Thursday, January 12, 2017

If In Doubt Leave It Out

Did you get the free course on writing your own autobiography? It's here:

Today's article is about how to make your writing more professional-looking.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell
Your Success is My Concern
You probably won't be surprised to learn I read a lot of unpublished manuscripts. I also read a lot of published work. Are there some glaring differences between the two? You betcha.

The fact is most beginning writers write too much. That's okay for the first draft but when it comes to editing, you need to give that delete key a thorough work out!

Good writing is about pacing, about taking the reader on a journey and keeping in step with them along the way.

If you get the pacing wrong, the reader will stumble and begin to lose interest because it will seem you are more interested in writing the words than telling the story or relaying the information.

Here are some tips on how to cut down on unnecessary verbiage!

The Art of Description

With the advent of global communication and visual media, we all know what most things and even most places look like. It's no longer necessary to spend more than a couple of sentences establishing what things are, where scenes are set, and what the weather is like, if that's important for mood.

Many readers nowadays will actually skip descriptive passages because they find them dull and interrupt the flow of the text. So don't beat yourself up over getting all the details across - that's what the reader's imagination is for!

Qualify That

Sometimes we write scenes etc., we're not sure the reader will understand - so we add extra words to explain ourselves, resulting in more confusion than clarity. For instance, look at this:

"With the divorce weighing on his mind, and his fears about losing his job, John was having difficulty deciding what to do with himself. Could he face going out, knowing that Pete would probably spend the evening ribbing him over his inability to get along with his boss and his problems with his estranged wife?"

Clearly this is clumsy and confusing to read. Much better to remove the qualifiers and simplify:

"The divorce was weighing on his mind. Did he want to go out? John wasn't sure. Pete would probably just want to rib him."

In the above version, even though the propositions are only loosely defined, the reader still gets it. You don't always need to explain every little nuance to get a point or two across. Quite the opposite in fact.

Room to Breathe?

When you write you make a contract with your reader, whom you must regard as your equal. Not someone who is slow to understand and needs to be carefully led, shown everything, and generally talked down to.

It's perfectly okay to leave out obvious - and therefore redundant - details. You don't always have to explain exactly who said what, what happened where, why, and for how long it happened.

Too many writers clog up their stories with unnecessary backstory, linking scenes, plot justifications and long, complicated explanations of issues the reader already regards as clear.

If you write with honesty and intelligence, your reader knows what you mean. When you over explain, you insult the reader. Don't do it.


Quite often writing suffers because the reader doesn't know where you're going. They wonder why you're focusing on certain characters and details - especially when you haven't first hinted at the 'point' of your story.

When you open a piece, you need a big 'sign' that tells the reader you're going THIS WAY, so that the reader knows what to expect along the way. You need to define your objectives - your purpose - in some way on the first page.

For instance, if you're writing a murder mystery, don't spend the first chapter following the protagonist around doing her laundry. Get on with the story and as soon as you can, show us the body!

Play By The Rules

Especially in genre fiction, you have to adhere to certain rules, because that's what the reader wants. Horror stories need to be at least a little horrific, right from the start. Romance requires that you have lovers at odds with each other by page two. Science fiction and fantasy require the elements of their genres too.

Publishers often say that, though many writers are good, they often write themselves outside of any given genre in their desire to be different or original - thereby, alas, disqualifying themselves from publication!

Of course it's important to be original - but if you can do that within the confines your reader expects, your chances of success skyrocket.


What you're looking for is sharp writing that relays the facts. When you go back and edit for sense, go for simplicity rather than exposition. If you waffle on about the intricacies of conflicting thought processes or meander through long descriptions of the countryside, you lose all sense of tension.

Pick up any popular novel. The best ones have no words that are about writing. They're all about story.

Speech tags

Okay. Speech tags - you know: all the he said, she cried, they exclaimed blah de blah. I'll keep this advice simple and precise. Unless you're writing children's fiction, lose them. As many as you can. It's the way of the modern writer.

The way to do this is to use other, more subtle ways of suggesting who is saying what. It's easily done, it just requires a little thought.

You can refer to character's actions just before or after dialogue, or use different styles to suggest different people.

Just as an experiment, try editing out all of the speech tags from your next MS. I think you'll be surprised and... master this technique and readers will love you for it!


Yep - we all know we're not supposed to use them, especially after a speech tag. They really are mostly redundant and add little to the story. Repeat to yourself three times before bedtime: I will edit out every word that ends in 'ly'! (I just noticed there are three in this paragraph - oops!)

Well, I could go on like this for hours - 'do this, do that, don't do that' etc., - I take writing very seriously, as I'm sure you've guessed. I hope these few tips will help you the next time you edit your final draft.

The general rule, by the way, is that at least 20% of your MS is probably surplus to requirements! And that goes for all of us!

The Easy Way to Write
Keep Writing!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

What's Hot and What's Not

Image result for images fire

I get asked this question all the time.

Writers everywhere want to know what's popular, what they should focus on for maximum profit, what sells, what will sell, now, and in the future.

They think there might be some great oracle out there who can answer this question - or that maybe publishers and agents on the inside might know this information and are somehow keeping it to themselves.

Would that this were true!

Think about it. Five years ago, could you have predicted what you are doing now?

Most of us don't know where we're going to be living in five years time - and even if we think we do, events conspire to change our plans.

Life is organic, some might say unreliable.

Even two years ago, is there any way you could have foreseen today's news?

Could you have known which celebrities or politicians were going to be in the spotlight?

Or which ones had faded from view?

Of course not.

It doesn't work that way.

The bestselling books and movies that are with us today were conceived and written AT LEAST two years ago - many much more than that.

Sometimes an artist, writer, or director may have been working on an idea for decades before the final product reaches the public.

What's hot now may have seemed a completely dumb idea five years ago - but the idea was pursued until it was fully formed and ready for the public.

Writers have a responsibility to write what's important to them - without forever casting nervous eyes at the marketplace and wondering if they're misguided or somehow missing the boat.

Because it's the writer's vision, dedication, and enthusiasm for his or her chosen subject that will eventually resonate with the public.

It's simple really.

People like good ideas that are well expressed, no matter which genre or subject matter is currently trendy.

Think about the books, movies, writers, and the artists you like.

They have a timeless quality, right?

Being a slave to the market doesn't make a creative person better or more successful.

We see many people who try to jump on bandwagons - but do we respect them for that?

Do they last?


It's a person's work or their personality, their uniqueness, that we respect, relate to, and ultimately cherish.

Your personal integrity is important.

It's your love of a subject and faith in your unique vision that will carry you forward.

It's these same qualities that will inspire publishers and readers to believe in you.

There's no point in thinking, Oh, JK Rowling and Dan Brown were successful, therefore I should do something like that - because that's precisely what publishers and readers DO NOT want writers to do.

You have to think in terms of YOU.

Your own creativity - and what you are drawn to - is what is important.

Not, is there room for another ---------- ? (insert author's name here), but there is room for --------- (Insert your name here!)

It's being passionate about your work that will, if you're serious, willing to work hard and okay, get lucky too, that will make YOU the next big thing, YOU that hot new trend that other writers will no doubt aspire to emulate.

Life's too short to be forever trying to predict trends.

If it were at all possible to know the future, we'd all have won the lottery by now - or we wouldn't have wasted time with all those nasty people we wished we hadn't met!

The best we can do is write from the heart, and keep on writing to the best of our ability.

Accept rejection as positive criticism. Learn from failure.

Rewrite and rework ideas until they're strong and incontrovertible - until they shine with an inner light that can't be doused or ignored.

Most of all, believe in yourself and your work.

Do that, and the rest will follow.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell

Your Success is My Concern
The Writing Academy

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Need More Time? Change Your Mind!

Become a Freelance Writer in 2017

They say it takes about a month to change a habit.

That's why rehab centers use a 28 day program. A month is roughly how long it takes for the body and mind to adjust to a new set of rules and circumstances.

There's no real cure for an addiction. The best therapists know that replacing a bad habit with a new obsession is way more effective than simply denying an urge that will no doubt resurface.

The reason why most drug addicts go back to taking drugs is that, even though they may have rid themselves physically once, their situations, their daily lives, their friends and influences conspire to get them back on the road to their ingrained obsessions.

Our brains are chemically designed to associate pleasure with familiarity. This is why self-destructive behavior can be so frustrating to observe - and counter.

This is why too, if you sometimes have a defeatist attitude towards your writing - one that may tell you that you'll never succeed and that writing is a waste of your time - the attitude will resurface.

It's not really that writing is a waste of your time, it's just that you've trained your mind to become comfortable with that fall back notion. 

The only way to counter negativity is to consciously dismantle the things you tell yourself and replace dark thoughts with positive ones. 

Do this for a month and it will become a habit.

Cynics will say this is too easy an approach. I would argue that  cynicism is the comfort zone of the underachiever and can spread like a virus.

This is why success gurus will tell you to avoid negative people.

We all have synaptic paths in our brains that are well traveled. Failure can often seem inevitable and our minds recognize this reality - and will find ways, facts, and means to endorse this crude simplification in our subconscious.

But that's the lazy way to approach the problem.

Reality also tells us that many people succeed despite huge odds, through luck or determination and persistence.

We need to train our minds to accept that despite the experience of the majority, there are those that rise above the mediocre and persist in their belief that anything is possible.

History is abundant with examples.

Edison, Einstein, Shakespeare, Da Vinci, all the way up to the present time. Dan Brown, Stephen King, JK Rowling. All experienced the idea that success was for others - but still they refused to accept they were wasting their time.

Theirs was a higher calling. The work was not just the means to an end, it was the end itself. 

A great artist's work becomes his obsession, his primary motivation - his reason to be.

I often get emails from writers who have lost touch with their muses, or have let their daily lives get in the way of their dreams.

They speak as though this is be expected, that somehow it's acceptable that our goals are there to be quashed, abused, and ignored - most often by ourselves.

But rather than endure what we regard as reality and the nature of things, we must rise above these attitudes.

Writers don't always succeed because they're lucky or have rich benefactors that enable them - or have more time than the rest of us.

Successful writers succeed because they make time - even when they have busy schedules or day jobs or children and a hundred other pressures. 

You might even say they don't succeed in spite of these extra pressures but because of them.

Pressure and the ability to find time to pursue a dream as well is the mark of a committed artist.

To be able to change your brain into seeing the value of your work in the midst of everyone else's negativity, cynicism and yourself being just plain too busy should be your real goal - every day.

If you don't have the writing habit, and you want to be successful writer, you've got to force one onto yourself.

Make a time each day, and stick to it.

Find a place to write, even if it's perched on the edge of your bed, and go to it, everyday.

Give your creativity time - and give yourself time to write.

Beg, borrow or steal the time if necessary.

Do this for a month and writing will become a habit, then an addiction, then an obsession.

As it should be for you.

Whatever you do...
Keep writing!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

What OFFLINE writers think and feel....

I recently conducted a survey of certain of my Writing Academy students - via mail. You know, using real post, with stamps! 

I did this to find out specifically what OFFLINE writers feel about writing - to see whether their worldview was different from the thoughts and feelings of ONLINE writers.

I think you'll be surprised, shocked even, by the results.

(Big mega shock: 73% of OFFLINE WRITERS don't use the Internet at all!)

Right. The first thing you have to remember about surveys is that the data may not be a totally accurate reflection of reality. 

Most surveys are, in fact, just a reflection of the kind of people that fill out surveys!

For instance, this survey was sent out to thousands of writers, of whom only 10% responded. 

Therefore the views of this other 90% might be completely different from the hundreds that took the time to mail me their answers.

Having said all that as a qualifier, here's what I discovered.

Only 14% of people who considered themselves writers had ever got paid for what they'd done. 

7% considered themselves a professional. 

Just 6% said it was their goal to write for a living. 

A whopping 51% considered themselves to be enthusiastic amateurs - the rest wrote only occasionally.

61% said their main interest was in fiction, 33% nonfiction and 10% picked out poetry as their main focus, with smaller percentages spread over a wide range of areas.

A fact that shocked me was the genre most respondents were interested in was Children's and YA fiction - at 21%. 

Romance came in second - 16% with Mystery and Suspense third - at 14%. 

Only 4% said they were interested in writing Thrillers. 

Smaller percentages were recorded over a wide range of genres - everything from Horror to SF to Fantasy to Biographies. 

It surprised me that only 7% were interested in writing anything they considered 'literary'!

44% had never taken a writing course before taking one of mine. 

Only 6% were involved in a writer's group and only 6% had ever used the Internet to find writing help. 

What I found particularly interesting is that almost to a man, all of the professional writers had paid for writing services in the past, from Net courses to correspondence, to MS assessment or even mentoring.

This confirms my experience, though - the writers most likely to succeed are those that actively seek out - and pay for - resources designed to help them.

Also fascinating was that 51% said they wanted 'advanced writing tips' while only 26% wanted help with the basics. 

Curiously, it was mostly the 'enthusiastic amateurs' who wanted 'advanced tips' whilst the professionals still wanted help on the basics!

Bearing in mind that most of these respondents had never used the Internet, it was interesting how much respondents were willing to pay for writing courses. 

35% said they would pay up to $500 for a good course, 33% up to $200, and 17% up to $100. 

17% said they'd be willing to spend over $500! 

A mere 1% said they thought writing courses should be free.

Finally, 46% of writers said they wrote purely for pleasure. 

42% said their main goal was publication and, also interestingly, 13% said they were writing for posterity.

Well, I hope you've found these results as fascinating as I did - it certainly provides real insight into how offline writers - as a community separate from online authors - see themselves.

Till next time,

Keep Writing!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Writing is a Life Long Sentence

Image result for writing prison sentence images

1. Read Like it's Going Out of Fashion

You've heard it a million times before. You can't love writing without first loving to read. Read a lot. Read everything. Analyse writing and writers. Study what works, what doesn't, wonder why and learn from it.

Realize too that the published writing you see has probably been worked and reworked over and over to appear effortless. Don't assume professional writers get it down perfect every time. They don't. Their work has been analyzed, edited and beaten into shape by themselves and other editors.

2. Study Your Own Writing

Study every word, every sentence, every phrase. Are you maximizing the effect of your words? Could you say the same thing a different way?

Don't just blindly accept your words as perfect. Professionals know there is always another way of stating something, setting a scene, explaining an emotion. Too many novice writers fall in love with their words, refusing to accept there might be a better way to get to what is true.

3. Learn to Love Criticism

When we start out, criticism hurts - big time. We've bared our soul. We've agonized over our words and are proud of what we've said. Off-hand comments about our work can feel like a body slam, even an attack on our capabilities, our character, our integrity.

But that's not what is going on. People love to criticize - it's human nature. Even the best writers are criticized. The point is to learn from criticism and rise above it. Listen to what is being said, make changes if necessary but do it for yourself. You are the final arbiter - but don't be blind or sulky about it. Take it on board.

4. Read Aloud to Others

Reading out loud can highlight the strengths and weaknesses in your writing. Especially in the areas of rhythm, wordiness, and dialogue. It's a great test.

Read to friends and family, yes, but also read to other writers. Let them make comments. Enjoy the process.

Try this. Read a short piece to a group of friends/writers. Make note of how your writing sounds to them. Listen to suggestions. Make changes, read it aloud again. Keep doing this until everyone involved thinks the writing - every word, every phrase - is perfect.

5. Try Different Styles

It's too easy to get stuck in one area of expertise. If you're a fiction buff, try writing magazine articles or screenplays. If you're a journalist, try free-form fiction. If you're a literary type, try writing advertising copy. Don't limit yourself. All types of writing are good in their own way and experimenting with them can teach you little tricks that help you become a more mature, fully rounded writer.

Novice writers tend to think they shouldn't experiment, that somehow it might taint their art. Nothing could be further from the truth.

6. Take Courses, Read More Books on Writing

The process of being taught, of exposing yourself to the ideas of others, cannot be underestimated. Even if you disagree with what is being said, it all helps stretch you and give you a deeper understanding of what is good and right for your writing.

When you take lessons in writing, study hard, do the exercises, listen to the feedback, act on it and write some more. Your writing will improve the more you do it. Don't sit and fret over your writing. Just do it.

7. Seek Out Good Advice

I quite often hear novice writers complain that they're learning nothing new about writing from the various authorities they consult. They sound disillusioned, as if there's more pertinent information out there if only they could find it.

Odd. considering I've never met a seasoned writer didn't love to debate the absolute basics of word-play, grammar, sentence structure and all the other little things that novices seem to grow weary of hearing.

Remember. You can never hear good advice too many times.

8. Give Back

Share your knowledge. Teach what you have learned about writing to others. Too often novice writers can feel there's some sort of clique of professionals who don't want to talk to them or associate with them.

We writers, whatever our abilities, must learn to see ourselves as a community with similar aims - to actively enhance all our writing - to raise the bar and to act for the betterment of all writers.

9. Constantly Want More From Yourself

Stretch yourself continuously. Find new ways of expressing yourself.
Writing is sometimes a strange past-time. A writing project that begins like an adventure can quickly become an obsession that ends up feeling like some self-inflicted curse!

But all writing experience is good, whether it's fun or not. Not all of your writing is going to be fun and fulfilling. Some of it may be a hard slog or a nuisance. This is okay.

If you want to succeed in writing, it should become your life, your passion, even your reason to be. It's a fine and noble way of life. If you want it, embrace it, and your writing will benefit enormously. Go for it!

Best of luck and - whatever you do - keep writing.

Rob Parnell

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Anatomy of the Modern Bestseller

Today sees the launch of Anatomy of the Modern Bestseller

It's a step by step course for creating and writing a fiction bestseller, based on studying five of the bestselling novels of our time.

You're going to want to get this!

Rob Parnell
Anatomy of the Modern Bestseller
I don’t know about you but during my life, I have spent a lot of time wishing I could create a bestselling novel.

You know what it’s like. 

You see a book selling bucket loads. You eventually read it to find out what all the fuss is about.  You quite like it but a small part of you is thinking, “I could have done that.” 

You don’t mean it in an arrogant way. Just that, it’s got words you know, strung together in a way that’s not dissimilar to what you might do, and there are a whole bunch of characters and a story line that doesn’t stretch much beyond what you could have imagined.

Pretty soon, you see the author’s name everywhere. Next, they’re making a movie and you’re thinking, “Wait a minute, my book’s just as good! Why isn’t my name up there? Why isn’t my book a bestseller too?”

Yep, it's every writer's dream.

To write something that sells millions and pretty much guarantees the author a place in history. Now that's sweet - the idea of it anyway.

I read a US publisher's blog recently that said that it was RARE for ANY author to sell more than TWO HUNDRED of their own books - and only then if they were lucky! This figure is apparently true for Amazon and iTunes authors, as well as traditionally published authors with bona fide book deals.

Yes, even mainstream publishers with worldwide distribution often have trouble selling the first print run (usually less than one thousand copies) of what they call their 'B List' authors - a category which pretty much covers the majority of us!

That's the reality. 

Bestsellers have a habit of surprising everyone: their authors, the media, Amazon and publishing companies too.

It's been said often that even publishers are pretty bad at spotting potential bestsellers. If anyone has an inkling of what a bestselling book looks like, it must surely be writers like you and me. After all, it's our job to write them!

It should, therefore be in our own interest to know what a potential bestseller looks like. 

In the movie business, there's a whole industry built around teaching writers how to write effective blockbuster movies - to a kind of formula.

(Okay, if you don't like the word formula, think in terms of a set of conventions that are necessary to make a movie work for a large audience.)

The sheer size of the film industry and the lure of the millions to be made have effectively necessitated the need to teach writers how to do it 'properly'.
Why, I wonder, is there no similar resource for novel writers?

(There is now, of course, because I’ve created one for you!)

I mean, it's not as if you need to be a great literary talent to write bestsellers. As the bestselling author, Ken Follett, says, “It's enough to be literate - that is, to be able to string a few sentences together.”

Bestseller writers are routinely criticized for their lack of literary finesse - but surely that's to miss the point.

It's the story that makes a bestseller. The story, the characters, the setting - and the big idea.
Isn't it about time somebody instructed ambitious writers on the fundamentals of writing potential bestsellers?

Yes. I definitely think so. 

That's why I put together my latest writing course, Anatomy of The Modern Bestseller. 

To teach novelists the basic conventions contained within all bestsellers. And if you think there's no rhyme or reason to these things, then you'd be wrong.

There are glaring similarities between all bestselling novels but as writers, we often can't see the forest for the trees. We get so involved in the writing process, we fail to see the big picture.

The reality is you really can plan, create and manufacture a potential bestseller. (Assuming you are literate, of course!)

There are conventions that always work. There are indeed templates - just like you'd use to write a screenplay - that a writer can use to hang their own novel on - and make their story look and feel and read like a bestseller.

Click below to find out more about my latest writing course: Anatomy of The Modern Bestseller:

I think you’ll find it’s information you need to know!

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell

Your Success Is My Concern
The Writing Academy

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Art of Story Revealed

I don’t do as many live seminars as I used to but when I do, the most popular topic is my Art of Story course. 

I once gave a whole day over to the course with a live audience, slides, and an intense Q&A. It was great fun. Plus I got to go to Singapore to give it, which is a lovely city in the springtime.

The best part about The Art of Story is that it’s a fun way for writers and authors to learn something new. Plus the substance can be easily implemented immediately after the course and turn amateur writers into seeming professionals instantly. 

It’s all about structure, you see.

The Art of Story shows you what the greats, the classic literary authors, and modern bestselling authors have known all along: that structure IS story. 

That even a bad story well told will be considered brilliant. And that, conversely, a good story told badly just won’t work. Ask any Hollywood producer if you don’t believe this is true!

The story-telling structure that is used is simple yet profound and if you begin to use the structure yourself, you’ll find it immensely helpful when you’re trying to get published and when you’re selling your own books, perhaps on Amazon - which just about EVERYONE is doing these days!

Structure is crucial when you want to look professional and inspire trust in readers, fans, and industry people like literary agents and traditional publishers.

I have revisited The Art of Story for my new Writing Academy. It’s now in four parts, lessons if you like, with a couple of bonus ebooks to help with your creativity.

Plus this one’s a bargain. Robyn, my beloved wife, (and resident mystic) recently told me that eight was currently my lucky number.

So what better way to celebrate that fact than by releasing this course at the one-time special offer price of $8 - normally $197.

That’s a huge discount!

Go here to enroll: 

Right now!

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell
Your Success is My Concern
Rob Parnell's Writing Academy

The Easy Way to Write

Welcome to the official blog of the Easy Way to Write from Rob Parnell, updated weekly - sometimes more often!