose confidence at a temporary setback. Sometimes you have no idea what happens next in your story and you’ve written yourself into a corner. Once you’ve written yourself into a corner many times, you don’t give up so quickly when you meet the problem again. You recognize opportunities or make new ones.

The person who is willing to do what it takes to win, will. 

Most people are unwilling to do the nasty things you do to end a fight decisively. Most fights start when an idiot tries to intimidate someone, but the bully often doesn’t really want to fight. There’s a good reason no one really wants to fight. It hurts. Even if you win, you’ll very likely have tooth marks on your knuckles.

You guessed it. Many people who say they want to write, don’t. Experienced writers get bored when someone complains they don’t have enough time to write or they have writer’s block. In most cases, that’s the sound of someone unwilling to put in the time to write, edit, revise, polish and publish.

Serious writers grapple with issues of craft, marketing and business. Serious writers have much more challenging time management problems than merely beginning to write. We do what we have to do. That always means sacrifice. 

The fighter with more muscle usually wins.

Even a trained, experienced fighter can be taken out by a shot with heft behind it. 

For the writer, skills are our muscle. We know what a gerund is and how it relates to passive voice. We can avoid a lot of problems because we have an ear for dialogue or paid attention to basic grammar rules in school. These skills keep you in the fight for readers’ attention longer.

The first rule of Fight Club is: Do not talk about Fight Club! 

Fighters don’t build up to the fight. That’s macho posturing and a sign of a silly bully, not a fighter. Talking is not where our energies are best employed (unless we’re being kind to each other.)

Fighters fight.

Writers write.

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, publishing, self-publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 Essential Things to Know If You Want to Write Fiction for a Living

See on Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

This Masquerade Crew article by Luc Reid outlines the long shot of making a living at writing. Read all these great points at the link.

The point that I’d like to reinforce today is #10. No matter how good your writing may be, you still have to market to get your books out into the light where they can be read and enjoyed by hoi polloi.

I once attended a marketing seminar for chiropractors. Chirocrackers get a little shot of dopamine every time they do an adjustment. Hundreds of times a day, with each nitrogen bubble pop, it feels good for them to get that crack. But as far as marketing goes? Who wants to do that? Not many. And most think that since what they’re doing is so good and helpful, they shouldn’t have to do any of that dirty business stuff. Repeatedly, chiropractors say, “All I want to do is adjust. Let me get back to crackin’!” Sound familiar?

“All I want to do is write,” we say. Mm, no. You want to be read. If it were only about writing, why bother formattting, getting a cover for your masterpiece and publishing it? You could keep your manuscript in a drawer, never put up with “business” and get all those happy dopamine bumps from writing in seclusion.

Marketing is essential and it doesn’t matter that you don’t enjoy doing it. Not many enjoy that aspect of the work. It’s uncomfortable, but so what?

You’re a genius? Great. Do the world a favor and stop keeping it a secret.

~ Chazz

See on masqueradecrew.blogspot.ca

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#NaNoWriMo:The mission is simple. We are not.

Find tons of tips and inspiration here.

During National Novel Writing Month, you will focus on word counts. It’s about chewing up time by filling up paper. That’s okay. That’s fine. The critics of NaNoWriMo underestimate you. They think you don’t know that this is just the first step. Strange. They know that. Why would they think you don’t know that?

Sure, there are dabblers and dilettantes and outliers who will fire off their manuscript as soon as they’ve written 50,000 lousy words. Any time a lot of people do something, there will always be those misguided people who do it very badly. But they aren’t the majority. Most of us know that first drafts aren’t our best work and we have to try harder than that. You get to make it your best, bravest stab through the work of rewriting. You have to have something to start with, on paper, to have something to revise. We know. We get it. Please don’t condemn us all.

Let’s all lighten up and know the joy of Creation. That’s the closest to godhood I’ll ever get (besides Saturday mornings when I go yell at frogs, proclaiming how much smarter I am than they could hope to be. Uh…long story. Stupid frogs.)

When you’re done, you probably share my mission: 

I want to make people laugh and think. I want to create beauty. That is all I want to do. That is all

High goals. We know it takes more than one draft to get there.

Enjoy the process.

 

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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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My crucial brain hack to win #NaNoWriMo

There’s a trick I use for problem-solving, plot twists, brainstorming and inspiration that really works. (I blogged about it long ago, but it’s so powerful, it bears repeating and you probably haven’t seen it.)  This writing tip will be especially useful to you if you’re a pantser, but plotters can use it, too.

I wrote Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus (each over 60-some thousand words in about a month for the first drafts) using the hypnogogic state. I wrote these thrillers chapter by chapter, covering at least a couple of thousand words a day. Most nights I went to bed not knowing what adventures and twists my hit man, Jesus Diaz, would face in the morning.

If you’ve read the books, you know  it’s always something surprising. Things go well and things go awry (mostly awry) in clever, unexpected ways. Getting into the hypnogogic state is not hypnosis per se, but this technique does access a state of mind that’s particularly useful for writers, especially during National Novel Writing Month where you need a lot of cool ideas in a short time.

To access the hypnogogic state for greater creativity:

STEP 1: Just before I go to sleep, I plant the seed. What question do I want answered in the morning? (e.g. What will happen to my Cuban hit man in the next chapter? How will he get off that cliff he’s hanging from?)

STEP 2: Go to sleep. No light in the bedroom, no TV. Beds are for sex and sleeping and that’s all. Turn your clock face away so the big glowing red numbers don’t taunt you. Avoid stimulants, alcohol and exercise late in the day. The magnesium in mineral water can help you relax, but don’t drink so much you’re up peeing all night. Do whatever you normally do to achieve a good night’s sleep.

STEP 3: Wake up slow. It’s far preferable if you do not wake to an alarm clock. The time between sleeping and waking is a precious time and you want to prolong it. (That’s what all that great stuff in Step 2 is about, so you don’t need to wake to alarm bells.)

In that time between sleeping, dreaming and waking? That is where you will access your creative genius and, as you slowly swim up to consciousness, ask yourself: What’s the answer? The answer will come to you in that special, relaxed state.

Sounds too simple doesn’t it? It works for me every night and every morning.

~For more writing tips, inspiration and motivation for your journey from keyboard to publishing, pick up Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire by Robert Chazz Chute. Chazz — a former newspaper journalist, magazine columnist and insider in traditional publishing — now has seven books for sale.

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NaNoWriMo: My crucial mistake

The first time I tried National Novel Writing Month, I did a lot right but I did one crucial thing wrong. 

What went right:

1. I created a loose outline before NaNoWriMo started so I wouldn’t write myself into too many corners and dead ends.

2. I planned my calendar and even reserved babysitters to make sure I had enough time to write.

3. I wrote more than the bare minimum each day (1,666 words) so I got ahead of my word count goal early. You don’t want to derail your NaNoWriMo challenge just because you had the flu for a few days or other work demands pulled you away unexpectedly. 

The crucial mistake:

It’s okay to paste in the broad strokes to fill in later (e.g. “insert awesome sex scene here” or “this is the chapter where little Bobby discovers he can crush badger skulls with the power of his mind.”)

However, as I reached 50,000 words, I stopped short. I didn’t write the last scene before typing “The End”. Later, when I returned to my manuscript to revise and edit, the magic momentum was gone. The missing end sucked my enthusiasm for the project. NaNoWriMo is a sprint and it feels great to cross that finish line. Fifty-thousand words isn’t the only finish line. Build the skeleton of the entire book and you’ll have something more solid to work with when you’re done.

For more on National Novel Writing Month and brainstorming tips, tricks and inspiration to carry you to the end, get my new book, Crack the Indie Author Code.

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!

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Lynda Barry tells What It Is

This is a book about writing like you’ve never seen:

What_It_Is

If you know Lynda Barry‘s work, you  know hers is an inimitable style. But I grok her. I had some reservations as I plucked the book from the shelf, but when somebody bares their soul in their art, you either look away embarrassed and confused or you look deeper, identify and get swallowed up, too.

Her ideas on writing prompts could get you going. Letting go to get going appeals to me. Most of all? I understand what she means by escaping into writing and getting “that floaty feeling.” If you write, you know what she means, too. If you don’t, buy What It Is, do the exercises and find your way into The Float. 

The immediate rewards of writing (slipping through “the escape hatch” as Stephen King puts it) are right now. Even as I write this, I feel a tickle in my brain. Some happy dopamine is spreading somewhere through my skull as I type this. I’m a junkie.

You may or not get published, but there’s more to it than that, isn’t there?

Some people don’t get that, so I ask them this: “Did you ever play tennis or run or swim? Did you keep doing it even though you knew you weren’t going to end up at Wimbledon, the Boston Marathon or the Olympics?”

Filed under: authors, book reviews, Books, publishing, Writers, Writing exercise, writing tips, , , , , ,

Writers: What is your genre? What do you read?

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...

Image via Wikipedia

Most of you are writers.

Please let me know the genre in which you write.

Also, what do you read?

Some writers avoid reading fiction from their own genre because they worry it will influence their own writing. I think there’s a difference between a good influence, a bad influence and plagiarism, so I read a lot within my genre (literary fiction and horror.) I also read widely outside my genre.

I usually have ten or so books going at one time. I either have an undiagnosed case of Attention Deficit Disorder or I’m easily bored. Oh, or maybe those two things are de facto the same thing. (I know I’ve hit a really good book when I don’t switch it out with another book. and slow down to savour it.)

I also have an extensive collection of reference books and how-to books on writing, social media and most aspects of publishing. Do you have a favourite book on writing or perhaps you reject the premise? What writing books do you love? Which could you (and the universe) do without?

I’d like to hear from you.

Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

Thanks!

Filed under: book reviews, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

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

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