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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

12 Tips to Write More

I’ve written, co-written, and worked as a book doctor for a long time. People have asked, how do you keep your ass in the chair long enough to be that productive? I do have a robot in my watch that tells me to get up and move around once an hour so I don’t become pudding. I set alarms to get me to bed and get me to work, too. Setting alarms is not just for nagging you to get out of bed.


Here are my simple suggestions for increasing your word count:

  1. Clear your workspace of distractions. (I have a blanket fort because I like to hide.)
  2. Clear your calendar so you have dedicated time to write. Be specific about when and where.
  3. Get excited about the current scene you’re writing. If it’s not exciting for you, it’s not exciting for the reader. If that’s the case, maybe it’s good you’re dragging your feet on writing it.
  4. Set a timer and, especially for that first draft, get the words down as fast as you can while you race the clock. You can accomplish a lot in short bursts.
  5. Shut off the internet so you focus on the job rather than checking out the latest on Huffington Post and Twitter news. The world’s ending. There, saved you some time.
  6. Do not wait for inspiration. Inspiration strikes at the keyboard, not while you’re playing Call of Duty.
  7. Since the hardest part is starting, tell yourself you’ll just write for ten minutes. Once you start swinging that hammer, you’ll get caught up in doing more damage.
  8. Take notes between writing sessions so you’ll have prompts when you’re back in the saddle.
  9. Drop your writing session on a note that’s easy to pick up again.
  10. Accountability is helpful. That could be just you counting your streaks in an app or on a spreadsheet, getting a writing partner, or finding a writing group. Tracking and reporting keeps you writing. My mastermind group has a writing room in Slack which tends to get me going.
  11. Visualize your success and how good it will feel to publish a book. You can’t get there without the homework part of being a writer, so do the thing.
  12. Picture the sad faces of all your haters when you hit it big. Cackle about it as you type. Motivation comes and goes, but fear of failure, terror of poverty, and ambition born of spite are strong emotions.

    What keeps you at the keyboard in this ridiculous, capricious business?

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write apocalyptic epics with heart and killer crime thrillers with muscle. Find links to all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

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

The Alphabet of Making a Better Writing Life

After writing a few or many novels, most authors will contemplate quitting in hapless disgust. Sales aren’t as expected. You’re falling into plot holes. You’re convinced no one reads books anymore, or if they do, they only read the bullshit your idiot competitors are churning out. You’re disheartened, and it’s all everyone else’s fault.

First, you’re not altogether wrong about any of that. Ha! You didn’t expect me to say that, did you? But really, there’s plenty to be despondent about if you’re paying attention to the news. I get it. Now that we’ve felt sorry for ourselves and realized we should have become orthodontists, what’s next?

Stop moaning. How are you going to get your groove back and sell more books?

If the above shittiness resonates with you, you need to step back and reevaluate your expectations. Breathe some fresh air, get some stress out with exercise, and realize things can’t possibly as catastrophic as you’re currently thinking. Most of the best and brightest among us are forgotten very quickly after we expire. Ease up on thinking any of this is really so important. You don’t have some grand legacy. That’s for precious few of us and out of our control. However, you do have a life now and this is all you get. Focus instead on creating a better now.

You probably need to take a break from social media, maybe go on a news fast for a while. I think everyone should engage with the world to make a better one, but not at the expense of your mental health. Self-flagellation helps no one.

Yes! Yes, Rob, but what to do? What to do? What to fucking do?

There’s always something different to try. Some strategies:

A. Get into anthologies.
B. Organize anthologies with other authors in your genre.
C. Maybe audiobooks or podcasts are for you.
D. YouTube (as in #booktube).
E. Scriptwriting.
F. Short stories.
G. Blog your book.
H. Reengage with your newsletter people.
I. Graphic novels.
J. Live readings.
K. Live writing on camera.
L. Engage with #booktok.
M. #bookstagram.
N. Plan something more ambitious and make a mural of index cards with your five-book plot arc.
O. Maybe a trilogy or even one novel feels too ambitious, but a novella is just right.
P. Find a pre-made cover you love and write a novella based on that art.
Q. Engage with the #writingcommunity and figure out what other writers are doing that works.
R. Review and promote other authors’ books. Other people’s art can be intimidating. Choose to be inspired instead.
S. Adopt “beginner’s mind.” Let go of your preconceptions of the way things ought to be. Do that and you’ll begin to see things the way they are.
T. Don’t buy yet another book on writing or take another course. That’s procrastination and we both know it.
U. Maybe a review has got you down, but that reader is not your audience, so relax and rely on your editorial team to keep you on track. Bounce ideas off trusted confidants. You know the adage: The same idiot you wouldn’t accept advice from isn’t the one from whom you should accept criticism.
V. Nobody’s reading? Are you? It’s time to get inspired again by reading awesome novels. Lately, I’ve devoted the last hour of the day to reading. Not only is it edifying, I’m sleeping better, too.
W. Perfectionism is the death of creativity. Let it go. You’re going for excellence, not perfection.
X. Excellence does not emerge in the first or second draft. Keep going and be more patient with yourself.
Y. Measure your outcomes so you can spot the weaknesses in your game and improve.
Z. However, become less attached to results because it’s about the journey and the joy of creation. Remember? That’s why you got into writing in the first place. You weren’t thinking of your Amazon dashboard when you began making stuff up in English class. It was about turning a sweet phrase, landing a solid joke, and twisting a plot into a pleasing knot.


I hope this helped. If it didn’t, maybe it is time to quit. That’s okay, too. It’s supposed to be fun, not eternal suffering.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write apocalyptic epics with heart and killer crime thrillers with muscle. Endemic, my latest novel, has won three awards. Check it out along with all my stuff at AllThatChazz.com.

BUY ENDEMIC NOW

Filed under: book marketing, the writing life, writing advice, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Do Not Write By Committee

The blowback is coming. Soon, Starbucks will offer pumpkin spice lattes. I just saw a social media post in which it was pointed out that it’s a mix of cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. This short post ended with, “It tastes really good and it’s okay to let people like things.”

First and only comment: No thanks.

(Gee, I hope that commenter was kidding.)

Next up, I listened to an interview with the delightful Simon Pegg in which he discussed the hazards of writing a Star Trek script. The tide of toxic fandom rose because, sigh, of course it did.

“THEY KNOW WHAT THEY LOVE AND ONLY LOVE WHAT THEY KNOW.”

Simon Pegg

(By Thor, I love that deep incisive cut, don’t you?)

Toxic fandom often goes to great lengths to demonstrate how little they understand creative work. They get the end result, but don’t understand or respect creators. Some even go so far as harassing writers and actors, especially if they’re women or in the BIPOC community. Gatekeepers are a particularly sad variety of this anti-enjoyment force. If you’re telling people they have to have read all of The Sandman before they really “get it,” please stop. We do get it. You were cool before everybody else. Good for you. Now shut up.

Actor Justin Long of Life is Short with Justin Long, confessed that he joined a I Hate Justin Long Club. (Note: Justin Long is a fine actor, and also a delight.) Funnily enough, by joining the club and agreeing with them, he defused the hateful action and made the organizer look awfully petty. However, as Simon Pegg observed, that shit still hurts.

Not everyone is going to love what we write and no writer expects that. However, some readers demand a home run every time. They want what they want and don’t you dare challenge their assumptions. They read books to confirm their biases and that’s all they’re in it for. More dramatic reviews sometimes end with, “I’ll never read this author again!” Gee, whatever shall I do without that $2? On the other hand, saying goodbye saves much more money in therapy. Trying to cater to each of those angry whims would lead to a lot of sleep loss. It’s nuts to try to write for the haters. Please, write for your readers, the lovers.

When I worked as a journalist, I wrote a piece about a common medical condition and profiled a particular sufferer. I soon got an irate call from a woman who was afflicted with that condition, but it rose from a different cause. She was in an anguished rage that I did not grind her particular axe that day. With threats to contact my editor and presumably end my career, she hung up in a huff. Her life brought no joy. She is not missed.

Sometimes you’ll detect a passive-aggressive version of this energy on a social media post. To demonstrate their higher expertise, some pedant will take the point you made and claim it as their own or take it further, as if you missed something. It’s not about you. They’re trying to feel good about themselves, and if that comes at your expense, they’re okay with that. Nobody likes the Well Actually Guy, so they have to feel good vibes some other way. A reviewer who proudly described herself as a know-it-all apparently does not know that the term is a pejorative.

One of my reviews (an outlier, by the way) declared: “Rubbish!” and “tries too hard.” Not really sure what trying too hard in this context could mean, but fuck it. It doesn’t really matter. For the sin of trying to entertain someone, you will get some negative reactions that are obvious overreactions. One wonders how these folks react when they face a real problem. The danger isn’t the nasty review. The danger is that you may take it too seriously and let it shut down your creative spark.

One reader contacted me with kind of a snarky question. I answered politely, but demonstrated that his assumptions were erroneous. At the conclusion of this interaction, he told me he enjoys contacting authors “to help them.” Dude, I didn’t ask, and I wasn’t helped. Actually, I helped you and no, I will not censor myself at your command. (As I’ve said many times in this space, write with your editorial team’s feedback, but DO NOT WRITE BY COMMITTEE!)

When we give too much power to readers, we’re essentially in the Florida school system where great books are banned for being too something or other. Among many, many others, their list of objectionable books included The Hate U Give, Of Mice and Men, A Wrinkle in Time, The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, Vampire Academy, and on and on and on until their fragility leaves them with just one book full of all kinds of violence. It’s a book they claim to revere, but few have read. For that one book, they give a lot of leeway. To be fair, some can quote the snippets they love while ignoring the uncomfortable bits. Alas, if only all authors could receive that grace.

Everybody gets to have an opinion, but don’t let them influence you too much. Don’t respect people who have no respect for you. We don’t write for everyone. We write for those who receive the frequency we’re sending. Everything else is static.

Now go write that fabulous genre-bending plot that most will love and some will absolutely hate. That’s what we do. Without us, how will the haters feel good about themselves? With us, our true readership feels better for the shared experience.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write apocalyptic epics with heart and killer crime thrillers with muscle. Check out all my work on my author site, AllThatChazz.com

Filed under: book reviews, writing advice, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Are book contests for you?

Yesterday I announced that my trope-defying, apocalyptic sci-fi epic Endemic won two awards. That brings me up to ten writing awards in my lifetime, but let’s take a beat to evaluate whether writers should submit their work hoping for awards. It’s not for everybody all the time. Is anything? (Quick answer: definitely not.)

First book contest caveat

It depends on your goals and what stage of the writing life you’re in. I won my first couple of awards when I was still in high school. I started building a track record early, writing for the school newspaper and for my hometown paper. Back then, it was about two things. Money was a big motivator. I was a teenager. Of course, I wanted money. Second, winning those awards early on lifted my confidence. I was on track to fulfill my dream of becoming a full-time writer. Those awards undoubtedly helped my university application to get into journalism school, too. Getting positive feedback is very important to the budding writer. We’re sensitive hothouse flowers that need tending as we grow.

Later on, I graduated to writing a bit of non-fiction and more and more short stories. Short stories are a great way of developing a concise writing style. Turning plot developments on a dime is a learned skill and writing short can get you there. Feedback from a solid editor is best, but when you don’t have that resource, getting feedback from judges could be the next best thing. Again, money can be motivating. When I won $1,200 from the Toronto Star, it was a big win, but frankly, I needed the money badly. If you write for a living, I guess, teen or not, that yearning doesn’t go away. This is a tough business. I was underemployed and that $1,200 went toward fixing our crumbling chimney.

By the time I started writing longer fiction, my interest in sending in short story entries to Writer’s Digest had waned a bit. However, it’s a good thing that urge didn’t go away completely because I made a judicious choice in sending in one entry. That got This Plague of Days an honorable mention which I’m sure continues to help sell the book years later.

This year, my main motivation to enter book contests was frustration. Amazon screwed up my launch of Endemic, so I felt sabotaged from the start. Finding no success in advertising my wares, I tried paying someone else to do it right. Surely someone who’s a pro could make Amazon ads work where I failed. Nope! They couldn’t move the needle either. I had a free trial of Book Award Pro going and that got me thinking. I was confident I had a great book in Endemic, but I needed a different way to garner some attention. I needed more social proof and a workaround. Book contests? Why not? I’d tried everything else and was unsatisfied with the results. Whether it’s Facebook ads or Amazon ads, my sales seem to remain entirely organic.

Here’s the major reason you shouldn’t enter book contests

Money, as in not enough of it. If your budget is low and you have any doubts about your work, hold off until you’re confident about your entry and there’s money to spare. Entering a book you love still won’t guarantee success, of course. Book contests are a subjective endeavor and have more in common with playing the lottery than they do advertising. I don’t ordinarily submit to book contests because the cost is often prohibitive. However, I got some book doctoring work that allowed me some room in my promotions budget and I allocated some advertising funds to competition fees. Like my dad said about the stock market, only play if you’ve got gambling money. Don’t play with the grocery money.


Also, let’s face it: Some contests don’t pass the smell test.

There are scams out there that only serve to make money for the contest runners and do not benefit authors at all. Even if a contest is legit, the cost of entry may not be worth the benefit to you. There may be no benefit. It’s a competition with a lot of players. Odds are definitely against getting an award you can use as a sales tool.

What are the sales tools, you may ask? You can blog it, advertise it, promote it, alert the media, get stickers (digital and other), and announce the win in your sales copy and newsletter. After that, it’s the long-tail waiting game. (Also, those stickers and added doodads will cost you unless you make your own. If you do make your own, don’t step on the contest runner’s trademark.)

Not all contests are created equal

This morning I checked out a book contest that had a nice name that sounded impressive. I had a peek and discovered the organizers offered an ongoing competition in a vast array of categories. Too many categories. If you’re going for a Hugo or a Bram Stoker Award, those contests are in specific genres with a lot of competition so they’re more prestigious and carry more weight in the social proof department.

Please note: Even some big long-standing competitions have lost their shine due to internecine warfare. Research whatever competition you enter, not only to determine its value, but to decide if it fits with your values.

Another helpful measure

Look up past award winners. I checked out an award winner from a previous year. His book was still stuck at four reviews. There can be many reasons and variables for that to occur, but it made me think the contest was not worth the $100US entry fee. I did not succumb to the siren song of their seductive advertising copy.

If your goal is to sell more books, leveraging a book award win can be difficult. Despite winning two awards in the past two weeks, Endemic’s sales numbers have not shot up. The effect of the prestige of those wins will have to be long term (as it was with This Plague of Days). That’s my hope. In the meantime, it feels good to get some recognition for my work. I’m currently in unrelenting pain awaiting a double hip replacement. I can’t wait to become a pain-free cyborg, so while I wait, I’ll take feeling good however I can get it. There’s another big contest on the horizon, and I’m watching my email because the next win might be a game changer. Fingers crossed.

See what the fuss is all about here.

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

Filed under: awards, , , , , , ,

Two awards! I’m happy.

Find Endemic on Amazon

Happy News!

My apocalyptic epic, Endemic, won two awards recently! The novel won the science fiction and horror category at the New York Book Festival and I just found out it won a Literary Titan Award. This is my tenth award for my writing, but it never gets old.

Endemic tells the story of Ovid Fairweather, a misfit haunted by her past who, guided by her dead therapist, makes her way through the end of the world as we know it. Ovid is a nerdy book editor who used to work in traditional publishing and has some sassy takes on her former profession. I suspect that amused the judges. Despite her many quirks, our protagonist is relatable in that she’s been pushed around a lot and she’s fed up with all that. Aren’t we all?

For a more in-depth review, read what Literary Titan had to say about it here.

You can also read my interview with Literary Titan at this link.

Or, best of all, start your binge read of Endemic now

(available in ebook, paperback, or hardcover).

Filed under: awards, Endemic, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Best Thing To Do Tonight

You could go out dancing and drinking on a Saturday night, but let’s face it, no good can come of that. Instead, join me. I’m doing a Facebook takeover of a SF & Fantasy group tonight from 5:30 PM – 10 PM EST.

The group is called Destiny’s Lighters.

Find it at https://www.facebook.com/groups/lytonians/.

I’ll be posting eight mini blog posts about how I learned to write and give some book recommendations. Aside from some shameless self-promotion, I’ll give a free book to a lucky random commenter.

If you want to join in to ask questions (or find out what I think is wrong about a lot of apocalyptic fiction), let me know and I’ll shoot you an invite.

You’ll find my FB page at https://www.facebook.com/robert.c.chute/.

In Other News:

Literary Titan gave Endemic an interesting review. Read between the lines and you’ll figure out what they weren’t so crazy about. You’ll find the link on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.



mybook.to/MakeEndemicGoViral

Filed under: authors, , , , , , , , , ,

Why Do Some Writers Give Up After One Book?

I watched Stone Reader, the documentary about The Stones of Summer, a forgotten novel by Dow Mossman. At the heart of movie are obsessive readers wondering why some writers give up after penning one book. This is not a comprehensive list, but here are seventeen reasons:

1. Failure.

Several critics thought The Stones of Summer, in its language and story choices, was an excellent novel. Commercially, it was a flop. A graduate of the famed Iowa workshop, Mossman was considered a genius by his peers. Genius frequently goes unrecognized for a host of reasons beyond our control.

This point might not just be about the author feeling discouraged. When a publisher’s gamble on a first novel goes bust, it becomes more difficult for the debut author to get a second chance even if the writer is still willing.

2. A lack of anything more to say (AKA writer’s block).

As an agent in the film pointed out, if an author mines their childhood experiences and puts it all on the page, sometimes they find that in exorcising their demons, the creative tank empties.

Counterpoint: I forget which writer said something to the effect that by the time we graduate high school, we’ve got enough trauma to write about for the rest of our lives.

3. Fear of compounding one failure with another.

In a way, there’s less pressure on your first book. You’re just happy to be invited to the party. With the second book, you have to earn your right to stay inside while it’s raining. If the first book didn’t soar up the charts, some will already have written you off. If the second book fails, they’ll bury you.

Counterpoint: People forget (I did) that Kurt Vonnegut’s early work went out of print before Slaughterhouse-Five hit. Then he could do no wrong and Player Piano et al was back on the shelves everywhere.

4. Fear of trying to follow up a hit (and failing).

The success of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird paralyzed her. Unable to imagine that she could top her masterpiece, she didn’t publish. Much later, under complicated and suspicious circumstances, her anxiety proved justified when Go Set a Watchman was finally published to decidedly mixed reviews.

5. Life gets in the way.

Shit happens. For instance, while the pandemic got some people writing, it sent others into a creative funk. Some writers end up taking care of others so much, their literary aspirations lose energy or have to be set aside.

6. Death gets in the way.

Writers die like everyone else. (Did you know this? I looked it up, It’s true!)

Suggestion: Decide now what’s going to happen to your trunk novels and the ongoing royalties from your literary assets. Emily Dickinson did not tell her sister Lavinia to burn all her poems, only her correspondence. If you want something burnt, do it now. And clear your search history, for the love of all that’s holy.

7. The first book was a last step, not a first.

Not everybody aspires to write a series and retire to a beach in Tahiti. They just want to write one book and retire to a beach in Tahiti. Odds are against that working, but there’s nothing wrong with feeling that way. Maybe their aspirations are more modest and they just want to do one and done. Nothing wrong with that, either. A novel is supposed to be an entertaining joy, not a chore, remember?

Does everyone have a book in them? No. If they do, it’s just one book, not plural and often bad, that may take years to write.

People who write a lot might not understand that there are plenty of other things to do with our time. I know! I don’t get it, either! And yet, some people are out there camping and other such bullshit best left to our long and miserable history of hunting and foraging to survive.

8. Lack of love.

If you don’t get enough love for your first book, you’ve got less fuel to spur you on to write the next. “I loved you book! When’s the next one coming out?” That endorphin hit is writing fuel. Or, you could have this common experience:

“Did you read my novel yet?” (Hint: Authors, never ask this question.)

(Weak smile) “I haven’t got around to it yet.”

Indifference squeezes the heart.

9. Lack of hate.

People underestimate the potential of spite. Some writers begin their artistic life with the help of a cherished mentor who fosters their creativity. A few get a boost from proving their detractors wrong. Others write a book of fiction to correct a wrong in real life. I think George Orwell is an example of this. The difference is that he had enough hate and passion to keep writing long after one book.

10. Lack of focus.

Writing a book takes time and energy and is not for the impatient. If you’re not getting enough reviews, money, and attention to your first book, it’s reasonable to question whether a second book is worth the investment. Life is short when it’s going well. If not, life can be long and torturous.

11. Lack of persistence.

Similar to point #10, but this goes deeper. Some people take so long to write a book that it takes too long. Their energy wanes as their eyesight dims. What might have been a sprint has become a marathon. The world is full of sprinters. Marathoners are another breed and they built not everyone for that length of race.

A few writers insist it takes years to write a good book. Let’s tackle that horseshit right quick, shall we?:

(A) Plenty of writers who prove this bias incorrect. Look at any bookshelf and evidence abounds.
(B) Everyone has their own pace (and that pace can change). Fast writers don’t scold slow writers, but I often see slow writers making assumptions about fast writers. Stop it.
(C) Talent is great, but if it’s not married with Ass in Chair, Hands of Keyboard, you’re done.
(D) It takes very few writers years to write a book. (I’ll give you William Styron, maybe, when he wasn’t struggling with depression.) For most mortal writers, it didn’t actually take you years to write that book. The actual writing took months. The staring out the window part, the Netflix part, the goofing around part? That’s the speed bump. The non-writing part of writing is what took years.


Cool? Cool.

12. Lack of need.

A bunch of us are writers because of some hazy genetic pathology that makes us incapable of doing much else. It’s a compulsion. If you don’t have it, you can write one book, get it out of your system, and then go forth and enjoy life. Full-time work as a writer can feel always having homework that never ends. Rejoice one-hit wonders and one-hit blunders! You’re free!

13. Lack of options.

I had a previous career where I excelled at a specialty. That career is finished. I’m 57 and my arthritic hip is killing me. If I want money, I have to write or take the odd book doctoring job. I still get emails from Glassdoor suggesting I’d be a perfect fit for this company or that, but in my heart I know writing is my thing and it’s my only thing. I need to do this because I can do naught else. To quote Spider-Man, “This is my blessing. This is my curse.

14. Writing and publishing weren’t what the author expected.

When I moved to Toronto to work in publishing, I had romantic ideas of what that environment entailed. I pictured fun book launches and cocktail parties full of interesting and witty people trading bon mots. When I look back on that time, I don’t remember a lot of witticisms. I remember a few rude bookstore owners, the silly office politics, the dummies, the people who cheated me, and the mean and bitter publisher who I am very glad to report is dead.

Lots of us dive in thinking the water is warm and deep. Instead, sometimes we find it’s cold, shallow, and really no different from any other profession or industry.

15. The fools thought writing meant easy money.

You’ve published your first book. Bills are coming in, royalty checks aren’t. WTF? I will not expand on this point because every writer knows the dread of opening a credit card bill no matter where they fall on the slip ‘n slide of success. (No, it’s not a ladder. Ladders are more stable.)

16. They thought the world wouldn’t care.

You’ve written a book that mines your past and battles your demons. You’ve disguised your real-life enemies and slew them in clever ways. The real-life villains have no idea you’ve skewered them with pitchforks and rusty salad spoons, but your mom is convinced it’s all about her. There’s screaming at the next family gathering and the emotional toll is too high. Mom and Dad dreamed you’d be a cardio-thoracic surgeon, for God’s sake! “And there you sit, trying to sell your little stories?”

Lesson learned: Write your serial killer porn under a pseudonym or don’t write again because it’s not worth getting cut out of the will.

17. Lack of support.

We’re often told that there has never been a better time to be a writer. In many ways, that’s true. However, it’s still a privilege. The barrier to entry is low, there’s no inventory, and no gatekeepers anymore, but the cost is not nothing. You need time. You need at least some money to buy groceries while you write. You need to live indoors while you peck away at the keyboard.

It is often said that we all have the same 24 hours in a day. I used to buy that, but it’s not true. If you’ve got young kids, you know that’s not so. We don’t all have the same amount of energy and resources to engage with those 24 hours. Through my nights of insomnia, I know the next day will not be a productive one.

Consider that most writers are also independent publishers now. Editing costs. Graphic artists cost. Web pages cost. Advertising and marketing costs. Yes, there are some workarounds to your outsourcing woes, but if you’re not spending more money, you’re burning more time and dealing with more stress.

Given all this, it’s little wonder a lot of writers end up stopping after one book.

In Dow Mossman’s case, he said that after the lack of commercial success of The Stones of Summer, he became introverted. Putting yourself out there does require some hubris, even if you’re not an extrovert. I get it. After the documentary came out in 2002 and fresh attention was paid, The Stones of Summer got a second life and was reprinted. Dow Mossman has not written another novel.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute. I write killer crime thrillers with muscle and apocalyptic epics with heart. See links to all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: publishing, the writing life, , , , , , , ,

About Your Worst Book Reviews

This is a little boost of encouragement to writers who obsess over a few bad reviews. First, here’s a link to a fabulously successful epic fantasy called Assassin: A Dark Epic Fantasy Novel. Look at all those wonderful reviews! Most people are extraordinarily happy with their reading experience. It’s rated 4.3 out of 5 and has over 1500 reviews. Wow!

Now, if you need bother, read a few of the one-star reviews. You’d think it was an utter failure.

Clearly, much to the dismay of a tiny minority, many readers pick up what Andy Peloquin is putting down. Congratulations to Mr. Peloquin! Check out all his books here: http://www.andypeloquin.com. Enjoy.

What This Means for You, the Writer

Too often, I see worried scribes kowtow to their worst critics. They join writing groups (not a bad thing) and write by committee, trying to appease everyone (a terrible idea). Some insist they learn things from their worst reviews. Sometimes, maybe that’s true, especially if you’re a noob. More often, though, you’re giving too much weight to a troll whose hobby is crop dusting negativity.

I learned a lot about writing from working as a journalist and reading excellent novels. These days, I learn most from Gari, my editor (strawnediting.com) and from beta readers. Reader feedback is best found higher up the editorial pipeline, while you’re still in the draft phase and long before you publish. For reviews, the most useful feedback you’re likely to get is what most fans enjoyed about your work, not what a few angry people hate. Hatred is lazy and too easy. I know because it’s so easy to find. I mean, GEE-ZUZZ, just watch the news.

I can already hear the objections. No! Those are all legitimate critiques!

Sometimes they are worth noting. However, if you’ve ever received a disproportionately scathing review, check out that person’s other reviews. Too often, leaving nasty reviews is their sport. You know the type. They go over the top, sometimes even attacking an author personally for daring to think they might entertain someone. I have to wonder, do they bring that same vitriol to everything? “I must defend proper literature and this beach read most people enjoy is the death of all literature! Once I fix that, then I’ll solve the Russian-Ukraine conflict!”

Art is subjective. If you take detractors too seriously, you will become paralyzed and resort to the safest and stupidest path: You will write nothing. Worse, you might even join the ranks of the wannabe writers who love nothing. Don’t become one of those people who hate everything with pedantic zeal. A few make it their unholy mission to proclaim, “Not only did I hate it, it’s impossible anyone else could and all these happy reviews must be fake!” (Notice that they write those reviews as if authors don’t see them, as if they’d bring that same energy if they dared to be in the same room with us. Heh. Silly little rabbits.)

I was once accused of having thirty-five friends leave happy reviews on one of my books. First, ha! As if I have thirty-five friends! This person clearly had no idea how hard it is to get anyone to leave a review. Second, for that same book, that was a few hundred happy reviews ago. That particular objection looks really silly now. Again, ha!

A Note About Your Humanity

If you manage to release all your negativity about nasty reviews, let me know how. The only sure cure is to never read your reviews. That’s one option. For me, I’m prone to anxiety and depression and my happy readers keep me going. Writing a book already feels like putting a note in a bottle and tossing it into the ocean. That’s lonely business, so I need to read my reviewers, at least those who enjoy my work. One nasty review can make me sad once, but I return again and again to satisfied readers who bring me up and get me back to the keyboard.

You’ll also smell a lot of shit of the bull about “developing a thick skin.” How often have you read that in an article about writing? Unless you have the apathy of a non-artist and the arrogance of a serial killer, that’s all nonsense posturing. Writers are human, too. If you prick us, do we not bleed ink?

Not only do writers fail to separate themselves from their work, readers do that, too. They’ll assume you hold opinions you attributed to a fictional character. If they think the book is bad, they’ll think you’re bad. Once, a reviewer (oozing hatred from every pore) noted that I am Canadian. To his acidic review, he added, “I certainly hope he stays there.” A reasonable response, right? Anyway, no worries, mate! I never leave my blanket fort far beneath the frozen tundra. Also, not for nothing, go fuck yourself gently with a wire brush. Don’t be mad. I did say gently.

Alternatives for the Sweaty Writer

  1. Have someone else read your reviews and pass on the ones that won’t paralyze you. That’s one of the few things agents used to be good for, but any pal who won’t mess with you will do.
  2. If reviews scare you, go with a pen name. Go with five pen names. It’s amazing how calming it is to have a negative review fall on the head of a fictional persona. It gives you distance. “Sure, you think she should abandon her dreams and take up scuba diving in Antarctica, but at least that’s my nom de plume, not me!”
  3. Know that there is a number. The exact count will vary, but at some point, you will get enough happy reviews on a book that the nasty ones will matter much less. They may only ruin your afternoon instead of your whole day.

    Bad news: the measure resets to zero with each new book. Gird your loins and sally forth. I wouldn’t classify writing as heroic duty, but it’s not for cowards, either.
  4. C’mon! Remember? You love to write! And you write for the fans, not for the bastards. You’re not going to hit a home run every time. Keep playing because you love the game.
  5. Go read the reviews on your favorite books. Check out what’s considered high literature and/or the top ten bestsellers of all time. They all have reviews from people who hated their reading experience. Why should your masterpiece be any different?
  6. Any book that has all positive reviews has a small audience. When you start getting people who don’t dig what you do, it doesn’t mean you’ve suddenly done anything wrong. It means you’re expanding your audience and someone who is not your target audience stumbled upon it. After a free promotion, you’ll get one or two who snapped it up because it was free and now they’re sad. It’s the classic, “I don’t read books about unicorns but decided to give this a try, thus reaffirming why I hate unicorn books.” This is the equivalent of suffering celiac disease but gorging on bread because it’s free.
  7. This is all simpler than your worst imaginings. They’re wrong. I have read a couple of reviews of my work where they attributed missing bits to story failures. But there aren’t missing bits. The reviewer’s reading comprehension was poor, or they were too hurried. You can always catch a careless reading when they get basics of the plot wrong. This falls under the category of, “Tell me you’re a dummy without telling me you’re a dummy.” Do not sweat these reviews. We write for readers, not scanners.
  8. What if they’re right? So what? What if your book did have problems? Let’s not be so precious. You didn’t botch a heart transplant. You wrote a book that maybe wasn’t your best. You only get one best and nobody can agree on which one that will be. Somebody will still love it. Authors learn and grow. We have to allow for skill development. Kurt Vonnegut considered himself a failure until Slaughterhouse-Five hit, then everyone agreed just about everything he wrote was genius. (Watch Unstuck in Time, the documentary of Kurt’s life and career. It’s a salve for all your writerly burns.)
  9. Try to keep your energy on those who love you and love what you do. Love yourself more. Daring to put yourself out there, naked and vulnerable, demands a lot of self-love and not a little hubris. Most of those trolls you worry about? The longest thing they will ever write is a few paragraphs of narrow meanness. Even better? What they hated will be the reason someone else will buy and love your work.Too much puppet porn, Amish accountants, and seventeenth-century profanity? Oh, no!(Clicks buy immediately.)
  10. Let’s get practical. You’ve got groceries to buy! Couples often divorce because there isn’t any money coming in! You don’t even have time for people who will never buy another of your books! Write! Rewrite! Produce, goddammit!

Happy Conclusions

My point is not that you should never listen to your critics or dismiss every opinion. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. However, take it all with a big ole bag of salt. Some will love your work no matter what. Some will hate it no matter what. Most of the world is indifferent. A lot of people don’t even read, so don’t sweat so much. Once you release it to the world, everybody gets a vote on your work, but you always have the deciding vote. You liked it and did your best? Solid.

As for those few reviews that make you question your worth as a human being, please understand what the harshest critics do not:


Not everything is for everybody.

And that’s okay.

Hold on to that.
There’s plenty to enjoy in this world. Go find it. Go make it.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute. I write apocalyptic epics with heart and killer crime thrillers with muscle. Find all my work on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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

10 Myths of Publishing

There are myths writers are told and sold. Let’s tackle them:

  1. Myth: Follow the various book proposal guidelines for each and every agent to the letter.

    Reality: That’s a waste of time, equivalent to the old days when magazines insisted they refused simultaneous submissions and then took a year to get back to you. Instead of tailoring your book proposal to 158 different individuals, make one really good book proposal and send it out. If it’s good enough and looks profitable, they will respond. If they’re so capricious they value protocol over profit, they wouldn’t have accepted your book proposal in any case. There. Saved you time and aggravation. Be professional, but treat them like peers. Don’t be a desperate supplicant. You’re better than that.
  2. Myth: Publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

    Reality: A bunch of publishers, in confidence, will admit they read everything from the slush pile. Scared of rejecting the next Harry Potter, I guess. You can submit directly to publishers without going through an agent. You may be thinking that doing so decreases your odds of success. That feeling will ease when you consider that agents may take on one or two new clients in an entire year. Sure, agents know acquisitions editors, but you’ve also added another gatekeeper and speedbump to your publishing journey.
  3. Myth: You need an agent to sell your book.

    Reality: If you are doing a deal with a publisher, the publisher may recommend their favorite agent to you. You may want an agent, but it’s optional. Better? An entertainment (AKA intellectual property lawyer). One fee, no percentage that lasts forever. There seem to be fewer agents than there used to be. It’s not that they are useless, but a bunch of them sure were. (And rude, to boot.) If you are going to deal with an agent, read their blogs, tweets, and reviews from other authors.
  4. Myth: A traditional publisher will take care of the marketing of my book.

    Reality: Very briefly, and only if your book has a high profit potential. You will have the attention of the Promotions Department for a very short time before they move on. After that, it’s pretty much all up to you. They want you to have your own website, a bunch of followers and engagement on social media, etc. Big promotional budgets push big authors to make them bigger, not to lesser-known authors to take a blind stab at minimal profit.
  5. Myth: I suck at book marketing, so I’ll simply outsource all of that ballyhoo to someone else.

    Reality: If you have a big bag of money, this can work. Advertising is expensive and requires experimentation and data. Getting someone else to do it for you, someone who knows how to do it well, will cost you in a big way. Most books don’t make enough to justify that kind of outlay on spec. Instead, you’re probably going to have to learn how to do that shit you don’t want to do all by your lonesome.
  6. Myth: To write in any genre, you must be familiar with many books in the same genre. Don’t write in a genre you don’t read!

    Reality: If you read a few of the best-loved books that are on point for the genre, you’re on the right track. No need to go so deep you put off writing your books forever. Yes, romance readers will be furious if your protagonists don’t get their happily ever after. But you knew that after reading one or two samples. What’s more important is that you grasp the essentials of storytelling. If you understand narrative structure and dramatic tension, you’re most of the way there already. Good stories are good stories. Don’t listen to the gatekeepers who insist you’re not qualified until you fulfill their ridiculously long list of arbitrary essentials.
  7. Myth: Write what you know.

    Reality: Write what you care about. If we only wrote what we knew, the field of science fiction wouldn’t be a field. It would be a small patch of bare dirt.
  8. Myth: Readers demand happy endings.

    Reality: Readers don’t know what they want until you give it to them. I like surprising endings, but conclusions need to be logical and, in retrospect, inevitable. Give them a happy ending if it fits your worldview and the story. I don’t necessarily do happy endings every time, but I always strive to provide a satisfying ending. Don’t try to shove a square peg into a radiator. (See? Surprise!)
  9. Myth: If an agent or publisher contacts me, I’ll accept that deal. Where do I sign? I’m on my way!

    Reality: I was contacted by an agent and a publisher. Then…crickets. Proposals don’t just go through people. They go through committees. An accountant may be blocking your route to publication. That breeze filling your sails might be pushing you onto the rocks. It’s not a done deal until you sign on the dotted line. Agents and publishers may express interest, but that doesn’t mean anything until it really means something.
  10. Myth: A publisher is a publisher.

    Reality: They aren’t all created equal. Some masquerade as publishers, but they’re really vanity presses. Some may call themselves publishers when, in fact, they’re in the book formatting and uploading business. Also, sad to say, you as an author are not guaranteed better treatment by either a large or small press. Integrity, attention to detail, and follow-through depend on the people you’re dealing with, not the size of the firm. Before you commit, read reviews of the company. Cautionary tales abound.

    Bonus: If it’s transparency you’re looking for, nothing beats getting daily sales numbers. That data is what you get when you publish your stuff independently.

    ~ Recently, I wrote 31 Ways We All Fall Down. It’s more advice to writers. Check it out on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Bullied her whole life, Ovid Fairweather is a book nerd trapped in an apocalyptic New York. With only her dead therapist to guide her, this survivor will become a queen.

READ ENDEMIC NOW TO DISCOVER THE POWER OF YOUR CURSE

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

Can you see the nurse’s face?

I need to talk about a moment from Spider-Man: No Way Home and how it relates to great writing. I don’t want to spoil the moment for anyone, so I’ll be sufficiently vague. First, it’s a really fun movie guaranteed to satisfy Spider-Man fans of all ages. It’s playful with the franchise. You know to expect plenty of heroic feats, swinging by a thread and thwip, thwip, etc.,…

For action and fun, the movie satisfies, but this post is about heart.

You know what a parking lot movie is, right? It’s a movie that’s bubblegum for the eyes, but by the time you exit the theater and open your car door, you’ve basically forgotten it. (Just about any Steven Seagal movie is a parking lot movie. Besides Under Siege, they all run together.)

The example of great writing I’m focused on is away from No Way Home‘s big action set pieces. It’s a quiet moment of heroism and integrity at the very end of the film. Peter Parker makes a deep sacrifice to protect those he loves. He sees a bandaid and makes a gut-wrenching decision. It’s a touching scene, the kind that you remember long after all the rampant CGI fades from your memory. (If you’ve seen the movie, you know there’s a tearful moment in which MJ is saved that will stick with you a long time, too.)

In Spider-Man 2, when Tobey Maguire’s Spidey battles Doc Ock on a train, there’s a moment in which New Yorkers band together to care for and protect Spider-Man instead of the other way around. That scene still brings me to tears and I’ll tell you why: The last two years have demonstrated that not everyone is interested in doing anything for others. Showing off the best of humanity through fiction is inspiring stuff. Entertainment requires conflict and great villains make for great stories. Beyond the expected there are opportunities to do more with your words. Take those chances to be trenchant and affect your reader deeply.

Making memorable fiction is about finding those unexpected moments that make readers feel something in the center of their chests. I’m talking about those moments that bring tears to eyes, the kind of word magic that puts pictures in your audience’s heads and makes them stop and think, too. You want them thinking about the story long after they close your book.

Please give us more of those smaller, poignant moments in genre fiction.

Spider-Man is one of my favorite heroes from the comics, mostly because of the humorous dialogue and how humble his origin story is. Sure, he’s a genius science nerd with amazing strength, but he’s also got a tyrannical boss in J. Jonah Jameson. Peter is constantly broke while risking his life every night. (Me? I’d be constantly terrified of running out of web fluid sixty stories above the pavement.) Peter Parker’s vulnerability and human choices make him interesting and relatable.

There are plenty of examples of ordinary people acting in extraordinary ways.

The nice old man in the hospital bed was talking about picking tomatoes from his garden a moment ago. He was looking forward to seeing his new grandchild. Now his heart has stopped. Picture the anxious look on a nurse’s face the second before she has to punch the button to call a Code Blue. Caring and capable, her pulse accelerates. What happens in the next few minutes matters.

Picture the determined look on another nurse’s face as the team bursts into the patient’s room with a crash cart. She doesn’t want to see another dead body today. She’s exhausted from a too-long shift, but the burst of adrenaline chases away her fatigue, at least for the moment. Her jaw is set in defiance of Death.

See the doctor. She looks self-assured, but she doubts herself and will do anything to avoid delivering bad news to another grieving widow.

Honor the diligent daughter backing away from their dad’s hospital bed in horror and disbelief. She’s struggling to hide her fear. And what will she tell her mom?

Some hold a bias against genre fiction.

They think it’s big on the boom but deeper characterization is reserved for high literature. Bullshit. We can give them action and deliver on heart, too.

They did it a comic book. They did it in a comic book movie. You can do it in your novels.

~ For deep characterization and heart paired with action, read Endemic. Ovid Fairweather is a bullied nerd stuck in a collapsed New York City. Alone except for the voices in her head, she will become Queen of the Viral Apocalypse.

Check out all my books at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: 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

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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.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

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