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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Writers, Readers and the Blame We Get

Dark Higher Than Jesus banner adI know a couple of erotica authors well enough to tell you that their private lives are not a full schedule of whips, naked gymnastics and ropes with elaborate knots. They’ve never had sex at the top of the Eiffel Tower with multiple hunky Norwegians. They’re ordinary moms who share your concerns about life. They have vivid imaginations that stay busy while they’re stuck in traffic as they chauffeur their children to play dates. Some readers draw conclusions about the character of the writer from the books they write. Unless it’s an autobiography, that’s an annoying habit.

When I wrote Self-help for Stoners, some readers assumed I was a drug addict. Never mind my liberal stance on unwinnable drug wars and the hypocrisy and sadism of sanctions against marijuana users. My addictions are sovereignty, choice and chocolate croissants. The drug I toss back most? Caffeine, just like you. When I wrote Sex, Death & Mind Control, some people thought I dabbled in the occult. Not so. I am not in a cult, either, (though I wouldn’t be averse to leading one for those awesome tax perks.) My work is fiction and my brain makes odd neural connections. Ideas get put together in new and exciting ways. That’s writing and that’s all.

When I gave my dad Higher Than Jesus for Christmas, he felt self-conscious about reading a crime novel written by his son that included sex. I know that because he tried to make me feel self-conscious about it. Yes, there’s a particularly blushworthy chapter, but I told him when I gave it to him that he never complained about the violence in my books, so he didn’t get to object to the sex. Here’s that fun phone conversation:

Me: Merry Christmas, Dad!

Him: I’m almost finished reading Higher Than Jesus. It’s quite the book.

Me (catching the tone): Uh-huh.

Him: I think you have fantasies about long legs —

Me: Stop! It’s fiction, Dad. I’m a writer. You’re an adult. I’m treating you like one.

Him (apparently unconvinced of points one through four): Mm, yeah. Well, I did enjoy it.

Me (deadpan): Imagine my relief.

Worse? Now I’m a bit worried. Since the gut-wrenching horror of the tragedy and loss in Newtown, Connecticut, even I’m becoming concerned that my fiction might intersect with real life. Part of the plot of Higher Than Jesus turns on a gun control issue and the actions of a fanatical group. Real life events have turned since I wrote that novel. Congruence make me think that my fiction and conjecture could actually line up with plots in reality. If something in particular (a very bad thing) happens in January, will some reader try to make that connection to my funny, sexy crime novel? They won’t call me prescient. They’ll wonder if a nut read my book!  

I hope law enforcement officers will foil any real life plots. Jesus Diaz is an interesting character, but I don’t think issues of national security and international peace should be left to my goofy, conflicted, love-obsessed, Vicodin-addicted hit man. He foils plots, too, but never in an easy, linear way. Our world has lots of tough problems, but fiction isn’t the problem. If anything, it’s a solution. Fiction is a safe outlet for revenge fantasies. Art yields entertainment, not sorrow. (Yes, I believe this is true about video games, too. Penn & Teller did an episode about the safety of video games. Here’s a link to that vulgar, NSFW video on my author site. This video is not for the easily offended or anyone who refuses to even consider that video games might not cause horrible school shootings.)

To readers: Please don’t ascribe words on the page to the character of the author. We’re just tap dancing to entertain you and most of us prefer to keep our violence where it can be safely managed: In fiction. Yes, my revenge fantasies are rooted in a deep dark place, but I learned to sublimate my rage with humour. If you’re going to make assumptions about me from my books, please assume I’m better than I am, not worse.

"Worthy of Elmore Leonard with shades of Thomas Harris..."

“Worthy of Elmore Leonard with shades of Thomas Harris…”

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes suspense and crime novels. He’s not Cuban. He’s not a hit man. He’s close to the same height as his Cuban hit man, though, so clearly he’s exactly like his fictional killer. Hear the All That Chazz podcast and check out his books at the links at AllThatChazz.com.

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Setting writing and exercise goals that work

Grab Crack the Indie Author Code here.

Grab Crack the Indie Author Code here.

Years ago I read a book by an exercise guru who encouraged people to change everything about their lives all at once. The energy of a radical overhaul, he said, would lead to an unstoppable momentum. Recently I read The Nerdist’s Way by Chris Hardwick and I think a softer, less demanding approach has a better chance at making long-term change. I think the same slow but steady approach to writing can help us, too. Don’t get overwhelmed in your race to publication.

There are many radical exercise programs out there. On The Biggest Loser, fat people go from sedentary to athletic, working out six hours a day and often getting ground down in the process. (I used to watch the show, but the subtext of “You aren’t a worthy human until you’re the right weight,” got to be too much.) Or take P90X. If you’re already in good shape, you might try it. It has its fans. However, as someone who has treated a lot of sports injuries, I can tell you that trying to go from zero to hero too fast is a recipe for injury that really kills progress. I took a slower approach after burning out on trying to do too much too quickly. I started with drinking a kale shake a day and began building back up from there. I think there’s a lesson for writers here. I tried to do too much at once, too. I lost too much sleep and feeling awful became the new normal. We need balance.

More tips and tricks to steer your authorship. This book is free to you until Saturday, Dec. 15! Please click to get it now.

More tips and tricks to steer your authorship. This book is free to you until Saturday, Dec. 15! Please click to get it now.

When you try to write too much at once, you’re going to have to do a lot more rewrites later. You probably know when your writing sucks. You go from “I’m a genius!” to “That was somewhat competent.” You aren’t happy while you’re writing badly. You look at the clock too much and think about anything besides what happens next. Writing doesn’t get better if you bear down and grit your teeth. Bearing down and gritting your teeth is sometimes what you have to do to start writing, but you shouldn’t end that way. When you begin to write, get into it and, if it’s going well, carry on. But when you’ve been writing for a while and you stop feeling the flow, take a break. Do something else. Refresh. Go to the gym even.

I begin a writing session by reading a bit of what I’ve already written, to get into the flow.  I might have a few minutes to write or a couple of hours. That doesn’t matter. What works is to begin writing and to be consistent, just like exercise. Starting is the major hump to get over and whether you promised yourself just a few hundred words or twenty minutes on the treadmill, you’ll probably end up doing more than what you promised yourself. If not, not, but at least you will have accomplished the minimum you asked of yourself for the day.

There are plenty of useful things to do, so there’s no need for anyone to get upset at themselves if they don’t achieve the superhuman every day. Expectations that are too high leads to disappointment, failure, burnout, self-loathing, self-medication with sugar and fat and eventually stalking the neighbourhood with an AK. Ease up on yourself because you can go hard or you can go long. You can’t do both for very long. Just begin. If you screwed up, begin again. That’s the magic.

I used to write short stories and still do occasionally. As a journalist, I’d write several stories a day. That was excellent training to build up to the 2,000 to 3,000 words a day I now write. For my process, I tend to think in blocks, so I don’t stop mid-chapter. Sometimes I’ll write two chapters a day, but I’m wary because that second chapter might not be as hot if I don’t get in some down time to cogitate and refresh. 

Whether you use a word count or a time limit as your daily goal, pay attention to how you feel as you write. If you lose yourself to it and you don’t notice the time passing at all, that’s a good sign. Similarly, you may feel tired or a little sore afterward, but if you generally feel better after exercise, great. That was the right amount. (For more on setting goals exercise goals that work, listen to guest Tom J Deters on The Duncan Trussel Family Hour Podcast. It’s NSFW.)

Find more tips and inspiration here.

Find more tips and inspiration here.

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes suspense, a little quirky self-help and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. Check out all the links to his books or hear the latest All That Chazz podcast at AllThatChazz.com

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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

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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.

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