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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

The Alphabet of Making a Better Writing Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

BUY ENDEMIC NOW

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Why Do Some Writers Give Up After One Book?

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

1. Failure.

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

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

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

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

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

3. Fear of compounding one failure with another.

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

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

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

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

5. Life gets in the way.

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

6. Death gets in the way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Lack of love.

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

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

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

Indifference squeezes the heart.

9. Lack of hate.

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

10. Lack of focus.

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

11. Lack of persistence.

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

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

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


Cool? Cool.

12. Lack of need.

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

13. Lack of options.

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

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

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

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

15. The fools thought writing meant easy money.

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

16. They thought the world wouldn’t care.

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

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

17. Lack of support.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The I of the Eye

When I’m not working on my latest apocalyptic WIP, I’m reading Chuck Palahniuk’s guide to writing. Consider This: Moments in My Writing Life After Which Everything was Different is a humdinger. Each short chapter mines his success and ends with simple, direct advice: “If you were my student,” I’d tell you X. From craft to how to run a writer’s group and how to make author readings extra interesting, he shares wonderful experiences and solid tips for writers at all levels. I admire his writing and bold story choices. His cynical worldview delivers on dark, perverse fun and a rich subtext of social commentary.


As a fan of Fight Club, Survivor, Choke, and Lullaby, I was curious about his writing process and what he considers good writing. I once thought I was a minimalist writer. As a former journalist who read Hemingway, I even identified as such. I was wrong, but Chuck Palahniuk is a real minimalist. Stuff happens, but he goes to great lengths to avoid judgments. At all costs, Palahniuk eschews telling readers how they should feel about plot events, no matter how disturbing. His fiction style is influenced by what straight journalistic reportage is supposed to be.
For instance, X and Y happened. Draw your own conclusions. Even better if readers draw different conclusions so they can argue with each other over their literary takeaways.

Where We Differ

Recently, I followed a guided meditation in which each meditator was asked to adopt a mantra that reflected some facet of their base state. For instance, hands over heart, you could say to yourself, “I am a compassionate person dedicated to helping others.” My mantra that night was, “I explore consciousness.” In the writing context, that would send up red flags for Mr. Palahniuk.

To contrast his approach with my own, plenty of events happen in Endemic, my next novel. However, the neurotic protagonist indulges in internal commentary. Off medication and arguing with the voices in her head, Ovid Fairweather needs therapy and it shows. If you’re unfamiliar with my work, I admit I dare to do this sort of thing often. In The Night Man and AFTER Life, the main characters are conflicted souls. Ernest Jack has PTSD, a physical disability, and a fraught relationship with his criminal father. Officer Dan Harmon battles a killer artificial intelligence and brain parasites while doubting his career choices. (You ever notice that, in fiction, cops are always full of certainty they shouldn’t be off somewhere else painting watercolors? That’s not Dan in AFTER Life.)

I acknowledge writing about feelings is dangerous territory. It can drag the words too far from the plot. Every writing guide advises writers to delete “I remember…” or “I felt…” Delete the I of the eye. Be imaginative and descriptive, but don’t tell us, show us. Evoke feelings in readers instead telling them how to feel. Good advice, but there are exceptions and I do gravitate toward guidelines rather than rules. Mama Chute certainly didn’t mean to, but she raised a rebel.

What Dreams May Fail

Palahniuk advises writers to avoid dream sequences. His argument is that reality has plenty of drama and weirdness without resorting to fanciful sleep adventures that lower the stakes. I see what he’s saying and, in general, I agree. I often draw on a context of real life happenings to cushion the fiction in verisimilitude.

I can also say I’ve broken that no-dream rule on numerous occasions. To good effect, I think. (Consider This Plague of Days, Wallflower, and especially Dream’s Dark Flight). The trick to making those scenes work is to have dream life collide with reality. In real life, dreams mean nothing at all, or at least nothing to anyone other than the dreamer. If you use them in fiction, probably do so sparingly and definitely make them relevant. Inception made the use of dreams work, sure, but that’s the end of the shortlist.

How people react in stressful situations fascinates me, but if a novel is crammed with reactions alone, the story is weakened and skids to a dead stop. People can have feelings and dwell on them, but avoid pounding the reader into the ground. For example, if you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, you know the television show devolves into annoying self-parody each time Rick returns to the same drawling speech, “Things have chaaaaaaaanged!” Yeah, things have changed in the Don’t-Call-Them-Zombies Apocalypse. We get it. Move along, please.

The Rancid Pickle Jar of Self-indulgence


Endemic will be my most personal novel yet. After a furious writing session, I had to sit back and recover when I realized several true stories from my childhood fit perfectly in an adventure about desperate people trying to survive a viral apocalypse. I’m confident I’ve sifted, intertwining action and reaction sufficiently that the story is propelled forward with each new twisty revelation. My hope is that, as screwed up as my protagonist is, Ovid remains relatable. She’s an ordinary person trapped in extraordinary events, much like all of us have been trapped through the pandemic.


Warning: If your book reads like therapy for the writer alone, you’re five knuckles-deep in the Rancid Pickle Jar of Self-indulgence. This September, when Endemic is unleashed upon the world, you’ll decide if I’ve found the balance. Until then, I heartily recommend reading Chuck Palahniuk’s book on writing. You’ll undoubtedly find engaging advice that will enhance your writing and your writing life. It’s so good, I might even cowboy up and try to take all his advice with my next novel.

Until then, I’m conflicted and arguing with myself about it.

~ For links to all my books, head over to AllThatChazz.com for killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics. Thanks!

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Reading and Writing Distractions


Once upon a time, two of the most recognizable figures were Muhammad Ali and Ernest Hemingway. They could go anywhere in the world, and they would be recognized in the street. You know what Ali was famous for. Hemingway was famous for writing, of course, less so for boxing. Being a savvy multiple streams-of-income author, Papa advertised liquor, too. Since the media revolution, all entertainment and infotainment markets are fractured and fragmented. We went from three TV channels to…how many streaming services are there now? I don’t have enough fingers and toes for high math.

But our problem, Dear Writer, is not just about too many things to track. You’re being tracked. Within the strict parameters of our media consumption algorithms, consumers tend to stay in their lanes. If you’re into K-pop, you’ll be fed more K-pop. If not, not. Data-driven platforms are watching and if you buy one toilet seat, they’ll serve up ads for all the toilet seats, bidets, and cushy tushy accoutrements you ever imagined and never needed.

Which brings me to publishing

There are more choices now and that’s great for everyone except when it’s not. If you dare to seek out the unknown, there’s plenty of it. However, the unknown will tend to remain so to those lucrative masses we dream about reaching when we’re penning a new masterpiece. To earn money writing books instead of some more likely venture, every publishing guru recommends drilling down in your genre. Romance is too broad a category. Mercenary/kidnapping/rescue romance caters to a specific audience. Cultivate that garden and you’ll have less competition and a smaller yet defined audience to seek out, advertise to, and serve. Within those fences, write at least two or three series with on-brand sexy covers and repeat until you’re sick of it, but sick of it on a yacht.

Westerns are out. Weird western gothic love triangles featuring murder by ouija board, a hotshot lawyer/city girl obsessed with maple syrup, a hot illiterate cowboy who sees ghosts, and a tough but tender rodeo clown into bondage? That’s in!

Ahem. These are just examples of drilling down, folks. Don’t jump on these frivolous examples as if it’s the military sci-fi trend kicked off by Chris Fox when he wrote Write to Market in 2016. Many writers didn’t take his advice to research a popular-yet-not-overcrowded genre they enjoy and write for it. They took his research seriously, though, and jumped on the military sci-fi bandwagon. That’s why there are so many covers of spaceship ass on Amazon. (Shout out to the excellent Six Figure Authors Podcast for the spaceship ass reference.)

Meanwhile, if you’re still querying agents, they still don’t know what they want, but like the infamous ruling on pornography, they’ll know it when they see it. They demand to be delighted and each agent has vast swaths of queries they’ll dismiss out of hand with a sneer. Research your agent first so you don’t end up as a sad example they mock to entertain strangers on Twitter. You don’t want to see your manuscript get this hurtful and unprofessional treatment: “Some pathetic creature dared to send me his heartfelt memoir of divorce and the loss of his parents as the Sandwich Generation suffers on! Har-har-har! What an asshole!”

In short, competition is stiff, so choose your targets carefully.

In independent publishing we are no longer subject to gatekeepers and, yes, in most ways there is no better time to be a writer than this moment. Just don’t underestimate the competition for eyeballs. The same distractions that keep you from writing are keeping your potential audience from reading. Gird your loins, guard your mind, write well, and write something that will distract your target audience from their crying babies, eating, and the fact that the world is on fire.

~ Hey, in case you don’t know me, I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write killer crime thrillers (try The Night Man) and apocalyptic epics (read AFTER Life right now!) You’ll find links to all my books on my author site, AllThatChazz.com. And thanks, that’s super cool of you, you sexy undistracted butterfly.

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

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. 🙂

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

http://mybook.to/OurZombieHours
A NEW ZOMBIE ANTHOLOGY

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

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

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

Join my inner circle at AllThatChazz.com

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