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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Writing Moonlighting Top 10: There’s going to be a pie fight!

There are many ways to write and no one can say any are “wrong”. Well, the kitten sacrifice was a little much. Here’s one way to go:

Anybody remember the TV show Moonlighting? It was a comedy that was on TV when Bruce Willis was adorable and Cybill Shepherd was Cybill Shepherd. During production, sometimes the planning seemed haphazard. The lowest guy on the totem pole in the writing room would run down a hall, stick his head in the door at the props department and scream, “There’s going to be a pie fight! Get 500 pies ready!”

 

That’s writing toward a scene.

They didn’t have everything else filled in yet, but they knew they wanted a big set piece and pie would fly.

From Google: 

set piece
noun
A thing that has been carefully or elaborately planned or composed, in particular.
A self-contained passage or section of a novel, play, film, or piece of music arranged in an elaborate or conventional pattern for maximum effect.

What’s this mean to you and your readers?

Deliver maximum effect.

You’re writing your book. Events happen. Complications ensue. Characters conflict. You know. Story stuff. A set piece is a story beat but not every beat is a set piece. This strategy reverse engineers your novel. You think about the big scenes you want to deliver and sketch those out so you can lay the groundwork and build the ladder or plant the garden. Pick your writing metaphor here. Without that context, it will feel stuck on so be careful to stitch tightly and weave over the seams.

The Big Scene: Put on the Helmet of Imagination!

The Last Evil Clown fights The One Good Mime atop Mt. Rushmore. Or the nuke detonates in Dubuque just as the hero teleports away to the bridge of an exploding starship. Whatever. You could write the context that gets your readers there and excited about it.

Set pieces are big stakes scenes so:

1. Add the ticking clock device. 
2. Kill a major character.
3. See it as the movie scene where the special effects department blows wads of cash.
4. Make it a major turning point.
5. Reveal something huge.
6. Deny the protagonist their easy victory.
7. Award the main character their vengeance.
8. Reward the villain with a huge comeuppance.
9. Pay off the reader with a spectacle, or at least something spectacular.
10. Books are long. Don’t have just one set piece.
Robert Chazz Chute This Plague of Days: Season 3~ In This Plague of Days, Season 3, the big battles constitute set pieces. Not every set piece has to be a violent cataclysm though. When the big secret is revealed in the library in Season 3, that’s a set piece, too. You’ll know when you get there because you’ll suspect I wrote it high on acid. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I have something for your TBR pile. 
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Filed under: Writing exercise, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing and Podcasting: Blog Highlights from The Week That Was

A cross-genre flurry about  society's collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy's love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

A cross-genre flurry about society’s collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy’s love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

The book I lost a job for…and why zombies? at ThisPlagueofDays.com

This post is as much about writing, characterization and process as it is about my horror serial. You’ll want to check this out.

Cool LeRon Barton Writes Straight Dope at CoolPeoplePodcast.com

I sat down with LeRon Barton to discuss drug culture in America for the Cool People Podcast. LeRon interviewed a host of people in the drug Cool+People+Podcast+Finaltrade and looked at it from all angles, from meth users to legal marijuana growers. Then he wrote a book, Straight Dope, about those candid interviews. It was a great conversation you’ll want to hear listen to and ponder. We dare to ask the question, “Why does Lindsay Lohan get so many breaks?” The answer we come up with is surprising.

The One That Gets Sexy on the All That Chazz podcast

Each week I read from Higher Than Jesus, my crime novel. In this episode, Jesus Diaz (my loveable Cuban assassin) deals with fallout from a life Dark Higher Than Jesus banner adof violence as he gets busy for the first time with Willow Clemont AKA the future Mrs. Diaz. The childhood trauma that shapes Jesus’ life is the core of the book, but it’s the erotic unveiling that will keep you riveted as this chapter gets sexy. (Yes, I use my sexy voice.)

Photo on 12-12-05 at 4.33 PMThey versus We: From Slave to Immortal in One Manifesto 

This is an artist’s cry of defiance. We need to be defiant. We must be unique to survive. There are dark forces united against us in a system that does not care about us. Consider this manifesto our rallying cry in the war of Art.

This Plague of Days: The Pitch

If you’re looking to see how a pitch is constructed, here it is. I’m not sending this off to agents, but if I were, this would be what the TPOD pitch wouldThis Plague of Days III look like.

First it was kale shakes. Buttered bulletproof coffee is next!

Behold! The awesome power of the kale shake!

Time Management for Weight Loss and Everything Else

DecisionToChange.com is my fastest growing blog. You’ll find all sorts of interesting tidbits about health, food diaries and more here. Don’t forget to like, subscribe and spread the word as I work on my weight loss journey. You may even want to join me.

Uncomfortable answers to questions about blogging

This was my most popular post by far this week. If you missed it, you’ll probably want to have a look for ideas about when to post, how to improve the look of your blog and how much to post. Plenty of issues tackled here, including the most troubling answer to a question rarely asked: Why blog at all?

What new on Vine?

Click it to grab it.

Click it to grab it.

Have you updated your author site’s links and pages recently? I updated several pages on my author website this week. Perhaps most important this week, I added an update page to supplement my guide to the Vine App, Six Seconds. This book, about marketing using this very cool app came out not long ago, but each month the developers have tweaked it somewhat. I’ve added notes about those improvements on a timeline as the upgrades come in. Note to all: Vine had 13 million users last week, but it’s on Android now, too! That’s a lot of eyeballs and a free way to spread your word on video Twitter.

I appear on the Inverse Delirium podcast

POD Chazz 2I love podcasting. I love comedy, stand up and otherwise. I love it so much, sometimes I appear on other podcasts. I did a comedy sketch for Inverse Delirium, a podcast from Baltimore. I play Professor E. Coli. I’ll be in another Inverse Delirium later this summer, sort of playing myself.

(This week, I was briefly mentioned on The School of Podcasting and The 40-Year-Old Boy podcast, too! Love those guys! Checkout their podcasts and subscribe to them, too.)

Filed under: All That Chazz, blogs & blogging, book marketing, Books, getting it done, podcasts, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, readers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: Shorter is better

Six+Seconds+copyI found a way to get more traction selling books. The short story is, write shorter books for greater success. The long story? I’ll try to keep it short.

Last week I wrote a book, Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App. It’s a long subtitle for an 18,000 word ebook, but it’s SEO-friendly and therefore easy to find. Six Seconds is breezy and fun, but it’s also a useful book that achieves the task I set for it: To get people on Vine (the new video Twitter). It helps them use the toy and tool to its greatest promotional potential. It took me a week to write, from concept to completion. That little book is selling and helping my other books’ sales.

Readers can choose from many lengths of text, but for you, the writers, I hope you’ll begin writing shorter books for your greater success.

Here’s more about why:

1. With ebooks, length matters less. There are no page numbers. Get over that Amish worrying. It’s hurting you.Higher than Jesus Final NEW copy

2. One of my favorite books, The Stranger by Albert Camus, is a short book (around 50,000 words or so). That length wasn’t uncommon in the ’40s and ’50s. Book length is fashion and convention. Fashion and convention are not static conditions. You can change them. Do.

Bigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_Kindle3. My crime fiction in the Hit Man Series is 60 – 65,000 words. That’s fine. One reviewer thought Bigger Than Jesus was a “short, humorous novel”, but that range isn’t so short. (The story just seemed short because it powered along so fast with swift Awesomeness, so there.) Readers pop genre fiction, especially hardboiled sex and violence with quirky, noble anti-heroes, like a fat guy tosses back chocolate croissants. (Ooh, that simile hit a little too close to home.) If I can deliver a steady supply, I might have an actual career on my hands. You, too.

4. Series sell better than stand-alone books. The audience knows the characters and become invested in them. For instance, in Bigger Than Jesus, we learn about tragic events in Jesus Diaz’s childhood. In Higher Than Jesus, readers learn new things about what they thought they knew. My loveable hit man gives an adult perspective on his family history. That changes the meaning of those events and how we view his father, Marco Diaz. It’s fun to flesh out characters and play with the audience this way. It’s fun for the reader, too. They join the The Special Club of the Knowing and become as gods!

5. Some authors experiment with serialization of longer books. I’ll be one those experimenters soon. My post-apocalyptic plague tome weighs in at 125,000 words. I’m going to break that up and sell it in four or five episodes (depending on the logical break points that appear in the revision stage.) Eventually, I’ll sell it as one huge collection, I suppose. In the meantime, four or five ebooks serialized is a cheap way to feed a growing addiction.

6. More books on your electronic bookshelf give more chances for your readership to discover you. Give them more chances to discover you! Write more books.

7. Don’t pin your hopes on one book, especially if it’s your first book. That way lies Death. Well…at least Disappointment. You’ll make more selling two shorter books than one big brick, especially in the early going when you’re still finding a readership and earning their trust.

8. My biggest surprise is that selling Six Seconds is not necessarily a big boost to my other non-fiction books. It’s helping the fiction!

Crack the Indie Author CodeAspire to Inspire eBook JPGCrack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire haven’t moved much this week. Don’t ask me to make sense of that. I even included sample chapters from Crack the Indie Author Code at the end of Six Seconds. Despite having much of the same breezy, jokey tone as Six Seconds, it’s the fiction that got the happy green arrow bump.

My working theory is that I don’t understand people’s buying behaviors; they’re crazy; I’m crazy; we’re all crazy.

~I’m launching yet another podcast soon. It’s called the Cool People Podcast. Want a sneak  peek? Click here. It’s airing soon. Meanwhile, you can listen to “The Unknown Man Edition” of the All That Chazz podcast here.

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, Books, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Vine, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Write like the wind!

Maybe someone will write a song for you, too, some day.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , ,

#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.

 

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

UBC #28: The zero money approach to book promotion

Small-town terrors and psychological mayhem in Maine.
Reached #18 in shorts on Amazon!

Each morning, author Al Boudreau asks a question about the writing life and publishing on Facebook. This morning, he asked which we preferred: A big launch of our books or a soft launch? Other people have their own answers. Here’s mine, as I wrote it this morning:

My short answer is: Hint and be clever about promotion rather than try to spend our way to success.

Sorry about my long answer, but it could have been even longer: I used to work in trad pub, so I kept all details secret. Now I hint and promote a bit for upcoming books (especially those in a series because, knowing it’s a series, that appeals to readers more.) The hints comprise things like the odd progress report, tweeting love and my Six Words or Less Contest in which the witty and pithy winner will have his or her name in the next book in the series. That’s really selling the foundation novel as it promotes the next one.

[Wanna play? Scroll down the page for the SIX WORDS OR LESS CONTEST. Entry deadline, July 31.>

With respect, I think there’s still a bit of inertia from old to new model with thinking in terms of a big launch. Except for ARCs to media and long lead times on seasonal books, Trad publishing is much about keeping it under wraps and then blasting PR and promotion for a short period of time (in part because they have so many other books to move on to and because the obsession is short tail vending and beating quick return deadlines in bookstores.) We’re kind of like classical music. We don’t get rock star tours and roadies, but we can sell lots in the long term because our books are available until we evolve past the Internet and start reading each other’s minds. (Or heat death and an ugly extinction, whichever comes first.)

With long tail marketing, though we don’t have the resources for a huge launch with cap displays and buying bookstore space, all our energy isn’t spent in a tiny retail window, either. Publishers have largely abandoned big launches anyway. Most midlisters never get that dreamed of release party and all their publicity is really up to authors who thought they’d get more logistical support.

Our books can go up faster with low overhead and they are on sale forever.No returns. Rather than blast potential

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

readers, I hint because I wouldn’t want to tire anybody out. “Oh, there’s Chazz talking about Self-help for Stoners and Kevin Smith again,” wears me out, too (hence more books are critical.) That’s okay, though, because we’re better at social media than trad publishing has been. Social media is personality based. Who cares what Random House’s twitter is on about? I want to hear from individual authors, not faceless corporate entities. Corporations are not people, my friend.

Big launches feel like putting all the chips on one roll of the dice, which is an awful way to start your trip to Vegas. I just hint and hope the dribble never becomes an embarrassing orgiastic fit or a drone. Just my opinion as the author of the hilarious crime novel Bigger Than Jesus. (See what I did there? Um…yeah. See, there’s such a fine line between fun promotion and self-loathing.)

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

Truman Syndrome & the writerly mindset

While sipping the best coffee ever at Coffee Culture, I saw a handsome, young black man standing across the street. Beside him sat an elderly white woman in a wheelchair.

I swear this is true: I watched him light a very fat joint, take a hit and pass it to the old woman. Without looking at him, she took a hit and passed it back. This wasn’t merely unexpected. It was surreal. As he rolled her out of sight I thought there was a story there but I wasn’t sure yet what it would be.

As I headed home, I had a Truman Syndrome moment. Everything looked slightly fake, like I was on a movie set made just for me. An old man with a nose like The Penguin’s beak and horrible posture scrabbled across the sidewalk as if pulled along by his cartoonish nose. At the same time, a woman ran the other way in a gait that looked…contrived. She wore a pastel green blouse that matched her socks and she ran like she was holding back a terrible case of diarrhea and trying to hop in time to an urgent nursery rhyme.

If I were to see each person individually, it would just seem odd. However, the juxtaposition of all of them made them not real people, but characters. As I scanned the sidewalk, everyone looked like an extra in an early 90s low-budget movie. I could picture the AD whispering instructions to concealed earpieces for each passerby. “Keep moving! Don’t look at the camera. Don’t look at the actor! Don’t look at Chazz! He still has no idea!”

The sense that everything is slightly off, somewhat “presented”, and utterly skewed? That feeling hasn’t left me all day.

I’m either in a writerly mood or this is a narcissistic psychosis.

Not that those conditions are mutually exclusive.

Filed under: What about Chazz?, Writers, Writing exercise, , , , , ,

Don’t listen to writers too much

The phrase that pays.

Image by pirateyjoe via Flickr

When I first graduated from massage school, I visited new massage therapists all the time. Too often, I didn’t enjoy the experience much. I was too evaluative of each therapist to just lay back and receive the treatment in the spirit in which it was given. I wasn’t concentrating on the feeling of the massage, but on the mechanics. It took me some time to get past that mindset.

You see the same thing with editors sometimes, too. A bad editor jumps straight to corrections too fast without reading for story first. Typos are the last thing you correct in the story construction process. You need to look at the big blocks in the structure first to see how it holds together. Developmental editing always happens before detailed copy editing.

You shouldn’t listen too much to other writers for similar reasons. They see your work through a prism that doesn’t necessarily match ordinary reader expectations.

Writers are great people, but they usually aren’t your market. We sometimes forget that there are a lot of people in the world who have no literary ambitions. They don’t want to write a book. They just want to read a good story.

Writers are readers, but they aren’t typical readers. Writers look at your work differently. Writers are not  the average reader.

Among writers, there is a higher percentage of people who will pick apart your mechanics. Any grammatical variation from what they expected (and there are variations) will provoke more irritation than may be warranted. They will be the readers who skip from irritation at your typos to outrage, indignation and threats to take away your writer’s license and livelihood. Some will want to burn down your house.

Writer friends and editors can help you develop your work, improve and self-publish. But because of the way we are wired, we might not enjoy your work as much as typical readers will.

BONUS: 

I’m networked with a lot of great writers who help me a lot. I like them, appreciate them and thank them.

However, you’ll run into some writers who are so competitive, they do not wish you well.

Either through jealousy or the misconception that your success takes something away from them, they want you to fail.

Watch out for the hypercritical, the rabid grammarians, the perfectionists, the haters and snipers. They mistake their subjective taste for law all the time.

By the way, I wish you every success.

Filed under: publishing, Rant, Rejection, writing tips, , , , , , ,

Writers: Get mixed up

Last week I ran across a guy on YouTube who had a great talent. He could impersonate a lot of great actors. His Al Pacino was off, but his Heath Ledger version of the Joker was bang on. His reel went on and on, and they were often astounding. As great as his talent was, there was something missing. I soon realized that it wasn’t the impression. It was the material. He was giving out the movie lines, just as they were handed down from the movies. There was impersonation. There was technique, but no transcendence or fresh invention. There was nothing of him in the characters he imitated.

Art has pretty much all been done. Sometimes artists go to absurd lengths to be different, like putting a crucifix in a jar of urine, for instance. Different isn’t the point. Mixing old elements into something fresh is how new art is created. So, what if this guy, who is an amazing voice talent, changed things up. Do that great Heath Ledger doing Joker impression, but now he’s a psychopath slinging fries at your local Wendy’s drive through. Suppose Christopher Walken explained his take on particle physics to you. Great impressionists are often not dead on, but take a well-known character somewhere new: look up Kevin Pollack’s impersonations of William Shatner on YouTube. Try the Hollywood Babble On podcast with Kevin Smith and Ralph Garmin. Ralph does Pacino, but it’s not Pacino. Pacino’s a great actor. Ralph’s version is a hilarious take on Pacino if her were a crazy ham who only spouted nursery rhymes.

Mixing things up is what writers must do, too. I once read a manuscript sample where the writer had imitated too much. She thought familiar was a safe bet for gaining publication. However, it was all too familiar to anyone who had seen a commercial for any of the Twilight movies. Too predictable. This went beyond homage and just short of plagiarism.

“Make your vampire a nerd,” I said. “Give him a weird hobby or fascination or at least a geeky name and a parent or sire who embarrasses him on prom night. Take the material somewhere new.” It’s not just about twists (though you should strive for the logical surprise.) It’s about a new take on old material. I’m sick of publishing professionals who should know better saying the vampire is finally dead. They’ve said that too many times for too many years to be listened to anymore. It’s probably all the scripts that ape old material that squeezes editors and agents into making those silly pronouncements. If you love vampires, write vampires. But do something different. (Not a Stephanie Meyer fan, but I must admit, she went a different way with vampires sparkling in sunlight instead of bursting into flames.)

We are writers. We do not work on an assembly line. We do not imitate. We innovate. 

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

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.

Write to live

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

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