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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

The BookBub Ads We Don’t Talk About

How do I make a bobby ad, the kind where I choose them instead of hoping they’ll choose me?

You can apply to BookBub and hope you get picked for their newsletter deals for their multitude of subscribers. It’s difficult to get into, far harder than it used to be. Back in the gold rush days, I was fortunate to get the okay from BookBub several times. Today, I’m talking about their other option. You can bypass the BookBub lottery and pay for a targeted ad to appear on at the bottom of their daily newsletters.

How it works

From your BookBub partners dashboard, under My Promotions, choose BookBub Ads. From there, build your own image or use their template. Set the length of campaign, total budget for the campaign, and bid by CPM (cost per thousand impressions). Target by genre and/or by authors with whom you are a kindred spirit. The site gives you a sense of whether your targeting is too broad or too specific. All pretty straightforward.

I have experimented with these ads before and, honestly, the results were grim. Be cautious and conservative and test, test, test or you’re setting your money on fire. What I like about these ads is the interface. It’s much less complicated than the Amazon ads dashboard. You don’t have to slog through a confusing user interface to get the data you need for feedback on your experiments.

How do I make the art that goes with my ad?

Listening to Six Figure Authors recently, they suggested using evocative art that reflects your book. They argued against using your book’s cover. I enjoy that podcast, and rarely dare to disagree. However, if your cover art is as great as it should be and reflects your genre, I’d stick with it. That’s what I’m doing. (You might notice the ad example above is blurry. That’s because it’s blown up for the blog. At its ad size of 300 x 250 px, the image is sharp. My cover art for Endemic is from 100covers.com and they were very pleasant to work with.)

Bookbub offers you a template so you can upload your cover. You can make your own easily using sites like Bookbrush or Canva. If you decide to go with art that isn’t your book cover, try depositphotos.com.

A Word About Bookbrush

I recommend it. I like their options and they are improving their offerings and the user interface. If you checked them out before, but we’re sure you wanted to use it, look again.

However, in my opinion the platinum membership is too expensive for most authors’ needs. For instance, book trailers are a fun idea and I have experimented with them in the past. However, the ROI isn’t there at the premium price point of $246/year. Creating video for book trailers is a bottom of the barrel marketing priority. You can get that kind of add-on far cheaper on Fiverr.

Will my Bookbub ads pay off this time? We’ll see. I am very proud and confident in the book I’m offering readers, but as I said, keep an eye on your budget and test, test, test! When ads don’t work, kill them. At least with BookBub metrics, figuring out what’s working and what’s not won’t be a riddle wrapped in a mystery and hidden in a taco.

~ My latest apocalyptic epic is perfect for the bookish. Endemic’s protagonist, Ovid Fairweather, is a former book editor trapped in a pandemic that has yet to end. Pick up Endemic here.

For all my books, check out the links at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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

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.


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

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.

Filed under: publishing, writing advice, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Finding the Genre Vibe

When you’re writing, understand the tropes of your genre even if you don’t adhere to them closely. Lean into those and you’ll make your readers feel comfortable that they’re getting what they expected when they clicked the buy button. It’s a truism: People want the same thing, only different. Avoid cliches, sure, but tropes are often helpful in getting a reader and keeping a reader.

I must admit, I have not always stuck with what’s expected. My two zombie trilogies colored outside the lines. This Plague of Days is vastly different from a lot of books with “Zombie Apocalypse” in the subtitle. It’s a slow burn that builds and builds and relies heavily on supernatural elements and a mute hero on the spectrum. AFTER Life has plenty of zombie action, but the nanotechnology involved places the trilogy firmly in the techno thriller and least science fiction categories.

It may seem simple, but there are plenty of niches to drill down to and you don’t always know. When I published This Plague of Days, I thought I was writing straight horror. Then I got a Bookbub, and their marketing experts helpfully informed me I was writing science fiction. I suspect the success I had with TPOD was in part because of its contrast with other zombie books.

Now, when someone asks, I follow Stephen King’s example and say I’m a suspense writer. Mostly my backlist is suspenseful sci-fi. Other times, it’s crime fiction, but it’s all suspenseful. I’m a big fan of twists and turns. As I write this, my trusty Editrix Supreme, Gari Strawn of strawnediting.com, is working on my newest big book. It’s called Endemic, a survivalist thriller set in New York during the viral apocalypse. It does not have zombies in it, but there are infected people who are zombie-adjacent. The protagonist is a 38-year-old woman who is a very unlikely heroine. I like unlikely protagonists. If someone is prepared for their mission, the stakes are lowered. Will Endemic be different enough, or too different? We’ll see.

In the Meantime

While I wait for the final edits of Endemic, I cranked out a pop-up anthology. There was a time when I thought I was done writing short stories. However, I can produce them quickly and I enjoy writing them. Anthologies don’t sell as well as full novels, but I can use it for other purposes, such as creating an IP that leads to other IPs. Need a reader magnet to boost your newsletter? Short stories can give subscribers a sense of your style without the time commitment of a full free novel.

Leaning In

I’ve been reading a couple of gurus who are very deep into writing the same thing, only different. It can be profitable catering to a particular niche. If you’ve read X author and had a good time, you’ll probably read the rest of her books to get a similarly joyful experience. Browsing around, you’ll find successful authors who do this and their branding shows it. They have no shortage of entertaining stories their readership loves. Perhaps their biggest worry is burnout or that their graphic designer will die and they’ll have to find another who can create the same style of cover art. It is a good strategy and I do not disparage it.

For this coming anthology, I’m doing something I haven’t done before. I’m leaning into the zombie/horror tropes and giving readers more what they expect from the genre. That is not to say there won’t be twists and turns. I still offer plenty of those. However, there are no sci-fi elements. I just want to scare people for Halloween (and beyond).

Meaning

For all my writing, I look for meaning. The characters have to be relatable. Even if the good guys and bad guys are wading into the Wondrous Pool of the Fantastic, it’s important that readers find resonance. We all understand jealousy, anger, and fear. Tapping into our common human experience triggers the empathic parts of our brain. That’s when the world of the book envelops the reader.

You can accomplish that state by telling an entertaining story readers expect, or you can do it while pushing at the boundaries of their expectations. The trick is to do it in such a way that you reel them in instead of freaking them out.

Please note: Some minority of readers will always freak out.

Example: This Plague of Days has zombies and vampires in it. Some readers will never accept those genres colliding. They’ll take zombies, but introduce a smarter bloodthirsty killer, and suddenly they’re breaking the spine of the book and yelling, “Bullshit!” My thought was, what’s a sentient zombie? A vampire. Never mind that evolution, and never mind if you get a few reviewers who kick back against any genre-bending. That’s okay. Everybody gets an opinion. Relax and write your book.

There’s always someone who will say, “I would have done x, y, and zombie differently.” To which I reply, “Great! Go write that. Express yourself! Then somebody can try to educate you as to what they would have done differently. Then you’ll understand me better. Heh-heh-heh!

To put it crudely, meeting reader expectations does not make any writer a hack. Ideas are cheap. It’s the execution of the story you choose to tell that will elevate the work in readers’ minds or fall short of their expectations. I like blowing through their expectations, but it can be fun to play the game within restrictions, too. As Hitchcock said, a limited budget makes one more creative.

Endemic is a big book that will defy expectations because the protagonist is older, nerdy, and neurotic. She and I share several of the same neuroses, in fact. Our Zombie Hours is a small anthology playing to readers’ expectations of the horror genre. I’m oddly optimistic each book will find a readership.

To go deeper on writing, reading, and marketing that resonates with more readers, I suggest you check out 7 Figure Fiction: How to Use Universal Fantasy to Sell Your Books to Anyone by T. Taylor. It’s an enjoyable, quick read that will get you thinking about adding butter to your writing recipe and boost reader engagement with your words.

It’s all about resonance. Do you dig my vibe?

~ Robert Chazz Chute occasionally writes about himself in the third person (like right now) to encourage you to read his books. He writes apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. Browse them all at his author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: book marketing, This Plague of Days, writing, writing advice, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

An Apocalypse in the Middle of an Apocalypse

When I started publishing books in 2010, my pace got faster as I refined my processes. Take a couple of books through the editorial process and you identify quirks, mistakes, and inefficiencies you can avoid with future projects. At one point, I wrote five books in one year (and that was while I still had a day job). I took three days to format my first book. Back when I serialized This Plague of Days, I refined that formatting process down to a few minutes. Some things get easier with experience, feedback, and repetition. Then along came a killer pandemic and all my routines and expectations got torpedoed.

Trouble writing? This bud’s for you, bud.

Not Coping with COVID-19

The last book I put out was a thriller called The Night Man. That was Christmas, 2019. Almost two years later, I’m finally about to publish again. For several reasons, I took my time with my new book. This apocalyptic tale is a compelling experience that, in part, explores how we respond to disaster (or don’t). Endemic asks, “What happens when a pandemic never ends?” It’s not a short read, but the pacing will make it feel that way. I put so much of myself into this book that, despite its grand setting and sweeping scenes, the story is a relatable cautionary tale about what happens when variant storms strike. I wish the story wasn’t so relatable. The immediacy of viral dangers affected my writing routines negatively. What follows are my suggestions if you have been similarly afflicted.

How to Write (or not) in the Middle of an Ongoing Disaster

  • Put yourself on a social media diet. If the TikTok warning comes up suggesting you go outside to smell the roses, you know you’ve been on the app too long. It’s easy to get sucked into doom scrolling. I sure did. Though the news might give you ideas, it can just as easily suck away writing energy. So much of the news is repetitive that listening to a third epidemiologist in one day is counterproductive.
  • Self-care. Maybe that means remembering to take a shower. Perhaps exercise is missing from your day. Look at what’s missing and fill that need.
  • Writing sprints with a willing writing buddy work.
  • Setting a timer and writing your first draft as fast as you can in short bursts works, too.
  • Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.
  • Think of each chapter as a short story instead of setting your sights on a huge word count. “I am going to write 500 words before the top of the hour,” sounds reasonable and doable. “I’m going to knock out a massive epic of 150,000 words by the end of the month,” is intimidating.
  • Tell stories you feel a great need to tell. Passion alone may not take you all the way to the end of the project, but it should give you some inertia. Hacks don’t have passion. Business considerations are for before and after the writing session, not during. Write the story.
  • Abandon unreasonable expectations. If you’re writing 200 words a day, don’t torture yourself with promises to craft 10,000 words tomorrow morning.
  • There is no rule that says you have to produce x number of books a year. Things change. Your response can change. Do what you can do and want to do. What you think you need to do can’t be bigger than what you can do.
  • Avoid martyrdom. I’ve pulled my share of all-nighters as a writer. I don’t do that anymore because I know if I push myself too hard for too long, I’ll get burned out. I want to write useful pages. Longer hours might just give you more mistakes to fix.
  • You are a writer, not a robot. Accept that now isn’t necessarily your time to accomplish x, y, or z. The rise and grind ethos is fine if you can stay healthy working at a blistering pace. Some people get energy from that approach. It’s not for everyone, though. Is anything?
  • Many go-getters and gurus will encourage you to “get back to normal.” The pandemic is not over and, to me, such admonitions feel like celebrating a touchdown at the 30-yard line. I understand the inclination to pretend this disaster isn’t ongoing, but it is. These are not normal times and not everyone is okay. Not everyone’s losses or ability to respond to challenges are equal. Be kind to yourself.
  • Some writers have found the lockdown experience energizing to their work. I know of no stats that suggest what and where that split is. On the other hand, many people have quit their jobs. Writing is a job you can turn your back on. You can quit and focus your energies elsewhere. If it’s not good for you right now, be honest with yourself when you need to walk away.
  • Professionalism? Sure, I’m all for it. Set a schedule. Have a dedicated work space and show up. Establish flowcharts of your action plans for writing and marketing. Measure and record your quantitative output. Keep an eye on the quality of your input. Do the thing … as long as it’s helping you, not hurting. Writing is supposed to be fun, remember?
  • Hydration, sufficient sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise are all important. However, these are not panaceas. When people need help with physical and mental issues, some well-meaning cheerleaders will appear to tell you to go for a walk in the sunshine. That’s fine as far as it goes, but if your pancreas is merely serving a decorative function, you’re going to need more intervention than nice thoughts and meditation. If you need professional help, get it.
  • Another’s writer’s success can be motivating. That’s not true for me, though. When Amazon tells me an author I follow has come out with their fourth book in four weeks, I don’t feel good about myself. Besides, there are too many variables to replicate another’s path precisely. Do not compare your output to anyone else’s production schedule.
  • Procrastinate productively, whatever that means for you. If you need a nap and can do so, enjoy that nap. If you want to clean up your workspace, go head. However, don’t tell yourself you’re going to write “sometime” today and end up torturing yourself with I-should-haves. If you’re going to take the day off from writing, choose to do so consciously and choose early in the day. The worst writing days are the ones you tell yourself you were supposed to have had and didn’t execute.
  • A caution about procrastination: Are you one of those travelers who pack your entire wardrobe for a weekend getaway? When traveling, take half the clothes and twice the money. When writing, no, you don’t need to do so much research. Research to achieve verisimilitude is encouraged. Research that pushes your deadline back a month is procrastination.
  • Rely on social support. We have all grown more isolated in the last year and a half. Break loneliness. Talk to friends on the phone. Enjoy a Zoom call. Reach out and text someone. Share another cute dog video. Think of it as physical distancing, not social distancing.
  • Prioritize. That sounds like I’m scolding, so let me rephrase: Be lazy about the right things. Say no to the right things and yes to the write things. For instance, me to She Who Must Be Obeyed: “I got a lot of words down today, but I didn’t mow the lawn. It’ll keep another day.” Or, “I’m sick of the Sunday Bean Soup I made. It’s the fourth day in a row. Wanna order pizza?”
  • Writing, but you’re not feeling that last scene? Maybe it’s time to reward yourself with a short story to submit to an anthology. The right change can boost your creative energy. Taking a break can mean going for a swim. It might mean putting your energy into that mystery you’ve always dreamed of. You know, the one where the orangutan escapes from the zoo and solves heinous crimes with his sidekick, a Mormon sign language interpreter with a penchant for exotic cheeses. Do you, boo!
  • Blocked? Start writing about that. What does that frustration feel like? What childhood affront does that pain remind you of? Thinking about writing and not doing so is pain. Starting to write about anything, primes the pump and gets the juices flowing. Write fast, write now, and edit later. Silence your inner critic and dive in. Soon you’ll look up from the page and discover you’ve been at it a while and now you have something to work with. Blank pages are notoriously difficult to edit.
  • Read something that inspires you. You can read as a writer and analyze the narrative. I’d suggest you read like a reader instead. Remember the joy of reading? Let that feeling percolate so you’ll come back to your love of the written word.
  • Find what motivated you before you lost your mojo. There aren’t any wrong answers. Love, spite, competition, proving your ex wrong? Whatever gets you back to the writing mindset.
  • Aim for excellence, not perfection. Perfectionism is self-hatred. Some writers speak of putting out “minimum viable product.” I’m nervous about that wording and how it can be twisted. However, if it helps to get you writing, consider that there are plenty of successful writers entertaining legions of happy readers. Not all of them are solely focused on writing The Best Thing Ever Written. They are writing to entertain without the burden of a subjective and snobby literary standard.

What helped me most?

I faced challenges to my mental and physical health over the past couple of years. Chronic insomnia robbed me of many productive days, for instance. What I needed was time. I wrote a little, poking at my WIP. I didn’t manage to write every day. The best I could do was four days out of seven. When I allowed a limit and told myself it was okay not to write on a certain day (or series of days), the stress headaches went away. Taking my time with the story fueled my creativity. Patience made for a richer, more layered novel.

Writing a little at a time, I got where I needed to be. This month, I’ll release my first book in a long time. I’m healthier these days. My mojo and ambitions are rising again. There will be a hardcover, paperback, and a podcast of Endemic. Next year, expect an audiobook. Endemic holds echoes of my most successful series, This Plague of Days. I took my time. Endemic was worth the wait.

~ For all my killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics, please do check out my links at AllThatChazz.com.

http://www.AllThatChazz.com

Look for Endemic on Amazon later this month. To get your heads-up about when it’s available, sign up for updates at AllThatChazz.com.

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

But wait, there’s more!

You’ve all heard about the COVID “19” (as in pounds added during lockdown). In an effort to stay off a ventilator, I’ve been basically vegan since June. However, I needed to get even more serious about losing weight and improving my fitness. I have a blood test and physical coming up and I’m weirdly fixated on passing tests and impressing my physician. However, I did not expect how much my lifestyle would affect my writing life.

Margaret Atwood advises writers to exercise because many hours at the keyboard can mess with your body. From posture to pain, getting out in front of future problems is always a good idea. We all know healthy body, healthy mind. That’s not woo-woo. It’s about blood flow. I know we’re all focused on our next book launch, but there are also happy and helpful endorphins to be released in the meantime.

If you’re not up to a run around the block, that’s okay. The opposite of sedentary is not exercise, it’s activity. We need to move in whatever way we can. 10,000 steps a day is my minimum, but I also work with weights and do bodyweight exercise. I won’t go near my old gym at the moment. However, there are plenty of ways to get a sweat on quickly that don’t cost a thing.

You’ve heard it all before. No surprises here. I’d heard it all before, too. But then I felt it. It’s one thing to know something intellectually. It’s another to feel it move you deeply. I found myself moving more and liking it. I have more energy and my mood is definitely elevated.

The other night I went on a rare excursion to a grocery store. (TIP: Go late on a Saturday night and nobody’s there. The few staff outnumbered the customers.) While shopping for healthy choices, I started talking to myself, joking around in an outlandish English accent. “By Harry, those oddly shaped mushrooms are positively beastly! Percival! Unhand those biscuits at once! How dast you? My word, what cheek!”

I was happy for no apparent reason. That’s…well, let’s just say that’s uncharacteristic. Mama Chute done raised herself a dark spirit when she brought me into the great, dirty world. But there is a reason, of course: lifestyle change. There’s less shit gumming up the blood and no one (i.e. me) chucking wrenches in my biological gears.

But wait, there’s more!

My sleep disorder has improved markedly, and my hypochondria has eased. I have more energy to exercise and deal with life. A lightbulb went out last night, and I changed it immediately instead of thinking about it for a few weeks or months. All this newfound energy is translating to more keyboard time. I’m making progress on my next novel. Yes, I did peck away at it slowly in the past year, but I also spent too much time vegging out mindlessly, playing Sniper Elite, and trying not to think about the killer pandemic too much. Stressed, depressed, anxious, pissed off, worried about my low and forgotten place in the universe: I’m the whole darling package.

I am a work in progress. I’m still the before picture, but I haven’t been so optimistic about my after picture in over a year. Whether it be my health profile or my writing life, the trend is hopeful. 2020 was rough for everyone. 2021 will be better. We can make it so.

And now, back to working on Endemic.

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

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

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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