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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

Should Writers Double Back?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how things change. Before the pandemic, I would eat up book publishing podcasts like a fat guy scarfing down fudge donuts. I had to retreat for a while before I could move forward again. Dark paths through the woods are like that sometimes. I’ll get back to those podcasts, but I had other things to do for a while, like wonder when COVID was coming to kill me and losing sleep over nightmares of talking panthers (which were also trying to kill me). Not a joke. Happened last night. Talking panthers with green teeth are unnerving.

A few other things have changed (besides permanently giving up on writing at a coffee shop).

  1. My first anthology was Self-help for Stoners. I’d won a bunch of short story contests and SHFS was my first self-publishing experiment. I had a few dry runs before I figured out the publishing process. Inspired by director Kevin Smith and Joe Rogan, I dedicated that book to them. I’ve met Kevin and he could not have been sweeter. He liked the book, too. However, his movies over the last few years have disappointed me. The guy who broke into Hollywood with the clever writing in Clerks has fallen into reiterating his cult films now. Red State was okay, but that was 2011. He can’t get back to doing anything as compelling as Chasing Amy or as original as Dogma. Creatively, he’s stuck in park. That’s less inspiring.

    As for Rogan, I used to listen to all his podcasts. Now I listen when he interviews a scientist. My politics don’t jive with many of his guests and he sometimes spreads misinformation. I’m more a past fan than a current enthusiast. He also gives Alex Jones way too much rope. This is not me “cancelling” Joe Rogan. He’s got the most successful podcast on the planet and who gives a shit what I think? The point is, were I to write that book today, he wouldn’t be included in the acknowledgments. Things change.

    Note: If you’re looking for a thoughtful and funny podcast where the hosts listen to Alex Jones so you don’t have to, I recommend Knowledge Fight. They break down his claims in humane and surprisingly serious ways that show how deeply that man needs help.
  2. When I began writing This Plague of Day’s back in 2009, Aspergers was among the preferred nomenclature. Now “on the spectrum” seems generally preferred (though individuals on the spectrum have their personal preferences, of course). I would say and write “on the spectrum” now. Diagnoses of autism have such a wide range of implications. What it means for the individual and their families is a vast continuum. On the spectrum is perfect in the diversity the phrase reflects. I wasn’t ahead of the curve on the vocabulary a decade ago. This is not an apology. It’s an acknowledgment that I do not own a time machine.

    On the plus side, I have heard a lot of positive feedback from many readers on the spectrum. They and their families appreciate that I touched on the issues of diagnosis, labels, and the varied coping skills possessed by parents, siblings, and caregivers. It’s a very small part of a huge zombie apocalypse trilogy, but since the protagonist is on the spectrum, those issues came up naturally. The mother and father did not deal with their son identically, but I portrayed their viewpoints sensitively. I know that because everybody loves the mute hero of the apocalypse, Jaimie Spencer. Despite their differences, nobody hates his parents or sister, either.
  3. Since I wrote This Plague of Days, health professionals have largely changed how they feel about masks, too. Years ago, I served in healthcare and was part of a meeting about planning for the emergency measures we’re dealing with right now. The expert advice was different then. Hell, the expert advice was different at the beginning of this year! Remember when massive global pandemics that affected everyone were a thing of the past? Good times.

    The consensus when I wrote TPOD was that, due to moisture in the breath, a mask did not protect the user after about 20 minutes because the barrier would soon be compromised. Look around now! You can’t get into a Costco without a mask and you know what? I’ve changed, too. I accepted the new expert advice readily and wear a mask whenever I venture out beyond the walls of my blanket fort. Not that I get out often. I stay put unless my mission to the Badlands is essential.

    Is there a next step?

    The logical question is: Should I go back and revise history to fit the present day? First, the blanket refusal, then the nuance.

    In my current circumstances, I have neither the time, energy, resources or bandwidth to go backward. So no, I won’t be combing through huge books I wrote a decade ago to ensure they vibe with a tiny number of people who might choose to be graceless in their reading. However, I am writing a prequel to This Plague of Days so I will update what I can in the new book.

    I would need a really good reason to double back. Besides, would I have to change it when the medical vocabulary changes again? The nuanced answer is: possibly. If I live long enough for words to be too far outdated, I would consider editing again if I had the capacity to do so. I never used it, but as a for instance, the term idiot savant used to be common parlance. That is unfortunate. So is the misuse and offensive use of the word retarded. I have not used that term unless I’m talking about fire prevention.

    In any case, I doubt I’ve written anything worthy of cancelling me. Might someone on the planet be offended? Of course. This isn’t my first day on the internet. What alarms me about some outlying readers is their demand that a fictional character’s experience reflect their own reality identically. That’s simply not possible and, not for nothin’, I’m writing entertaining novels aimed at making a splash and a wide appeal, not a boring biography for each reader.

    (Hint: Some ghost writers get paid big bucks to write those biographies for no one to read.)

    I do my best to get details right, of course. Authenticity in the contextual nitty-gritty provides the thrust and lift that allows the more fantastic aspects of a narrative to fly. There is also creativity and artistic license. One rather condescending reviewer gave me high marks creatively, but berated me for not using real street names. She suggested I was lazy. I’d named her city and she demanded it be represented accurately.

    To which I say:

    Fuck, no. Yes, of course I know what Google Maps is. I made conscious choices for good reasons which became apparent later in the series. With my artistic license, I can drive anywhere. No kibitzing from the cheap seats is required. She’s entitled to her opinion, but I don’t write novels by committee. I wouldn’t have been offended, but it stuck in my craw that it wasn’t a casual reader calling me lazy. It was another author. I’m sure she knows what artistic license is, so I guess that leaves being bossy.

    As for Kevin and Joe

    I used to like what they did so much more. I might again. I don’t think they’re bad people and everybody gets to like what they like. I expect others to show some grace, so I’ll aspire to transcendence, too. The dedication stays. They don’t inspire me now, but they did. They might do so again.

    Everybody ease up. We’ve all got enough to worry about. I’m really focused on trying not to die right now.

    ~ Feeling existential dread? Need a break? How about a rallying cry for some positive societal upheaval? I recorded a story from my anthology All Empires Fall. It’s called The Face of Victory and you can listen to my reading of it on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: COVID19, publishing, Rant, updates, writing, writing advice, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Help for the Anxious Writer

If your book idea feels thin at first, consider that Ice Road Truckers barreled on for 11 seasons and found an audience. If you’ve got a grand idea for a novel, but it’s not springing onto the page fully formed, I have some suggestions. If you’re unsure of yourself as a writer, I’ve got ideas about that, too.

When you lack confidence:

  • You don’t have to stop where you are today.
  • If you write more than one book, each level of success will vary. Think in terms of moving forward instead of dwelling on failures.
  • Go deeper into characters’ back stories to find the way forward.
  • Elucidate motivations and deny what each character wants. When desires conflict, you’ve got drama.
  • Do you have the basics? Who, what, where, why, when and how.
  • Play to your experience and strengths, but it’s not necessary to write what you know. Write what you care about.
  • Go deeper on specifics without beating the reader over the head with your deepest research.
  • Get the details right. For many readers, procedurals and process are porn.
  • Set the scene to give the reader a sense of time and place. Don’t forget the smells and feels, the sense and impact of the location, but don’t go too hard on the weather report.
  • Find the next step in your plot by finding a logical move, but don’t succumb to the first easy answer that springs to mind.
  • Discover the logical surprise twist. Defy the reader’s comfort in thinking they know how the story will unfold.
  • Smooth out the bumps later so it looks like you planned the entire narrative from beginning to end.
  • Too much editing as you go will impede progress. You’ll have a sharp Chapter One with no Chapter 2.
  • Make your characters distinctive. Giving one twin a porkpie hat he adjusts and readjusts for 200 pages isn’t special enough.
  • If two characters sound alike and perform the same function in the story, they might as well be one person.
  • Put the manuscript aside and give it more thought so you look like a genius later.
  • Put it aside and don’t think about it. The answer often appears when you come back to it fresh.
  • Don’t put a manuscript aside for too long.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed or too precious about storytelling. Plenty of half-drunk half-idiots sitting around campfires have told entertaining yarns for thousands of years.
  • Focus on the A to B to C in the first and second draft. Action flows from character and is character.
  • Themes will emerge later. Don’t set out to write a theme. A manifesto has no plot.
  • Entertainment is Goal #1. Don’t set out to educate with a novel. That souffle will fall flat.
  • Your main character needs a fatal flaw or they’ll be boring. Too perfect is boring and inhuman.
  • Your protagonist needs more obstacles in their way. Heroes and heroines have to be smoked in the oven a long time before they’re done.
  • Your villain needs the complexity of nuance and a purpose they believe is noble. No one thinks they’re the villain.
  • No character should feel like a red shirt, easily sacrificed. Henchman #3 has a family and feelings, dammit!
  • Don’t allow a smart person to do a dumb thing just to make a plot work. That’s the sound of gears grinding in a rusty machine.
  • Avoid a story with one tone, particularly if it’s one grim tone.
  • Heroics and horror both have room for humor when the wit is well-placed (but if you aren’t funny, don’t force it).
  • Fight scenes and sex scenes are similar: they both need to acknowledge the breath, heat, emotion and effort involved.
  • Read more in the genre to make sure you’re hitting the tropes without surrendering to cliche.
  • Drop the boring parts and concede that not every idea is worthy of a novel. Your idea for a full-length novel might make a better novella or short story.
  • Make your characters more relatable but don’t succumb to the critic who says, “People don’t act like that.” This character, your character, acts like that.
  • Decide your protagonist is unchanging and the series is episodic (e.g. Sherlock Holmes) or decide on a story arc that allows for character growth. Ignore reviewers who demand your character be fully actualized immediately. They don’t have the patience to understand what you’re doing with that character in the next book.
  • Dare to write a bold plot point, but too many coincidences are death.
  • Disguise your deceptions until the big reveals strike.
  • Contextualize the fantastic with normality to enhance the suspension of disbelief.
  • Read your manuscript like a reader, not like a writer.
  • Pick your allies carefully. Writers are much harder to please than casual readers and their motivations are sometimes suspect. (Hint: most readers are of the casual variety looking for distraction and escape, not an argument over comma placement.)
  • Let go of what isn’t working. Harvest wheat, cut chaff.
  • Go deep to create an immersive page turner. Make a movie in their heads.
  • Find an editor you trust who is out to help you, not tear you down. Some editors get into this biz for the wrong reasons.
  • The right length is the word count that gets to the end of the story.
  • Rely on feedback from your real readers, not randos.
  • Rewrite to make the reading experience richer.
  • Revise for clarity.
  • Edit to get where you’re going at the right speed, avoiding detours, potholes and plot holes along the route.
  • Drop the ten-dollar words but don’t talk down to your audience.
  • Do not overwrite character descriptions. You’ll interfere with the movie in their heads.
  • Have fun. If you’re having fun, readers probably will, too.
  • Are you getting up from the desk often enough? Moving? Getting some air and enough sleep? Feed the body, energize the brain, charge up Ole Ink Hill.
  • The only reason you dislike your manuscript might be that you’ve reread and rewritten it too many times. Your personal draft limit will vary. Send it to your editor when you hit the wall.
  • Cute can work. Too twee? Less so. So much depends on what you’re writing. Consider the variables. Listen to your heart when you write. Listen to your brain when you revise. Listen to your editor before you publish.
  • These are broad guidelines. Sometimes it is better to tell rather than show. If it plays, it plays.
  • Some write like they talk. When done well, it will sound natural.
  • Some try to write as if they’re 17th Century British nobles.
  • Let the words come from you. With revisions, You the Writer will come across smoother than You the Person with Cookie Crumbs Down Your Shirt.
  • Stop being so precious about writing. This is art, not a procrastination project. You want it to be excellent, not perfect.
  • Lives do not hang in the balance, not even your life.
  • Finish.
  • Edit.
  • Proof.
  • Publish.
  • Some will love you no matter what you do. Some will hate you no matter what. Most don’t give a shit. Let go of demanding that your family care about your high calling. Stop caring about anyone outside your target audience. What does your brother know, anyway? He’s obsessed with golf and foot fetish porn.
  • Don’t depend on one book to make you famous.
  • Write another book.
  • Somebody’s going to hurt your feelings. Nobody hits a home run every time and not everyone’s opinion gets equal weight. Look for support in the right places.
  • You’re not writing a novel. That can feel overwhelming and possibly a terrible waste of time. Instead, you’re writing a little short story each day (or most days of the week, anyway). Each short story just happens to connect to the next short story. These stories are your chapters. Writer 45 to 55 or so, and behold! A book! See? Easier than it sounded at first!
  • Relax. Enjoy telling your stories. Focus on process now, not outcome.
  • With enough at-bats, you have a better shot at hitting home runs.
  • Don’t talk about writing more than you write.
  • Don’t give up unless you hate writing.
  • If you hate writing, there are plenty of other things to do that probably pay more.
  • If you love writing, there’s not much else to do.

    *If you prefer outlining, there’s nothing wrong with that and you might end up writing faster with fewer hiccups and less anxiety. Your mileage may vary and that’s a blog post for another time.

    ~ If you enjoy apocalyptic epics or killer crime thrillers, I’m your guy. Find all the books by Robert Chazz Chute at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: the writing life, writing, writing advice, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , ,

The Weekly Round-up

How’s everybody holding up? Dire reports continue to pour in amid confusion. Questions are asked that cannot be answered yet. It’s a time to fight on the front lines for many and a period of retreat and isolation for many others. Whatever your role, I hope you are staying as safe and healthy.

Here are my latest posts from AllThatChazz.com:


Isolation: The 25-point Plan

I’ve been struggling to write in a day without structure. Here’s how I’m combatting that issue.

Best Demo: How to Wash Your Hands

Everybody should see this brief video to get it right. It will save lives.

2020: How the Apocalypse Unfolds

Possibly controversial takes about where everything goes from here.

Forgive Us Our Unbridled Thoughts

Dance with the Devil in the pale moonlight.

You’ll find links to many pleasant distractions at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: This Week's Missions, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As our novel decade ends…

“Life’s not fair. It’s our job to make it that way.”

Citizen Second Class is my new dystopian thriller about the fall of America into fascism. It’s a chilling tale of the future with warnings for today.

It’s only just released. Enjoy!
Click here to find out more.

A new decade is about to begin.


After working in trad pub for five years, I was not in love with the processes of big publishing. Much later, I made the transition to the book marketing engine made possible by Amazon. Even with no prospects or intent to publish, I kept writing novels because that’s what I felt I was born to do. I went full-time in 2012 and that lasted two years before I returned to the day job. But my story and my stories did not end with that setback.

After suffering through job stress and injuries, I realized early in 2018 that I could not continue in my day job. My career doing something I loved was sucking the life from me. Leaving my identity as a healthcare professional behind was difficult…for about a half an hour. Writing was and is my lifeline. Writing came first and it was always there, waiting.

I’ve been full-time for quite a while now and, come what may, this is my last career move. I’ll be a writer until the day I shed my shell and ascend to Valhalla. It’s been just about a decade since I began publishing. Along the way, I’ve worked as a freelance writer and editor, speech writer, a blogger, book doctor, VA for a graphic designer, and as a magazine columnist. These days, I still do a bit of book doctoring but mostly I’m writing novels and dealing with marketing. 2020 is my year to dive into producing audiobooks.

There have been several lean years and a few times here and there where my income from books made me happy. (Happy is not my default state.) No matter what, I persevere.


You’re here so I’m assuming you’re still having at it, too. Congratulations! Call it a struggle or label it a journey, we’re still on the path doing what sustains us, doing what we love. Writers write. If it brings you (mostly) joy, keep being a writer.

Don’t worry about making New Year’s resolutions for 2020. Form habits that help you as a writer and the resolutions will take care of themselves.

I just wrote a blog post about themes in fiction. It’s much more fun than that scene from A Christmas Story where the teacher proclaims amid the kids’ groans, “Your homework is to write…a theme!” (Not the same kind of theme, anyway.)

Check out Novels with Secret Messages at AllThatChazz.com.

And happy New Year!

Filed under: getting it done, , , , , , , , ,

Facebook Live and All That Chazz Updates

I blog regularly over at my author site AllThatChazz.com.

Here’s the latest:

Were Old SF Movies Better?

I list some old school science fiction you need to see if you haven’t already.

Review: Can’t Hurt Me

New self-published author David Goggins was offered a big book deal. Instead of going with trad publishing, he consulted Tucker Max and put out a book that’s wildly successful. I had some mixed feeling about some of the book (as you’ll read in my review) but overall? I got some important ideas out of it and it is a compelling read. 4 stars.

Facebook Live Announcement

Wednesday night, Jan. 30, I’m hitting up Facebook Live at 8 p.m. EST. See you tonight!

I just got over a major medical scare. It turned out to be nothing to worry about and all’s well. Still, I have some tidbits to share that are both funny and interesting. It’s an Ask Me Anything Night, too, so if you have a question, let me know on the live feed.

Here’s my Facebook link.

Jump into the chat to let me know you’re there and where you’re coming from in this great frozen world. Talk soon!

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes suspenseful books about the apocalypse, killer crime thrillers and science fiction. Check out all his books at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: publishing, Science Fiction, , , , , , ,

Friendly Friday Updates: What you need to know

THE NIGHT MAN COVER

I just hit ignition on my new killer thriller set in Lake Orion, Michigan.
Come for the action and plot twists, stay for the jokes.

When Earnest “Easy” Jack returns home after a long absence all he wants to do is train dogs and be left alone. Times are tough living on the shady side of small-town America. Between a billionaire’s bomb plot, dirty cops and a high school sweetheart in distress, Easy has a lot of hard problems to solve. This is going to be fun.

I’m blogging regularly on my author site, AllThatChazz.com. Here’s the latest on what you need to know for Friendly Friday. Click the links in the headers to check out my thoughts on thus and so. ūüôā

This is Marketing: A Review

Marketing guru Seth Godin wrote a great book could help you figure out how to build your business. You may even love negative reviewers more in the end but this book’s¬†significance goes way beyond marketing. Godin articulates a different way to see the world and how it works.

2019 Writing & Publishing Goals: Specifics

This is a very ambitious to-do list. I’m very aware I might not be able to complete all these goals. However, I get 3/4 of this accomplished in the next 11 months, I think my future and legacy of my writing career will be secure. (I can’t go back to the day job so it’s TO THE MOON OR BUST!)

Big goals = a big push.

Writing with Cultural Sensitivity

No matter how evenhanded I try to be, this post will surely piss off somebody. That’s never my intent. See what you think.

Starting in February, I’m going to be a regular contributor to the Mando Method Podcast!

My friend Armand Rosamilia has invited me to do a ten-minute segment on the Mando Method. With each episode on the Project Entertainment Network (available wherever you eat your podcasts), Armand and Chuck Buda deliver wise and sassy advice on building a writing and publishing career. I’ll be sending in my take on those topics so Armand and Chuck can debate, disagree, break balls and stab me in the back. Oh, and maybe occasionally agree with me. This should be fun. I’ve already got a psychotherapist on retainer.

Scheduling Facebook Live Events

I haven’t been able to do Facebook Live events due to illness. However, I’ll crank up the camera next Wednesday night, 8 p.m. EST. Friend me on Facebook to join us. Here’s the link to my Facebook profile.

I am always on the hunt for Super Readers.

If you read more than a few books a year, please do subscribe to my newsletter at AllThatChazz.com. Subscribers get a heads up about upcoming deals and freebies.


Already a fan of my fiction? Want to join the Inner Sanctum?

Here’s the link to the Fans of Robert Chazz Chute page. That’s where I share works in progress and talk with friends about writing fiction (with some assorted goofiness.) The goal is fun and fun interaction with readers. I post there daily and you could name a character in a future book.

Hit this link to teleport to all my books, if’n y’all get the fiction itch.

Filed under: Friendly Friday Updates, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Forget 2018. Write more books in 2019.

THE NIGHT MAN COVER

(This is the cover for my next thriller. It’s coming out next week. Excited yet? Me, too! And now, on with the show.)

As the last hour of 2018 winds down, here are my offerings to writers to start off 2019 right:

  • Resolutions are forgotten. Work on habits instead.
  • Pop quiz, hotshot: If you have a plot problem and you aren’t coming up with answers, you’re asking the wrong questions. (This principle applies to lots of things.)
  • Plan. Plan for the plan to go awry. Have a plan B. Shoot the hostage.
  • Do not compare your progress to others. That way madness lies.
  • Listen to your editors and trusted beta readers. Don’t pay too much attention to reviewers and don’t write by committee. You don’t know those people. I just read a review that made me think, “It’s called character development. I have no regrets.” And I don’t. Movin’ on.
  • Go get some exercise. It’s good for your brain and writing is hell on the body.
  • Dump what’s not working. “Never quit,” is a well-meaning but brainless strategy.
  • Don’t expect everyone to love everything you do. I gave up sending my books to my Dad. I’m not his taste and I don’t dig his library, either. That’s okay.
  • Don’t check your reviews so much. We need them but I’m weaning myself off checking them obsessively. Every time I feel the urge I slap myself hard. Some teeth are getting loose but I shall persevere.
  • Don’t check your ads too quickly, either. The data you see isn’t actionable immediately. Give it a bit of time. Go write some more.
  • Working with a solid graphic designer is great. Check out their pre-mades. You may find treasures there. I sure have.
  • When you find a good editor, stick with them and consult them if they’re open to that kind of contact. I’ve never met my editor in person but we’re friends.
  • Get more sleep and pay attention to the ideas that hit you as you wake up. Those are often the best of the day.
  • Pay attention to your energy patterns. I write best if I write early. If I write late, my brain is overstimulated and I get insomnia which messes with tomorrow’s writing.
  • Listen to these podcasts:¬†The Book Marketing Show with Dave Chesson, the Novel Marketing Podcast, the¬†Sci-fi & Fantasy Marketing Podcast and The Prolific Writer.
  • Write often, not necessarily daily. Everybody’s got varied commitments and their own speed.
  • Start a mailing list ten years ago. Or today, if you must.
  • Don’t doubt someone’s quality because they appear to write faster than you. Or slower. Just give it up Judge Judy and cut the string Chatty Cathy.
  • Do write quickly enough that you keep the whole book in your head, just like the reader will.
  • Research before or after. Don’t slow down to research during the writing session. Put in XXX, figure it out later and fill it in later.
  • Writing sprints will probably make you write faster. If you can’t stand the competition, beat the clock and use the Pomodoro technique. (Pomodoro apps are everywhere. Really, Check under your couch cushions and behind the stove.)
  • Get Grammarly or ProWritingAid. Don’t depend on them exclusively but proofing software will save you and your editor time.
  • Consider using Vellum to format if you can. Otherwise, outsource. (I’m not so keen on Scrivener for formatting anymore.)
  • Longer isn’t necessarily better. Avoid the saggy middle and tighten. No one but that one pedantic reviewer is fixated on word count. Real readers want plot, characters, and to feel something.
  • Don’t be overly fixated on the price to word count ratio. Readers appreciate talent as long as you aren’t cheating them of story or milking them with too high a price point. They could afford to buy a tablet, a phone or an e-reader so don’t price everything as if it’s a fire sale.
  • Themes emerge. Don’t plan them up front or the story will be boring. Let that happen organically, between the lines and out of the mouths of your characters, not you.
  • Someone will assume they know you because of what you write. They have no fucking idea but smile and don’t bother trying to dissuade them unless it gets far too presumptuous and insulting. “Why, yes, mum, because I do write crime thrillers, therefore, I am a serial killer. And the research for all that erotica? Goodness, it is exhausting but strangers I meet at bus stations are very helpful!” (I don’t know why that voice in my head is British but no matter. There’s a choir bouncing around my skull all the time.)
  • Actually, never tell anyone how much you make. It’ll either be too little or too much. Don’t give them an opening. Keep your dukes up. Some people have decided to be transparent about their book earnings. I applaud them for sharing specifics and trying to encourage others but be ready. Somebody’s going to be snarky about it no matter how pure your intentions.
  • Help another writer if you can. If you’re being helped, don’t take too much of their time. We’ve all got shit to do and lots of it.
  • Join 20BooksTo50K on Facebook. Read the FAQ. Learn, learn, learn.¬†
  • Try for a BookBub. Keep trying. You probably won’t get it but the fun of anticipation is almost as good as purchasing a lottery ticket.
  • Avoid paralysis by analysis. It’s not helping.
  • Subscribe to Chris Fox’s YouTube channel.
  • Subscribe to Dave Chesson’s YouTube channel.
  • There is nothing at all wrong with writing in coffee shops. Some writers and civilians get their asses out of joint on this point. However, it’s great to go to a place where you don’t trust the wi-fi. It allows you to write without the temptations of distraction. The ideal gift for a writer is a gift card for more caffeine.¬†
  • If you do access the internet in public places, invest in PureVPN software so hackers can’t pinch your secret pork roast recipes.
  • Don’t sit so much if you can help it and take movement breaks. Pushups and situps really break up a day and make you glad to get back to writing. If you’re going to get a standing desk, wear comfortable shoes and get a good mat or you won’t use it.
  • Punctuation is for clarity. Comma placement can be idiosyncratic. Your book’s style guide is what you say it is. Be consistent.
  • Talk about your novels less. Write more.
  • Enjoy the writing life. This is supposed to be fun and it sure as hell beats roofing.
  • Someone will try to kill your dream and stifle your joy in writing. Stab them in the neck with a #2 pencil. Metaphorically. Probably. Then move on.
  • Writer’s block? Get the pen moving by writing about your block. Usually, it’s just about getting started. Then you’re off and running.
  • Every day you procrastinate is another day closer to zero book sales. When there are no book sales, you’re closer to the day you start selling your shoes or murdering old ladies for a little bit of the inheritance money. Stop procrastinating. Save a little old lady and your dignity.
  • You might get a review that kills your passion for a series. Be prepared for this and go ahead anyway. What do they know? It is preferable to finish. However, if lack of sales tells you it’s a waste of time to write that next book in the series, consider the sunk cost fallacy and move on. We are not immortal. Time is angry, short and it flies fast.
  • Some write for money, some for art’s sake, others for spite. Doesn’t matter what your motivation is as long as you can say you wrote for the reader when you’re done.
  • Somebody’s going to hate you and they’ll make it personal. Block. Mute. Hire thugs. Move on. (If that third thing comes up in court, we never had this conversation.) Success and support from your team is your shield. I, for instance, have a team of thugs on standby.
  • When someone asks if you can make any money as a writer, tell them, “My good man, that is an impertinent question and you have forgotten your manners. If you must know, I make all the money and I’m buying an island next month. Why do you ask? How little money do you make?” Hey, they were rude so you can lie all you want. (British again. Hm.)
  • Stop worrying about things that are beyond your control. Do the things you can. Get a hug, give a hug. (Make it consensual but get one. We need them. It’s a cold world.) Buy a homeless guy a cookie. I do that each Saturday and he’s come to expect me. That’s one of the highlights of my week and it seems to cheer him up, too. No, I’m not kidding.
  • Go for a walk when the plot is not working. Cruise Wikipedia for inspiration. Dance with a dog. Catch an episode of Derry Girls and enjoy the musicality of Irish people swearing with abandon. Play poker with a raccoon. But not for long or all that wool-gathering is really just more wallowing in the Pit of Procrastination. Don’t fall in.
  • You will write something brilliant, something you consider your best work. It will not catch on. That doesn’t mean you were wrong. It very well might be your best work. Best does not necessarily equal sales. The premise is flawed because writers only talk to other writers. All we talk about is craft and quality and marketing and how nothing’s working. Readers don’t necessarily have our high standards. You only hear from the ones who love you or hate you. Most readers just read, appreciate your books or not, and then go read something else. Their analysis is not so granular. They’re just trying to distract themselves from the inevitable heat death of the universe and the utter meaninglessness of our existence. Oh, sweet Christ! (And again, the British accent. Hmm.)
  • Yes, it has all been done. So what? It hasn’t been done by you in your unique fantabulous way.
  • If it’s too unique, it probably sucks unless it’s Into the Spiderverse, a movie that will inspire generations of creatives.
  • Sometimes I do book doctoring and book project management. That has a certain set of parameters. Please don’t ask me to write your vague ideas for you. You’re looking for a ghostwriter, not a book doctor. I would ghostwrite if I could type faster.
  • Learn to type faster in any case.
  • Don’t write diversity for diversity’s sake. Write diversity because diversity reflects our world and is more interesting.
  • Don’t use fuck too much. Fuck! (See, that second one was rather gratuitous.)
  • Don’t rely on swearing to punch up dialogue. That’s lazy. It’s fine for comedic effect or to reflect reality. When I accidentally dropped caulking gel into my wife’s hair, she did not say, “Golly!” That would have undersold the emphasis she meant to convey.
  • You don’t necessarily have to get someone else to write your ad copy but at least ask someone else to read it before you use it.
  • You have to give away and/or sell one metric shit-ton of books to get 8 grams of reviews. (Measures are approximate.)
  • Read Mastering Amazon Ads by Brian Meeks.
  • Read This is Marketing by Seth Godin.
  • Read Writing Without Rules by Jeff Somers. (Too many silly footnotes but a good book.)
  • Read great fiction. (Find it here.)
  • Watch old episodes of Hogan’s Heroes on YouTube and marvel that somebody made a comedy out of a WWII POW camp. Suddenly your plot twists don’t seem so undoable and ludicrous, do they?
  • I don’t feel the need to crush all my enemies. Mostly, ignoring them will do nicely.

You’ll find more scintillating posts on my author site at AllThatChazz.com at these links:¬†

Is this the end of the Apocalypse?

This post is about the bad news for post-apocalyptic and dystopian writers. It’s a genre in decline.

I met a Christmas Angel

The event that gave me hope (and I’m not generally a hopeful sort.)

This is your Apocalypse

2018 was something awful, wasn’t it? 2019 won’t be much better. The ship is sinking and in this rant about the real-world challenges we face in the year and years ahead, I encourage everyone of like mind to start bailing fast. This post is not for the faint of heart.

To arrive here I crossed all Seven Seas

 

A little excerpt from my upcoming thriller, The Night Man.

And that’s it for 2018. Fuck that year. Let’s go make a better one.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute and I write suspenseful crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics. If you dig my sling, read my novels. If that grabs you, join the newsletter at AllThatChazz.com or join my Facebook Fan page here.¬†It’s all great fun, I swear to Thor.

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

Downsizing: A dire warning for writers

I finally saw Downsizing, a (black?) (comedic?) sci-fi movie with Matt Damon on Netflix. Anyone who writes should see it. It’s a clinic in how a story can go terribly awry.

There are so many approaches to writing. I’m not usually so Judgy McJudgypants. Someone objected to my use of foreshadowing in one of my series, for instance. You know what? Hop on the bus, Gus. There must be fifty ways to leave your lover…um, I mean, there are lots of ways to write and they aren’t all for you.¬†That said, Downsizing is really bad.¬†

(Warning: very mild spoilers follow.)

The movie is so bad it’s fascinating. It can’t decide what it is. Kristen Wiig is in it for a hot minute and you’ll soon miss her. I like Matt Damon in most any movie. Christoph Waltz is being Christoph Waltz, for God’s sake! That almost always works! The cinematography is pretty, the actors are able and the premise gets lots of points for originality. This is a watchable mess. However, you’ll soon understand why the film wasn’t a hit. The marketing couldn’t hit a target because the plot was so incoherent.

This movie falls down in the writing and directing departments. At first, the story fails because the plot takes too long to get going. The show starts 10 years before the action begins! They invent a science (and hey, look, I’m sympathetic. That’s hard. I just did that in my latest book.) Sadly, the plot has no destination once it’s finally on its way. This thing is all over the road. Is it a goofy marriage story? Sci-fi utopia? Sci-fi dystopia? Cli-fi? Apocalypse? A mid-life crisis? Is it about a person finally asserting their personhood and making some decisions, daring to be selfish…or unselfish? The director didn’t know, either. You’ll be left a little baffled.

(For a much better movie about a mid-life nebbish figuring out how to take control of his life, watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Ben Stiller. Or the original with Danny Kaye, for that matter.)

When we’re talking novels, it’s often a good idea to “come in late.” In other words, you plop the reader into the action. No info dumps. Get the story up and moving and sift the needed detail and character development amid the action as needed. This is not always so. A¬†common trope in the zombie genre: They don’t show you how the apocalypse begins. In The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma and BOOM! Zombies! Same with a movie I love, 28 Days Later. Swimming against that tide, I devoted the first book in the Plague of Days trilogy to the fall of civilization. It’s interesting to me to see how things come apart when societal norms and services break down. In AFTER Life, Inferno, my new zombie apocalypse, we start in media res and get right to the action.

Necessary ad: AFTER Life, Purgatory was just released. 

This post continues below.

AFTER LIFE COVER 2

In the end of Downsizing, the main character arrives at a decision. This is the confusing climax of the movie. You really don’t know what to root for.¬†Did Matt Damon win or lose? You will not understand whether his decision is a brave choice or if he’s just being weak and caving again. (At least I wasn’t sure. They even make the mistake of undermining the global emergency. You won’t even be sure how serious the peril really is. What are the stakes? Who knows?)

Your parents can be a wonderful example or a serve as a terrible warning about what you don’t want to become. So it is with Downsizing. As a writer, you probably won’t like it but you could learn a lot from it. I did.


~ Robert Chazz Chute sometimes comes off as crotchety. He’s really Canada’s sweetheart. Sorry, eh? Check out his latest releases at AllThatChazz.com.

 

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

Amazon policy changes. We probably don’t.

Amazon has announced that KU will pay per page. Previously, authors were credited with a “borrow” only after the reader got past 10% of the book. Now the pay will be based on how far the reader actually gets so authors of longer works will be compensated more (and, perhaps, fewer people will write shorter works or try to “game the system.”)

The above statement is how many people seem to be reading the new Kindle Unlimited policy change announcement. 

That’s not how I see it. Here’s my take:

1. It doesn’t matter. Write your books to whatever length tells the story satisfactorily. Readers don’t care about this behind-the-scenes drama so you shouldn’t worry overly much about it, either.

2. A lot of people are talking about jumping out of Select because of the¬†surprise¬†change. Here’s the thing: after July your revenue may go up or it may go down. That depends less on KU and more on your books. For instance, you can write a really long book and assume you’ll get handsomely compensated under the new system. However, if readers abandon the book in the early going when they¬†encounter¬†a saggy middle, you’re no farther ahead than if you wrote a ripper at a shorter length that the reader fully devoured.

3. I plan to write some shorter fiction. I’m not altering that plan because I’d rather have more stories in a series or in a world. I can always box them up later for length later if need be.

4. Shorter work still has another advantage everyone seems to ignore: increased visibility. Publish more often, be seen more often. Every 30 days, every author faces the dreaded Cliff. Focusing on page count alone blinds us to other variables.

5. Once again, Amazon is innovating. Don’t be afraid of change. Roll with it. Adapt. Crush your enemies and drink wine from their skulls and whatnot. The writing biz is not for pussycats.

6. Again, the other sales platforms are not changing a thing. Hm. That’s not stability you’re smelling. That’s rot.

7. If you take a hit from Amazon’s change in policy, it may be time to go wide to other platforms and build your readership elsewhere (if you aren’t working on that already.) The catch is, though¬†Amazon may suck in one regard for you, that still does not equate to¬†improvement on the other platforms. I make all my money on Amazon US and that’s pretty much it.¬†

8. Panic is not a plan. I’ll leave it to others who are geniuses with calculators to do the calculating. I’m waiting and watching to learn if there’s anything to learn (besides write more great books.) I’m also expanding my plans for serious promotional tactics in any case. Even before yesterday’s announcement of changes with KU, I’ve noticed slower sales and fewer reviews. Like it or not, ready or not, it’s time to spend money to make money to stay in this game.

9. I never tried to “game the system.” But I think people who wrote shorter after KU was introduced weren’t necessarily “gaming” anything. They were being flexible and using business acumen. Serials made a comeback. Their popularity has always waxed and waned. And what’s wrong with writing short, anyway? Many people tell us that many readers prefer shorter books because it fits their lifestyle demands, their attention span and their time management choices. Write what you want and what you think your readers want (or what you can make them want.) Fashion changes. Winds change. Leaders go out front with a lantern, a will and a plan to break the trail.

10. If you write short books, you might take a hit. Or box sets are going to come roaring back. (I have omnibuses, so cool.) You know what else is growing and only going to get bigger? Audiobooks. There’s plenty to sell on Amazon besides mobis. KU is only one segment of sales.

11. This really doesn’t change anything for me. I’ll write short books. I’ll write long books. I’ll find out what I get paid when the Amazon check arrives. It is, as always, about the writing. Arguably, judging books by pages read means it’s about pleasing the reader, now more than ever.

12. Everybody relax. We’ll all live longer if we relax. Breathe. Repeat. Continue.

Okay? Okay. Oorah.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute and I’m giving away super duper cool stuff on my author site right now. Download your free review copy here while the offer still lasts. Thanks.

Filed under: Amazon, , , , , , ,

Game of Thrones and The No Apology Tour for Writers

Successful fiction always depends on conflict and often relies on surprise. The mechanics of telling stories successfully are not secrets. That’s why this article decrying the latest developments in Game of Thrones is a little annoying. Maybe they were just going for click bait. It seems the critics want to go to Vegas and gamble, but they want everyone to come home rich.

Vegas doesn’t work that way. Neither does compelling fiction. Bad things happen. People die. Deal with it…or don’t watch or read Game of Thrones.

I’m sure some fans are earnestly distressed at things that occur in the show. However, what happens in fiction stays in fiction. Those characters people love and love to hate do not reside on Earth. They are in Westeros and that’s a terrible and dangerous place to live and die. The show’s producers could suck the scary out of it, but then everyone would complain and no one would watch.

People complain George RR Martin kills off his characters. That’s the risk that makes it worth reading and watching. The sense that “anything could happen” is what is missing from other, lesser, books and shows. If you watch¬†a game where everyone wins, everybody’s bored. Even the winners would stop playing to seek out more challenging pursuits.

If you want reassurance that everything will work out, watch iCarly reruns (as I do.) If you want a complex story that’s a gamble every Sunday night (as I do), watch Game of Thrones.

Yes, to some degree, what happens in fiction doesn’t stay in fiction.

What happens in Westeros might make you squirm or cry or feel disgust. That’s why you’re watching. If it didn’t affect you and it doesn’t make you care (like the last season of Dexter) then we won’t watch or we’ll hate-watch. Oh,¬†Dexter, you fell so far.

Same with reading. A good story has stakes and people lose and die. All sorts of terrible things can happen and that conflict keeps more people riveted to the screen (even if, perhaps especially if, they have to look away sometimes.)¬†What pushes some away will pull more closer, like watching a car accident. You want to look away. Maybe you should.¬†Most won’t.

A few other thoughts about misconceptions about fiction*:

1. It’s not “manipulation” if I make you hate or love a character. It’s good storytelling.¬†

2. If you recognize a theme or element from something else, that doesn’t make it a copy, a tribute or plagiarism. It just means there are only so many stories in the world. As an author, I’m only obligated to tell my¬†story with my unique voice (and a pantload of panache, thank you very much.) There were, no doubt, other stories about similar topics. (But they lack Chazz.)

3. Just because a way of telling a story is not something you’re used to reading (e.g. second person) doesn’t necessarily make it “experimental” or “bad.” Don’t say to an author (as one friend of mine was told) “Nobody does it.” There are plenty of examples of alternate POV books.

4. The familiar plot device (sometimes¬†observed¬†pejoratively as “tropes”) is what makes many¬†stories work. You could come up with something more elaborate than the old reliable ticking time bomb under a seat, but make it understandable. (GoT came up with a bad guy in an insurance salesman for mariners. You had to watch the explanation a couple of times to get the gist. They should have used a trope. Instead, they confused viewers.)

Tropes are only bad if you get bogged down in too many of them. Readers want to be surprised, but tropes are touchstones which ground the story and make it comfortable for the reader. A writer once pitched me a story utterly devoid of tropes. Unique, it was. Understandable, it was not. (Yes. I’m quoting Yoda.)

Genres also have specific expectations¬†that you don’t necessarily want to avoid. If the couple doesn’t get¬†together at the end of a romance, that’s not a tired trope. That’s an expectation the reader paid for. Romance readers want you to land the plane safely after a stormy flight (and possibly a slap and tickle in the washroom.)

5. If you’re very familiar with a non-fiction topic and read a book aimed at beginners, it’s churlish to snark, “Nothing new here.”

6. “Churlish” is a word that should be used more. I’m also a huge fan of “groovy.” Use it today! (But not “far out!” Forget that crap.)

7. “It’s been done,” is an dull¬†barb. Everything has been done. It’s up to us to write it in a fresh way.

8. I don’t owe you a happily ever after ending and I never guarantee it. When I come to the end of a story, I write satisfying finales. The conclusion might be happy. Might not. Spin the wheel and find out. I don’t write soothing books for children.

9. Some people, like me,¬†say they “hate” cliffhangers. We’re¬†a vocal minority and we don’t really mean it. If you’re writing a series and you advertise it as a series, the reader should expect some questions to be answered and others¬†to be raised. I “hate” Walking Dead cliffhangers. You know…that thing that brings me back to the television set for the next episode every time? People hate cliffhangers most when the device is effective.

10. I don’t write for readers first. I write for myself first. I’m at my desk or a coffee shop or on my couch when I write and I have no idea what “readers” (that amorphous mass waiting out there in the future somewhere) will like. I don’t write by committee. I can’t take a poll. I can’t work to a writing prompt. There is no formula. I just unearth the story and what ignites, burns. I¬†know what I like and I’m hoping readers will climb aboard my crazy train. I’m not looking to board someone else’s commuter bus.

11. Politics shows up in my writing. So does religion. My worlds are populated with all kinds of social interactions (gay, straight, minorities, right and left.) No apologies. Whether the world is post-apocalyptic or I’m writing in the slow apocalypse we’re in now, my books are populated with people. People have opinions, so characters have opinions. They worry about what might happen to them after they die so God comes up for discussion. Some suffer¬†existential angst. Not all the opinions I write about are opinions I happen to share. NO APOLOGIES! Characters come alive in readers’ minds because of familiarity.¬†Depth and resonance come from dealing with big questions. I regret nothing.¬†

12. I don’t always answer those big questions in a way every reader is going to like, either. I often let the reader figure out for themselves how the big gears of the universe turn. However, if someone is¬†prepared to send me a huge sum of money, I could rewrite a book that aligns perfectly with every ideology that person holds. I’ll hate it and only that person will read it, but I do have kids to send to college so…there you go.

13. I scratched me a book. Everybody gets an opinion, but the writer doesn’t have to listen to that opinion. If you do listen to that opinion, know this: someone will tell you something is grammatically wrong, but they are incorrect. (They’ll also tell you in the same breath they’re an authority.) Someone will declare they’ll never come back for more. You can go back and fix something and/or write another book. You’ll get better the more books you write (if you get feedback from an editor or writing group etc.) The review you read today that is¬†depressingly kind of accurate in some regard will be a cause for laughter at cocktail parties in a few short years. Forgive yourself and assume no one else will.

14. I can write books fast. I can write books slow. If you write faster or slower, that doesn’t make it de facto better or worse. The calculation in that criticism (usually coming from slower writers) almost always deletes the crucial variables: x = the quantity of procrastination divided by y = we are all different.

15. When we put ourselves out there and stand up on our hind legs and dare to speak or write or paint or sing, someone will think they know us. They’ll make assumptions about us, even people who should know better. If you write about zombies, they might assume you’re dumb. If you write erotica, your neighbor might skip straight to slut shaming or ask¬†you out. If you write “literary” they might assume you’re smart and rich.

Though it’s awfully tempting to think so, no one¬†knows us through our books. Fiction reflects reality in a warped mirror. Fiction is not reality. No one knows another’s mind. The writer, in writing mode, remains¬†a cipher. Therefore, ignore the people who are looking for clues to your psyche in your writing (even your Mom) and write whatever the hell you want. It’s not about you. It’s about telling a good story and engaging those who dig your chosen flavor of crazy. Writing crazy shit doesn’t make me crazy. Writing crazy shit keeps me more sane.

16. Don’t write what you know. Write what you care about. Supporting details¬†will be researched¬†or they will be made up. Unless you’re writing a textbook on thoracic surgery, it’ll probably work out.

17. It’s tempting to make people think that writing is arduous. If so, maybe you should try writing something funner. And use the word “funner” more often. (Thanks to comedian Greg Proops for that.) When people complain about the task of writing, I suspect they’re¬†either in the wrong head space at that moment or in the wrong business altogether. I’ve done hard labor and worked retail. That was awful. Writing is a joy and, usually, it’s¬†play.

*This blog and this post is not aimed at readers. It’s aimed at writers. I mention this because, though some readers suffer¬†these misconceptions about the craft, that doesn’t concern me. That’s their business. I’ve met writers who fall for them, though, and that’s a worry.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute. I’m a suspense novelist who is much kinder and more patient than this post may make me appear. Visit my author site, AllThatChazz.com, for updates on new cars added to my crazy train.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , ,

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.

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9,689 other followers

Brain Spasms a la Twitter

%d bloggers like this: