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

Write and publish with love and fury.

What to do now that #NaNoWriMo is done

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, with jokes.

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, but still has lots of jokes.

Start another book. Brainstorm or sketch out another book outline or write a short story or just sit down and see where else you can go at the keyboard. Keep that feather pen scratching. Keep going. 

People will tell you to celebrate. Writers (because we aren’t “people”) will ask, “What else ya got?”

You could take a break, sure. But now that you’ve done NaNoWriMo, don’t you feel you’ve got a good habit going? Habits are hard to break into. To get into the daily writing habit takes practice, just like you’ve been doing all this month. Why stop now? To publish, you must write a lot, rewrite, revise and edit. Good habits are too easy to drop for you to waste all that behavioural inertia you have steaming in your skull engine.

Now isn’t the time to put your feet up.

If you still have some scenes from your NaNoWriMo project that you didn’t fill in right away, you can do those now. Now is the perfect time. The context is still fresh in your mind. Tackle any empty spaces you’ve left behind so when you come back to it, you won’t become perplexed and stymied later. Otherwise, leave your NaNoWriMo manuscript alone.

Why am I telling you to start a new project as quickly as you can?

Because someone might be tempted to dive right back in so they have a novel by Christmas. You know you need some time to cogitate while the manuscript rests for a bit. Otherwise, the Nano haters will run in circles with their hands over their ears screaming, “I told you so!” None of us wants those killjoys to be right.

Besides, if you go back too soon, you might be discouraged at how much work the book needs. Or worse, some might think their rush job is still brilliant. That’s lethal to ever having anyone tell you they’re a fan of your work.

And now for the tough stuff. I’m asking that you hold two contradictory ideas in your mind at one time and act accordingly.

1. Congratulations! You beat NaNo! Good on you! I bet there were days when the words came quickly and days where it felt like your brain was full of molasses. However, you faced down time management problems and got it done anyway. Sometimes it wasn’t easy, yet, you got past 50,000 words! You did it! This is a huge accomplishment!

and

2. Writing a little less than a couple of thousand words a day is no big deal.

Yes, some writers are more precious about their word count and make a great show of how slow they can produce. Mostly? I suspect they’re counting procrastination time as writing time. Screw that. I come from a journalistic background where deadlines are not livelines. We slam it in and knock it out and we’re good.

At least take that attitude with the first draft so you’ll have something to gut and edit. Blank screens have no atoms and pixels bouncing off each other to create new neural pathways and fresh angles to feed reader rapture. The first draft is usually simple, straight narrative. I always find the jokes, dialogue and theme in the second pass.

Professional writers write to deadlines all the time and they do so consistently.

You know that now, so it’s not about what “they”, the writers, do anymore. It’s what you do because you’re a writer. Keep going.

We’re creative. Writing’s what we do to wield god powers and get back at our brothers and sisters. We do it because it’s much cooler at the Christmas party to answer “What do you do?” with, “I write.” Say that and you’ve got a conversation. (Try explaining your wage ape existence in middle management to a hapless stranger and they’ll run for the punch bowl.)

We do it for play, for love and money and hope and for readers. It’s fantastic to find a scene to write that, even as you’re knocking it out, you say, “This! This will melt their faces and make them want to read me for the rest of their lives and tell all their friends! Ta-freakin’-da!

Mostly, writing is what we do because it is who we are.*

*If you didn’t carry out NanoWriMo’s challenge this November, what better testament to your mettle than to do it on your own? Now. You’ll feel more smug and self-righteous this time around. There are twelve months in a year. You don’t have to risk waiting another year for the next party bus to take you to your life’s to-do list.

See you in the trenches in the morning

with 3,000 more words. If it’s a bad day.

Yes, you may stop writing

when you’re out of blood.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege. Sutr-X was the pandemic. Sutr-Z's next and it's coming for you and the Queen's corgis.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege. Sutr-X was the pandemic. Sutr-Z’s next and it’s coming for you and the Queen’s corgis.

~ Robert Chazz Chute wrote a bunch of beastly books, including This Plague of Days. Season One’s in paperback. If you’re a writer looking for more inspiration, Robert also recommends Crack the Indie Author Code. But he would say that since he is me and we’re all about inspiring writers not to be weak. We’re all about the conquering and hefting the bale and writerly whatnot. And writing about ourselves in the third person apparently.

What? Still waffling? Still? After all that? Holy Jebus! Read this review of Crack the Indie Author Code then, for the love of Thor and for the love of the sweet consumer that is you and your writing career! And your family’s writing career. Don’t forget to get Mom one for Christmas, too.

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NaNoWriMo isn’t bad. You are.

One neurotic fellow worried, in public, about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.) 

Worry 1

“If it goes really well, I’d be embarrassed to admit the published book started with NaNoWriMo.”

Yes, this was actually a concern. That sounds silly to me, but putting aside the snobby subtext, let’s answer that. More than 100 published novels have emerged from NaNoWriMo beginnings and I’m sure the authors are grateful for the kick start NaNo supplied. If you need a kick in the pants, NaNoWriMo can help make a solitary pursuit feel more gentle with the support of an enthusiastic community. Whatever helps you get past the time management hump and into actually writing is peachy with me. Starting is hard.

I’m working on a novel that emerged from a short story in Murders Among Dead Trees. That happens a lot. Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus were born from a short story in Self-help for Stoners.

Book ideas come from lots of places. We shouldn’t be embarrassed about process. Instead, embrace what works for you. Otherwise, you get lost chasing your tail. If you must be embarrassed about something, worry about how much autobiographical source material you’re using from that series of bad decisions you made in Vegas.

Or, how about this answer? Don’t be a poo.

Worry 2

“The problem with NaNoWriMo is people think they’ll have a novel at the end of it.”

No, they don’t. NaNoWriMo has warned about this syndrome from the beginning. Most people write to join in the fun and to share support they have no other month of the year. Most people know what these moralizing purists refuse to acknowledge: 

A. Non-writers, novices and aspiring writers are often (oh my Thor!) just as smart as any purist.

B. Writing is the opposite of rocket science. It’s an associative process of making neural connections in new ways that expresses a basic human capacity for creativity. There are good writers and unskilled writers, but ignorance does not equal stupidity. Take the Art seriously, sure, but writers should not take themselves so seriously. It’s supposed to be fun and engaging and many people can do it.

C. Critics of NaNo poop on the participants and say they’re wasting their time. Are all the hobbyist painters wasting their time, too? It’s their time to enjoy wasting. Stop being nasty to NaNoWriMo. You don’t sound noble and professional. You sound insecure about competition from upstarts who dare to pick up a pen, just like you must have done once. 

D. We all know this is just a quick, first draft that will later be expanded, rewritten, pummelled and edited. In most cases, it won’t be submitted or published anywhere, ever. It’s just a start, a challenge, an experiment. Its value is that you can’t edit and improve what isn’t on the page.

This straw man is trotted out for burning each November when oh-so-serious people who write in one way (i.e. like they’re constipated and too fascinated with their leavings) insist that everybody have the same process.*

Yes, some people refuse to acknowledge that their first draft is not great. I’m sure there are even a few people who fire off their first draft of 50,001 words to an agent. But so many people participate in NaNoWriMo, there are bound to be a few novices too sure of their greatness who refuse to follow instructions.

Let’s stop being mean, have a laugh and have a go if you want.

The first time I attempted NaNoWriMo, I didn’t make it to 50,000 words and I was left with a partial manuscript I didn’t like. The second time, I did complete the challenge. Now I don’t do NaNoWriMo because I write no matter what, at least 2,000 words a day. Nothing against NaNo. It’s simply that participating fully would add a stovepipe to my outhouse and the days are short.

Now, on to more troubling questions:

What’s with all the toilet analogies, Chazz?

*This post is based on actual objections to NaNoWriMo. Not all critics of NaNoWriMo deserve the thrashing I’m pointing at one particular critic. If it’s simply not for you, that’s peachy, too. In defence of NaNo, I wrote the inspired imagery with the word “constipated” in it the first time, without revising a word.

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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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#NaNoWriMo: How to make reading like cardio

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

 Get all the details of the Seven Words or Less Contest and enter here.

Last night I wrote two more chapters for my next crime novel, Hollywood Jesus, starring my Cuban hit man, Jesus Diaz. The first chapter worked very well, but the second needs tinkering right away. Here’s what happened and my rationale for how I’m dealing with it.

The first chapter of the day was a fast-paced and clever chase (even if I say so myself). Good guy* chases bad guy/reversal/good guy’s now at a disadvantage and, as they say, the hunter becomes the hunted. The tension cranked higher when I put the good guy in a seemingly impossible situation. He’s either dead or going to federal prison or maybe even Gitmo if he’s caught. The latest police tools, tactics and technology are used against him and Diaz has to figure out a solution.

Actually, it would be awesome if my hit man figured out the solution himself, but I wrote him into a corner and I had to find a plausible way to write him out of that trap. Whenever I stick him in a bad situation, he’s looking at me going, “Get me out of here, you sadist!” I did get him off the meat hook again and it was both funny and sweat-inducing. Yay, me. Now what about the next, problem chapter?

The tension has to be cranked down from that high a little bit so there’s some kind of emotional range for the reader. However, I messed up. I cranked the tension down too far with a transitional chapter. I hate that. In the transitional chapter, I had too much exposition with not enough events occurring. After a daring escape, my hero gets picked up by his Sancho Panza with fresh clothes and a new mission to add to his growing pile of trouble. The chapter is devoted to explaining to Diaz what happened in his absence.

There’s a lot to fill in for Diaz and for the reader: A friend and an enemy are in hospital, the ultra-bad guy is on the loose and the cops are investigating the violent and creepy events of the night before. The hit man has to find these things out, but changing clothes while going for a ride in the back of a van slows the pace too much. I want the reader to have a breather for a moment, but I don’t want the reader to actually recover. For cardio and thrillers to work, you have to keep the heart rate up.

The Fix: After the perilous escape, Jesus Diaz will be picked up by his aide. However, the chapter must start at the next beat where, aside from being a fugitive from the LAPD and the FBI, he’s got a new client thrust upon him by the old client. Both are beautiful, intelligent women in danger and at the moment, both hate the hit man’s guts. I’m sticking with the conflict instead of allowing the congenial conversation with the buddy who gives him a safe, friendly ride.

But why not plunge forward, blow up the word count for the day and “fix it in post”? I see the problem now so I’m fixing it now. Dealing with the problem immediately saves me revision time later. When I go into full revision mode, I want little puzzle pieces that have to fit, not big chunks that throw off the trajectory of the story, kill the fast pacing and make me go all the way back in order to move forward.

Besides, I was already well past the word count for the day with the previous chapter. On those days I’m productive, I sleep well. The sleepless nights after a non-productive day are torture. There are only so many days.

Speaking of the next book, have you entered for a chance to get your name in Hollywood Jesus yet? Get all the details of the Seven Words or Less Contest and enter here.

* I use “good” guy here loosely. Jesus Diaz is a killer, but funny and ultimately, a sympathetic vigilante. I think of my books as Bad versus Evil.

~ The sweetest  fig Chazz ever loved was the one he stole from a tree in the former Yugoslavia. Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Bigger Than Jesus, Higher Than Jesus, The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories, Self-help for Stoners and Sex, Death & Mind Control as well as the guides for writers and self-publishers, Crack the Indie Author Code (free until Friday) and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. For links to all the books and to hear the latest All That Chazz podcast, slip over to AllThatChazz.com.

Free until Nov. 30, 2012. Click it to grab it now!

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#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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#NaNoWriMo: 50,000 words isn’t the end. Learn from my mistake.

Free to you Nov. 26 – 30, 2012

Crack the Indie Author Code is free to you as an ebook, Monday to Friday, Nov. 26 – Nov 30 at midnight. As National Novel Writing Month draws to a close this week, please consider picking up the book and its  follow-up, Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. Both books are packed with information and inspiration for what lies ahead, no matter where you are in your writing and publishing journey. That’s the ad, but there’s more you need to know. Learn from my mistake: Don’t stop there.

Some say there are too many books. I’m a huge fan of choice, so I say there are too many books still in drawers and forgotten on thumb drives after NaNoWriMo is complete. Sure, let it sit in a drawer so you can be realistic when you get back to it. (Have a rest and relearn your children’s names.) However, please don’t let your trip to publication end at 50,000 words.

I believe many of the books that languish after NaNoWriMo can be salvaged with revisions and editing. Okay, maybe not all of them, but many. NaNoWriMo is a fun challenge to begin the process, like a hard swim in the ocean. In braving the waves and heading straight out to sea, you complete 50,000 words or more. That’s certainly an achievement, but it’s not the finish line. You have to swim back and make it to shore. Otherwise, all your hard work is written on water. 

An incomplete manuscript niggles, doesn’t it? I know. I have several manuscripts waiting for me. I wrote for years before I began writing full-time, so I built a bank of manuscripts to return to. It’s easier to keep your head in the game when you see one manuscript through to completion. Those big books I’ve written are awfully intimidating when I go back to them to tinker. I’m afraid to lose the thread. It helps my process to be in media res, not just for the characters but for me as I write and rewrite. I will get to those books, of course. I’ll immerse myself again and get back into it, but at first it sure feels like trying to do the butterfly stroke after a long absence from swim practice. I’m always most excited about the newest project, so those books, as worthy as they will be, get pushed farther back in the drawer.

In stopping and starting, I’ve lost energy, time and money. Please learn from my mistake and see NaNoWriMo through to its logical conclusion. Keep swimming.

UPDATES

When I wrote Crack the Indie Author Code, there was a Big Six. Now, with the merger of Penguin and Random House, it’s the Big Five. As

Find tons of tips and inspiration here.

I wrote Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire, Kindlegraph was the tool to autograph ebooks. Now authors can write inscriptions across publishing platforms using the update, Authorgraph. I mention these two updates not just because I want you to know the latest. I mention it because I published those two books on writing and publishing very recently. Publishing’s landscape is changing so fast, even ebooks updating before anyone can click the “Publish” button. Bookmark ChazzWrites, hit follow and keep coming back for the latest.

Speaking of the latest on changes in the publishing industry, you will certainly want to hear: the latest episode of the podcast, On The Media, from NPR. It’s called Adapt or Die. It’s an excellent summation about the year in publishing. Topics include: The myth of piracy, Amazon versus everyone, getting around Amazon, knockoff books, the bookstore battle over the Tim Ferris’s The 4-Hour Chef and the future of the industry.

~ Robert Chazz Chute was a martial artist when his life was still ruled by macho BS. He writes about writing and publishing, suspense and escape while making jokes to distract readers from the existential abyss that will consume us all. He likes puppies. See his author page and listen to his podcast at AllThatChazz.com.

 

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#NaNoWriMo:The mission is simple. We are not.

Find tons of tips and inspiration here.

During National Novel Writing Month, you will focus on word counts. It’s about chewing up time by filling up paper. That’s okay. That’s fine. The critics of NaNoWriMo underestimate you. They think you don’t know that this is just the first step. Strange. They know that. Why would they think you don’t know that?

Sure, there are dabblers and dilettantes and outliers who will fire off their manuscript as soon as they’ve written 50,000 lousy words. Any time a lot of people do something, there will always be those misguided people who do it very badly. But they aren’t the majority. Most of us know that first drafts aren’t our best work and we have to try harder than that. You get to make it your best, bravest stab through the work of rewriting. You have to have something to start with, on paper, to have something to revise. We know. We get it. Please don’t condemn us all.

Let’s all lighten up and know the joy of Creation. That’s the closest to godhood I’ll ever get (besides Saturday mornings when I go yell at frogs, proclaiming how much smarter I am than they could hope to be. Uh…long story. Stupid frogs.)

When you’re done, you probably share my mission: 

I want to make people laugh and think. I want to create beauty. That is all I want to do. That is all

High goals. We know it takes more than one draft to get there.

Enjoy the process.

 

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#NaNoWriMo: Evolving a series from one book

“You will laugh your ass off!” ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

Readers love books in a series. Maybe when you’re done your NaNoWriMo manuscript, you may consider turning one book into several. I’m having an interesting experience with my crime novel series I thought I should share with you because it’s a new thing for me and it may be helpful to pull back the curtain on the process as it’s evolving.

Last year, I wrote a short story about Jesus Diaz, a hit man I included in my suspense collection Self-help for Stoners. The assassin I wrote about was a mature and experienced, cold-blooded sort of guy who, at the request of their soon-to-be ex wives, killed men going through divorce. Jesus (pronounced Hay-soose) knew what he was doing and was very slick. Still, things went awry in an interesting way. That was the beginning of the Hit Man Series, but I didn’t know that then.

The revelation came when I thought, I want to write a Coen brothers’ movie! Self-help for Stoners has a lot of funny stuff in it (my favorite is the funny erotica) but I wanted to write a whole novel that played with one character in a quirky way. I thought about what origins a guy like Jesus might have to make him more sympathetic. Despite what he does as an enforcer, he does not see himself as the bad guy. No bad guy does. He’s a victim and a vigilante caught in the gears of New York’s Machine (the Spanish mob).  Think of all those Coen brothers’ movies and you’ll get some of the flavor: The Big Lebowski, Fargo, Raising Arizona, Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing. Death always waits on the wide and easy road out of town. Perfect fit. I write about Escape. All my books and every one of my stories is ultimately about Escape. Along the way, I try to find a balance between realism and funny. People don’t get knocked out too easily in my stories, for instance. There are some bad guys who are entertainingly dumb, but nobody’s dumb just to make the plot work. Everyone has a goal that conflicts with everyone else’s motives and perspective.

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

The first book in the series is Bigger Than Jesus. I wanted to start the action off with a bang, so when we meet Jesus Diaz, he’s hanging off the side of a building in New York. The book reads like one long chase scene with a few sparse flashbacks to give depth to the character. Dexter is driven by psychological issues. Jesus is driven by circumstance and a need for money and delusions of grandeur. He’s obsessed with movies and wants the life he see in them. In the first book, there’s no sex but lots of violence and funny dialogue. I’d call it more gritty than gory. The story often plunges the reader into a web of deception and, because everything is seen from Jesus’ limited perspective, we only uncover the mystery of what waits in locker #408 as the Cuban hit man discovers the truth. Jesus begins his story arc as a guy who can lie well and has some skills he learned in the military, but he’s certainly no master assassin.

I watched and listened carefully for feedback before and after publication. People loved the jokes and surprises. Some thought there should be more sex and less swearing. I kept that in mind as I got into writing the second book in the series, Higher Than Jesus. I put in more jokes and surprises and yes, more sex. We discover new things about Jesus Diaz’s history. (That’s kind of a fun tip of the hat, playing with readers as they find out that Jesus has been lying to himself as well as others.)

Higher Than Jesus has a fast pace, but not quite as fast as Bigger Than Jesus. We slow down long enough for a funny and somewhat poignant chapter in which my hit man is failing at group therapy. We get into issues around addiction, too. From the first chapter, the tension slides in like a knife between ribs with a quarter twist as Jesus kills a bad guy on Christmas Day. Complications ensue around an arms deal that has national and historic ramifications. He’s learning and getting better at his job, but things still go awry.

Free on Amazon until November 23: A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction.

Through each book I used research and consulted with friends, one who’s ex-military and another who is a SWAT trainer. Some clever aspects of the plot turned on technical details my research supplied. As I write Hollywood Jesus, my hit man is still on the run from the mob and the FBI. The events from the first two books are by no means erased. What’s different as I write the third book in the series is Jesus’s confidence and competence. He’s still at the mercy of Murphy’s Law, but now the book includes the latest technology and techniques in espionage and counter-espionage. Jesus is a troubleshooter for a security firm, specializing in dealing with celebrity stalkers. He deals with them in very unorthodox ways, often using their own tactics against them. None of the tactics or tech is too far out there, so it’s not like a Bond movie, with Roger Moore. However, there’s a lot of very cool spy tech that’s available to anyone commercially. 

What’s the arc of the series so far?:

#1 was a pure crime adventure with dark childhood secrets driving the character and a mystery leading to escape. That whipped the action across the finish line.

#2 goes deeper into the character, but at its heart it’s hardboiled action with a chapter that drips with sex and a lot of violent action broken up by fast, witty dialogue. There’s less swearing, especially since one bad guy hardly says a word and the other sees himself as quite pure and above all that. I’m proudest of the psychological gameplay throughout, the funny chaos, the clever kills and a fight scene that actually reveals something about the character and his past instead of fighting for action’s sale alone.

#3: I’m still writing Hollywood Jesus, but I think that, though the story starts fast, the tension cranks up with more range of emotion. Yesterday, for instance, Jesus confronted a very deadly and powerful stalker to make Jesus (and the reader) understand the enormity of the danger he faces. That night, Jesus scans the audience at a comedy club for the celeb stalker as the client does her act onstage. We got a sense of why this celebrity is so special and worth protecting. I loved writing that scene because every line is from the stand up act I’ve had in my head for a while and I think it’s pretty hilarious. (I’ve been thinking about doing an open mic at Yuk Yuks sometime, so maybe I’ll try my material onstage myself before publication to see if I get the same laughs as Legs Gabrielle.)

The tech stuff in Hollywood Jesus fascinates me and always has. I’m drawing on a large library of dirty tricks, revenge fantasies and bad guy techniques I’ve researched for years. This is an amazing time to be a crime novelist. There’s so much information to draw on.

What’s stays the same among all three books so far?

The humor. One thing I share with Jesus is smart-assery, especially when in danger. Reversals and bad fortune plague Jesus, often because his plans and my plots are so elaborate and my hit man is not as smart as he thinks he is. The assassin’s character does change through the books. By the third, he’s wary of falling in love too quickly, which is a fatal flaw with him. He begins to see himself differently by the end of the second book so, though he’s always been clever, by the opening of Hollywood, he’s more proactive and in control…or so he thinks.

Things are rarely as they appear in the Hit Man Series. I have an outline, but I’m not sure of all the details of what’s coming. For Jesus, I’m more of a pantser than a plotter. I can’t wait to see what he does about what I throw at him tomorrow.

Grab Higher Than Jesus before midnight, Friday, November 23rd

and it’s free!

(There’s an intriguing offer for more free ebooks inside and, fair warning, all the prices will be going up soon.)

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes hardboiled suspense with quirky twists. He’s also written two books about writing and publishing: Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire.

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#NaNoWriMo: You’re tired. Dream some more.

Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire both have bonus offers of free ebooks.

Writers are a tribe bound together in loose nomadic groups travelling in the same direction along parallel lines. We are  slathered in poverty and fear and unrealistic hopes. But we are also sharers and people pleasers. We are the dreamers.

If you are a writer, someone in your life is trying to wake you from your dream: You are a child lost and frantic in a busy marketplace and that chasing frenzy will pull you from sleep’s safety. Readers are beautiful objects of desire but your love is unrequited. You have disappointed yourself and fallen into the gap between the great vision you saw from far away and the lesser book you crafted with your hands. Everyone falls short, but nomads keep moving. Writers continue to stretch and reach. Sometimes you will curse your blessing and you will wake, startled and disoriented and blocked. Go back to sleep.

Stay asleep and dream. Burrow down under the blankets. Pull the quilt over your head. Some people — busy but still somehow accomplishing little or nothing — can’t bear to see someone warm and comfortable. Busy people in busyness are blind to your mind. They can’t see that you are happily occupied in Creation, elsewhere and elsewhen. We are Zen masters, actively doing nothing for a larger cause that awaits us in paper and pixels. New futures demand that you be different.

Write and, when you run out of space in your dreams, read to make more room for the next night’s escape. You have the creative virus. Those who would wake you from your dreams can’t understand the compulsion your disease insists upon.

Write and make worlds. Your dreams are important. Never doubt that. Your night work is important because we are the creators of escapes from the waking world and busyness.

Writing, above all, is a kind thing to do.

 

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#NaNoWriMo: Tools to get you back on track & stay inspired

Right about now, if you’re doing National Novel Writing Month, you’re feeling a little tired and you have two complaints: Where do I take my story from here and how can I better manage my time to meet my writing goals?

I can help. First, here’s a link to my guest post on Masquerade Crew today. This excerpt from my book, Crack the Indie Author Code, is an easy, fun and  genuinely intuitive exercise that will turbocharge your NaNoWriMo efforts and make your manuscript fresh. I call the strategy my Trio approach to story creation. You’ll love it and your readers will, too.

And now your free time management tool: The SlimTimer. I found it through The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick. (With all those Star Wars jokes and references in my books, you must have guessed my nerd secret, huh?) This tool will help you track your activities and find time. Only what is measured can be improved. Measure your day with this timer.  Then make time you didn’t know you had, get back on track and stay on track.

Crack the Indie Author Code is Book One. Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire is Book Two in my series on writing and publishing. For fresh inspiration, I offer this uber cool image to motivate you to persist with writing your book so you, too, can have a cool ad like this!

Click the image to get Higher Than Jesus

Often when we think of graphic designers, we only think about book covers. Kit Foster from KitFosterDesign.com sent me this ad this morning. I’m using the white variation above in the Orangeberry book tour. Pretty cool, huh? Kit is not only an author and the sponsor of the All That Chazz podcast, he’s also an amazing designer. He does book covers, web banners, Quote Art and much more. If you have a podcast, you need art. If you need an ad, check out Kit’s portfolio and go get help. Great images grab eyeballs.

Graphic designers can do more than just book covers. Kit is a great consultant. For instance, it was he who suggested that I add a tag line to my covers using the ten commandments to reflect some aspect of the plots through the series. In Bigger Than Jesus, it was “Thou shalt not steal.” In Higher Than Jesus, it’s “Thou shalt not kill.” In the next book, Hollywood Jesus, it’s “Thou shalt not covet.” That tweak added a lot to the look and tone I wanted to achieve. Tweak your covers. Don’t let them lie there, weak and ugly.

I’m so excited about how my books are turning out (which explains how linktastic I am today), I want you to be excited about your books, too. Go write one.

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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

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

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

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