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

Write and publish with love and fury.

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

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

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

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

The bigger person usually wins the fight.

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

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

The person who strikes first usually wins the fight.

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

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

The person who is better prepared wins the fight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fighter with more muscle usually wins.

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

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

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

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

Fighters fight.

Writers write.

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

More Fury: Haters, Taxes, #Readings, #Podcasts

Higher than Jesus Final NEW copy

FYI: The new edition of the All That Chazz Podcast is up at AllThatChazz.com and it includes:

1. Waiting in shivering anticipation for Liberace.

2. A short, crazed rant on haters and my unreasonable sensitivity.

3. Jesus explains and forgives plus Stitcher issues.

4. Bradley Manning and awesome podcast recommendations. 

5. Scott Sigler on the Joe Rogan Experience (and self-loathing.)

6. Two readings: Chapters 9 and 10 of Higher Than Jesus: Hollow Man and Fight Club.

7. Whining about taxes and railing against my accountant.

 

Listen to the new podcast, More Fury: The Hollow Man Edition. If the show tickled your fancy, please leave a happy review on iTunes because that helps. If you don’t care for All That Chazz, try the Cool People Podcast. Cheers!

~Chazz

PS What am I doing? Editing the same way I do everything: Furiously.

Filed under: podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Author Blog Challenge: I love the voices in my head

Michael Clarke Duncan at the Warner Brothers L...

Michael Clarke Duncan at the Warner Brothers Lot in Burbank, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the writing prompts for the Author Blog Challenge is to choose a favorite literary character. That’s tough. I mean, I relate to Tyler Durden from Fight Club, but the cognitive dissonance kicks me in the pills when I realize that, beside the insomnia and ennui, I am not even Tyler’s alter-ego. I have a few things in common with Portnoy from Portnoy’s Complaint, though. Ugh.

This isn’t a dodge and I don’t mean to fall into douchey pimping, but the truth is my favorite literary character is whichever one I’m writing at this moment. I have several works on the go, so let me introduce the interesting people I hang out with while strangers assume I’m staring off into space and drooling:

Legs Gabrielle is a very funny comedian whose career has fallen through the floor. She finds herself back in Poeticule Bay, Maine, in the house she ran away from as a teenager. A killer has come to town, the Sheriff disappears, the deputy is cute, her sister has cancer (and might also be crazy.) I love Legs’s sense of humour and she’s a pleasure to write for the jokes that work as  counterpoint to her emotional depth. Hollywood has rejected her, but she’s the star of her own book soon.

Chili Gillie is a Michael Clarke Duncan lookalike, Legs’ bodyguard and has Mike Tyson’s voice. He’s a sweet man who only looks mean when needed. He’s the calm rationality around which the crazy revolves. His presence is extraordinary, but he’s the most normal of my characters. Both Legs and Chili are the stars of the first story in Self-help for Stoners and Chili shows up again in Bigger Than Jesus in a larger role. I’ve got big plans for him.

Dr. Circe Papua turns up a lot in my fiction. She’s a psycho psychotherapist who is magically persuasive and can be deadly if provoked. I love her cunning, unexpected lethality. Circe’s complex relationships with her patients often demand a battle of wills and wit. She shows up in different incarnations in Self-help for Stoners, Vengeance is #1, Corrective Measures and Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit).

Jesus Diaz is a mob enforcer who doesn’t want to be what his tragic childhood and circumstance has made him. He wants, above all, to fall in love with the right woman (if he can ever find her) and go relatively straight. He’s the main character in my crime novel, Bigger Than Jesus and I like him most for three things: he’s clever and prefers to lie rather than fight; he’s not really all that tough despite his profession; and he’s funny. I like funny people and chapters that whip along, full of pops and surprises. The series reads like a Cohen brother’s movie. Bad things keep happening even though you think you have an easy way out. This book will be out very soon and I’m jonesing for it. Just nailing down the cover and then we’re just about there. Jesus Diaz originally came to me as a story for Self-help for Stoners, but in that incarnation, he’s a much older, wiser and experienced assassin.

Jack (from Corrective Measures and Sex, Death and Mind Control.) Jack is a serial killer who I find interesting because of the way he sees our world. He thinks about vengeance quite a bit, but I’m actually more interested in writing him when he’s not himself. He’s fascinating when he’s trying to fit in and working through his twisted motivations and problems. He’s a dark avenging angel who has to hide his wings (metaphorically, that is) as he punishes people he decides deserve bad ends.

What’s fun is, eventually, I’m going to have all these characters meet in one book, but they have a lot of work to do before they meet. I have a lot of books to write before that happens, too. It’s exhilarating, daunting and pretty cool. Yeah, I said so myself.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Author Blog Challenge: Writers to adore

The Princess Bride writer William Goldman His ...

The Princess Bride writer William Goldman His Q&A closed the Expo and included the largest audience of the Expo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another writing prompt for the Author Blog Challenge is: Which writers do you most admire? In a week or so I’ll release Bigger Than Jesus, my first crime novel in a series. In part, the book is dedicated to William Goldman. You know the movies he has written: The Princess Bride, Marathon Man, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. But you probably don’t know his many novels: Edged Weapons became the movie, Heat with Burt Reynolds; Brothers (a sequel to Marathon Man); and my beloved The Color of Light. What sets Goldman apart is his plotting, his humour and his enormous capacity to surprise the reader. Just when you think you know what happens next, he sucker punches you. I’m all about surprises, too, so I love that.

Who else? Stephen King gets a nod for telling a story straight and well and for sheer output. Chuck Palahniuk is another favorite because we share an interest in the weird but true. Also, Chuck does not rest on his laurels. He takes chances with his books. He’s not trying to do Fight Club over and over and he has even jumped boldly into experimental fiction here and there (like Pygmy and Rant.) What distinguishes his style is that he does not judge his characters. Things happen. Morals are for readers to come up with (or not). There are traits from Goldman, King and Palahniuk I either came by one my own or absorbed. I don’t really believe in emulation of other writers, but I recognize similarities in process.

Recently, someone on a podcast reported that fiction is dead. They said people don’t have time for novels anymore. They want it short and then? Make it shorter than that. The death of the novel has been predicted almost as many times and with as much certitude as “Vampires are so over, man.” I’d worry about the state of fiction, but then I read Run by Blake Crouch and I don’t think we have to worry. Write a great book and tell the story in such a way that the reader can’t put it down. Make them laugh. Make them cringe. Sucker punch them with surprise. The novel will survive. I hope so, anyway, because I am otherwise unemployable.

With each opening, with each beat, with every chapter that ends with a cliffhanger:

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

When Bigger Than Jesus comes out, you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , ,

Save Your Darlings

“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”

~ William Faulkner

There’s lots of writing advice out there. I never worry about giving anyone advice that is incorrect because experience tells me people will only take the advice that appeals to them anyway. That said, save you darlings. Resuscitate them. William Faulkner’s darlings are not your darlings. Maybe that suited him, but that doesn’t mean it suits you and your book.

For instance, I once read Famous Agent’s argument that killing your darlings equates to getting rid of the stuff that is “too clever.” Oh, Jesus, no! We wouldn’t want anything in there that’s too clever! Make it all bland and uniform. Or waitaminute! Why don’t we want it clever again? In fact, wouldn’t it be great if you published a book that only contained your darlings? Wouldn’t it be great to have a book that was so clever that it was the common ideas that stood out for deletion and not the clever ones? I’m not arguing for self-conscious writing that sounds “writerly.” I am arguing for writing that takes a chance, challenges a reader once in a while and becomes distinctive art.

Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club is packed with clever ideas, for instance. The interesting thing is, Fight Club was a reaction to the rejection. Palahniuk submitted something else first and got negative comments. His solution? Go even further and stay true to his voice. What I’m saying is, killing your darlings sounds like clever advice until you think about it a moment longer. Killing your darlings could lead to a lot of bland writing. I like intellectual engagement in my reading. I prefer surprises. Give me a ranty sprinkles of philosophy. Ladle in the new and different. I’ll love you for it. You can take a foray into something that doesn’t move the plot forward. If you make it entertaining, it will work. (Stephen King has also urged young authors to kill their darlings, but I don’t believe him. His fiction often goes off into side tracks and detailed forays that don’t necessarily advance the plot.)

Worse? I accuse William Faulkner of fraud. He didn’t kill his darlings. Faulkner is one of the greats precisely because he didn’t kill his darlings. Had he taken his own advice, As I Lay Dying wouldn’t have this:

“My mother is a fish.” 

Mr. Faulkner? J’accuse!

Filed under: authors, Writers, writing tips, , , , , ,

Writers: Is writing therapy for you?

Reverend Billy from The Church of Life After S...

Image via Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing can be therapeutic. You can get some etheric vengeance, exorcise your demons and find peaceful transcendence.

But I don’t think your therapy should show. If you stray into telling the reader how to feel, your writing experience intrudes into their reading experience.

Don’t do that, please.

What writing teachers don’t say is, “Not getting preachy is really hard.” For instance, in my WIP, I touch on issues around censorship. In fact, I’ve noticed my penchant for not just touching on the issue, but hammering on it.

How do you know you’re hammering your personal issue too hard? Overexplaining irritates readers. Making two characters argue and leaving the opposing side too weak is another sign. Look for when the action stops and restart it. For instance, when your protagonist slips into a monologue that goes on uninterrupted, he’s at the pulpit and you’re losing readers.

You can still have a point of view, of course. Just lay out facts. Let your readers decide. Slip the facts amongst the action of the story. Don’t lay it all out at once. Instead of pontificating, let arguments percolate through the story.

Orwell’s 1984, for instance, shows the horror of the all-controlling state. Orwell doesn’t tell you it’s awful and list why. He shows cages full of rats. Chuck Palahniuk‘s style is another good example. He doesn’t tell the reader how to feel. Non-judgmental writing yields effective results.

Don’t write from your therapist’s couch. The benefits you get from writing may be every bit as personal and profound as a therapy session from In Treatment, but if you’re writing for an audience, please let your readers find their own therapy.  In Finding Forrester, Sean Connery says, “You write the first draft with your heart and the next with your head.” 

Filed under: Books, manuscript evaluation, publishing, Rant, Rejection, Useful writing links, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: The Secret to Writing a Bestseller

bestseller_logo

Image via Wikipedia

The only thing you can do to ensure

you come at all close to writing a bestseller is:

Write your book!

After that? I hate to disappoint you, but there is no secret.

There is information you should consider, however, like acting on the things you can affect (factors) and refraining from making yourself crazy trying to change things that have a negative effect on you (variables.) 

Don’t focus on variables.

Focus on factors you can control:

1. Write the best book you can.

2. Build your audience (Teach, review, tweet, blog, network, learn, connect etc.,…)

3. Get your book to market (trad or indie publishing—that’s a different post.)

4. Do it again.

You’re going to want to come back to and act on 1 – 4 again and again.

The rest is explication.

I can already hear howls of protest about the title of this post. However, if you get an email from someone claiming they have insider secrets to making your book an instant bestseller, you can safely move on. There are some wacky claims out there, so let’s unpack and debunk.

First off, there are far too many variables that are out of your hands for any one person to direct you to bestsellerdom. In the publishing process there are a lot of variables. All of them have to fall into place for your book to be sold, but even if that were to happen, there are no guarantees your book will climb the charts…even if it’s good.

There are a lot of good books. Sadly, that doesn’t mean we’ve heard of them.

Consider Chuck Palahniuk‘s Fight Club and Choke. They both became movies, but just before it was announced Brad Pitt was going to do the Fight Club movie, I saw it in the remainder bin. They got whipped out of there when his book got the movie deal and the newest hire had to peel off all those stickers that read: Marked Down. The author wrote a great book in Fight Club, but he was headed back to anonymity before the lucky break. (He’s proved his worth since over and over, too; he’s prolific and, weirdly, I even saw a major review that didn’t even mention Fight Club.)

His case is a perfect example of something falling into place that was totally out of the author’s control. If Antonio Sabato Junior had played the role instead of Tyler Durden and Lindsay Lohan had played Marla instead of Helena Bonham-Carter, you would never have heard of Palahniuk’s books (because that’s a lot of stink to overcome.) Antonio was good in the few minutes he was in The Big Hit, but generally, if you see a movie poster with Lindsay and Antonio, you don’t think,  “Ooh, gotta see that!”

The most important reason you can’t just follow set rules and write a bestseller is that what William Goldman said about Hollywood also applies to publishing. “Nobody knows anything.”

That’s why there are sleeper hits. I wandered into Fargo and Highlander, didn’t know what to expect, and was blown away. Margaret Atwood snuck up and surprised me with The Year of the Flood—okay, maybe other people expected great things from Atwood every time, but that’s the book that turned me around on that author. (Can’t wait for the third in the series!)

When manuscripts go up for auction to big publishing houses, acquiring editors bid because they want a hit. Even when books go for big money, that’s no guarantee of great success. In fact, if the author doesn’t earn out that big advance, it’s a very public failure. That blemish on their record hurts authors when they try to sell their next book.

It’s a subjective business. If agents and acquiring editors really knew much beyond their own taste, then every book they bought would sell very well. Look at the bestseller lists. There are only so many spots in the top ten lists. Then look at the book store shelves packed with midlist titles. That’s a lot of books, and those are just the books the stores stock. There are many more books published than ever make it to bookshelves, yet somebody thought each book would earn out its advance.

Nobody’s betting on losers on purpose. The bestsellers are the frontlist. The books that aren’t expected to do as well are the midlist. Midlist authors are still generally expected to earn out their advance, however. Remember: it’s business, not charity.

Hm. Somebody’s going to object that there are exceptions (and, of course, there always are. Can we say much at all without some generalizing?) So I must admit I did know a publisher who bet on losers pretty much exclusively. Maybe he was noble and doing it only for the art (and government grants) or maybe his judgement was just galactically poor. He’s out of business now so no more art. (Last parenthetical, I promise: And if you publish poetry, nothing is frontlist or midlist because no one pubishes poetry expecting to make money.)

Back to the book store: See all those dogs in the remainder bin? Somewhere, someone bet a lot that each one of those books would sell really well.

Some books aren’t a surprise when they do well, but for those books, that’s not the game anymore. When a publisher buys a Sarah Palin book, they aren’t so concerned whether it will sell. Their concern with a book like that is, how much and how fast will it meet higher expectations and sell more? When a book succeeds, the publisher has to time the next printing right and gauge how much promotional money should go into the publicity campaign to push it as far as it can profitably burn.

Publishers concentrate their limited resources on the few books they think will have a shot at bestsellerdom because they will take a loss on most of their catalogue. Some don’t believe it and authors lament it, but publishing is a business. And it’s a business with very small margins.  

Even when publishers get books on the shelf, it’s not even over then. The sell-through is what’s important. Unlike any other business, publishing’s tradition—blame Simon & Schuster—is that books that don’t sell may be returned for credit. It’s a tradition that may eventually be dropped, especially when there are fewer book stores around.

I’m dying here! Give me some good news, Chazz!

Okay. The good news is that when you get rejected, you can take comfort in the knowledge that nobody knows anything. Maybe the guy who rejected you also rejected JK Rowling, so what do they really know anyway? Maybe you are destined to be a sleeper hit.

Do better than that, Chazz! I said I’m dying!

Sorry. How about this? Contests, bestseller lists, critics and reviews might help an unknown author, but it’s really word of mouth that makes a book popular. (Or a big movie deal.) The antidote to your angst is to keep writing and pitching. Find your audience and put yourself out there to be found.

How?

Go back to Factors 1 -4 at the top of this post.

Better? Now go write.

Filed under: authors, Books, Editors, getting it done, links, Poetry, publishing, Rant, Rejection, rules of writing, Writers, writing tips, , , , ,

cHUCK pAHLANIUK: Relax!

A lot of authors come and go or are trapped in the midlist and never break out, soon to be dumped by their publishers and agents after having their hopes briefly elevated. Others soar briefly, but the brand doesn’t catch on and now industry insiders wink at each other, telling each other the has-been was a flavor of the month. (These same editors, agents and publishers were certain they’d discovered the next Philip Roth not long before.)

Jay McInerney, for instance, wrote three really good books I loved: Ransom, Story of My Life and Bright Lights, Big City (which was made into a very good movie starring Michael J. Fox.) I tried to read the author’s next work but I felt he was suddenly trying to write as if he was an English author from a previous century. His solid stuff exhibited a sharp post-modernist wit but somewhere between his experimental popular fiction and what he wrote afterward, he wandered off. He’s still a successful guy and writes about wine and has made it big in the magazine world. However, he’s unknown to a new generation of readers and so, has become a bit of a footnote. In the 80s, you had to read him. Now? Really optional. He’s got a new book out, so maybe he’s working on a comeback.

Which brings us to: In a recent interview Chuck Pahlaniuk said he still didn’t feel like a success. (Wha–?)

I have proof he is a great success. Of course he wrote Fight Club (and a great movie was made of the book which is so close to the book they lifted almost all the dialogue.) Choke was made into a movie. He’s written quite a few books now actually: Lullaby (liked it), Diary (loved it), Survivor (liked it), Rant (not for me), Snuff (okay), Haunted (okay) Invisible Monsters (not for me) and Stranger the Fiction (really solid and readable.) He could stop there and have about as much output in numbers of books as Kurt Vonnegut had. Nothing to sneeze at.

BUT HERE’S THE PROOF PAHLANIUK IS A SUCCESS:

In a review of  Rant (which was laudatory, long and detailed) not once did the reviewer even mention Fight Club!

Chuck. You’ve made it into the pantheon.

Congratulations.

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

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

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

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

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

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

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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

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