Have a (Book) Affair: Why Cheating On Your Story Makes You A Much Better Writer

Book monogamy is probably killing your narrative.

Story thrives in polyamorous romps with other stories, ideas, learnings and experiences. 

That is to say: the more you “cheat” on your story by flooding yourself with sensory-rich, dopamine releasing altered states of joy, the better your story. 

5 Reasons To Start A Book Affair Today 

  1. Re-engage emotionally 
  2. Spark creativity 
  3. Trigger new insights 
  4. Fresh Lens (perspective)
  5. Expand worldview 

So, yeah, go ahead – have a Book affair. 

How To Have A (Book) Affair

There are essentially three major steps to your book affair. Each step takes you deeper into the torrid affair: fantasize, realize and  synthesize. 

That’s another way of saying hook, look and book. 


In this first step, you take a step back from your Work-In-Progress (WIP). Close your eyes. Breathe. 

Allow your mind and heart to wander again, free from the structural constraints of your current story. 

Plot? What plot? 

Erase from your mind all inklings of character, motivation, conflict, story problems, etc. 

This is brainstorming for the soul. 

Fantasize about your perfect story. What elements are included? How would your favorite author write it? Your favorite director direct it? Favorite actor play it?

Just like a good brainstorming session, your ideas don’t need to make sense. In fact, it’s probably better if they don’t. 

Divergent ideas are not only welcome, they are essential. 

If you want Tom Cruise to play a teenage Chinese girl in a love triangle with Vin Desiel and a Werewolf – do you baby. 

This is FANTASY. 


In this second stage, you discover your perfect book and, consequently, what you are missing in your WIP. 


You take a good hard look at your (book) fantasies. 

Then, you ask yourself the following types of questions:

What are the common patterns?
Which elements are connected (or can you connect)?
How do I get as many of these elements as possible into a single story?
What common themes keep cropping up?
What are the common conflicts?
What patterns do I see in the settings?
What genre or genres do these elements fit into?

Once you answer these questions, and others like them, you’ll have a good sense of the elements that most resonate with you and stories you enjoy.

At this point, you will probably also be feeling very passionate and motivated to write about these elements.

But there’s one more stage left before you put pen to paper.


Once you have fantasized about the perfect story, once you have realized the commonalities and picked apart the patterns, you are ready for the third and final stage of your Book Affair.


To synthesize is to integrate the common patterns and fantasized elements into your current WIP.

This often takes a few rounds of experimentation, lateral thinking and good old fashioned literary elbow grease.

Don’t be surprised when adding a single element upends the entire narrative of your WIP. Don’t be surprised if your story becomes 10 times more original and therefore 10 times better.

In summary, your book affair involves three stages – fantasize, realize and synthesize. 

  • Fantasize: free flowing brainstorm of self-discovery focused on ideas that excite, inspire and light you up.
  • Realize: Recognizing patterns in your fantasized list of ideas 
  • Synthesize: Integrating the patterns into your WIP
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5 Time Secrets of Bestselling Authors – Part V



In this final post in our Time series, we are deconstructing how bestselling authors use the last of five special techniques to massively leverage story time.
Here they are again, as a reminder:

  1. Time Warp
  2. Time Stop
  3. Time Wrap
  4. Time Jump
  5. Time Check

If you missed the previous posts, read them here:

5 Time Secrets Of Bestselling Authors – Part I
5 Time Secrets Of Bestselling Authors – Part II
5 Time Secrets Of Bestselling Authors – Part III
5 Time Secrets Of Bestselling Authors – Part IV

Today, let’s look at the fifth and final time tactic, Time Check.

Time Check is reminding the readers of how much time is left before something terrible happens. This builds tension, keeping readers squarely on the edge of their seats.

4 Ways To Use Time Check

  •  A global, story-wide time check like the 24 TV Series which keeps minute by minute track of the time lapsed.
  • A section time check where some portion of the story (usually over several chapters) requires a deadline to up the ante of suspense.
  • A chapter Time Check.
  • A scene Time Check.

So, how do you apply this time tactic to your story? 

Consider these ideas…

  1. Define a Deadline: A Time Check only works within the existence of a scene, chapter, section or story deadline (also known as Time Clocks).
  2. Pose a Threat: Deadlines boost suspense because of the threat to characters or character goal if the deadline is missed.
  3. Choose A SBM: SBM stands for Snooze Button Method. A snooze button jars you back into focus, thererfore a SBM exists to “jar” or remind the reader of the deadline and threat.

Let’s put this 3-step Time Check Model into practice in an actual story. 

Secrets to Time Check: The Insider Examples of Bestseller Writing

The classic example is the bomb countdown. As the protagonist races to diffuse the bomb before it goes off, he or she periodically checks their watch. Ten minutes. 5 minutes. Next, their IT expert/computer hacker buddy (every action hero has one, right?) speaks through the ear piece, “60 seconds.”

Get it? You find a way to remind readers that time is running out. Bonus points for creativity.

Here’s another example: A killer threatens to murder 10 people, saving the detective’s child for last. Each murder serves as a countdown as the killer gets closer to the detective’s kid. Maybe the police have a daily powwow with photos of the victims tacked on a board or wall – first 1, then 2, then 3 and etc.

As you might imagine, there are almost an infinite ways to apply Time Checks to your story for enhanced suspense and reader engagement.

Use this time tactic in your stories. I think you’ll be delighted with the results.

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5 Time Secrets Of Bestselling Authors – Part IV

In this post series, we are deconstructing how bestselling authors use five special techniques to massively leverage story time.

Here they are again, as a reminder:

  • Time Warp
  • Time Stop
  • Time Wrap
  • Time Jump
  • Time Check

If you missed the first three posts, read them here:

5 Time Secrets Of Bestselling Authors 

5 Time Secrets Of Bestselling Authors – Part II

5 Time Secrets Of Bestselling Authors – Part III

Today, let’s look at the fourth time tactic, Time Jump.

Time Jump is when a story takes wide leaps to a different time in the story. In contrast, Time Warp leapfrogs from “peak” story moment to “peak” moment, skipping all the boring stuff.

Probably the most common application of  Time Jump is when a book (or movie or TV Show) flashes back to a character’s past.

Another common usage occurs when a book starts at a later point in the story and then reverses backward in time to set up the narrative. Eventually the story “catches up” to the point at which it started. As an example, the TV Series Alias used this version of Time Jump generously.

4 Reasons To Use Time Jump

  1. When you want or need to skip long period of times.
  2. When writing a story that involves time travel.
  3. When telling a story that jumps back and forth between different times, such as past and present or present and future.
  4. When you want to grab attention with a scene that takes place at a later time in the story (Like Alias).


To see how a current bestselling author handles Time Jump, I recommend the first novel in the Orphan X series by Gregg Hurwitz. During the high-action CIA thriller, there are occasional dips into Evan Smauk’s childhood that add characterization and depth while not distracting from the forward motion of the narrative.

The movie The Accountant also does a good job with this time tactic, shifting to Christian Wolff’s (Ben Affleck’s) childhood to highlight character and reveal plot information:

  • The movie begins with the protagonist (played by Ben Affleck) as a mentally disturbed child.
  • Later, the movie time jumps to show Ben’s obsession with completing tasks.
  • Next, the movie time jumps to show Ben’s mother abandoning the family.
  • Time Jump is used to show Ben learning to fight and stand up for himself against multiple bullies.

Read Orphan X and watch The Accountant to study how masters apply this potent literary device. When used correctly, Time Jump can significantly enhance your narrative.

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The Fastest Way To Make All Your Descriptions Better

Story is description. 

Think about it. Whether you show or tell, or some weird marriage of the two, your only tool (besides dialogue) is description. 

Action, reaction, emotion, setting – all description. Even narrative summary is a form of description. 

So it  behooves the writer to cultivate the art of description. 

The Fastest Way To Make All Your Descriptions Better

While multiple techniques exist to enhance descriptions, the fastest route to better descriptions is…


Yes, movement. Describe people, places and things in action. 

  • Birds squawk 
  • Flags furl 
  • Rain cascades 
  • Pain splinters 

Movement naturally engages readers, drawing them down the page, deeper into the story. Static description, on the other hand, is dull, uninspiring. 

Reanimate your story by describing things in motion. 

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Free Book: The Challenge 1/10-1/14/17 

Just a quick mid-week post to let you know that my nonfiction spiritual book THE CHALLENGE is free on Amazon today 1/10 -1/14/17. 

Grab your FREE copy here: http://amzn.to/2ieH9Pk

Even if this isn’t your usual type of reading, every free download helps so I’d appreciate you clicking through to the book. 

I could tell you about the book, but I thought you’d rather hear from someone else. This is a review from Volo Press: 

Review: http://bit.ly/2jzQ4zm

Let me know what you think on Twitter @Chris_Kokoski

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Year In Review: My 10 Best Posts of 2016

As we near the end of 2016, I thought it might be nice to review some of the best content from the last 12 months.

Life is busy, after all, and it’s easy to miss a good article, list or resource.

Without further ado, here are the top ten posts from 2016.


Write In A Blue Room: Unleashing Creativity Through Science 

The Most Important Rule of Writing No One Talks About 

Never Ever Put These 5 Scenes In Your Novel

Bestseller Book Title Checklist (Fiction) 

The Master List of 1400 + Words and Phrases To Avoid In Your Writing 

Exactly How Much Publishing a Book Will Cost You This Year

How To Show Not Tell Awkward Conversations: A Video Case Study

The Missing Ingredient In Your Fiction (And Why It’s The Best Kept Secret of Bestselling Authors)

5 Time Secrets Of Bestselling Authors 

Popular Writing Wisdom That Is Actually Terrible Advice

Happy New Year! I hope 2017 is full of writing success and literary dreams come true.


Join my newsletter community for free books, articles and resources all year long. JOIN HERE.

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7 Best Author Bios on Twitter 

Twitter bio writing is an art. That’s why I’m always amazed at the creativity packed into such limited space. 
You have 160 characters to explain yourself to the world. Forget elevator pitches. The Twitter pitch is self-marketing for the digital age.

If you’re well-known, you can get away with a simple Twitter bio like Stephen King.

Most of us aren’t in that category so I have listed some of my favorites below  in no particular order. What are yours? 

These bios are fun to read but they also offer up interesting patterns to emulate.

Notice that most of these bios include two types of information: professional and personal. 

There is a mix of writer  or book–related info and fun facts.

I write thriller novels. And I bake cupcakes for veterans.

Romance novelist AND back yard ninja. 

More Ways To Master The Twitter Bio

7 Twitter Bio Ideas That Entice Followers 

Or try this automatic Twitter bio Generator

Even more Twitter Bio ideas from Pinterest 

What To Do Next

  1. Post your twitter bio in the comments. 
  2. Tweet this blog post. 
  3. Check out my new book (see link below). 

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BOOK LAUNCH – THE CHALLENGE, And How to Write The Best Amazon Book Review Ever

Today I have a series of BIG announcements: 

  • New book launch – THE CHALLENGE
  • Special Limited Time Offer
  • How to Write the Best Amazon Book Review Ever

Special Announcement #1: Book Launch

My new book, THE CHALLENGE, is officially up on AMAZON for pre-order. The publication date is set for 1/1/17. So that’s when it is officially official.

Here’s the Rundown

The visual:


The book trailer: https://youtu.be/fXtFGW8lptI

The short description: THE CHALLENGE is a nonfiction Christian book for sharing your faith.

The slightly longer description from the back cover:

A Powerful New Way to Share Your Faith With Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime – Even if you are an Introvert, Have No Time or Know Nothing about the Bible

Every Christian is commanded to share their faith. This evangelism guide does more than show you how to easily share the gospel; it virtually does it for you! Forget long sermons that alienate your friends and family or old, cheesy gospel tracts that no one wants to read. Winning debates doesn’t win souls.

  • Share your faith without fear – when you learn my simple zero rejection method, you’ll shake your head and wonder why you never thought of it before!
  • Lead your friends and family to Christ without Bible thumping, nagging or debating.
  • Easy Evangelism even if you know absolutely nothing about the Bible, apologetics or theology.
  • Quick Start Guide for Busy People that shows you how to share your faith without spending any extra time. No 3-hour conversations required!

Biblical Christian Evangelism Tactics to Trigger an Evangelism Explosion

  • Designed with sophisticated evidence-based behavioral change technology to trigger a series of insights for total life transformation
  • Generate unlimited curiosity about Jesus, truth, the Bible and God’s sovereignty

Ready to Make the Gospel Go Viral?

P.S. – Inside this book, you get access to UNLIMITED PDF DOWNLOADS of THE CHALLENGE so that you can share your faith with anyone, anywhere – even all over the world for international impact.

Order Now!

Special Announcement #2: Special Offer 

When order now, you get THE CHALLENGE for .99 cents plus you get a free bonus gift of THE CHALLENGE WORKBOOK. This special ends exactly on Jan 7th, 2017 so order now. 


Why .99 cents? 

My hope is that you’ll read the book, love it and post a review on Amazon. Right before you buy or gift copies for everyone you know.

Don’t know what to post in a review? No worries – I’ve got you covered. Simply copy and paste one of the reviews below:

Option 1: “Restored my faith in humanity. After reading it, I called my Mother, bought my wife flowers and donated my organs to monkeys fighting climate change!”

Option 2: “So good I quit my job so I could re-read it full time.”

Option 3: “Best thing since sliced bread. In fact, if it were made of bread, I would eat it. That’s how good it is.”

Option 4: “First book I ever read that I immediately wanted to cast in gold and frame above my bed.”

Whatever kind of review you choose, here’s where to post it: POST REVIEW HERE

(Note: You can post a review when the book is officially official on Jan 1, 2017.)

Get THE CHALLENGE at the special .99 cent price and grab your bonus copy of the THE CHALLENGE WORKBOOK for free!  (Access The Workbook from the link to PDF copies inside the book)

Please consider sharing this blog post with anyone you think might enjoy it! 

Christopher is currently writing the next book you’ll want to cast in gold. Keep up to date on his novels and books on writing by following this blog and signing up for his newsletter

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How To Plot A Blockbuster Thriller

Since I recently watched THE MECHANIC: RESURRECTION, and loved it, I thought I would break down the plot.

Ok, I’m a bit obsessed with thrillers, structure and plotting so this may be a “plot-relapse” of sorts. Enjoy!

THE MECHANIC: RESURRECTION is a thriller with a brilliant structure. (I mentioned as much to my wife. Her response: “Yeah. I saw that, too.”)

Ah, marriage and sarcasm. Have there ever been more familiar bedfellows?

Back to plotting a blockbuster thriller. How do you do it? Following the example of the film is a good start.

Here’s one of the trailers for the movie:

The Trailer

My review: Although it has its share of flaws, I really liked the movie. In fact, I liked it more than the first movie, which to me is a major accomplishment and the main goal of a sequel.  

Disclaimer: plot spoilers ahead 


In the first five minutes of the movie, you get gorgeous panoramic visuals of Brazil. That says the main character, Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham), is international. He’s living it up in retirement with sun and surf.

As a related sidenote, contrast this locale with the bleak hole where we found Jason Bourne in his latest movie of the same name.

In Mechanic, Bishop lives on a boat and bikes to a cafe. More amazing sights. Someone (i.e. a representative of the Antagonist – Crain) tracks him down, offers him a job via threats and attempted blackmail (never a good idea), Bishop fends them off in a cool action scene that shows his fighting chops.

Bishop is a wanted man. He is a skilled fighter. This is all cleverly summed up with minimal dialogue and maximum visual action.

This is also all in the first few minutes of the film.


  • When writing a thriller, get to action as soon as possible.
  • Introduce the main characters early – especially the protagonist and antagonist
  • Make the protagonist a wanted man (Jason Bourne, Jack Reacher, Mission Impossible).

Next, Bishop flees to an island getaway. Also breathtaking. He’s hiding out but the island also isolates and traps him. Setting matters!

Before he knows it, he is peer pressured into interrupting domestic abuse. This is another short scene of violence and action that does double — make that triple — duty.

This scene accomplishes many things at once: 

  • Bishop makes a choice to get involved in saving a stranger – integrity, selfless, caring.
  • Bishop is a bad a$$ – in case the audience forgot.
  • Action scene – this is a THRILLER after all. Plot and pacing matters. Don’t go too long without some action. 
  • Introduce another important character, Gina, the love interest.

We can learn much here. Make your scenes do double or triple duty. Don’t forget pacing — keep a steady beat of “action” scenes. In thrillers, that’s usually physical conflict. In a romance, its usually emotional conflict. Each genre has their own kind of “genre beat”, those expected conflicts and emotions.

The next few scenes show Bishop and Gina falling for each other. This is character and motivation building since the rest of the movie depends on him caring for her.

Otherwise, Bishop could just walk away. Your main characters must never be able to walk away.

Once the bad guys show up, there is another action scene. Remember, you must keep the action scenes going. This one has more stakes because it’s no longer just about Bishop surviving. Now it’s also about the girl he loves.

Always look for ways to up the stakes in your story, mining both external and internal motivations. 

Gina, of course, is promptly kidnapped. Thus the motivation for the story. The Antagonist – Crain – lays out his ultimatum, which doubles as his goal – eliminate three competitors.

At the crux of most great stories is a simple premise. In this case, it’s “kill three well-guarded people and the woman you love lives”.

Simple to say, much more difficult to actually do.

Let me point out here how the story uses the common structural device of threes. Three little pigs. Three bears. Three stooges. Three murders.

Whenever possible, use the power of three.

The Mechanic milks the structure of three by making each target harder to kill. Thus, escalating suspense, challenge, conflict and action.

Another structural secret of the movie is the over-arching time clock: Bishop has 48 hours to kill all three targets. That’s not a lot of time and that’s the point. Time clocks boost suspense, deadlines deepen reader engagement. 

Many blockbuster thrillers include such a story-wide time clock. Most kick this technique up a notch in Act 3 – or near the climax of the story – by shortening the time frame. In the example of The Mechanic: Resurrection, Bishop’s time frame for the kills is cut down from 48 hours to 24 hours. Less time equals more thrills. 

The Kills

The movie heats up for Act 2, as it should. Act 2 is the conflict act, where you deliver the promise of the premise, the act that Save The Cat (great book) calls playtime.

In The Mechanic, Act 2 is all about the three Kills.

Kill #1 Warlord Krill (cool name) imprisoned in a Malaysian prison. Bishop gets arrested, steals a knife off another prisoner, gains Krill’s trust and assassinates him.

These are (mostly) all interesting scenes that show Bishop’s cleverness.

Kill #2 Adrian Cook, who masterminds an underage trafficking ring in Sydney. Bishop studies him, then scales a building to Cook’s penthouse apartment to take out the bottom of Cook’s overhanging pool.

As the glass bottom of the pool explodes, the water gushes out along with a very surprised (and soon to be dead) Adrian Cook.

Kill #3 Max Adams, arms dealer. Adams is holed up in a military base complete with submarines and panic room style bunker.


  • Each kill is dramatic, large enough to fill the screen.
  • Each kill requires action AND cleverness.
  • Between kills, the story reminds us of what’s at stake by showing Gina with the Crain (antagonist).

Make sure your thriller keeps delivering bigger thrills. Bake in reminders of the stakes and motivation so readers don’t forget.

Design story complications that require more than mindless action. Cleverness is a common trait of thriller heroes — Bond, Bourne, Bishop (sidenote: you might want to give your protagonist a last name that starts with B. I’m just saying).

Two More Structural Secrets

First, between kill #2 and kill #3, Bishop makes a run at Crain. This keeps the story from being predictable and gives the audience another chance to see the antagonist.

In a thriller, the antagonist often plays certain roles:

  • Act 1: Antagonist shows up
  • Act 2: Antagonist and Protagonist confront each other, Antagonist wins.
  • Act 3: Protagonist comes after Antagonist in a big “battle” scene. Usually, the protagonist wins.

Second, in a plot twist (keep viewers and readers on their feet!) Bishop teams up with Adams to take down Crain.

One of the “rules” of storytelling is to never be predictable. Establish a pattern – the first two kills – then break the pattern.

The hoax works. The movie ends gloriously with a big fight scene where Bishops kills all the bad guys, saves Gina and blows up a big boat.

Explosions are almost necessary in thrillers. That way, the audience (readers) know the bad guy is really dead.

In the end, like most good thrillers, Bishop gets the girl.



The Mechanic: Ressurection is not perfect; it suffers from many common story issues. The motivation – the relationship – between Bishop and Gina is underdeveloped. Does it work? Yeah. Could it be better? Indeed.

Some of the action sequences are over the  top. Doesn’t bother me, but I guess some realism purists can’t stand a bit of literary license.

Thrillers, good ones, exist within a defined structure infused with depth of emotion, theme, characterization, escalating conflict and globe-trotting action.

More on Writing Blockbuster Thrillers

5 Keys To Writing A Great Thriller

5 Rules for Writing Thrillers (from the author of Rambo)

10 Basic Ingredients of A Successful Thriller 

How To Write A Page Turner

How To Write A Thriller (3 Bestselling Authors Weigh In)

The 5 C’s of Writing A Great Thriller Novel

The Rules of Writing Thrillers: The Article That Inspired John Grisham 

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it. For more articles, resources and updates on my books, please join my newsletter.

Oh yeah, and my new nonfiction spiritual book is up on Amazon in eBook and softcover version with an audio version coming soon. 

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REBLOG: How To Publish Anthologies, Boxsets and Run Multi-Author Promotions By Derek Murphy

Derek Murphy is a publishing powerhouse. 

Maybe you’ve seen his books, awesome YouTube videos or receive his email newsletter for authors. 

From personal experience, I can tell you he consistently shares lots of value, like: 

  • How to virtually garuntee your book shoots to the top 100 in your category on Amazon 
  • How to get hundreds (or thousands) of book downloads on launch day 
  • How to “rig” Amazon to basically sell your books for you 
  • The best free and paid advertising for your book
  • How to use “crowd” marketing to push visibility, build a complex web of backlinks and pull in book sales long term. 

Sound too good to be true? I would think so, too, if all of that information wasn’t in the following FREE blog post: 


What do I get out of it? Nothing. I just saw good content worth sharing so I shared it.


Oh, and Derek has a new book out soon on Guerrilla Publishing. I just preordered it on Amazon. 

Maybe you want to check it out, too, so just click on this link here

(FYI: That’s NOT an affiliate link)

By the way, I also have several books for authors coming out in early 2017. If you want to keep up with my new releases, join my newsletter community

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