"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: May 2014

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fast and Furious Writing

Dear Fellow Writer,

I hope your writing is going well - and that you're a happy camper.

It's important you maintain a strong, healthy attitude about yourself and your capabilities when it comes to being creative.

Last week we looked at writing your first draft manuscript. Today we examine what to do next.

Fast and Furious Writing

Write Fast, Write Furious

One trick to maintaining a viable fiction-writing career is to aim to be prolific.

It is tempting to think of this as a new phenomenon resulting from the digital age.

However, writing many books over the course of a lifetime has been a successful career strategy for numerous authors, namely Enid Blyton (597 works), Barbara Cartland (722), John Creasey (600+), Alexandre Dumas (277), Nora Roberts (200+), Georges Simenon (500+), Agatha Christie (66), Dick Francis (40), James Patterson (130+) and these writers represent just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s fair to say that if long term success is a writer’s aim, then quantity can seriously out-trump quality.

Self-published Amazon authors too have recently shown that having a catalog of only seven or more books can make the difference between giving up the day job or not.

Readers clearly respond to prolific authors, for whatever reasons.

As a consequence, the most assured way of completing and publishing many books is to write quickly and confidently, getting the first draft down with ease and worrying about many of the technical issues later.

This may seem to you like an unconventional way of working – and certainly not one recommended by critics and writing teachers.

However, writing fast and furiously and fixing things up later is closely aligned with how we learn to do anything worthwhile.

Remember when you were at school and were asked to record what you did in your holidays? Did you worry about writing technique / grammar / style then?

Were there rules about not being able to write until you’d learned how to spell?

Of course not.

The teacher, if he or she was any good, wanted you to write first, enjoy your creativity and hopefully learn from your mistakes later - after you’ve done the job.

And now, with all the advances in technology at our disposal, we have an ideal way of doing the same: learning and perfecting as we go along.

Editing on-screen means no longer having to waste paper.

You may use your rough first draft as a starting point, as long as it’s finished: making repairs and editing until, eventually, the whole manuscript shines.

In exactly the same way as a jeweler starts with a lump of rock and chisels away the flaws until revealing the diamond within.

In fact the diamond analogy is pertinent for another reason.

Because the reason why a diamond maker works so hard on creating the perfect shape and texture is to increase its value.

And monetary value is what concerns the career writer. Too many writers are keen to place their work in the public eye without first shaping their manuscript into its most commercial form.

Indeed, I’ve worked with many new writers who find this the most challenging aspect of being an author - understanding what will sell in relation to the manuscript they have written - and trying to plug the gap in between.

We require an objective viewpoint, and the mindset that will allow us to effectively edit our work into its most commercially viable form.

When you have completed your first draft, print it out, hold it in your hands and read it all the way through without editing or changing anything.

This is the only surefire way to know what you’re dealing with.

You’re trying to get a sense of the whole manuscript – how the story will feel to your reader – and whether, indeed, it works at all – if only in your own mind at this stage.

Now put down the manuscript and take some time out.

Perhaps go for a walk. Get away from your computer, find some place alone to think about your story. Take a small notebook.

Ask yourself:

1.    Does the manuscript work?

2.    Is it complete?

3.    What more is there that I might need to make it work effectively?

4.    Is the story the best it can possibly be?

5.    Have I done justice to the material and the ideas behind it?

6.    Is there more wordage than is necessary for the story?

7.    Are there sections/chapters etc., that should be deleted?

Visualize the pacing of the manuscript in your mind.

See the images unfold in the linear way they appear in your story.

Does the action move fast enough? 

Is there too much static exposition? 

Does your story feel fluid with lots of motion? 

Or does it feel stagnant in places? 

Think too about your over-arching theme.

Is your original premise in the manuscript? 

Think then about your characters.

Are they consistent, believable, true? 

Is there plenty of dialogue and does it sound natural? 

Imagine you’re the reader. What would you think about this book, and its author?

Open your notebook and write down a list of the issues arising from this analysis of your story.

Most probably this will be in note form. For instance:

Main character – needs more motivation

Cut down adverb use

Describe setting in Chapter 3

Create bigger ending

And so on – until you feel you have highlighted all of the relevant issues.

Then, go back to your desk, and sit down to write the second draft...

The above is a short section from my next Amazon Kindle release, From Zero to Hero: How to Make a Living as a Fiction Writer. 

Coming soon!
Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Write Your First Draft - Without Delay

Dear Fellow Writer,

A warm hello to this week's newsletter. Thanks especially if you've just signed up to my blog posts. My guess is that you've recently found me through Amazon.

Well, here's proof I'm an actual real-live person, writing just for you on a weekly basis.

Enjoy the article!

Write Your First Draft - Without Delay

Don't Delay

Writers procrastinate. It’s a fact of life, often a conditioned reflex to the very thought of sitting down to create something new.

How do you find the motivation to write? Let’s look at the standard advice, and see what’s wrong with it.

According to some poor literary types, we should place posterior on seat and sweat out words. I’ve even heard writing referred to as bleeding on to the page, a nasty image that implies pain and suffering. 

Which authors in their right mind would want to feel this way about their writing?

Does a surgeon agonize over every incision? Does a bus driver experience angst at every turn? Does a builder feel despair and foreboding with each new brick in the wall?

Of course not.

It’s absurd to assume that a vocation causes anxiety to a professional.

Why is it only writers who associate discomfort and unhappiness at the thought of their work?

The truth is they don’t. Not professional writers anyway. Most of the myths about art being hard work come from struggling artists that haven’t yet mastered their craft, who are still struggling with their primary tools: their mindset and their motivation.

Having said that, I recently read that apparently eighty-three percent of Americans think of their day job as stressful.

My response would be: then why do it?

Perhaps we feel guilty if our job isn’t stressful in some way. Perhaps we feel that we can’t possibly choose a career that could be fun and easy for us. That we have to feel stressed by writing in order to justify it as an alternative way of making a living?

Because, if you chose a career that was fun and rewarding, perhaps nobody would believe you were actually working. And then you wouldn’t feel right getting paid for it.

Interestingly, the majority of the other seventeen percent of the US workers were comprised of high-flying CEOs and the self-employed.

It’s clear then that having a degree of control over your own work day is the number one factor when it comes to job fulfillment. And being a self-employed writer is all about being in control of your own work day.

So, it's true, all we have to do is sit down and write.

In a sense this is all there is to it. However, I know from many thousands of emails I’ve received over the years that it’s not quite as this simple. In fact I have dedicated a large part of my life to working out why it’s not that simple!

During my investigations into this problem, I have been forced to unlearn many of the illusions I held about writers: what they’re like, how they think and how they behave. I’d like to pass on one of these observations in order to help you.

First of all, it’s important that you don’t believe the hype.

There’s a conspiracy amongst literary types who want us to believe that writing is some kind of noble and specialist pursuit that only the truly talented can and should indulge in.

Fair enough.

Trouble is, we buy into this fantasy, no matter how ridiculous the idea is in reality.

The fact is anybody can be a successful writer. The majority of professional writers, even those bestselling authors, are just normal people with no great talent – just an acquired skill that they have perfected over time.

I’ve met hundreds of writers and I’m yet to find a true genius among them.

I’ve met writers that have good work ethics, who are productive and successful. But I’ve yet to meet writers that fit anything like the mold ascribed to them by certain critics and biographers. Most of what it means to be a real writer is a myth, one we have to break down in order to proceed with confidence. Successful writers are generally not different, better, more talented than us. They’re really not. It’s a silly illusion. Many of the best writers around today simply have access to better editors than ourselves.

Try this little exercise.

Imagine your favorite author before he or she was famous.

In all likelihood they were just like you, with thought patterns and agendas much like your own.

Certainly they had the same problems you face: lack of sufficient money, a small or non-existent fan base, trouble being taken seriously by agents and publishers, a dearth of serious writing time, slow book sales, and a myriad of other concerns that might plague you on a daily basis.

The big difference comes when you write a book that resonates with the public. That’s all. One book that sells well can change everything: your financial status, your ability to carve out your own destiny and to finally feel justified in taking all the time you need to write your next book.

So why not imagine that you are writing that one book right now?

All you need now is the first draft, which you can write quickly and easily if you read my books.

Besides, your first draft isn’t going to be the final product. But it will be the basis for the final product. It’s important you get through the first draft so that you have something solid to perfect later.

It’s crucial that you believe in yourself and in what you have to say, or that the story you want to tell is important, meaningful, worthy of other’s attention.

Motivation is not about making yourself write per se, it’s about wanting to be read.

It’s about needing to write a book that people will want to buy, because you believe it will benefit their lives when they do.

That’s where true motivation comes from: the desire to change the world, even just a little, for the better, through your writing.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Be Your Own Best Editor

Dear Fellow Writer,

The weeks and months go flashing by, don't they?

One minute you have a whole year to complete projects, then it's halfway through the year and it looks like you've hardly touched your annual 'to do' list. 


Be Your Own Best Editor

There are people out there who will insist that you can’t write a book or a story without first being familiar with the rules of good writing. 

However, I’ve noticed over the years that learning the basics is not in itself a very reliable method for getting new stories on paper. 

Because, if you let yourself worry too much over the practical issues to the detriment of your wish to express ideas, emotions and images, you’ll never get anything much started, let alone finished.

Indeed it could be argued that the reason why so few of us are creative in the long term is that other people’s insistence on strict adherence to predefined rules often makes us feel inadequate to artistic tasks before we begin them.

I’m a great believer in letting people have a go at whatever they’re drawn to before trying to bog them down with technique. 

There’s a famous story about Orson Welles when he was making the classic movie, Citizen Kane

Every morning, Welles would arrive at Stage 32 on the RKO Studio lot and start moving around cameras, shifting lights and rearranging sets for what he assumed would make for the most dramatic scenes. 

The technicians kept quiet at the time even though they felt that Welles really had no idea what he was doing. 

The cinematographer, award-winning Greg Toland, said later that each day he prayed no-one would interfere with Welles’ tinkering because, even though the director had no training in movie-making, Orson was unwittingly pushing the limits of art through his ignorance of the correct procedure. 

Some of the scenes in Citizen Kane are considered to be ingeniously brilliant to this day, borne as they were from Orson’s lack of understanding of how movies were made in 1940. 

Now, we can’t all be the genius that Welles undoubtedly was, but this story surely illustrates how, on occasion, proper education can be limiting from an artistic standpoint.

Simply put, sometimes it’s better to not know what you’re doing!

Having said that, Welles of course had a team of filmmakers around him that honed and polished his vision into the movie we see today. 

When it comes to books, we often have to rely on our own skills, judgment and knowledge to smooth out and burnish our first drafts into something more aesthetically pleasing and conventionally formatted.

I really don’t recommend that you use other people to edit and polish your work, at least in the long term. 

Other people will never truly understand your vision. Besides which, your first draft is really only a rough guide, a hunk of rock that looks a bit like the final statue, if you will. 

Most of your own genius will not be evident until you begin the final sculpting process yourself.

I’ve corresponded with writers - usually journalists - who regard editing as a chore that their superiors are paid to do, therefore they shouldn’t sully themselves with such things. 

This thinking is mistaken. 

Not only is it lazy and will inevitably lead you into bad habits you’ll find hard to break, you’ll never learn to appreciate the power and profundity of words unless you get used to honing your own prose.

Learning how to edit your own work is especially relevant these days when self-publishing has become such a viable - and profitable - option for many new authors.

In my own case I’ve found that waiting for other people to edit, beta-read and proof my work can be enormously time-consuming. 

This can be all the more frustrating when a book that, for instance, takes six weeks to write, but then takes twice as long to get read, edited and proofed by third parties. And, although I understand the need to get fresh eyes onto a project, I prefer to work more quickly. 

I feel I have no choice but to take on the role of reader, editor, polisher and proof-reader myself. Editing and proofing a book, for example, will perhaps take me two or three days and not the two or three months it might take others to do for me. 

You may have noticed that I’m currently putting out a book on Amazon every six to eight weeks. 

I believe this kind of frequency to be ‘about right’ for modern authors, if they are to compete successfully in the digital marketplace and make a good living from their passion. 

Maybe it’s symptomatic of my inherent impatience but I invariably don’t like to delay the release date of a new book simply because I’m waiting for someone else to read the manuscript. Waiting torments me and does little else but remind me that I should be perfecting the text myself.

Okay, sometimes we consistently don’t see our own mistakes. I’m all too aware of that. 

However, I have also worked with a myriad of editors and proof-readers who similarly miss glaring errors, or correct grammar incorrectly. 

In the past I’ve been forced to re-edit manuscripts that have apparently been prepared by a professional. 

I’m sure it’s a swings and roundabouts thing. 

Self-editing may not work for everyone, especially if competence levels are shaky. 

However, I believe we should ideally aspire to be our own best editors.

Keep Writing!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Seven Words to Help You

Dear Fellow Writer,

Nice to speak to you again.

All of my Kindle books are on special this week - less than one dollar for most of the titles in The Easy Way to Write series. Check out any of the covers below.

Need a FREE Kindle Reader for your PC or MAC? Go HERE.


I've spent this week creating a paperback version of The Easy Way to Write Short Stories That Sell on Amazon's CreateSpace.  Did you know it's free to publish through CreateSpace? And that they even distribute your books in bookstores and libraries for free?

It's odd because I still often get emails from people wasting lots of money publishing their books through rip-off companies like Xlibris, Trafford, Tate, Whitmore, PublishAmerica, Author Solutions, iUniverse et al - when Amazon CreateSpace lets you do it all for free!

Seven Words to Help You


Seven keys to unlock your dreams, seven words you need to hold dear on your journey.

They are:

1. Passion

You cannot devote your life to anything without a passion for it. No amount of coulda, shoulda, woulda will help.

If you don't know what your passion is, look for it, identify it. You'll know what it is when you feel warm inside and a smile touches your lips.

Follow your passion.

2. Energy

You cannot fuel your passion without the enthusiasm to pursue your chosen path.

Enthusiasm needs your body fit and your mind alert. Only when you're healthy can you focus on what is important to you. If you're not feeling well, find time to relax and nurture your self, energize your being.

When you're relaxed, your energy will multiply and your enthusiasm go further - and your passion can become manifest.

3. Resolve

All the passion and energy in the world will amount to naught without a goal and the determination to reach it.

When you venture on a course you know to be fulfilling, you must see its end point and know you are committed to the journey.

A sure resolve in your heart will keep your energy high and your passion focused.

4. Study

You cannot continue or succeed in your chosen field without the right tools at your disposal, nor the attitudes that will help you.

Learn everything there is to know about your chosen endeavors. Study the paths that others have taken, emulate their manners and their techniques, and you will surely arrive at the destination you desire.

Feed your thirst for knowledge to strengthen your resolve, to harness your energy and to fuel your passion.

5. Invention

Your vocation needs increasing. You must add your own self to that which you study.

Merely repeating or copying is not enough. You must love your work so that it grows. Find new meaning, new connections, new relevance and create as much as you employ.

Expand your inventiveness as you study your life's work, and your resolve will heighten, increasing your energy and passion.

6. Strategy

Anyone can dream, anyone can make a wish, but it is the superior person who makes a plan, and draws a map to show the way.

There are signs that point towards your success - and you must seek them out, acknowledge them and forever look beyond them into the distant hopeful horizon.

Know where you are going, write down the itinerary and follow the path. If the path is not there, invent it, resolve to make it clear with your multiplying energy and your passion.

7. Trust

You need faith to pursue a dream that others may believe is not for you. But others are not you - and cannot know your heart.

You must trust your instincts, your intuition and your intention. They will guide you on your journey. That is their purpose.

Believe that the Universe, or your God, lovingly wants you to succeed - and you will.

Passion, energy, resolve, study, invention, strategy, trust - they all come together and the first letter of each will remind you of the single most important directive you will ever need to tell yourself:


Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell

The Writing Academy

Welcome to the official blog of Rob Parnell's Writing Academy, updated weekly - sometimes more often!