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

Write and publish with love and fury.

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.

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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.

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#NaNoWriMo: How to make reading like cardio

A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction.

 Get all the details of the Seven Words or Less Contest and enter here.

Last night I wrote two more chapters for my next crime novel, Hollywood Jesus, starring my Cuban hit man, Jesus Diaz. The first chapter worked very well, but the second needs tinkering right away. Here’s what happened and my rationale for how I’m dealing with it.

The first chapter of the day was a fast-paced and clever chase (even if I say so myself). Good guy* chases bad guy/reversal/good guy’s now at a disadvantage and, as they say, the hunter becomes the hunted. The tension cranked higher when I put the good guy in a seemingly impossible situation. He’s either dead or going to federal prison or maybe even Gitmo if he’s caught. The latest police tools, tactics and technology are used against him and Diaz has to figure out a solution.

Actually, it would be awesome if my hit man figured out the solution himself, but I wrote him into a corner and I had to find a plausible way to write him out of that trap. Whenever I stick him in a bad situation, he’s looking at me going, “Get me out of here, you sadist!” I did get him off the meat hook again and it was both funny and sweat-inducing. Yay, me. Now what about the next, problem chapter?

The tension has to be cranked down from that high a little bit so there’s some kind of emotional range for the reader. However, I messed up. I cranked the tension down too far with a transitional chapter. I hate that. In the transitional chapter, I had too much exposition with not enough events occurring. After a daring escape, my hero gets picked up by his Sancho Panza with fresh clothes and a new mission to add to his growing pile of trouble. The chapter is devoted to explaining to Diaz what happened in his absence.

There’s a lot to fill in for Diaz and for the reader: A friend and an enemy are in hospital, the ultra-bad guy is on the loose and the cops are investigating the violent and creepy events of the night before. The hit man has to find these things out, but changing clothes while going for a ride in the back of a van slows the pace too much. I want the reader to have a breather for a moment, but I don’t want the reader to actually recover. For cardio and thrillers to work, you have to keep the heart rate up.

The Fix: After the perilous escape, Jesus Diaz will be picked up by his aide. However, the chapter must start at the next beat where, aside from being a fugitive from the LAPD and the FBI, he’s got a new client thrust upon him by the old client. Both are beautiful, intelligent women in danger and at the moment, both hate the hit man’s guts. I’m sticking with the conflict instead of allowing the congenial conversation with the buddy who gives him a safe, friendly ride.

But why not plunge forward, blow up the word count for the day and “fix it in post”? I see the problem now so I’m fixing it now. Dealing with the problem immediately saves me revision time later. When I go into full revision mode, I want little puzzle pieces that have to fit, not big chunks that throw off the trajectory of the story, kill the fast pacing and make me go all the way back in order to move forward.

Besides, I was already well past the word count for the day with the previous chapter. On those days I’m productive, I sleep well. The sleepless nights after a non-productive day are torture. There are only so many days.

Speaking of the next book, have you entered for a chance to get your name in Hollywood Jesus yet? Get all the details of the Seven Words or Less Contest and enter here.

* I use “good” guy here loosely. Jesus Diaz is a killer, but funny and ultimately, a sympathetic vigilante. I think of my books as Bad versus Evil.

~ The sweetest  fig Chazz ever loved was the one he stole from a tree in the former Yugoslavia. Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Bigger Than Jesus, Higher Than Jesus, The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories, Self-help for Stoners and Sex, Death & Mind Control as well as the guides for writers and self-publishers, Crack the Indie Author Code (free until Friday) and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. For links to all the books and to hear the latest All That Chazz podcast, slip over to AllThatChazz.com.

Free until Nov. 30, 2012. Click it to grab it now!

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Writers: Story first. Message last.

Solar panels, thermal energy, wind power, nuclear power, the fact that you can read these words in pixels: Ours is a sci-fi continent in a horror world. The horror world is patrolled by robot drones whose pilots are on the other side of the planet raining death on warmongers and civilians alike.

So where are you in this world? Does your fiction enhance understanding? Are you making anything better? Is that even your job as a writer?

You may have a lot to say and a lot to teach, but don’t start from that place. Your themes will emerge from your story. And let your readers draw their conclusions instead of telling them what to think and how to feel.

It’s tempting to speechify. My first drafts are full of speeches. Then I cut it, or break it up or intersperse action or provide another character’s counterpoint to increase tension, drama and conflict.

A good story well told will evoke emotions. Find the truth of those emotions and people will read your story all the way through. And after they’ve closed your book they’ll still have something to think about.

Start from the message and they won’t get to the end of your book.

Filed under: Writers, writing tips, , ,

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

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

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

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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

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