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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

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

Dexter, My Panic Attack, and You

Michael C. Hall is reprising his most famous role in Dexter, New Blood. That this limited series is back is remarkable. The original series ended in 2013 and it did not end well. A bit about that, then let’s talk about The Bounce and how it applies to you and me.

In 2013, I listened to a podcast that was all about Dexter. This pod went deep, right down to the music cues. This was for hardcore fans who obviously loved the series. Most viewers agree that the show peaked at the end of the season with John Lithgow (no spoilers here.) This podcast was for fans who stuck with it to the bitter end. Count me among that hardy crew of diehards.

That so stipulated, the podcast had two letters shows wherein fans wrote to express their final thoughts. The overwhelming evidence was that most people were terribly disappointed. Let’s be real about this: endings are hard.

Evidence

  1. Kim’s Convenience’s end was anticlimactic and seemed mostly pointless, as if they didn’t know what to do with it. And don’t get me started on the end of the second-last season, where I thought my TV cut out prematurely.
  2. The Sopranos end is memorable for the wrong reasons. I thought the bartender Tony beat up several times should have come back to kill him for personal beef, not mob business. That end seems fitting since he was such a shitty person.
  3. Breaking Bad was fantastic, but they missed an opportunity when he meets his end without ever sampling his own product. That’s my only complaint there.
  4. I didn’t see the final season of Game of Thrones for a while. I heard it was terrible. When I finally did see it, honestly, I couldn’t figure out what everyone was complaining about. Was the end really that bad. I found it quite consistent. It seems bad is the consensus since so many fans have disavowed it and GOT disappeared from pop culture so thoroughly.
  5. How I Met Your Mother met with outrage at the end. They tried something and I applaud the experiment. The problem with the execution was it was a comedy that managed to land as a downer rather than achieving romance. That’s not why fans tuned in for so many years.

    Let’s first acknowledge there is such a thing as toxic fandom. If you’ve written a book, eventually some reviewer who thinks they’re helpful will try educate you on how you should have done it better. Even though the longest thing they ever wrote was three paragraphs of a sour review, they’re very confident they could have saved you if only they’d sat on your shoulder and told you what to do. Note to those reviewers: better not to do that. Like it or don’t like it. Write your own. You’ll probably find it’s not as easy as you think.

The Triumph of Hope Over Experience

Most famously, the fans brought Star Trek back to become a fantastic franchise with so many iterations it’s a disappointment again. Firefly returned as a movie because fans campaigned for it. It is generally acknowledged that the space western got short shrift from network execs who couldn’t find their ass with both hands. Similar story with Family Guy. The network canceled the series, but after three million DVD sales, brought it back to great success. FOX cancelled twenty-nine other shows in the meantime, so when it came back from its hiatus, Family Guy mocked them for it. Twenty-nine! The Winston Churchill joke comes to mind: “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing after they’ve tried everything else.”

Finding the Way Back

The return of Dexter is a little different from other risings from the grave. They’re coming back to fix it. The final episode was so ill-conceived and ill-received, it was not relegated to the dustbin of TV trivia. It failed so hard, they’re getting another kick at the can. That’s what I call The Bounce. And you know what? It’s a good thing. We can learn from this,

I know it can be frustrating to see old ideas get recycled. It often seems like there are no original ideas in Hollywood. Perhaps your book should be made into a movie or a popular TV series. I know several of my books deserve to be made into films to stir the soul and make boffo box office. However, Dexter was very good before it went sour and it was always watchable. It’s taken a weird circuitous route to get to this place, but I think it deserves another chance to entertain us. Let’s be happy about it. Skepticism is understandable, but cynicism isn’t fun and hey, stay real. The stakes are low.

I miss Dexter living in Miami. I miss Angel Batista being sweet and kind and utterly oblivious to Dexter’s serial killer ways. Masuka was hilarious as comic relief in the original series. But there are new and fun characters to enjoy in this new iteration. I’m glad Dexter is back, and I enjoyed the first episode.
Welcome back, buddy!

What does The Bounce have to do with us?

As writers, you are the studio. If a book fails, you can kill the series or resurrect it in a new iteration. You have the freedom to edit it again, to add or delete chapters, to relaunch it. You don’t have to appeal to a network or suck up to a committee. You’re free to bounce back as many times as you can stand.

Last night, I had a panic attack. Those Bookbub ads I was experimenting with only worked on the first-in-series of AFTER Life, the one I give away for free. Three or four problems hit me all at once and I spiraled down. I couldn’t catch my breath. Caught up in catastrophizing, I felt like I was drowning and maybe dying.

This morning, I’m back to writing. I’m in NaNoWriMo and the word count is on track. I’m happy with what I’m creating. I am committed to bouncing back.

Lots of things fall apart for many reasons. You can’t control all the variables that lead to failure or success. As a writer, you are positioned to steer your own ship. If you steered into the rocks, you can fix the hull or jump onto another ship. It’s okay. We’re going to be okay.

The old joke is that a second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience. Art is a different story. Every book launch is full of hope. Every writer tends some small fire that signals they’ll “make it” (whatever that means to you.)

Make art. Just make art. Try not to panic.

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

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A NEW ZOMBIE ANTHOLOGY

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

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Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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