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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

12 Tips to Write More

I’ve written, co-written, and worked as a book doctor for a long time. People have asked, how do you keep your ass in the chair long enough to be that productive? I do have a robot in my watch that tells me to get up and move around once an hour so I don’t become pudding. I set alarms to get me to bed and get me to work, too. Setting alarms is not just for nagging you to get out of bed.


Here are my simple suggestions for increasing your word count:

  1. Clear your workspace of distractions. (I have a blanket fort because I like to hide.)
  2. Clear your calendar so you have dedicated time to write. Be specific about when and where.
  3. Get excited about the current scene you’re writing. If it’s not exciting for you, it’s not exciting for the reader. If that’s the case, maybe it’s good you’re dragging your feet on writing it.
  4. Set a timer and, especially for that first draft, get the words down as fast as you can while you race the clock. You can accomplish a lot in short bursts.
  5. Shut off the internet so you focus on the job rather than checking out the latest on Huffington Post and Twitter news. The world’s ending. There, saved you some time.
  6. Do not wait for inspiration. Inspiration strikes at the keyboard, not while you’re playing Call of Duty.
  7. Since the hardest part is starting, tell yourself you’ll just write for ten minutes. Once you start swinging that hammer, you’ll get caught up in doing more damage.
  8. Take notes between writing sessions so you’ll have prompts when you’re back in the saddle.
  9. Drop your writing session on a note that’s easy to pick up again.
  10. Accountability is helpful. That could be just you counting your streaks in an app or on a spreadsheet, getting a writing partner, or finding a writing group. Tracking and reporting keeps you writing. My mastermind group has a writing room in Slack which tends to get me going.
  11. Visualize your success and how good it will feel to publish a book. You can’t get there without the homework part of being a writer, so do the thing.
  12. Picture the sad faces of all your haters when you hit it big. Cackle about it as you type. Motivation comes and goes, but fear of failure, terror of poverty, and ambition born of spite are strong emotions.

    What keeps you at the keyboard in this ridiculous, capricious business?

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write apocalyptic epics with heart and killer crime thrillers with muscle. Find links to all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

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NaNoWriMo is not a bad thing

NaNoWriMo is a good thing.

We’re coming up on the halfway point of November already (which scares the rabbit pellets out of me because Christmas is coming fast. I wasn’t going to do National Novel Writing Month this year, but changed my mind at the last moment. I enjoy their metrics and I’m a little ahead of the pace so everything is chunky hunky.

Some authors are down on NaNoWriMo, but I have to say their arguments against it are often made of straw and soggy bran cereal. It’s not just for novices who’ve always dreamed of writing a book. I write every day anyway. That doesn’t mean NaNo doesn’t give me a boost. A little friendly competition can get me started earlier and makes me write a bit longer than I might have otherwise. 2479 words last night!

NaNo is so big, sure, there are inevitably a few people in the mix who think they should fire their first draft off to an agent. However, most people are sane. The vast majority won’t commit that sin. NaNo doesn’t encourage that kind of slapdash approach, either, so ease off of those worries and enjoy a chocolate chip cookie.

Some question the word count. Why 50,000 words? Isn’t that too short for a novel? It didn’t used to be. Those word count conventions are a bit dated considering that the numbers are less of a factor with ebooks. More to the point, the originators of NaNoWriMo chose 50,000 words as a suitable goal for good reasons. It’s not too short for veterans nor too long for first-timers. It also happens to be the approximate word count for The Great Gatsby.

There’s a little Apocalypse Now energy around NaNo that I find helpful. I’m Martin Sheen at the beginning of the movie whispering, “Every minute I’m in this hotel room I get weaker. Every minute Charlie is out in the jungle he gets stronger.” Then I break a mirror because someone out there somewhere is writing.

Then I write.

~ The newest novel from Robert Chazz Chute is Endemic. Highly sensitive, bookish, and alone, Ovid Fairweather is bullied by her father, haunted by her dead therapist, and trapped in the viral apocalypse.

Get Endemic now. It’s about to go viral.

Filed under: NanNoWriMo, writing, , , , , , , , , ,

Dexter, My Panic Attack, and You

Michael C. Hall is reprising his most famous role in Dexter, New Blood. That this limited series is back is remarkable. The original series ended in 2013 and it did not end well. A bit about that, then let’s talk about The Bounce and how it applies to you and me.

In 2013, I listened to a podcast that was all about Dexter. This pod went deep, right down to the music cues. This was for hardcore fans who obviously loved the series. Most viewers agree that the show peaked at the end of the season with John Lithgow (no spoilers here.) This podcast was for fans who stuck with it to the bitter end. Count me among that hardy crew of diehards.

That so stipulated, the podcast had two letters shows wherein fans wrote to express their final thoughts. The overwhelming evidence was that most people were terribly disappointed. Let’s be real about this: endings are hard.

Evidence

  1. Kim’s Convenience’s end was anticlimactic and seemed mostly pointless, as if they didn’t know what to do with it. And don’t get me started on the end of the second-last season, where I thought my TV cut out prematurely.
  2. The Sopranos end is memorable for the wrong reasons. I thought the bartender Tony beat up several times should have come back to kill him for personal beef, not mob business. That end seems fitting since he was such a shitty person.
  3. Breaking Bad was fantastic, but they missed an opportunity when he meets his end without ever sampling his own product. That’s my only complaint there.
  4. I didn’t see the final season of Game of Thrones for a while. I heard it was terrible. When I finally did see it, honestly, I couldn’t figure out what everyone was complaining about. Was the end really that bad. I found it quite consistent. It seems bad is the consensus since so many fans have disavowed it and GOT disappeared from pop culture so thoroughly.
  5. How I Met Your Mother met with outrage at the end. They tried something and I applaud the experiment. The problem with the execution was it was a comedy that managed to land as a downer rather than achieving romance. That’s not why fans tuned in for so many years.

    Let’s first acknowledge there is such a thing as toxic fandom. If you’ve written a book, eventually some reviewer who thinks they’re helpful will try educate you on how you should have done it better. Even though the longest thing they ever wrote was three paragraphs of a sour review, they’re very confident they could have saved you if only they’d sat on your shoulder and told you what to do. Note to those reviewers: better not to do that. Like it or don’t like it. Write your own. You’ll probably find it’s not as easy as you think.

The Triumph of Hope Over Experience

Most famously, the fans brought Star Trek back to become a fantastic franchise with so many iterations it’s a disappointment again. Firefly returned as a movie because fans campaigned for it. It is generally acknowledged that the space western got short shrift from network execs who couldn’t find their ass with both hands. Similar story with Family Guy. The network canceled the series, but after three million DVD sales, brought it back to great success. FOX cancelled twenty-nine other shows in the meantime, so when it came back from its hiatus, Family Guy mocked them for it. Twenty-nine! The Winston Churchill joke comes to mind: “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing after they’ve tried everything else.”

Finding the Way Back

The return of Dexter is a little different from other risings from the grave. They’re coming back to fix it. The final episode was so ill-conceived and ill-received, it was not relegated to the dustbin of TV trivia. It failed so hard, they’re getting another kick at the can. That’s what I call The Bounce. And you know what? It’s a good thing. We can learn from this,

I know it can be frustrating to see old ideas get recycled. It often seems like there are no original ideas in Hollywood. Perhaps your book should be made into a movie or a popular TV series. I know several of my books deserve to be made into films to stir the soul and make boffo box office. However, Dexter was very good before it went sour and it was always watchable. It’s taken a weird circuitous route to get to this place, but I think it deserves another chance to entertain us. Let’s be happy about it. Skepticism is understandable, but cynicism isn’t fun and hey, stay real. The stakes are low.

I miss Dexter living in Miami. I miss Angel Batista being sweet and kind and utterly oblivious to Dexter’s serial killer ways. Masuka was hilarious as comic relief in the original series. But there are new and fun characters to enjoy in this new iteration. I’m glad Dexter is back, and I enjoyed the first episode.
Welcome back, buddy!

What does The Bounce have to do with us?

As writers, you are the studio. If a book fails, you can kill the series or resurrect it in a new iteration. You have the freedom to edit it again, to add or delete chapters, to relaunch it. You don’t have to appeal to a network or suck up to a committee. You’re free to bounce back as many times as you can stand.

Last night, I had a panic attack. Those Bookbub ads I was experimenting with only worked on the first-in-series of AFTER Life, the one I give away for free. Three or four problems hit me all at once and I spiraled down. I couldn’t catch my breath. Caught up in catastrophizing, I felt like I was drowning and maybe dying.

This morning, I’m back to writing. I’m in NaNoWriMo and the word count is on track. I’m happy with what I’m creating. I am committed to bouncing back.

Lots of things fall apart for many reasons. You can’t control all the variables that lead to failure or success. As a writer, you are positioned to steer your own ship. If you steered into the rocks, you can fix the hull or jump onto another ship. It’s okay. We’re going to be okay.

The old joke is that a second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience. Art is a different story. Every book launch is full of hope. Every writer tends some small fire that signals they’ll “make it” (whatever that means to you.)

Make art. Just make art. Try not to panic.

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How to Make Readers Hallucinate Happily

I once read a popular novel by a very successful author whose name escapes me at the moment. Two characters were young guys who were virtually identical in worldview and speech patterns. To distinguish one from the other, the author slapped a ridiculous hat on one of them. He fussed with said hat throughout the book.

As I read on, I thought, you got a lot of money for this. I see what you’re doing and I understand why. It still pissed me off. If you have too many characters to juggle, it can be difficult for the reader to keep track of who’s who.

One solution is to break up your groups. In reading one of my favorite books, The Stand, I didn’t love every character equally. While focusing on one less favorite character, I’d wonder what was happening with my faves. However, the story was sufficiently compelling to propel me through the whole book. Stephen King didn’t toss everyone into one room all at once, so it was easy to track the huge cast.

I used that same template in This Plague of Days. Huge cast, but I separated varied groups. The heroes are the Spencer family from Kansas City. There’s a group of Europeans struggling to escape to North America. Then there’s a motley crew of villains: two cults and three species (human, zombie, and vampire).

A writer friend teased me about the global scope of the trilogy. “Meanwhile, in Jakarta…” In my defense, killing off a bunch of characters along the way narrowed the focus and all the threads get pulled together in the end.

The Problem of Who’s Who

Consider a novel featuring a large number of new recruits shoved in a barracks for Basic. They’re all wearing the same greens, so fashion won’t help you. Suppose you make the cast even more homogenous by putting them all on the same page mentally as well as physically. Instead of a nice segmented plate where the peas don’t touch the mashed potatoes, now you’ve got soldier soup.

Who’s who? How can you help the reader distinguish one character from another? Some fantasy authors list the cast of characters at the front of the book and add a glossary at the back. I find convention dated and cumbersome. As a reader, I don’t want to (and won’t) flip back and forth to understand what’s going on in a story. I want full immersion. Let’s talk about how to get there more elegantly.

Possible Solutions

Taking our soldiers in the barracks example further, here are my suggestions for avoiding reader confusion and exhaustion.

  1. Avoid giving them one worldview. Perhaps in an attempt to unify them in glory, some writers forget that soldiers are still people who are drawn to service from varied backgrounds and from marginalized groups. In Jarhead, a drill sergeant demands of the protagonist why he joined up. “Sir! I got lost on the way to college, sir!”
  2. As King did masterfully in The Stand and It, take the time to develop characters by giving them their own chapters so readers get to know them. Some readers complain that the King of Horror goes off on too many tangents. I disagree. He’s not telling you some minor character’s background just because he enjoys typing. He’s making you care when that character gets killed off.

    Repeat after me: NO! FACELESS! REDSHIRTS!

  3. An alternative is to put guard rails on your story. Tighten the focus on a smaller group. Reading Misery, I enjoyed the story very much. However, reading as a writer, I was amazed how King managed to keep most of an entire novel’s action to one room and still keep me invested.

    Tom Cruise’s version of War of the Worlds is instructive, too. The scope of the alien invasion is global, but the focus is confined to one not-so-great divorced father trying to get his kids to safety. It’s not just a pulpy science fiction story. It’s a war story that brings home the horrifying plight of refugees. That’s a war story that’s too rare.
  4. Distinguish your cast by giving them more depth, character, and flaws. I’m not suggesting something as superficial as playing with their hat for 300 pages. Make one a coward and another a traitor. Make one mean and another innocent.

    In The Night Man, Easy Jack is an Army Ranger out on a medical discharge. His knee hurts all the time, he’s overly sensitive to light, and returning home to poverty in rural Michigan has screwed him up and screwed him over. He’s also got a bomb plot and a corrupt cop to deal with. Fortunately, he’s a wry underdog with a loyal guard dog at his side. Complexity serves the story.

    In Band of Brothers, the paratroopers are all highly trained professionals. Still, tensions are high. They fight for the a noble cause and for each other, but a couple still get into a fistfight aboard a troopship after one makes a stupid antisemitic remark.

Unless it’s Winnie The Pooh, there is always an enemy, within and without. Conflict is at the heart of our art. Making our cast of characters less homogenous, we do more than help the reader hold them all in their minds. We transform our tiny imaginings into fully-realized people. We deepen the story’s potential and draw readers into genuine joy and escape.

When a novel is great, it’s not a mere distraction from the moribund spiral of mundane existence. When the experience is rich, reading becomes an immersion to the point of compelling hallucination.

AT RISK OF TELLING YOU WHAT TO DO, READ ENDEMIC NOW.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Check out all my books at apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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

Canuck Versus Yank Spelling


Someone asked, why do you use American spelling in your books even though you’re Canadian?

About 2% of my book sales come from Canada and 85%+ come from the United States. There is a small minority of readers who are very vocal about spelling color with u.

Colour? That’s not what I was taught in school!”

Using American spelling, I’m catering to the bulk of my readership. I want to optimize the chance I’ll make the most people happy.

Think I’m exaggerating about reader response? Step on the Oxford comma landmine. Some people get so heated about their pro-Oxford comma stance, I caved to their demands.

Someone reading this right now is thinking, “Well, yeah, but that’s only because always using the Oxford comma is the one true way. It’s not my way, it’s the right way, every time, all the time! Without the Oxford comma, my world makes no sense. We must have order!”

Sigh. I said I’d do it and I did it, okay?
Lord liftin’, ease off ya jeezly big bullies! Sorry!

(Don’t come at me. I’m only exaggerating a little. I’m sure they’re plenty fun at parties as long as the Oxford comma doesn’t come up in conversation…but they do bring it up.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah. American spelling.

When I worked at Harlequin, one of their historical romance lines was British and the style guide reflected that fact. The company got an irate letter from a reader who took the time to point out every “mistake” in a novel. Anything other than American spelling was wrong in her eyes. The letter concluded with, “A company of your size shouldn’t allow this many mistakes to get into a book. Hire me and fire all your stupid editors.”

The letter was passed around the editorial department. We dedicated and underpaid professionals had a good chuckle and went back to producing 80 titles a month in two shifts, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 5 – 1 a.m.

Canadians don’t blink at American spelling, probably because, with the exception of Schitt’s Creek, American culture floods north, not south. Because of our relatively small population, the Canadian book market doesn’t pay enough to keep me in snacks. I’m happy to make readers comfortable and tell stories in ways that reduce any distraction.

On the other hand, there was the 60-something podcast host out of New York who expressed shock and surprise there is such a thing as a Canadian English dictionary. I mean, my guy, it’s almost as if we’re a different country. Sorry, eh?

I’ve just released my latest post-apocalyptic/dystopian epic. Curiously enough, I humbly suggest you buy it, please.

Reviews of Endemic so far:

If you’re tired of the formulaic schlock that clutters dystopian literature, then you need to read Endemic. The author has created a unique tale that serves up the best of deep characterization, nuanced plot, and emotional impact. Read this and you’ll soon be looking for other books by Robert Chazz Chute. ~ RF Kacy

What if COVID-19 never lets go of our world? What would happen to society? Robert Chazz Chute does not write escapist literature. He extrapolates the present into plausible but decidedly unwanted futures. The story centres on Ovid Fairweather, a 30-ish editor turned gardener, trying to survive in a New York City that is most definitely not a tourist destination. Betrayed and besieged at every turn, Ovid’s resilience and determination in the face of impossible circumstances drew me in. This is dystopian fiction at its finest. ~ Russell Sawatsky

Endemic takes us on a journey of the mind of an unassuming survivor who must learn to cope with a collapsed environment. Not unlike the current reactions to our contemporary pandemic, Endemic illustrates that diverse choices can lead to survival or a slow demise as a ‘thirder’. The sudden jolts as the narrative swiftly changes course ensure that the reader keeps on their toes, adapting as quickly as the protagonist must in the search for safe refuge. Thanks Robert Chazz Chute for another innovative ride and a tale well told. ~ Janice Bull

~ Check out all my apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers at AllThatChazz.com.


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How Authors Disappear

I had a fun chat with an author friend who started publishing about the same time I did. We’ve both been in independent publishing for a decade or so. Many aspects have changed in that time. Way back when, pretty much the only marketing advice was to write good books, write more, and hope to get a BookBub. The best way to advertise your book was to write another. For a while, that was true. It’s not enough and hasn’t been enough for a long time. “Organic” alone isn’t going to get you juice.

As the industry matured. savvy gurus encouraged us to fire up newsletters, gather subscriber emails, and create autoresponder sequences. Full disclosure: Little of that interested me much. I didn’t want to market books. I did that kind of thing when I worked in traditional publishing. I’ve always been more interested in the craft. Marketing can be creative, but it’s never as creative as building a novel.

Visibility Then

For a time, I had a higher profile in the indie community. Through this blog I made friends with some heavy hitters and that got me on Simon Whistler’s podcast. From there, I appeared on one of Armand Rosamilia’s pods, was a regular on the sadly defunct Author Strong podcast, and became a co-host on the Self-Publishing Roundtable. I also had several podcasts of my own. NaNoWriMo asked me to provide one of those encouraging how-to, you-go-girl posts. Perhaps most helpful was publishing my best-known trilogy, This Plague of Days.

Then…well…what did happen exactly?

My Disappearance

My friend said, “I had no idea how many books you’d written! It seemed like you disappeared, and all of a sudden you’ve written over 30 books!”

I burst out laughing at “all of a sudden” and she joined me. Of course, it took a while. That’s 30+ books over 10 years, plus all those under pen names and projects where I served as a book doctor. Whether I was working full-time or part-time at my day job, I was always writing something. Passion, consistency, a dedicated space to write, and a closed door are keys to productivity.

However, I did not do a few things that would have helped me. I pulled back on writing this blog daily. I had a day job then and, frankly, some stuff was going on behind the scenes that knocked me flat. I experienced a lot of frustration and several anxiety attacks before I left all that nonsense behind for good. (My good. Writing has been my full-time job for a few years now.) As the pandemic progressed, I didn’t write fast, but I was always writing.

Other mistakes? I wrote (and write) in more than one genre. I did several stand-alone books rather than writing in long series. I have no regrets, but I defied several tropes of my genres. Artistically, those choices made sense. From a business point of view, less so. It also didn’t help that I held back on publishing anything under my name for a long time. Our Zombie Hours and Endemic are just out, but before that? The Night Man came out at Christmas, 2019. Even with some success, if you don’t publish regularly, it’s easy to be forgotten by readers.

Visibility Now

I’m happy to say I will be getting back into podcasting soon. I’ll announce two new podcasts, one fiction and the other non-fiction when the time comes. I mention this because a survey came out a while ago noting that many of the most successful authors are also into podcasting. Correlation or causation? Not sure. Who cares? I have a background in radio and love podcasting, so I’m in.

Speaking with my author friend, it came to me why, despite all my productivity, I seemed to disappear from her horizon. The answer: No advertising budget. I coasted on sales of my backlist. Without the budget to advertise, we disappear from view.

There are plenty of ways to stay in touch with readers. Newsletters, podcasts, blog tours, promotional platforms (like Freebooksy and Bookbub), Facebook ads, Amazon ads etc.,… Some are more expensive than others. Ours is a competitive environment. Like any business, we have to advertise to maintain visibility and viability. If you can’t invest money to remain visible, you’ll have to invest a lot of time and try to leverage that.

The gold rush died out a long time ago. I don’t like it, but the game is pay-to-play, now more than ever.

Hey, here’s an ad because I love to entertain readers, but I also like to buy groceries!

I was a nail. I am a hammer.

As the United States falls to disease, killers and thieves rule New York. Bookish, neurotic, and nerdy, Ovid Fairweather finds herself trapped in the struggle for survival. 

Bullied by her father, haunted by her dead therapist, and hunted by marauders, Ovid is forced to fight.

With only the voices in her head as her guides, a former book editor will become a queen.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Check out my killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: book marketing, , , , , , , ,

Writing Fairweather and Foul

I recently received the most aggressive fortune in a fortune cookie ever: For a good cause, wrongdoing may be virtuous (pictured). Sums up a lot of fiction, doesn’t it? It spoke to a central question in my newest big book, though! (See below. Oh, and by the way, Endemic is FREE today, Tuesday, November 2, 2021!)

How good does the cause have to be? How bad can I be?

Papa, Don’t Preach

In fiction, themes and messages are best when they emerge from the narrative organically. If a writer sets out to create a message from the beginning, it might turn into a lecture rather than a story. Readers want to be entertained. Don’t write fiction to teach them something. Set out to discover something.

Why Endemic?

Someone asked me why my latest novel is called Endemic. There are layers;

  1. Of course, when a pandemic doesn’t go away, the disease becomes endemic. That’s the broad stroke of world-building and the basis of my novel.
  2. Ovid Fairweather, the protagonist of Endemic, is neurotic and nerdy. A former book editor, she gets into urban farming to survive the viral apocalypse. She’s a very unlikely heroine who has conversations with her dead psychotherapist. To defend herself, she commits violent acts. A conflicted soul, she wonders if her capacity to do the things she does was dormant, waiting to emerge her entire life. Was her violent nature endemic? Was it learned? Or was it merely a reaction to terrible circumstances?
  3. So, was Anne Frank right? Are people basically good? And if they aren’t, can they be redeemed? What actions are required to achieve redemption? Who dictates which transgressors can be forgiven? What punishments await sinners? If a trait is endemic, can we change?

Disaster stories and horror are most interesting, not for the disaster itself, but how people react to circumstance. Can we come together or will it always be “every man for himself”? Human nature is fascinating. That’s the exploration boiling underneath all the plot, witty dialogue, and action.

Going Deeper than Good or Bad

There’s a common mistake anyone can fall into. It’s the notion that everyone is either all good or all bad. If they agree with you, they’re geniuses. If they mostly agree, but don’t use your phrasing, they’re idiots you need to educate. Cultural divides don’t get bridged that way.

In real life, people often have a hard time with others. When we find out heroes who champion our cause are flawed, we’re sorely disappointed. There are still plenty of people who don’t want to hear that Mother Teresa was for suffering or that their favorite Hollywood star treats the help horribly.

In fiction, we try to avoid portraying protagonists as flawless. Flawless is boring, so readers appreciate characters who are not paragons of virtue 24/7/365. Common tropes support the detective who has seen too much, so she drinks too much. The serial killer may be evil, but as long as Dexter likes kids and kills serial killers, we’re rooting for him to get away with his crimes.

When you write your novel, you want your characters to be relatable. Readers want someone to like. Avoid writing characters who are so perfect no one can dislike them. That character may be likable, but the story will have less conflict and end up being boring.

Ovid Fairweather is perhaps my most conflicted character yet. The past haunts her. She isn’t sure whether she’s the heroine or the villain. I’m confident most readers will root for her even as she waffles and worries. She is quirky and neurotic so Ovid has a lot of challenges to rise above, just like the rest of us.

Find out for yourself here

I was a nail. I am a hammer.

As the United States falls to disease, killers and thieves rule New York. Bookish, neurotic, and nerdy, Ovid Fairweather finds herself trapped in the struggle for survival. 

Bullied by her father, haunted by her dead therapist, and hunted by marauders, Ovid is forced to fight.

With only the voices in her head as her guides, an unlikely heroine will become a queen.

Fun, surprising, and suspenseful, Endemic is the new apocalyptic novel from the author of Citizen Second Class, This Plague of Days, and AFTER Life.

BEGIN YOUR NEXT BINGE READ

and

DO YOUR CHRISTMAS SHOPPING HERE.

~ For all my apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers, please do visit my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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What Writers Can Learn from Ted Lasso

First, some clever fun from the show to give you some flavor:


“He’s mad.”

“If he thinks he’s angry now, wait until we win him over!”

“He’ll be furious!”

I love Ted Lasso for lot of reasons, but let’s talk dialogue.


Recently, I spotted something glorious I hadn’t witnessed in a long time. She Who Must Be Obeyed and I watched Ted Lasso. It’s a fine comedy we got invested in from the jump. We are in cynical and tough times, so Apple+ is serving up a character who is almost relentlessly positive and optimistic. Jason Sudeikis plays the anti-Dexter.

They do something special with dialogue I love. The words work hard and the show doesn’t condescend to their audience or cater to the lowest common denominator.

Words: Singing and Zinging

I saw Grosse Pointe Blank in a theater in 1997. They did something with the dialogue that we don’t see often enough. The jokes and dopamine hits came at a breathless pace. The audience would laugh so hard at one joke, you couldn’t hear the next. But what made it special was the delivery. The actors fired off each line as if they were throwaways and they didn’t slow down.

Ted Lasso does the same thing often. The delivery is rapid fire and if you didn’t catch the last joke or if it was a bit of a thinker, you’ll be on the next joke bus because it’s coming quick. What they don’t make time for is the long setup. The punchlines are jabs with few feints before the next blow hits. (Yes, I know buses and boxing make for mixed metaphors, but that’s how excited I am about how they construct their scripts.)

Brevity and wit: those two are alway in a lovelock on Ted Lasso. Some of the pop culture references are bold because they are old. It’s as if the showrunner pinned a rule to the front page of the show bible: THIS SHOW CASTS A WIDE NET. IT’S NOT JUST FOR PEOPLE ON TIKTOK. WE’RE TAKING THE FACEBOOK AUDIENCE, TOO!

For contrast, see the other end of the spectrum

In Predator, there’s the famous scene where Arnold accidentally manages to camouflage himself in mud. As the scene plays out from the alien’s perspective, it’s apparent our hero isn’t showing up on the infrared scan. That was great. Then Arnold delivers a clarification for all the nimrods in the audience: “He can’t see me!” That took me right out of it and the only way to get back the moment would have been for the Predator to hear his dumb exclamation and come back to kill him.

Make the words count and give them power. Say things in clever ways.

In real life, most people do not speak like they’ve got a room full of writers backing them up. West Wing walk and talks would have had to be much longer if they were ordinary humans who had to stop to look up statistics and occasionally hem, haw, and clear their throats. But if you want ordinary dialogue that’s not so witty, that’s the real world. You know, the shit we’re trying to get away from when we read.

For inspiration, check out any YouTube clips of Alan Shore’s closings from Boston Legal. Sadly, most lawyers aren’t as smart as all that. Most couldn’t be. However, within the context of the show, we accept that Alan Shore really is that funny and sharp on the fly.

Ordinary is easy. Some writers even convince themselves that dialogue should never sparkle. They equate boring with verisimilitude. If boring is used to lull the reader into a false sense of security only to upend their expectations, make that scene short and end with a gunshot so you don’t lose them.

How Ted Lasso sets such a furious pace

Ted Lasso has so little time for dialogue that no character knocks. They burst into rooms. Once, Jason Sudeikis rushed into the boss’s office so fast I thought he’d broken the door. I suspect their scripts are thick because they pack in more dialogue than average. Fortunately, they have actors who can deliver and, not for nothing, the show has tons of heart. Villains get fleshed out, understood, and are often forgiven and redeemed.

But there’s no flab on those bones. Despite there being so many words, there’s also a great economy of words on display. For instance, football star Roy Kent makes his use of the f-word erudite, no further explanation needed. At another point, you’re bracing yourself for a long explanation when all you need and all you get is, “I listen more than I talk.” The writers expect the viewers to meet them halfway, so more often than not a gesture and a brushstroke will do, no need for footnotes.

And hey, if you didn’t catch that Robert Plant joke immediately, you probably got the follow-up with the Jimmy Page joke.

~ I write sparkling dialogue. See for yourself in my latest apocalyptic thriller, Endemic, available now in ebook, paperback, and hardcover.

I was a nail. I am a hammer.

As the United States falls to disease, killers and thieves rule New York. Bookish, neurotic, and nerdy, Ovid Fairweather finds herself trapped in the struggle for survival. 

Bullied by her father, haunted by her dead therapist, and hunted by marauders, Ovid is forced to fight.

With only the voices in her head as her guides, an unlikely heroine will become a queen.

Fun, surprising, and suspenseful, Endemic is the new apocalyptic novel from the author of Citizen Second Class, This Plague of Days, and AFTER Life.

Begin your next binge read now with Endemic.

Check out all my killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: TV Shows, writing advice, , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Make Short Stories Pay

First, You Have to Write Shorts that Do Not Fizzle

One of the books I’m planning is aliens versus humans so I thought I’d check out The Invasion (new on Apple+). Inspiration comes from everywhere. Well, everywhere but The Invasion.

I respect bold choices in storytelling. I love the building tension to be found in a slow burn. However, what’s on display in The Invasion is big budget, overstuffed with melodrama, gratuitous titillation, and a lot of irrelevance. Worst of all? No aliens! It’s as if they set out to construct an alien invasion that none of the supermodel/actors notice for a long time. Whatever the producers are doing, it’s not getting to the point. I’m three episodes in. This show is beautifully shot, but they have yet to light the fuse. Any Mission Impossible script lights the fuse fast. The Invasion fizzles and fails to launch.

I’ve toyed with scriptwriting, but more of my experience that’s a close parallel comes from writing short stories. Short stories used to be so much more popular and magazines paid good money for them. Kurt Vonnegut did well with selling short stories before moving on to novels. Stephen King published shorts in porn magazines before Carrie hit. One of the joys of my childhood was reading sci-fi in Omni. If I could bring one magazine back, it would be Omni, but even then the mag was financed by the success of Penthouse. Omni was a gorgeous magazine with stunning prints of spaceships, but the business model wasn’t sustainable.

Like a Good TV or Movie Script, Short Stories are Economical

The challenge of writing short stories is to get where you’re going fast without sacrificing character development. You’ve got to paint a picture with fewer brushstrokes. The writing is tight with no room for flab.

I started out writing short stories and have won some awards for them. However, I got to a place where I thought I’d never write short stories again. There’s too little money in it and I must keep the lights on. However, I relented. My novel release schedule got punctuated by anthologies because it’s a joy. I do love writing long form, of course, but each novel is a marathon. Short stories deliver the boost of adrenaline you get from sprinting around the track.

Possible Platforms for Short Fiction

If you enjoy writing short, I’d encourage you to do so. If you want to make them pay like they did in the old days, it’s not going to be like that.

Let’s get past the age of the dinosaurs: Ignore small literary publications. They take forever, competition is stiff, they pay in bird cage lining, and their circulations are tiny. Your blog can reach more of your audience directly and immediately. Once a great thing, they’re now a pretentious holdover from a lost era. If you write genre fiction, it’s especially wasteful. If your short story is really good, you could get a sneering rejection from an MFA who attended the Iowa Workshop. So…yay? Nay.

Already got a following and a big list of subscribers? Make Patreon work for you. But really, your newsletter list better be huge because you’re going to have to promote it effectively. Patreon can be a lot of work to maintain, so set your expectations accordingly.

You could write short on Medium. Some writers enjoy that very much, but it’s not an ideal outlet for fiction.
For more on the challenges and strategies of writing fiction on Medium, read this informative blog post.

You could also try serializing your work by writing short and fast for Amazon’s new venture: Vella. However, given all I’ve read and heard about the challenges of writing and promoting on Vella, I do not recommend it at this time. It’s an interesting idea, and I did serialize some of my fiction when I started out. However, my assessment is that Vella is not ready for Primetime.

For more on the pros and cons of Vella, read this article on Medium.

Or read this writer’s experience on Vella.

If Vella still intrigues you and you want to try it out, get some help navigating it by joining a Vella Facebook group.


Before anyone complains, I must also note that there is a difference between writing serialized fiction and penning self-contained short stories. We’re already deep in the weeds here, so I’ll save that for another post.

Cool, Rob, but how do you make short stories pay?

Write novels, preferably in series, and use short stories as a way in for new readers.

You could write a short story prequel to your full-length novels and give that away everywhere (with links to your first-in-series).

I’m Your Candy Man

If you dig thrillers but you’ve never heard of The Night Man, you might not want to take a chance on me. However, my suspense anthology (Sometime Soon, Somewhere Close) isn’t the time commitment of reading a full-length thriller. It’s also cheaper. I write apocalyptic and dystopian thrillers, too, so All Empires Fall serves as a gateway drug to my novels.

Reading fiction is a lovely addiction. Give readers a taste they enjoy and they will come back for more. Whether you use short stories as a cheap entry point or as a free reader magnet for newsletter subscribers, the monetary payoff is unlikely to be immediate. It can be incredibly satisfying, though.

If you want to release rapidly to stay top of mind among your fan base, writing short can ease your stress immensely. It takes me far less time to write an anthology of short stories than it does to craft the complexity of a full-length novel. Hitting publish more often is fun and you’re throwing more spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. In publishing, big or small, that counts as market research.

My newest anthology is Our Zombie Hours. It’s a bit of horror for the purists, just in time for Halloween (and it’s free until midnight tonight).

Take a blurb to the face:

From the author of This Plague of Days, AFTER Life, and Endemic comes five adventures from the front line of the zombie apocalypse. As society collapses, humans often prove themselves more dangerous than the infected. Enjoy these fresh stories that explore survival, heroism, and betrayal in a world gone mad. A fun night of horror awaits. 

PICK UP Our Zombie hours, NOW ON AMAZON

Today is Saturday, October 23. Get Our Zombie Hours by midnight, and it’s free. After that, the anthology is astoundingly inexpensive. I’m hoping you’re an addict looking for a word fix. I want to be your Candy Man for life.

See all my drugs at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: short stories, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Real Writing Life

To be an author requires a lot of patience and not a little audacity. You spend many hours working alone, charting your own course and assuming someone will want your art. Of course, to bring your creation to market, you’ll need help from editors, proofreaders, beta readers, and graphic artists. I’m speaking here of all the time you face the blinking cursor and the blank page. I was reminded this week of the joys and frustrations of sailing solo.

The Obstacles in Your Way

The Movies That Made Us (on Netflix) has a great behind-the-scenes breakdown of what it took to get Elf made. When the primaries were brought together to create a modern Christmas classic, none of them were considered bankable. Even Will Ferrell wasn’t considered leading man material. The amazingly talented director, Jon Favreau, wasn’t money yet. The writer was unknown, but what they did have was vision. Film is a collaborative medium, and in this case, the creative team were all on the same page. It was the studio that stood in the way, even going so far as to try to edit it down to something it wasn’t. The higher-ups just didn’t “get it.”

Fortunately, a more ambitious artistic vision won out over the cynical studio execs. Favreau’s vision won out and commerce was served without compromising a film with real heart. Working by committee is difficult. Hollywood is full of stories of great scripts that got squashed, derided, or ignored for years before somehow making it to the screen and becoming a triumph. There’s a great book titled Afterwards, You’re a Genius. Looking back, everybody says, “Of course, it’s a success!” Going forward, people aren’t so sure.

Do anything, and plenty of naysayers will emerge to helpfully inform you what you’re attempting won’t work. Often, the people who say they’d do it differently don’t do anything at all. Sometimes I wonder how anything great makes it to the big screen.

And then there’s Paterson

The tiniest movie I’ve watched in a long time is Paterson, starring Adam Driver. It’s so low-key, you’ll watch it thinking, Where is this going? It’s a small, meditative film that flirts with the surreal. It’s a fairly uneventful week in the life of a bus driver who loves poetry. That’s it. No explosions. No action sequences. I can’t even say there’s a plot per se. However, it does have charm, and it offers an experience where the quotidian is the point. If you’re a Fast & Furious devotee, you might find this one soporific. I found something to love, though.

First, it’s kind of amazing this movie exists. No matter how small the movie is, big money and an army of participants are needed. Remember when a movie only required one production company? Now, movies are so expensive, I get tired and irritated just slogging through the opening credits as we get a slew of title cards and logos. (For example: A production of A Working Title Films, in association with Armchair Studios, a film by Lawrence Blahdiblah, with Fade in Innovators, and The Super8 Incubator and oh my God, get to it, I’m already out of popcorn!)

Second, Paterson is about an artist trying to create while dealing with the day-to-day struggle to survive. He writes poetry for the experience itself. Money must be made, and that’s what the day job is for. However, passions must be fostered and he draws on the mundane to create something beautiful.

The bus driver steals precious moments from the beginning of his shift to jot down a few lines in his notebook. His partner stays at home, painting everything while dreaming of becoming a country music star who’s also hoping to become a cupcake entrepreneur. The bartender aspires to win a chess tournament while a rapper works on spitting rhymes in a laundromat.

Meeting the rapper, the bus driver looks around the empty laundromat and says, “This is your lab?”

“Wherever I am,” the rapper replies, “that’s where it happens.”

That’s the creative spirit, always on duty, always practicing and perfecting, taking in everything to feed the muse.

Despite the surreal undertones, Paterson does not happen in an alternative universe. This is the world of any artist in our world. We create because something within urges us to do so. Most of those efforts will go unheralded. There is only one Jon Favreau, but we’re all out here, doing our thing. Most of us couldn’t tell you why. We just love words and stories. We’re trapped in the amber of the everyday, but we dream of more. We create worlds.

This sounds like a romantic notion, but it’s not. Yesterday, I completed final edits on my next big book. I think I’ve created an apocalyptic classic in Endemic (to be released early November). At 390 pages and 100,000 words, it’s an ambitious story about a neurotic book nerd facing down marauders in a plague-ravaged New York City. I was elated to send out the ARCs and excited to finally get the graphics set up for the hardcover and paperback. This has been two years in the making, so I could barely contain myself as my ARC team replied with their excitement and congratulations.

Pop the champagne, right? Um, no.

While still in the throes of self-congratulation, I had to go get winter tires on my car. Due to a miscommunication on my part, my son had taken the car to work. I stepped onto an empty driveway and panicked a little. I had to run to his workplace to pick up the car. Meanwhile, my laptop has failed and my desktop is iffy, too, so I’m struggling with how to afford to buy a new dream machine.

And that, my friends, is the writing life. Toil in obscurity, do the dishes, get your ass back in the chair in front of the keyboard. Maybe you’ll win an award, but that’s one night and then it’s back to work. Maybe you’ll make it big and have assistants to fetch you scones and coffee one day, but probably not. There’s only one Jon Favreau, but there are millions of writers across the world doing their thing because…I don’t know. Just because, man. We have to.

~ Check out my apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: the writing life, , , , , , ,

http://mybook.to/OurZombieHours
A NEW ZOMBIE ANTHOLOGY

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

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

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

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

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

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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

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