My Revolutionary Writing Process You Should Definitely Know About

A couple years ago I had a subscription to a writing magazine. The name evades me… wait, let me find out by pulling out my desk drawer, where my twelve issues, if it were possible within the confides of a drawer, are collecting dust. Oh yeah, the name of the publication is The Writing Magazine. (No idea why I didn’t remember that.) Anyway, they have this section that’s basically a spotlight on an author, which includes he or she talking about his or her writing day. That section, along with all the other mundane articles contained within its pages, is the reason why I cancelled my subscription. I like writing, sure, and I bore my girlfriend to death about the novel I’m currently writing, but I don’t want to read or hear about anyone else’s process.

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A magazine about writing called The Writing Magazine…? the fuck out of here.

I’m a comedy guy, so I inject humor into most if not all of my writing. I’ll never be a big enough player in the publishing world to be featured in The Writing Magazine and get the chance to bore people with how my writing days tend to pan out, but if I did, I’d probably spice it up a little: add in a bit of hyperbole, stretch the truth at times, and add in outright lies to play on clichés  and make it somewhat interesting. What I would write is this:

Dan Taylor’s writing day:

I wake up at around 5:17 AM. That’s not entirely true. At 5:17 I’ve pressed the snooze button on my alarm clock three times, so technically I’ve woken up four times at 5:17. First thing I do, even before yawning or putting my scrotum back into a place that seems anatomically correct, is to reach over to the ice dispenser I had installed bedside and fill a tumbler with three…dammit! No, four ice cubes. Most people keep water by the side of their bed, or sex toys, I have a bottle of store-brand whisky. I think it might be scotch, though I’ve never read the label properly.

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Not store-brand whisky.

Dragging my feet as I go, I walk to my balcony, open up the patio door, and go and sit on the deck chair I have lying there. Hanging on the corner of it is a Hawaiian shirt, and lying on it is a pair of vintage Ray Bans. I put those on, sit down, and take out from underneath my deck chair the pack of cigarettes that are protected from light showers and nicotine-addicted seagulls. One cigarette isn’t enough for me, so I smoke two at a time, three sets of two consecutively, as I stare at the apartment building opposite mine. I wonder about what to write as I sip whisky and hope that one of my attractive female neighbors across the street flashes me as she opens up her bedroom window curtains.

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Close enough.

About 6:30 I make it to the computer. I’m drunk and haven’t come up with anything decent to write this session. Worse still, I can’t even string together a chain of coherent thoughts or even remember what part of the story I wrote up to the previous day. I sit and stare at my laptop screen for five minutes, probably while smoking another cigarette, and while thinking that the screen looked darker than it did yesterday. Then I remember I still have my Ray Bans on my face. Ten minutes in and without a single word written, I decide I need my muse. I keep her locked up in my walk-in wardrobe, where she enjoys the luxury of my old mattress, a blanket she uses in all seasons, and meals of Cheerios served to her in a dog bowl. She likes to sleep late, but I pull the leash around her neck to wake her. When I ask her to inspire me, she doesn’t have a clue what I’m saying as I’ve driven her insane. After she’s spat on me and threatened to defecate on me, I give up pestering her and decide I’m on my own.

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This muse looks suspiciously like a young Chevy Chase in a wig.

As a consequence of having  a shit muse—or maybe I just use her as an excuse; I’m a little hazy on that—I pour myself yet another glass of whisky. The bottle’s empty at this point, so I throw it in the trash, where there are masses of rejection letters. I go back to my computer and start writing. It’s slow going at first, as I can barely see what I’m writing and have piss-poor fine motor functions due to my inebriation, but as soon as I sober up, the words flow onto the screen. I aim to write a thousand words a day, but every time I get to about the nine-hundred mark, I get writer’s block, or get lazy. That, too, I’m a little hazy about.

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“Writer’s block exists. I’ve seen it, had it, and worn the fucking T-shirt upon which nothing is printed.”

I generally come away from the office feeling like I should give up writing for a while, maybe even stop completely, until I glance at my bookshelf and see my copy of Fifty Shades of Grey and remember all the decent reviews and ratings it has on Goodreads.

This reminder, along with a power nap and a meal consisting of instant noodles, motivates me for the next writing day. The rest of the day is taken up by doing chores—one of which is to place a new bottle of whisky by my bed—and watching Netflix movies, from which I hope to steal ideas. Intermittently, I spam my books and blog posts on Twitter.

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Kiwi fruit and noodles. A terrible food combination.

So there you have it, my imaginary process. If I made you laugh, do me a solid and press one of the share buttons below. If I made you cry, from any other reason than laughter, then well, I don’t quite know what to make of that.


My books, which weren’t written using the above process, at least not on weekdays, can be checked out here.

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Book Review Writing 101

As an indie author, one of my most time consuming activities when trying to avoid writing is reading reviews for books I’ll never read. This might seem like a futile activity, but I like to think it gives me an idea of what readers are looking for, it allows me to avoid common pitfalls of writing a specific genre, or, failing those, it at least entertains me for a couple minutes. The latter is provided by what the internet seems to be best at doing: exposing me to the nuts out there and the stuff they want everyone to read.

In short, in the place of the three extra books I could’ve written during the time I procrastinate is up-until-now useless knowledge about what makes a reasonable book review.

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Instead of writing three extra books, this cat attempted to master winking. Nailed it!

Book review writing is difficult. I had a brief stint being active on Goodreads, and I wrote a few reviews. They’re shit. And not horseshit, which is almost pleasant when encountered on some country road, but the type of shit you might encounter in some inner-city back alley, which you can’t, to a reasonable degree of scientific accuracy, tell whether it came from man or dog. I totally understand that without the shit reviews out there, customers wouldn’t be able to make pseudo-informed choices about the books they buy. If only qualified people wrote book reviews, I wouldn’t have any, and I wouldn’t even sell the meager number of books I do. But what I don’t understand are reviews that fail on some basic level. Not able to articulate why the story about that wizard gave you a semi but you stated it anyway? That’s cool with me. But what I can’t forgive is writing a review that doesn’t meet the four requirements below. Book Review Writing 101 – shoot for horseshit, not human or dog shit.

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Sweet shit.

When writing a book review, you should ensure:

  1. Your star rating is justified by your review

Along with writing the shit you write, you’ll be required to give the book a star rating. It’s important to make sure that if you, say, give it a three-star rating, you make sure you articulate to a reasonable degree of clarity why you knocked two stars off. I received the below review on Smashwords. It’s my first and only one on there. I appreciate her taking the time to write it. It’s a favorable review, but I can’t help but wonder why it wasn’t at least four stars.

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Smashwords, you are the website that distributes this book.

Till the day I die, I’ll always wonder why baseball team A never won the Wold Series, how political party C made such a mess of country B, and why, despite my book being very entertaining, I didn’t inspire this reader to press that sweet five-star button.

2. You finish the book before writing a review

A book isn’t like a plate of food. You can’t take one bite and decide you don’t like it, unless that one bite was riddled with objective errors, like the chef used piss to thin out his sauce instead of water. Confused metaphor aside, if you don’t finish a book you’ve failed to attain the primary qualification for reviewing said book: you didn’t read the frickin’ thing.

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Send it back. Terrible character development.

When I go to my dentist, she doesn’t lean over, exposing her cleavage a little, and take one look at a molar and give me a clean bill of dental health. She looks at all of my teeth and then decides, based on the cleanliness of each individual tooth, that I do a bang-up job of brushing my teeth. I’m also a pretty decent flosser, but that is neither relevant nor contributes to the metaphor.

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I couldn’t decide which caption to go with, so I’ll put both: 1) “Yep, that was definitely a nipple” and 2) “How many fingers am I holding up?”

3. You don’t assume everyone has the same reading tastes as you

It may sound simple, but people like different stuff. While I’m not a fan of hotdogs, I quite like burgers. Some people watch football on a Saturday afternoon; I prefer to watch movies. The below review can be read in two ways. He could either be defining my target demographic somewhat or he could be saying that, because it features the subject matters stated below, the book is objectively bad. The fact that he gave it two stars seems to suggest the latter. I don’t like posing for pictures with a dog that looks suspiciously like me, but it’s not to say it’s an objectively bad pastime.

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If this book for you?

4. You know what type of book you’re reviewing

When reviewing a book, it’s important to know what category or subcategory the book falls into. You’d come across as a bit of a doofus if you wrote a review for Sharknado 3: The Third One based on its merits as a serious natural disaster movie. Equally, you’d come across as a doofus, at least in this humble author’s opinion, if you wrote a review of a comic mystery book (aka, bumbling detective) and you reviewed it based on its merits as an example of “noir detective fiction,” which is incidentally a non-existent, paradoxical subcategory, as I pointed out in a previous blog post.

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Define finally…

 

That’s all I’ve got, which is to say it’s Saturday afternoon and I’m going to watch a movie while eating a burger. If you’re on the way to a football game and have a hankering for a hotdog, go fuck yourself. What you like is obviously shittier than what I like.

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User of words

If I made you laugh at least three times, can you do me favor and press one of the share buttons below. Like what you read? Press the follow button to read blog posts future me promises me he’ll write.


The first in my series of comic mystery novels is perma-free on Amazon.com. Check it out here.

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Who Are You Writing for and Why Does it Matter?

I mentioned in an earlier blog post the importance of writing for a specific target demographic. In the absence of any other blog topic, and in order to keep up my once-a-week-schedule I promised to myself I’d keep in last week’s blog post, I’ll expand on what I meant and why it’s important. When browsing Twitter, I often see book plugs akin to “If you like historical romance, you’ll love Book A,” or, “Science fiction nut? Check out Book B.” That’s like McDonald’s assuming that anyone who likes food will automatically love their shitty burgers. The people who write book plugs like the examples above haven’t thought hard enough about whom they’re writing for. And it will probably mean, barring some stroke of luck, that they’ll never effectively market their books. They’ll never get their books in front of the thousands of readers they couldn’t be bothered specifically targeting who will buy everything they write and make them financially independent. In short, they’ll never be able to tell their boss go fuck himself, they’re done making McShittys for peanuts…Peanuts, McShitty? I feel a joke touching cloth.

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Require sustenance? Come in and try a McShitty. *Warning: some mornings it may contain peanuts*

If a writer wants to build up a devoted readership, it’s not enough to assume that anyone who reads the genre or even the super-specific subgenre they write will automatically become a fan. Because guess what, there are a shit-ton of other writers offering the same literature packaged the same way, and without having set they’re stall out differently from the rest of the authors of that genre, their books will try to impress all the readers of that genre and end up impressing none. They need to define a subset of a particular genre reader in their mind and tailor their writing to blow the socks of those people, and figuratively tell everyone who’s part of a different subset of readers who likes science fiction or military thrillers or whatever to go fuck themselves.

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In writing mysteries with edgy humor, I figuratively told this outdoorsy type who likes cozy mysteries about baking and dogs to go fuck herself.

So how do I go about defining my target demographic and writing specifically for them? I hear you ask. It’s simple, think about the experience you want to give them. You’re not going to be like a hooker who wants to be a Jill of all trades, master of none. You’ve got a niche customer base who you’ll specifically dress up for and cater to when between the sheets of some bed in some Motel 6. A target demographic shouldn’t be defined by age range or interests or if they color their hair at home or at the salon, or as mentioned above that they happen to read a specific genre, but what experience they’re looking for as a reader.

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M is for what suspiciously looks like a gorilla.

A couple years ago, I tried to write appeal-to-everyone literary fiction that I thought I could sell shit-tons of. I didn’t have a clue whom I was writing for, just that I liked writing. Writing those books was laborious, and editing them was like smashing myself in the forehead repeatedly with a sledgehammer. They were shit. And the reason they were shit, apart from the fact that back then I was an even shittier writer than I am now, was that my heart wasn’t in it. Around the same time, I decided I’d like to get well read. I picked up a Charles Dickens book that had been collecting dust on my bookshelf and started reading. I hated it. I hated all the description, I hated that it made me feel stupid, and I hated how slow it moved. With this experience in mind, I set out to find out what shit I actually like to read, and found an author who wrote exactly that.

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For the life of me I can’t get that asshole to like my books.

I won’t mention who it is, because I’m not into plugging other self-published authors on my blog, and because it’s irrelevant. Anyway, the point of the above longwinded story wasn’t to Dickens on Charles, but to lead onto whom I write for, my target demographic. Figuring I’d never sell enough books to satisfy my ambition, I started writing to entertain myself. My target demographic is me. And this is the type of reader I am and what experience I want:

The only times I read are during my commute to and from work. It’s either super early or I’ve just spent a day at work, so my concentration isn’t the best. This means I need books that aren’t super complex or are bogged down with rarely written words and that look light on the page. The place I live, Oslo, is quite scenic, and in order to stop me from gawping at the various views I go past on my journey to or from work, I need books that strive to be constantly entertaining. I don’t give a fuck if there’s any social realism or topical themes—if I want to be educated or enlightened about something, I’ll read a newspaper or pick up a non-fiction book—and I equally don’t give a fuck about how clever the writer is. I especially don’t want to read some flowery description of a room or a person. If I want something nice to look at, I don’t want to imagine it based on some author’s words. I’ll look at it on my television screen or at an art gallery. In the place of visual imagery and topical-theme-laden narratives, I want banter between characters, lots of dialogue and action, and a plot that moves faster than a hobo who’s just found a winning lottery ticket. I’m willing to suspend disbelief and read about characters that I don’t necessarily relate to or think realistic, as long as those characters are working their asses off to entertain me. When I finish a book, I don’t want to feel like I’ve just sat through a mildly interesting 5-hour lecture, but like I’ve just been to the circus while high on LSD. I want fiction books to do what they’re supposed to do: entertain me, regardless of whether they’re considered good literature or not.

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Unless it’s a bad trip…a really bad trip.

So that’s the type of reader I am. And that’s whom I write for. I write books to make myself laugh, and I’m not a unique like a snowflake, so other readers laugh too. Ones who share my sense of humor. And I market my books to appeal to other readers like me—while producing my blurbs, my book covers, and this blog. Next time you sit down to write, think about who it is you’re writing for and what type of experience they’re looking for. Don’t make a McShitty and think that everyone who likes food will lap it up, because they won’t.

As always, if you laughed out loud at least three times, press one of the share buttons below. It’s kind of a deal I have going on with the readers of this blog.


Does the above the description of what type of reader I am sound like you? If so, you might like my fiction books.

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Five Reasons to Keep an Author Blog

I started writing this blog for one reason: to sell my fiction books. I may just suck at blogging, or I might not have been doing it for long enough, or it might be because I write wonky lists like this too often, but this blog does not sell any books. It doesn’t even get a significant number of downloads for my perma-free book. I’ve thought of quitting and putting the time I take to write, edit, and publish this blog back into my fiction writing, but I kinda like doing it. From now on I’m going to write one a week. Even if the end result is shitty, like I fear this one might be. But because I have an iPad and an ass and way too much time on a Saturday morning, I’m going to need greater motivation than the half-assed promise I just made to myself to keep up an intense once-a-week schedule. I’m going to need to go full-ass. Fuck that, I’m going to need to go five asses. Just in case that wasn’t clear, which I’d totally understand, I’m going to need five reasons to keep my author blog updates more regular than my beard-trimming schedule.

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Seven, but who’s counting?

Here goes:

  1. To keep my writing sharp

It doesn’t take me long to write the first draft of a novel. About six weeks, assuming I don’t get ill or go on vacation. This year I figure I’ll write four. So this year, I’ll spend only twenty weeks actually writing—if I don’t keep this blog going—and the rest of the time making book covers, writing blurbs, editing, formatting, and publishing the finished products on Amazon and Smashwords. That’s a tiny amount of time doing what I love and a shit-ton of time doing stuff that makes me want to blow my fucking brains out. Not only is that a little depressing, but during those weeks when I’m not writing comedy or the stupid exciting stuff that goes in between it all, I’m going to get seriously rusty. Just take a second to think about the drivel you’ve just read. It’s definitely a product of my being rustier than…well, something that’s typically rusty, and definitely not a product of my having always sucked. So there’s the first reason, keeping those comedy writing muscles strong and ready for action for when I write shit I expect people to actually pay for.

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Old motor vehicles are typically rusty. And lazy writers.

2) Something to do instead of drinking

One of my hobbies, up until fairly recently…scrap that, pretty much my only hobby up until fairly recently was getting drunk and watching shitty horror movies. I’m now into my thirties and want to be able to look back on this period as a time when I went hell for leather and tried to achieve everything I wanted to achieve with my life. Failing the achievement bit, I want to be able to look back and think that I was at least a reasonably functioning member of society, with friends, and healthy hobbies, and Saturday mornings that weren’t spent scrolling through my Facebook feed as I built up the motivation to reach out my hand and put the glass of water I poured for myself ten minutes ago to my dry lips. One of the distractions that I’m going to use keep myself from relapsing back into that wonderful time of potato chips, craft beers, and movies that were so bad they were good is this blog. Sure, writing it will pale in comparison to that feeling of cracking open that first beer, knowing there are eight more in the refrigerator, but it’ll keep me out of trouble. If you don’t have a drinking problem and want to make this point applicable to you, swap something you do instead of drinking that’s damaging  such as eating processed foods or whatever.

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“Uh, honey, where do you want me to put the cheese?”

3) It’s cheaper than a therapist

I try to keep this thing useful or entertaining for the small readership it has, which comprises mostly of fellow indie authors. When I don’t have dubious advice to offer them, I at least try to make the blog posts funny. But sometimes it’s good to just let loose and go full narcissist and write about shit that pisses me off, to expunge it from my mind, such as when I critiqued some of the really bad reviews I’ve received  for my comedy mystery book. I don’t know whether that’s an accurate description of what people do when they go to see a shrink—now that I’ve thought about it, it definitely isn’t—but I figure I’ll use this blog to give my girlfriend a rest from my tirades and expose you guys to them instead. You’re welcome, there’s no need to say thanks. You guys are now my shrink, which means you’ll listen and probably not say anything afterwards or interact with me in any way. You’ll probably just nod, feeling a little sorry for me. Now that sounds like an accurate description of what a shrink does. And better still, you won’t want me to pay out my ass for it afterwards.

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“I’d do this shit for free…”

4) One day a shit-ton of people might read these words

I don’t fully understand it, nor am I willing to spend a significant time researching the subject, but the more you blog, the more chance you have of your blog turning up in search engine results. Sure, if you’ve got a decent number of followers on a social media platform, you can get fairly decent traffic to your blog by spamming. But it’ll never be enough to significantly impact on book sales. You have to turn up on the first couple pages of search engine results for that, which means producing a shitload of content. In a couple years’ time, assuming I’ve kept my promise of not drinking and writing these things every week, this blog could be like a gigantic cyberspace glacier, slowly moving week after week, picking up shitloads of debris and dirt as it goes. You’ve probably just worked out, if you’re a follower of this blog or have read my books, that in that metaphor you were dirt or debris, which isn’t how I imagined thanking you for reading. How’s that shrink gig working out for you? My apologies.

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“Go straight on, take a right, keep going, then another right and it’s there. You can’t miss it.”

5) One day I’ll have a record of how I made it

I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel here, but four is a shit number when it comes to offering reasons to do something in a blog format. If the meager sales I get turn around in the future and make me financially independent, I’ll be able to look back on this blog as a historical record of how I got there. It’ll be like when my grandparents tell stories of hardship during World War Two, only way less significant and way whinier. Now if that isn’t a decent reason to keep an author blog, then I don’t know what is.

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“Sure, the Nazis were shitty and everything, but I wrote one hell of a blog.”

So there you have it.

My hour’s up. It’s time for me to get up from your leather sofa I’ve been lying on and for you to get up off your chair you’ve been sitting ramrod straight in and for us to ride out that awkward moment when we don’t know whether we should shake hands, hug, or just quietly nod at each other after I’ve told personal stuff to you and probably cried a little. Is the same time next week good for you? Excellent.

If this was useful or as therapeutic for you as it was for me, hit one of the share buttons below. Right now this blog’s a tiny snowball, with your help it could become a snowman’s ass.


My fiction books can be checked out here.

Some of my more dedicated therapists hang out with me on my Facebook page here. Like it and become one of them.

You Won’t Believe What These Guys Had to Say about Sharknado 2

Regular visitors to the blog, if they existed, would know that I love mining comedy goldmines, such as when Amazon decided to sue a load of fake-review writers. I was all over that shit like flies on…well, shit. The same hypothetical readers would know that I love really dumb damming reviews written online by bad-intentioned and misguided assholes, such as this blog post where I critiqued bad reviews of my comedy mystery worst seller. So it goes without saying that if I could somehow combine these two favorite blogging subjects, then I could probably have the most fun I’ve ever had while writing a blog post. With that said, that which went without saying, it just so happens I stumbled upon that perfect subject to blog about. Wait for it…Sharknado 2!

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A shark in its natural habitat, as opposed to a tornado

Okay, not strictly Sharknado 2, but reviews of that movie written on the Netflix website. You guys who have never accessed Netflix through the website using a laptop or desktop, like I did in the time before everyone had an iPad and/or a smart TV, might have never seen the extensive collection of reviews Netflix has for the movies you can stream. You’ve been missing out in a big way. People who write reviews for Netflix movies are just like any other demographic of people. The majority are balanced, rational, and functioning human beings, but there’s a small number, and they tend be inherently vocal, who don’t quite get it like the rest of us. And in not getting it, like children, they tend to say the funniest things. This is where the fun is. Choose a favorite Netflix movie, one which has a niche audience, and scroll down until you find a one-star review, and you’ll most likely strike comedy gold. Trust me, you can’t miss.

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Hey! I nailed it with my review of Big Ass Spider!

Before we get into it, a little bit of background for you guys who haven’t seen the anti-genius that is Sharknado 2.  Where to begin? Well, it’s a sequel to an ironic horror/sci-fi movie about a tornado that sucks up a bunch of sharks, which then wreak havoc on a bunch of characters played by Hollywood A-listers of yesteryear. It’s in the “so bad it’s good” category, but as you’re about to find out, this idea that a movie can be so bad it’s good is lost on some people.

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“Why would a tornado ever want to hurt this little guy…?”

Let’s jump right in with the first review.

  1. Science enthusiast
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I’m impressed. Ridiculous is only one word.

I posted this review on my Facebook page, and for good reason. Ignore the stupidity of someone critiquing the acting in a B-horror movie, which tends to be intentionally camp, and ignore the oh-so-awful comment about one of the actors having possibly suffered a stroke, and move onto the second-to-last sentence. This guy, in all his wisdom, states that his enjoyment of a movie about a shark-laden tornado might have increased had the plot explained “where all the sharks came from.” I’m going to go ahead and assume that if the screenplay writers had put some scientist type into the script to explain “the sharks came from the Pacific Ocean” or some shit that this bad-intentioned, dumb reviewer still wouldn’t have understood what irony is.

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Ohhhhh…now I get it.
  1. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, then I’m a freakin’ genius.
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It is.

Oh, boy! This is the first time I’ve seen this one. I think it might be relatively hot off the press. Thanks for the belly laughs, guy. Every time I receive a bad review for a book, I think, At least this dude won’t read and review any others. I’m now rethinking that rationale. Having watched the first one and hated it, our genius amateur movie critic went back for a second bite. Something beyond reason happened: He didn’t enjoy the sequel. What did he expect from it? If he was thinking soppy Oscar bait, he was wrong. He got sharks in a tornado again. And with a title like Sharknado 2: The Second One, who can blame him for thinking it was otherwise.

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Just keep making them at the rate of one a year and you’re golden, guys. It’s bound to happen.
  1. Amateur geneticist and all around good guy
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Being the result of generational inbreeding isn’t the sole qualification required to enjoy this movie.

There are quite a few one-star reviews for this movie insulting the intelligence of the people who like ironic film making, but this one’s my favorite. It’s his use of the word somewhat when defining the target demographic for the movie. If you are the product of generational inbreeding with an IQ of “somewhat lower than 3” then this movie’s for you. I’ve got news for you, buddy. You’re no Charles Darwin yourself. Given that the range of IQs you’ve stated merely goes from 1-2, everything single person with an IQ lower than 3 can only have an IQ somewhat lower than 3. And for all you Ivy-league college graduates with whopping IQs in the range of 3 to, say, 10, this movie probably isn’t for you. You’re way too intelligent for a movie about a shark-infested tornado. Keep practicing writing cynical reviews, buddy. You’re not quite there yet.

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My IQ is like thirty. I’m way smart.

So there you have it. Next time you cozy up on your sofa and watch a movie on Netflix and have time to spare before you go to bed, use that time to read some reviews of said movie on the Netflix website. But make sure you save some of the popcorn for one-star reviews written by bad-intentioned assholes.

As always, if this was as good for you as it was for me, press one of the share buttons below. Just don’t expect me to pay for your cab.

You can check out my ironic comedy mystery book here. Anyone who’s crazy smart, maybe with an IQ as high as twenty, might not enjoy it.

Say hi on my Facebook page, I don’t bite (my apologies).

How to Write a Cliffhanger the Right Way

This week a reader was pissed after reading my perma-free book. But this isn’t the first time. What made this situation unique was, he sent me an email, stating he’d enjoyed it, but that he wouldn’t be reading the next one in the series. Why? Because I ended the book with a cliffhanger. He wrote that because I was so desperate for readers to buy the next book, he wasn’t going to play ball. He also gave me some condescending advice about how I’ll put readers off with this devious writing strategy. Before I wrote the ending, I was well aware of writers using the old ending-a-perma-free-book-with-a-cliffhanger strategy to sell the next book in a series, and have seen hateful reviews for perma-free books that ended with a cliffhanger. I had also considered how readers would react to my ending, so none of what he wrote was news to me.

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Find out what happens to the house in the next book.

I emailed back, writing that there are two types of cliffhanger. The first type leaves the reader without the conclusion to the story’s main story thread or mystery, with the conclusion in the next paid-for book. This is obviously uncool. The second type is ending a series book with the inciting incident for the next book in the series, after concluding the main story thread or mystery of the first book, like in an episode of Quantum Leap—I even gave a nod to that show by finishing with the main character’s catchphrase: “Oh, boy.” I think endings like that are fair, and, if done right, exciting, and I don’t remember people going apeshit at the end of each episode of Quantum. I told the guy the type I’d used was the latter, and thanked him for reading, anyway, etc. He never got back to me. And the ninety-nine cents he would’ve paid for my next book had I not been “desperate” for him to read it has me writing this blog post on a street corner, having not been able to pay my mortgage this month. I’m also starving, and for the life of me I can’t find a piece of cardboard to scrawl on to inform passersby of my dire straits.

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“If my story only had a beginning, middle and end, as opposed to a beginning, middle, end, and another beginning, things would’ve turned out different for ol’ Crazy Joe here.”

I was going to make this week’s blog post about differentiating between the two types of cliffhanger, and making a case for why I think they’re a good thing, citing examples in television. But I just kind of did that in—what?—three hundred words, so there’s that idea out of the window. Then it occurred to me that I haven’t written a blog post that mines the comedy from a situation in a little while, and that I’m supposed to be a comedy writer, God damn it. So without further ado, I reveal to you, three ways to sell the next book in your series that are less offensive than using a cliffhanger.

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A swarm of hot-air balloon enthusiasts using their favorite mode of transport to avoid the dreaded cliffhanger
  1. Tell the Reader the Next Book in the Series Contains the Secret of Life

You’ve just finished reading a page-turner, and it turned out it was the priest whodunit, not the chicken farmer, or the icecream man, and definitely not the mistress. It was a solid, mildly entertaining read. It didn’t make you laugh, and the writer could’ve found ways of putting humor into their ridiculous but semi-serious mystery work, but it was a decent read nonetheless. With only five minutes to go of your train ride to work, you figure there’s no point starting the next book on your Kindle, so you start scrolling through the back matter. You read about the author, and he proclaims his undying love of the mystery genre, and tells some silly story about what inspired him to write mediocre fiction. After that, you come to the plug for the next book, and HOLY SHIT!, it contains the freakin’ secret of life. You rush to work to get connected to your workplace’s shitty WIFI, download the book, and read it over the next week or so. When you get to the end, you find out it was just another shitty story about an alcoholic detective solving a ridiculous murder mystery, padded out with an unconvincing love-interest subplot. Huh. No secret of life, which the author promised. It could’ve been worse, at least this God-awful book didn’t end with a cliffhanger. But wait…the next book promises it’s the only book on the planet that can be seen from space. Holy freakin’ cow! You’re not sure how that’s possible, with it being not composed of matter, but still. Space!

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Warning: may contain excitement intended to bring about sales of next book in series
  1. Tell the Reader the Next Book in the Series Will Somehow Feed the Third World

Despite your sales ranking revealing a different a story, tell the reader that if they buy your next book it has the potential to fund the feeding of the Third World, after it’s helped you pay for your wife’s breast augmentation surgery. If they just cough up their ninety-nine cents, celebrities having pictures taken with African infants with distended abdomens will become a thing of the past, and publicists will have to go back to the drawing board when they’re client’s clothing line isn’t selling as well as they’d hoped.

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“Does he bite?”

3. Tell Readers the Next Book in the Series Will Get Them Laid

Feel free to copy and paste the following text into the back matter of your book, changing details where necessary:

Dear reader,

Thanks for taking the time to read my high fantasy story about a wizard who comes up with a spell every time he’s caught in a situation he seemingly can’t possibly escape from.  If you could take a few minutes to leave a review for this book, it would put a really stupid, really big grin on my face. But first, I just want to take a second to tell you what inspired me to write this book. As you know from my “About the Author” section previous, for a long time, probably since I’ve been potty trained, I have held within my heart a great passion to write high fantasy. But what I’ve also held…in a different place than my heart, is the need to get laid. Probably like you, I didn’t get to bang the redhead with the big tits in my math class, and my love life since highschool has been equally underwhelming. But, like the wizard in this book, I too managed to make the love interest in my life inexplicably sleep with me. I took the time and effort to write the secret to my success into the next book in this series. All you’ve got to do is buy it. Click on this link to find out the secret and unleash your inner happiness.

Kind regards,

L.J.J Writersmith


 

So there you have it. Three great marketing tricks.

But seriously, thinking of writing a cliffhanger? Think again, if it’s the first kind. As always, if you laughed out loud at least three times, please take a second to share this post with the buttons below. It’ll get you laid, probably.

In next week’s blog post, I’ll reveal the one writing hack that’s guaranteed to make you sell more books than Lee Child, Jo Nesbø, and J. K. Rowling combined.


 

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Wondering what my fiction reads like after this bit of neurolinguistic programming? Try it for free here.

 

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Grow a Mustache

I’ve been a bit down about indie publishing of late. After enjoying a little success, holding the number-one spot in Amazon’s comedy category for almost a week, sales have since plummeted. I’ve also been getting my first really bad reviews. In order to jumpstart sales again, I’ve been trying every marketing strategy I could lay my greedy eyes on, but with little success. Am I about to give up? Am I resigned to talking about publishing like a bitter wannabe piano player with stubby fingers talks about his disastrous first piano recital? Hell no. It’s time to get tough.

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“Honey, can you open the pickle jar?”

I’m not going to be overnight success. It’s not written in the stars, or at least it’s not written in my books, which are tailored to a certain readers’ taste. I might not be successful at all, but I’m not going to let that kind of negative thinking stop me from trying my damn hardest. I figure it’s going to take time, if it’s going to happen. The last couple days I’ve been putting together a plan to earn a decent living as a writer. In the absence of a comedy mother lode to mine this week for my blog, I’m going to share that plan with you.

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A prize-winning horse reluctantly sharing a carrot with its owner
  1. Perma-Free Book Downloaded by the Masses

Permanently free books make some indie authors angry. They whine and moan about free art and the future of publishing and other authors undercutting them, ad nauseam. I think that as long authors don’t make every book in their series free, it’s cool. Besides, you didn’t pay to read these words. Readers are rightfully hesitant about trying out new authors, and I think giving a little taste for free to whet their appetite is a sound strategy for overcoming that hesitancy. Besides, if it works for crack dealers—at least in old wives’ tales—then it could work for me. As long as the writing is up to scratch, which for me means as funny as balls and as exciting as a cocktail party hosted by Bill Cosby.

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This publishing industry elimination facility is cleverly disguised as a “library”

A free book to a browser is a no-brainer, but will they fly off digital shelves all by themselves? Absolutely not. But I’m pretty well schooled in giving away books already. When I ran my free Kindle book promotion, I managed to giveaway a shade under ten thousand books by running a Freebooksy ad, which is basically paying an exorbitant amount of money to some guys who’ll beg the members of their huge mailing list to download your book. If that fails, I’ll pay even more to get a BookBub ad and hope I get accepted. If I don’t, I’ll Andy Dufresne their asses until they submit. And hey presto, new readers.

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Despite repeatedly walking through this sewer pipe, this indie author’s requests for acceptance from BookBub was never granted

2. Build My Own Mailing List

How will I gain the loyalty of those readers, apart from by writing kickass books? By getting them to sign up for my mailing list. I have a few readers on there now, as a result of selling a fair few books, but in order to encourage readers to sign up, I’m offering a discount on new releases the first week they’re published. This way, readers will be more inclined to hand over their already spammed-the-shit-out-of email addresses to me, and I’ll be able to encourage readers to buy my new book during that first week, which will hopefully trick Amazon’s algorithm into thinking I write decent book-type books and expose my books to masses of unsuspecting new readers. Most of these will hate my books and leave bad reviews, but some will like my shit and hopefully…

3. Get Likes for My Facebook Page

Okay, so the whole ellipsis-leading-onto-the-next-section thing didn’t exactly work there. But you know what I meant. Not everyone signs up for mailing lists, but I’m struggling to think of anyone I know who doesn’t use Facebook. Apart from my dad. And my grandparents. And probably my doctor, now that I think about it. But whatever. Another way I’m going to encourage loyalty from my readers is by directing them to my Facebook page. I have a little message in the front and back matter of my books, thanking readers for reading, which I’m genuine about, and which directs readers who like my shit to also like my Facebook page. This has been working okay. I’ll give myself a C-minus for effort. In order to encourage it further, I’ve put in an “About the Author” section in the back matter of my books. I was a little hesitant to do so, because I’d feel more narcissistic than Prince after a line or three of cocaine, but I figure that if I can get readers interested in me after they’ve discovered they like the shit I write, then I can get more people to want to form a quirky-algorithm-dictated digital-age bond with me. I’m also going to start writing more jokes on Twitter. I figure I’ll publish the setup on my Twitter feed, and then have an ellipsis leading to a link for the entirety of the joke, which will be on my Facebook page. This way, more people will land on my page, and hopefully more people will like it, and more people will read my announcements for freshly released books, feeding into my sales-all-in-one-week strategy mentioned above.

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In a vain attempt to make people laugh, these two people each lost approximately two pounds of sweat

But all this is pointless, if I don’t…

4. Write More Freakin’ Books

It made sense that time. I’m getting the hang of this. I currently have three books in my comedy mystery series published. The fourth one is with my editor, and the fifth I’m writing the first draft of. As an indie author, I can’t get away with publishing once a year. I figure I need to write four or five novels a year to stay relevant. Last year I managed four, minus the edits of the fourth one from my editor. After I’m finished with the fifth, I’ll probably start writing a new series to keep things fresh. I’m thinking maybe a series about a hostage negotiator who has a harder time negotiating his family life than talking down crazed criminals. Sounds like an idea for a bad ‘90s sitcom, but whatever.

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Will he jump or won’t he?

And last, and definitely least, I’m going to…

5. Regrow My Mustache

I shaved off my lip weasel before Christmas. I haven’t been the same writer since. It seems that when left unclipped, my upper-lip hair follicles are the source of whatever mystical shit inspires me to write semi-decent mystery thrillers with a shit-ton of borderline misogynistic jokes. My days of trimming are over, and the days of me blow drying and hair spraying my mustache hairs into a macho style have just begun…again.

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You ladies out there will have to rely on Groucho glasses to harness this awesome power.

Thanks for reading. If you like what you read here, check me out on my Facebook page and like it.

My rage-inducing perma-free book can be checked out here. If you like that one, I’ll then expect you to pay for subsequent instalments, like a drug dealer who lives exclusively in our moms’ nightmares.