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

Write and publish with love and fury.

#NaNoWriMo: And what if you don’t?

Free to you Nov. 26 – 30, 2012. If you love it, please review it. Thanks!

What happens if you aren’t a “winner” at National Novel Writing Month? The Mayan Apocalypse was set aside for you. The end is near and it’s going to be like that John Cusack movie, 2012, only longer, with burnt popcorn and more uncomfortable seats. 

Well, no, actually. NaNoWriMo isn’t another of those insipid chain letters that will kill you with a falling baby grand piano if you don’t complete it within the specified time. Fifty-thousand words and one month is an arbitrary deadline. It’s a fun and, I think, worthwhile challenge, but just because you didn’t make the quota — and there’s still time left, by the way — doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer. Mom still loves you, though she still prefers your brother Ted. Dad doesn’t think you’re any less unemployable (or more employable) than you were last month at about this time. You dog does not judge you…harshly. You still don’t take him out for enough walks, though. The status quo is preserved.

You’re certainly no farther behind than all those people who did make it to 50,000 words but will never look at their manuscript again. Their art is stillborn. Sadly, plenty of people who enter NaNoWriMo   have something worthy of publishing but will never know. The challenge, to them, was just a challenge, like how long can you go just eating pineapple and refried beans? Years from now they will sit in a dingy bar packed to the rafters with Rue and say, “Yeah, I wrote a novel once.” Before taking another long pull on a long neck, they’ll finish with a whisper, “…sort of.”

So what are you feeling so bad about? If you’re not going to make it to 50,000 words but you’re still reading this post, I bet you’re more serious than Mr. Sort Of. You’ve made it this far, looking for commiseration and a shoulder to cry on and all that. You don’t need a shoulder to cry on (and cleavage is better for that activity.) What you need is more time.

Many people don’t finish NaNoWriMo for great reasons. Stuff happens. Cats sit on your keyboard. Your sister called too many times at midnight to complain about her husband and how his new boyfriend leaves the toilet seat up. People get sick. Maybe you got tied up with work that actually pays. That’s important. Maybe you got sucked into a marathon of Hillybilly Hand Fish— okay, even my cheerleading efforts have limits. Shoot yourself.

I’m a cheerleader for anyone who writes to a daily word count, whether they are in NaNoWriMo or slogging through and constantly sweating a book out. Today I wrote a mere 1,900 words. I usually write close to three thousand a day. What’s galactically unjust is an author friend of mine reported that she just wrote over 4,000 words yesterday. (Pavarti! Dang it! That should have been me!) You see, my NaNoWriMo challenge is 365/24/7. You know books aren’t written in a month and you know this challenge is just a start. If you wrote enough so you have a good start on a novel, good for you. It can still be brilliant. Arbitrary is just so damned arbitrary, don’t you find?

Maybe you’re simply one of those tortured artists who take a little longer to write a masterpiece. If you’re a Canadian author, for instance, the government’s Royal Department of Vaunted Canlit requires that each book must take several years to write, with extra points awarded if you write about hard Arctic winters, houses made of sod and relentless, howling blizzards. To qualify, each revision must be completed in a birch bark canoe. If CBC Television scrapes any conflict out of your book and makes it into a movie (entirely in sepia tones with lots of bonnets or at least Labrador outports), you’re a serious Canlit contender. Congrats, you poor bastard. When Jian Ghomeshi interviews you on CBC Radio, answer in murmured Zen koans and only allow a small, smug smile, like you’re holding in a fart worthy of Margaret Atwood. There’s no money in being part of the Canadian literary establishment, so instead you get a trace of mystique among U of T English majors — wear a big hat and a long coat to readings — and the vague recognition that occasionally accompanies that ghostly, elusive thing that is “Canadian celebrity”.

Even if you aren’t Canadian, there are still great hurdles to overcome before you write your book and earn the respect of the literary establishment. First, you must never mention any connection between your Great American Novel and NaNoWriMo. Next, leather elbow patches are a must and always refer to the story as “the Text”. (Make sure they hear the capital T.) To really rock the foundations of letters and get Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut to step aside for a new, greater entry into The Great Works of Literature Hall of Fame (and Gas Bar), give that manuscript of yours another couple of weeks.

BONUS TIP: If you’re going to take a day off from writing anyway, avoid misery and decide that at the beginning of the day. If it flogs you all day and at bedtime you decide today’s not a day to write, you’ve paid a needless stress debt. There’s enough stress in the world without adding to it.

A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction.

~ In addition to writing about publishing in Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your book: Aspire to Inspire, Robert Chazz Chute plots murder constantly, often in relation to fiction. His latest is a delightfully violent and occasionally sexy romp called Higher Than Jesus. He begs that you buy it and read it and review it because he has no shame anymore. Pride is a luxury bought with money. Sure, that last bit sounds like Jane Eyre, but those are his words! (This is also a  good time to admit that I, Chazz, am currently writing these words about myself in the third person. I’ve rarely loathed myself more deeply.) For more on books of suspense and nonsense by Chazz or to hear the free All That Chazz podcast, slum in his grimy little author site just off the Jersey turnpike in back of a dark bar with lipstick on the glasses, AllThatChazz.com. The glasses are all dirty mason jars and the bartender is a study in jailhouse tattoos.

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Ultimate Blog Challenge: I was on CBC Radio’s Cross Country Checkup yesterday

Yesterday I spoke on national radio in Canada. The show is Cross Country Checkup on CBC Radio. I reference the show in my

English: Lion's mane jellyfish Español: Medusa...

English: Lion’s mane jellyfish Español: Medusa melena de león ártica (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

book Self-help for Stoners (it’s the last story, called Context.) I did get to plug my latest book, but I didn’t mention Context on the show, though. It wasn’t the same host. The topic was basically, Social Media: Good or Bad?

They tried to finesse it, but that was the basic, kind of clunky, out-of-date, black and white question. Thing is, I think I was in the minority in extolling the virtues of social media! I was a bit shocked about how many people called in to say how terrible social media was for the children, the zombified masses and the fate of our doomed society. After I hung up I realized that, though they did have a few social media experts to balance things out, the demographic of listeners to CBC Radio on a Sunday afternoon aren’t exactly social media mavens.

For all the hand wringing, most of the objections people raised about social media seem to come down to poor time management and either/or thinking. They couldn’t say no to their kids. They couldn’t turn it off or they were nostalgic for a time that never was.

Here’s what I said on the show (and a couple of points I didn’t get a chance to add):

1. Social media allows me to have the business I do. (Yes, here’s where the plug for Bigger Than Jesus came in.)

2. I like what social media does to my brain. More neural input leads to more complex neural output.

3. Social media allows me to meet people I never would. And I wasn’t at all social in person before. I pretend to be an extrovert here. In real life, I’m one long beard and a pack of chewing tobacco away from being a recluse.

4. My neighbours are fine people, but our relationships are infrequent and accidents of proximity. Social media gives me the tribe, followers and conversationalists I choose.

5. Get used to it. Social media is spatial displacement. I don’t have to be there to be there. Physical presence is not required. This should be obvious since I was speaking on a national phone-in show that’s broadcast around the world.

6. We are social animals. (If we weren’t, we’d be extinct.) Social media is the new place to be social. Wring your hands all you want. We aren’t going backwards. Is it just for narcissists? I’d say we are all so subjective, we are all narcissists. However, the guy who extolled the virtues of cutting himself off from the noise of social media so he could explore only what his brain could come up with? That jerk sounded like the King of the Narcissists.

7. With Twitter and Facebook, I get information pushed at me that I wouldn’t think to search for. The other day I saw a Lion’s Mane Jellyfish for the first time. (See the picture above? That’s one.) It’s amazing. It predates the dinosaurs and they are still floating around in the Arctic Ocean. Oh, yeah. Did I mention they are about the size of a huge cube van? They’re a-MAZ-ing! I ended up using a reference to the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish in my new crime thriller. (I know that sounds crazy, but you’ll get the metaphor when you read Higher Than Jesus this fall.)

8. People worry social media takes too much time. The founding fathers of the United States wrote reams and reams of letters in their lifetimes that must have taken hours out of every day. They still got a few things done, don’t you think? (You could argue that the founding fathers had slaves. True, though I read somewhere that all our modern conveniences which automate our lives so much actually replace the work of fifty slaves, so everything evens out except for the awful horror of slavery.)

9. Someone argued that social media reduces us to selling ourselves all the time. How is that different from always except we now have a more efficient way to do it? We sell ourselves, our time, our personalities to get a job, get a mate, keep a job, keep a mate and to avoid being disowned by our parents and children. Tools change quickly. We evolve slowly.

10. Social media has a tremendous power for good and just because the critics can’t handle it doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t love it and use it responsibly. Through social media I sell my books. Without social media I wouldn’t know all the cool people I know. Were it not for social media, I would not have been privileged to participate in a campaign to help a young man suffering leukaemia with his medical bills. (I wouldn’t even have known about his struggle in the first place.)

I probably irritated some CBC listeners because

Get Bigger Than Jesus

I was one of the few who weren’t worried about the damage social media can do.

It will make them feel better to know that my appearance didn’t help me sell a single book.

So much for moving that needle.

(UBC #13 of 31)

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

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