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

Write and publish with love and fury.

How to make a plot work

Simple anecdote:

There’s a pie cooling on that windowsill. Steal it.

Novel Plot:


There’s a pie cooling on that very high windowsill and the doors are all locked. No ladders allowed. Make the pie nigh impossible to steal and add in twists, reversals, false victories, and false failures.

Make the quest compelling throughout with memorable characters. Possibly get away with stealing that pie. Maybe, maybe not as long as you make your reader care.

That is the very complex made simple.

I put fresh faces on three covers last week. Here they are.

The words have the power to save the world or end it,
and it’s now in the hands of one man.
America has fallen to fascism. It’s up to Kismet Beatriz to start the revolution in New Atlanta, the fortress of the rich.
When bad guys chase the prodigal son back to New York, family secrets will be murder.

Find them all on my author site: AllThatChazz.com.

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

Writing: Pet Peeves

The following post appeared on my Facebook fan page. Thought it might be of interest here, too.

Last night I told you I didn’t care for characters doing dumb things to create artificial drama in a story. It’s fine if the characters are already dim. It’s annoying when they’re supposed to have bare minimum intelligence but act like morons to get to the next plot point.

Classic example:

The slasher victim runs upstairs where she’ll be trapped instead of sprinting out the back door. They’re often athletic cheerleaders in those movies. My daughter’s a cheerleader and tumbler. She could backflip away from a masked killer with a knife faster than he could run.

What else makes reading a chore?

1. Big blocks of text, run-on sentences and sentences that are not varied in length.

2. Exhaustive physical descriptions of characters. Readers usually fill in those details based on a few broad brushstrokes.

3. Cruelty for its own sake. Jesus Diaz has endured torture, but it does not devolve into torture porn. Instead, the dialogue is witty and clever, and the scene advances the plot. He’s a hitman, but he often talks and cons his way out of trouble.

4. Footnotes. I’m reading a novel called Dietland at the moment. The descriptions are fresh. (“My heart fluttered like a moth caught in a lampshade.”) However, the footnotes are a superfluous gimmick meant to lend credulity to the fiction. No need.

5. Chapters that go on too long.

6. Ending the story forty pages short of the end of the book.

7. Getting bogged down in so many technical details that the reader is beaten over the head with the writer’s research.

8. A story with one grim tone. I want a roller coaster ride where I can cry one minute and laugh the next. I slide lots of jokes and irony in amongst the horror. When done right, it doesn’t spoil the tone. It enhances the reading experience. Talk to any nurse, funeral director or cop. Gallows humor abounds in the face of horror.

9. Lazy writing turned The Walking Dead from somewhat interesting into a hilarious hate watch. Lazy writing asks you to overlook too much and makes the adventure too easy.

Another example is an old legal drama called The Rainmaker. The premise is a young, inexperienced lawyer takes on the system and wins. The problem with the screenplay is things go far too smooth and easy for him at every turn. He breezes through the plot unopposed. It’s a win without a triumph if the bad guys fall over just because you show up.

10. An unsatisfying ending. Hate ’em, but there are all kinds of endings.

I can do happily-ever-after. (Citizen Second Class yields an unexpected kind of happy-ever-after, for instance.) Sometimes it’s happily-ever-after-for-now. Triumph that comes at great sacrifice is good. I like to offer slivers of hope for the future, even amid chaos. I enjoy Twilight Zone endings. I don’t mind a good cliffhanger at all as long as I see it coming. (Hence, This Plague of Days, Season One is called This Plague of Days *Season One*, just like a television series should leave you breathless for the next season.)

What’s an unsatisfying ending? Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds was a triumph of special effects for its day. I guess that’s why no one noticed that screenplay was missing a third act. It’s kind of like how Johnny Cash was a great success but he didn’t sing so much as talk.

Johnny Cash, the original white rapper. (Did I just blow your mind?)

What are your pet peeves?

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write killer crime thrillers and a lot of books about the end of the world. Check out all my books at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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

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 Fallout

Happy Christmas comes early Day!

Today, Friday, December 21, is special. I’m giving away ten of my books on Amazon, free for everyone to download. Yes, this means you, too! Go get your gifts!

Now, about my Facebook Live experiment:

In my last post, I mentioned that I was going to try Facebook Live for the first time. I promised to report back so here I am. It was a grand success and, to my surprise, I enjoyed it. I’ve done a ton of podcasting but Facebook Live doesn’t have any of the administrative issues or costs of podcasting. FB Live video can be replayed and repurposed, all for free. Free is a good fit for my budget. There are a lot of pros and very few cons.* 

What’s best about FB Live?

Engagement in real time! To be able to connect with readers personally and efficiently (read: without having to leave my house) is fantastic.

People showed up for the video I didn’t expect to appear. Readers also engaged in the comments after the live video was over. I didn’t expect that. Engagement is investment. The fact that people were willing to give up some time and attention to say hello, listen to me talk about my books and make a few jokes truly warmed my heart.

How often can we say book marketing is fun and even (gasp!) encouraging?!

The fallout is that I’m all in. Beginning in January I’m going to do a Facebook Live broadcast every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. EST.

Wanna see? Friend me on Facebook here.

To catch my first Facebook Live video

and pick up a bunch of free reading,

head over to AllThatChazz.com.

Feel free to download them all,

share the happy news with your reader friends

and enjoy your early Christmas presents!

 

Happy reading and merry Christmas, everybody!

~ RCC

*Total honesty post-script: I don’t like the way I look on camera. I got over it. Nobody cares. That was my mental block. I wore clothes. That’s sufficient.

 

 

Filed under: book marketing, publishing, robert chazz chute, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing & Publishing: What You’re Missing

Christmas comes early this year

The year is winding down but the writing and publishing industry just keeps bumpin’ down the road. Here’s the roundup of what you want to know:

Facebook Live: See you tomorrow night. 

But first things, though! Gotta put in the but plug. (Heh. See what I did there?)

8 PM EST Wednesday night I’m giving away books, answering questions, chewing bubblegum, kicking ass, taking names in no particular order. The first ritual of Festivus is the airing of grievances! Nah, it’s not going to be like that. I’ll be taking questions and announcing a big giveaway. It’s a very special Christmas episode of All That Chazz. Follow the link above for more details.

Got a question? Email me at expartepress@gmail.com with the subject line FB Live and I’ll tee off.

Scrivener: Just a Word Processor Now? 

I loved Scrivener. After I ran into a brick wall I liked it a lot less. It’s complicated. I mean, the software’s latest release is complicated and so are my feelings about it. Find out about that debacle and discover my truculent and trenchant suggestions at the link above.

Publishing: My Nervous Breakdown in Ten Steps 

A question came up about the writing and publishing process. Here’s how I do it (with less emphasis on the crying than you might expect.)

The Top Three Movies About Writing 

You’ve seen all the Christmas movies ten times over. Check out my top movies about writers doing the least cinematic act ever caught on celluloid and doing it well. I’ve got a killer top three, several runners-up and an also-ran (with John Goodman screaming.)

Surely some assertion in there will infuriate you, so that’s fun.

Whether I see you live or not live, merry Christmas, happy holidays and make time to read more books. We can never read enough books.

Cheers and all the best,

RCC

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , ,

Writers, Writing and Finding Our Way

I didn’t publish for a year and a half. I was always writing but I’d lost my way. Things got grim for a long time before I found the way out of my storm. A side hustle went away. The demands of an extra job to pay taxes made my hands ache. A business deal went sideways. I felt betrayed. My day job was hard on me physically and arthritic pain woke me at night. Bad health and worries about the future made me an insomniac. Then came the tide of anxiety attacks. Those drowned me. Overwhelming anger and frustration made it hard for me to catch my breath. I was dying and plastering on a happy smile.

A stress leave from my day job reminded me how much solace I found in writing. Abandoning a book I’d been wrestling with for nine months, I started writing fiction I loved. It was good, but I hadn’t learned my lesson yet.

Too soon I was back on the day job. I felt like someone who had gone too far down the wrong road to turn back. Then on March 29, I needed emergency surgery for a detached retina. A gifted surgeon saved the vision in my left eye but the recovery was trying. After two weeks, the doctor told me I was safe to return to my normal routine. “Go live life,” he said. But I didn’t want to go back to my normal routine.

I couldn’t continue with my day job indefinitely. I loved some of my work in healthcare but I needed more of a return on my emotional, financial and health investments. At work, I was a cog in someone else’s machine mired in professional obligations that could often be silly or onerous. Surgery reminded me I was mortal. Time is short. I had to work at what I was meant to do. I was a writer first.

Luck was on my side. I’d published many books and some were selling. I found the exit from the day job. Early last year I was involved in four businesses. Now I just have one job. I write in a coffee shop every day. That’s a great privilege. I’m in the brain tickle business again full-time. We live by our wits. Bills must be paid and that is truly scary. I’d tried to escape the gears of the machine once before. I failed then. I’d written plenty but I hadn’t learned enough about ads and marketing. Though I couldn’t make my writing life work in 2011, now, I think I can.

Writers talk about satisfying readers, serving and delighting them. We don’t talk much about the selfish part, the stuff that’s just for us. It’s hard to express the joy of writing fiction, that buoyant vibe that sifts through your brain when you see the movie in your head. It’s a lot of fun turning phrases, spinning the yarn, twisting the plot and discovering what’s next. We get to create. Not everyone does.

I’m not part of someone else’s machine anymore. At 52, I’ve taken control. My father’s about to celebrate his 92nd birthday. I hope I inherit his longevity because I’m just getting started.

I’ve got three books of science fiction coming out over the next three weeks and two more thrillers this fall.

Here’s the first of my new apocalyptic trilogy.

AFTER LIFE COVER 1

GRAB YOUR COPY of AFTER Life INFERNO HERE

The deep vaults of a virology lab have lost containment. They will call this Apocalypse. We call it Revolution.

From the author of This Plague of Days comes a new zombie apocalypse trilogy about nanotechnology gone horribly awry.

AFTER is a biomimetic stem cell capable of enhancing intelligence, health and longevity. Weaponized using brain parasites, it becomes an agent of biological warfare capable of transforming 70% of humans into rampaging killers. No one is safe. Take a deep breath. Get ready. Fight to the death. You might even have to fight beyond death.

Torn between regret and heroic aspirations, Daniel Harmon is a noob whose job is to stop the monster epidemic before it begins. As his Emergency Task Force moves in to secure the Box, the body count rises. A dark conspiracy at the crossroads of corporate greed and science will change our fate forever.

The Revolution has begun. On which side will you fall?

AFTER Life Purgatory will launch August 27 and AFTER Life Paradise will be off the leash September 3.

Robert Chazz Chute’s author page is AllThatChazz.com. You’re welcome to find more fun there. 

Filed under: All That Chazz, new books, publishing, robert chazz chute, Science Fiction, Writers, writing, , , , , , ,

Multiple Streams of Income for Writers

I just watched The Martian again. Loved the book by Andy Weir, too. It’s still the best audiobook I’ve ever heard. The message at the end of the movie (minor spoiler alert) is that things are going to go wrong. Paraphrasing: You can accept that this is your end or you can do the math and get to work.

So it is with author careers. Shit will go south. Then what? Then you have to solve the problem, and the next and the next and so on. Even better, see upcoming problems and plan so a glitch doesn’t graduate to a disaster as soon as it strikes. 

What resources do we need to solve most problems?

To solve problems on Earth, we usually need money, support, information or time. You can buy time by outsourcing and/or sharpen discipline and management skills. You can hire support to leverage time. You can purchase someone’s expertise so you focus on the skills you’re best at. (Don’t major in your minor if you can help it.)

If you don’t have the money but you do have time, digging for information costs nothing extra except for your internet connection. However, the most common denominator here is money. We generally need more of it, especially if time is limited (and, let’s be real, when isn’t it?) Life is short when you’ve got big things to do like write books.

The answer used to be simpler: write more books. I gave that advice myself and once upon a time not long ago that was enough. Now we need more margin for error as we find our way to readers. We all need time to write and ways to find traction in the marketplace. Sure, you can find lots of advice about marketing your books, but how do we get more money to help us with all those variables? How do we pay for a Bookbub to sell more books when the books aren’t selling much in the first place? Advertising and investing in your writing career takes capital (not much, but if you’ve got nothing, not much is a lot.)

Ideally, it’s great to find multiple streams of income that are complementary to your writing career. These might include: podcasting, Patreon, selling t-shirts, selling at conferences, providing complementary services (editing, proofing, book design, formatting), advertising, educational products, ghostwriting, copywriting, publicity, virtual assistance for authors, webinars, speaking engagements, book signings, co-op ventures, organizing book promotions, co-authoring, participating in anthologies, teaching, screenplays, teaching how to write screenplays and Thor only knows what else. Cross-promotion and cross-propagation of ventures makes your other job or jobs a good fit.

What about repurposing material you’ve already created for different venues and audiences? Abel James, author of The Wild Diet, repackaged his offerings in smaller books as well as providing material (and new supplementary info) to nutritional templates he serves up in different ways on the web. For fiction authors, consider publishing prequels, sequels, box sets or an omnibus of your series. (This may not qualify as a reliable stream in your multiple incomes if it doesn’t sell or takes too long to get to market.)

But maybe none of the above appeals to you or you just can’t see a puzzle piece that fits with your writing career. Okay, work the problem. What can you do? How much do you need? What debt can you eliminate? What lifestyles choices can you do without to free up resources? What can you sell or trade? Are you willing to move? What are you willing to do to protect yourself from starvation and insecurity? How will you earn the capital you need to buy writing time, book promotion, marketing and investment in yourself as a writer? (And feed the baby?)

My solution was to take on four jobs. Two of the businesses are mine and I worked it out so I control my time juggling all my projects. Entrepreneurship suits me better than working for a boss. (Me and a boss? That couldn’t end well.) I write more books, yes, but with kids going off to university I need a cushion between me and homelessness as I help them on their way.

Until we can reliably meet our responsibilities with one source of income (preferably by selling tons of great books, entertaining the multitudes and earning fans!) we all have some financial problems to solve. If all you’ve got is a lottery ticket in your hip pocket, please give it some more thought, just in case that doesn’t pan out.

What are your multiple streams of income? Suggestions welcome. 

~ Check out my author site at AllThatChazz.com. You’ll find a helpful podcast and oodles of SF, crime thrillers, apocalyptic epics and a self-help book called Do the Thing! So do the things. It’s sexy to do things.

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

Writers: On Confidence

I just listened to a Tim Ferriss podcast with designer Debbie Millman. Good Q&A about designing our lives.  One of the takeaways for me was about confidence. Ms. Millman interviewed many successful people. She encountered only two who didn’t feel like impostors teetering on the precipice of defeat. The confident pair were octogenarians with long records of success. For everyone else, success is a moving target, ephemeral and slippery.

If you don’t feel successful, it’s okay. Even after you have some measure of success, chances are good you won’t feel big enough for your britches even then. On the other hand, I have run into individuals who are stunningly confident. They’re probably deluded examples of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. According to Wikipedia:

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is.

From my experience, the people in publishing who sound most sure of world domination are novices. They tend to look at book publishing as a lottery and they’re a little too positive they’ve got the winning ticket with their first book.

The veterans have seen more failure so they aren’t betting on one book. They tend to look at each book as a journey, an exploration and an experiment. They also tend to look back on earlier efforts with some measure of regret: the writing that could have been improved upon or marketing mistakes were committed. More experienced authors appear more laid back about whether something hits. Even as they do a lot of smart things that make a heavy ROI more likely, they’re sanguine. They keep on producing. They don’t get sucked into review rages, shame spirals, bravado or defensiveness.

As a writer, it’s nice to have confidence but it’s not necessary. Do the work and enjoy the process more. Writing is its own reward first. Turning readers into fans is a separate thing, very different from facing the page and spinning out gold ink. 

Don’t worry about how much self-assuredness you possess or how little you’ve yet to earn. Confidence is a big soft pillow. It feels good until the stuffing gets knocked out of it. 

Just write.

~ I write science fiction, urban fantasy, apocalyptic epics and crime thrillers. Please do check out my books and podcasts on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

 

Filed under: authors and money, publishing, Writers, writing, writing advice, , , , , ,

The Joy of the Staying the Hell Home

Most writers I know are trying to get out of their day jobs so they can write and do nothing but write. I’m in a bit of a different situation. I have four jobs. My wife, AKA She Who Must Be Obeyed, has three. We have plans to change that crazy trajectory but, for now, this is how we live.

Getting pulled in so many directions can be stressful, but it must also be said that we’re generally pretty enthusiastic about all we do. Nonetheless, precautions must be taken so exhaustion and burnout do not burst our overtaxed hearts. Not working ourselves to death is generally a good thing. That’s why I’m on vacation this week.

It’s not the sort of vacation where I lounge on a sun drenched beach. Who needs skin cancer? I’m not touring castles. I mean, castles are cool, but all that walking and bad food? Pfft! It’s not the sort of vacation where I fly anywhere. Especially since 9/11, air travel is a nightmare. I’m not enthused about the ordeal of going through security, allowing people to be rude to me and getting packed into a tube with irritable strangers for a death-defying trip on Air Schnitzel. I am staying the hell home.

This is a writing vacation and I couldn’t be happier. On the first day, I piled up 6,802 words. That might be a personal best. I can focus on creation and do nothing else. I don’t worry that I left the house unlocked or the stove on. I don’t have any other tasks looming overhead. What luxury!

When the economy went south, someone invented the term, “staycation,” to make a virtue out of poverty. We all need vacations though we don’t all get them. I am grateful for this opportunity. Don’t hate me because I’m relaxed. I’ve worked hard for this.

I know the story I want to write and it’s going great. It’s going so great, in fact, that I am about halfway through a new novel. I’ve committed to completing the first draft this week. The bulk of the rest of this year will be devoted to editing and publishing the many book projects I’ve managed to pile up in the last six months. You may call me lots of nasty names, but you can’t call me lazy.

I am always reluctant to take any time off but She Who Must Be Obeyed insists and she’s always right. Without fail, I return to work fresh and full of new energy and new ideas. 

My vacation’s writing schedule is full. I know it’s not a vacation in the truest sense. I really mean that I’m down to doing one job: writing stories to melt hearts, tickle brains and make you say: ah-ha, ha-ha-ha, oh my gawd and wowzers (repeatedly, in no particular order.) Since I’m used to juggling four commitments, one job seems remarkably easy, especially when that one job is writing. I love writing. I’ll even get more reading done this week, too.

I’m having a great time. If you want to talk, email or dance the samba, I’ll be available next week. If you haven’t had a pure writing vacation this year, I urge you to plan one if you can. When I make the big move back to having one job and one job only, every day will be like this: coffee, couch and laptop. Writing is the one job from which one can never really retire. Happily so.

Love and kisses to all (substituting man-hugs where appropriate.)

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Catch all my sexy hexy texty epic weirdness at AllThatChazz.com.

 

Filed under: All That Chazz, self-publishing, writing, writing advice, , , , ,

How to keep moving forward.

My wife, She Who Must Be Obeyed, deals with a lot of sad, difficult and traumatic situations in her noble work. She helps a lot of people but it’s not easy. To combat the downside, she keeps what she calls a perk file. That’s where she holds on to commendations and thank you letters from those she has helped. Writers should have a similar file.

As an author, you will have disappointments. It’s inevitable. As I wrote in a post below (The Writer’s Curse) we are imaginative and therefore perpetually dissatisfied. Copy and paste your fave reviews to a special file for those dark days to come. When the disappointments arise, reread those five star reviews and fan letters. Cherish them and keep going.

I’ve often thought about quitting, especially when I’m overwhelmed. (Quitting isn’t always a bad idea, either. More on that in a coming post.) I did stop writing completely for almost five years. Those were not good years. For me, the dissatisfaction of not writing is worse than the bad writing days.

This week, a reader reminded me why it’s important to keep going. Stories are powerful. I replied, thanking her for being a reader, of course, but her letter is too important an inspiration not to share with fellow writers. She wrote:

Dear Robert Chazz Chute,

I read zompoc because I need to read something that takes me away from my reality – a genetic condition that slowly transformed the woman who could turn somersaults in mid-air to the woman in a wheelchair.
Fortunately,my sense of humour is intact.
Friends, family and NHS have stuck with me, so I’m lucky compared to most disabled people.
And the connection with This Plague of Days?
It distracted me from my pain – always present unless I’m asleep.
Yep. Stories are that powerful.
Even when they’re stories about unrelenting terror.
This Plague of Days is an epic piece of writing.
But you know that already.
I just felt like telling you that I know that too.
And thank you for writing something that set me free, for a while.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute and I am often sad. I get misty reading this letter, but in a good way. I am less sad this week thanks to this reader. You can check out all my stuff at AllThatChazz.com, or just read and reread this letter to get inspired to write something epic that distracts readers from their pain. Distracting us from pain is, I think, what it’s all about.

Now I’m off to write more. Thanks again, to all the readers.

Filed under: All That Chazz, publishing, Writers, writing, writing advice, 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.

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.

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