A Busy Writer’s Guide to Time Management

For the vast majority of writers, day jobs are an unfortunate necessity. Many struggle to find the time to write. I’ve done a post about the necessity of actually making time for our books before (read it here), so today, I’m coming at you with tips to help you fit writing in.

1. Make it a priority.

If you take your writing seriously, those closest to you are more likely to respect your writing time. Of course, that doesn’t always mean boundless support. Sometimes, it just means they don’t put your writing down as a silly hobby.

But if you treat your writing as if it doesn’t matter, so will they.

2. Pay attention to your day-to-day schedule.

By that, I mean that you should look at what your days usually consist of and see where you have a few minutes to yourself. That’s your window.

The middle of the night works best for me. I typically write somewhere between midnight and five in the morning. That isn’t ideal for most, but with the schedule my day job keeps (I work in a factory, so my hours aren’t exactly typical), that’s what works best for me.

3. Remember that even just a few minutes at a time can make a difference.

You don’t have to carve out hours and hours of time. For most, that isn’t always a possibility. Even just five or ten minutes here, twenty minutes there will add up to a whole book as long as you stick with it.

4. Carry a notebook or get a notepad app on your phone.

You never know when inspiration might strike, or when you might find yourself with unexpected down time (waiting room at the dentist, getting an oil change, etc.). That’s a perfect opportunity to write.

5. Cut back on TV, gaming, or scrolling through social media.

Everyone’s least favorite tip, I know. But it helps. Instead of binging a new show for hours on end or getting sucked into TikTok, write. Plain and simple.

If you really want a show on, turn the TV on to a show you’ve seen before but still love. That way, you know you won’t miss anything, but still have background noise and something to clear your head if you get stuck with your writing.

6. When you sit down to write, actually write.

Don’t sit at your computer playing on Facebook or checking emails. Set aside time for that when you aren’t supposed to be writing. If you just can’t resist, put your computer in airplane mode and set your phone in a different room.

Now, shouldn’t you be working on your book?

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

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12 Hard Truths for New Writers

We all have our own idea of what a writer’s life is like. Whether it’s teapots and typewriters or coffee shops and laptops, rich and glamorous or starving artist, there are these images we have built up in our mind.

Regardless of what your preconceived notion of a writer’s life may be, there are a few universal truths.

So, if you want the wool pulled off your eyes, if you want to know the reality (rather than the expectation), here are a few hard truths that are better swallowed sooner rather than later.

Writing the book is often the easy part.
When you’re writing, you don’t have to worry about getting it perfect, and that alleviates some of the pressure that comes with later stages. (Yep, there are a lot of later stages.)

Writing isn’t always easy, though.
It isn’t all rainbows and magical typing sprees where your fingers magically compose thousands and thousands of words in a single session. It takes work, time, and dedication to go the distance.

No one is going to write your book for you.
At least, not unless you pay them. Ghost writers exist, but they do charge for their time and creative abilities. (As they should.)

Editing can be absolutely brutal.
You may end up scrapping scenes, chapters, or even entire characters. Getting feedback can be rather painful. But it’s necessary.

Editing can be immensely rewarding.
Figuring out the exact detail that fixes a plot hole can be a major high. Getting feedback can be unbelievably encouraging.

Traditional vs. indie is a big decision that should not be taken lightly.
Every author has different abilities and goals. As such, every author needs to consider their own strengths and weaknesses honestly when choosing their publishing route.
Just remember, you should never pay a publisher hundreds or thousands of dollars to publish your book. That’s a vanity press, and it’s a legal scam profiting off of authors who don’t know better. I made that mistake six and a half years ago. You don’t want to do it.

There are tons of resources to help you choose the right path for you.
From AuthorTube to the writing community on Instagram to writing groups on Facebook, there are millions of writers out there debating the same thing or actively pursuing one or the other.
Ask around. Most authors are more than willing to share what they know on the subject. Just keep in mind that your skill set is likely different from theirs. You should consider their experience in light of your skills and goals.

There will always be someone who doesn’t like your work.
Every person out there is different. Writing is in fact an artform, and thus, it’s subjective. The odds of everyone absolutely loving your book are… well… low. Really low. That doesn’t mean your book is bad or that you shouldn’t write it because…

There will always be someone who loves your work.
Since writing is such a subjective thing, there is an audience for every book. You just have to find it.

Marketing can be an absolute beast.
Between figuring out the best social media platform for you and your book and putting together compelling ads that convince people that they want to give you money and take a risk on your book by investing hours of their life into something they may or may not like, marketing is a beast that can be hard to tame.

There are a lot of classes tailored specifically for helping writers learn how to market their books.
Skillshare, Inkers Con, and a million writing coaches are out there waiting to show you the ropes. Just be sure to shop around to see what classes work for you and your budget.

There is no feeling quite like holding your book in your hands.
Holding a world that you’ve created, flipping through page after page that you’ve filled with characters and places that didn’t exist before is an absolute dream. It’s exhilarating.
And it makes all the difficult parts of being a writer 100% worth it.

So keep going.

Keep writing. Keep reading.

Later.

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Plantsers, Pros and Cons: A Guide for New Writers

It’s time for the final installment of this little guide to writing methods, and today, we’re talking about the pros and cons of being a plantser.

Now, pantser and plotter get bandied about rather freely. But plantsers don’t get quite as much discussion, despite being the group that includes most writers.

So, in case you don’t know, a plantser is someone who falls somewhere on the spectrum between plotters and pantsers.

They do some planning, but go off the rails halfway through. Or maybe they do no planning to start, jumping in to get a feel for the world, and then they step back and iron out some details for the end of the story to make sure everything gets tidied up.

They might do detailed character bibles and maps, but leave the story arcs to develop as they go.

The point is, to some degree, they plan, and to some degree, they figure it out as they go.

There are a lot of things that can go right with this method and a lot of things that can go wrong.

So let’s go over a couple.

We’ll start with the benefits.

1. Freedom to adjust as necessary.

A major part of this writing style is centered around the belief that not everything is going to be planned out perfectly ahead of time. Things may need to change later on, and that’s okay.

This method allows the freedom to step away from the outline as needed.

2. Enough structure to cut back on writer’s block.

Of course, the dreaded block is still possible in any writing method, but having a plan of some sort, even if it’s just five bullet points and a page of backstory for your main character(s), can help alleviate the dread of staring at a blank page.

3. Those blessed A-Ha moments.

With this writing method, those wonderful little epiphanies can happen during the plotting stage AND during the writing stage, spurring you on in either part of the journey.

And now, some of the cons.

1. Meandering plot lines.

All that freedom means that sometimes the plot can wander a bit too far. There’s always the chance that you could get caught up in a tangent, falling down a rabbit hole that has nothing to do with the main storyline, but it catches your fancy and you go chasing after it.

(Sound familiar? That’s because this is a potential pitfall of pantsing, covered in part one of this series.)

2. Writer’s block.

All that freedom could lead to uncertainty. Details, or even major events, that haven’t been ironed out ahead of time could trip you up later on, causing delays.

3. Rigidity.

You could end up sticking too close to the outline, even when the characters have grown into something different than you originally planned. This could lead to stunted characters. It could also lead to pacing issues if the story or characters develop at a different rate than you originally anticipated. (This might sound familiar, as it’s a potential pitfall of plotting that we discussed in part two of this series.)

Basically, all the potential pros of pantsing and plotting apply, as well as all the cons. Really, it comes down to how you mix and match the two writing methods. The biggest strength of this method is that you have the flexibility to pick and choose exactly which part of the other two to keep and which to discard.

And really, finding what works for you is the most important thing. Every writer is different. We all have different backgrounds and personalities.

There is no one right way to write a book.

That’s important to remember. There are many people who swear by plotting things out, and many who swear by writing by the seat of your pants.

I fall into the latter category, but I know that doesn’t work for everyone.

So, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve written 20 books, if a piece of writing advice doesn’t work for you, throw it out. What’s important is that you finish your book.

The rules about how to write a book are more like guidelines and should be treated as such.

Play around with different writing methods until you find what works the best for you and keeps you writing all the way to the end of the book.

Come back next week for part one of my next blog series, Graphic Design Tips for Authors. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to stay up to date on all my book releases and giveaways, get exclusive content and sneak peeks, and even receive a free short story at sign-up.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Pantser Vs. Plotter: A Guide for New Writers

Last week, we covered the pros of plotting and the cons of pantsing a novel. And I’ll be honest, it hurt a little to be so negative about my own writing method. But this is going to make up for it.

This week, I get to sing the praises of writing like a pantser (aka a discovery writer).

So, let’s dive in.

1. The story progresses at the exact pace it needs to.

If you write an outline and then start writing, strictly adhering to the outline, things may not happen when the characters and plot would actually get to them.

You may have a moment where a character figures something out that’s meant to be a eureka moment, but your reader figured it out seven chapters ago and has been wondering why the MC is so blind. Or you might have your character piece things together too quickly, completely blindsiding your reader.

As a pantser, revelations and developments come about naturally, thus evolving at the exact moment the story needs them to happen.

2. Characters can develop at the exact pace they need to.

Following an outline too closely can rush or drag out character development, just as much as it can hinder or expedite plot lines, leaving readers wondering why a character changed so quickly or why they seemed to stagnate for half the book.

As a pantser, the characters grow and change naturally, coping with the events of the story as they happen or driving the plot forward with their developments.

3. Authentic, realistic characters

Now, this is not to say that plotters can’t write realistic characters. They 100% can. It just takes more work ahead of time. By this, I mean character bibles or personality tests taken as the character or extensive mood boards or notes galore.

But when writing, it isn’t uncommon for pantsers to let the characters take the reins.

Which means those characters have to be whole people in the author’s mind in order to make these decisions and act/react in ways that line up with their personalities. They’re just there, like old friends whispering secrets and showing us the way.

4. The story can be changed as it needs to.

Sometimes, as you write, you realize that something just doesn’t work. Maybe you learn something new that reveals a piece of your book to be incorrect or implausible to such a degree that it might ruin the immersion.

Pantsers are accustomed to changing the story as is necessary to ensure plausibility, continuity, and entertainment.

In a situation like this, plotters who choose to stick too closely to their outline could endanger the viability of their story by refusing to change things.

5. Exploration

Pantsers get to experience the story for the first time as they write it, providing a sensation akin to reading. Writing this way means that you still get all the excitement and mystery of creation as the scenes unfold on the page. The writing process is punctuated with epiphany moments where things just fall into place.

Plotters can do that during the outline process, sure.

But epiphanies mid-writing session can really spur you on, and if they happen while away from writing, they can get you genuinely hyped up to get back to writing.

Now, I am biased toward the panster/discovery writer end of the spectrum, as I’ve mentioned that this is my preferred method. But that does not, in any way, mean it’s the only way.

For those of you just coming into this, last week’s blog was dedicated to the pros of plotting and the cons of pantsing.

Check that out here for more information.

Be sure to come back next Monday to learn about the writing method that most writers flourish with.

They’re the Plantsers.

And don’t forget to subscribe for a free short story, as well as exclusive content, sneak peeks at covers, and all the details on my upcoming book releases and giveaways.

Most importantly…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Plotter Vs. Pantser: A Guide for New Writers

Are you a Pantser or a Plotter? Or are you a hybrid? A Plantser?

This question is bandied about in writing circles rather frequently. For new writers, figuring out your writing method, and thus where you fit on that spectrum, might be difficult or confusing.

Each method has its own strengths and weaknesses. Since Pantsers and Plotters are basically complete opposites, the benefits of one tend to be where the other method falls short. And Plantsers get the good and bad of both.

To help clear this up (and help you find the writing method that suits you), I’m doing a three part series on the pros and cons of each.

Today, we’re starting with the benefits of plotting, and thus the dangers of pantsing.

Yes, there’s a reason I’m doing this one first. I’m a hard-core pantser, so I’m biased. So, for the sake of objectivity, I want you to see the upsides of plotting and downsides of pantsing before I sing the praises of pantsing.

So, let’s get started.

1. Plotting out your book ahead of time is a great way to avoid writer’s block.

You know before you ever start writing what will happen. So, when your outline is done and you finally sit down to write your first draft, you don’t have to figure out what to write.

You know what should happen.

When you stop writing for the day and come back to it the next day, you don’t have to recap what just happened or figure out the next scene. You can just look at your outline and start writing.

As a Pantser, that isn’t really an option. Unless you’ve been thinking about your book while away from your computer (which, let’s be real, I sincerely hope you do), then there’s the chance that you may come back to write and end up staring at a blank screen not knowing what to fill it with.

2. Plotting builds consistency into the book before you ever start writing.

With an outline, you can look at the bullet points, at the spreadsheets, at your story bible, or character bible and compare. You can cross reference all these notes to make sure that you never mix up a character’s hair color or backstory or mannerisms.

Pantsers… don’t have those things. If you do what I do (take notes as you write) then you have those to look back at, but even those are massively disorganized, in my case. I end up using the search function in Word. A lot.

3. Plotters have an end in mind, and thus, know how to resolve the conflict before they ever get to the climax of the book.

Any solid outline will include the ending, thus avoiding the problem that stopped me in my tracks with my sci-fi series when I finished (what I thought was) book one.

The bad guy got too big, too fierce. The final battle was going to be very one-sided. And that’s just boring. No one wants to read a landslide battle. There should be give and take, back and forth. No matter who wins, there should be a struggle involved in the final confrontation.

But I had no idea how to give the good guys a fighting chance.

I stopped writing to figure it out, working on other projects in the meantime. But a plotter would have figured all of that out before ever starting to write.

4. Plotholes can be filled in way ahead of time, potentially saving time on edits.

While making an outline or filling out a story bible, all plot points have to be included. Holes should stand out.

Whereas, if you just jump in and start writing, you may not notice a plothole until you’re 40,000 words in. (*puts hand up* I’ve been there.)

5. Your plot is less likely to meander.

If it’s all laid out in bullet points, it’s a little easier to keep that plot in check, making sure it walks a consistent, straight path.

Pantsing might mean that your plot follows one idea for a few chapters, then another idea for the rest of the book.

***

Now, this doesn’t mean that pantsing is bad. I love it. Honestly, it hurt a little to show only the bad sides of my favorite writing method in this blog.

But it’ll be rectified next week when I showcase the pros of pantsing and the cons of plotting.

Be sure to come back next Monday to check it out, as well as the Monday after that to learn about hybrid writers, the Plantsers. That’s the category that most people fit into.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to stay up to date on my writing progress, get exclusive glimpses at what’s in the works, and special behind the scenes tidbits. There’s even a free short story for subscribing.

(If you were already a subscriber before I set up the freebie, don’t worry. I sent you the free ebook. Make sure to check your inbox.)

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

How to Avoid the NaNoWriMo Blues

As we near the end of NaNoWriMo, the writing community seems to be polarizing. That’s not to say the divide is intentional or discriminatory. It isn’t.

But it’s there.

Writers who are on track to meet that lofty 50k goal are growing more and more excited by the day, and understandably so. That’s a lot of words to write in a single month.

Other writers who have fallen behind are starting to get down on themselves, though.

And since I hate to see that, I want to have a little chat with you and offer up five tips for avoiding the NaNo Blues.

If you’ve “only” written 15,000 words on your story so far this month, that’s still 15,000 words. That’s still progress. You’re still writing and doing things and pushing forward.

50,000 words in a month is monstrous for anyone who isn’t a full time author. Hell, it’s a lofty goal, even for full time authors.

And we all know how few and far between full time authors really are.

So cut yourself some slack. Be kind to yourself. Life is fucking chaos, especially lately.

If you’re working full time plus raising kids plus taking care of animals plus you’re sick plus your house needs repairs plus all the absolute nonsense that has been thrown at us this year…

Not hitting 50k in one month is 100% understandable.

I’ll openly admit, there’s no way in hell I would have managed it if I’d decided to try Nano this year. No fucking way.

I made progress. I released a book and I wrote and I edited. But no way in hell did I write 50,000 words this month. There’s too much shit going on in my personal life, and I’m working on too many projects.

And that’s okay.

I’m human. You’re human. Our plans don’t always work out, and our lives throw curveballs.

So please, be kind to yourself. If November ends and you find yourself with 27,561 words in your story, celebrate.

That’s a fuck ton of words.

But I know it’s natural to feel disappointed if a goal isn’t reached. So, if you’ve hit critical mass and you know you can’t catch up to meet the 50k goal, here are some tips to keep the NaNo Blues at bay.

1. Don’t give up. I know this whole thing might be discouraging, but keep writing. Your story is still worthwhile.

2. Do some daydreaming, specifically within the world you’re writing to remind yourself why you love this story. It may even inspire a new subplot.

3. Take a bit of time to relax. Do something non-writing related that you enjoy, even if only for half an hour. It may just be the refresher your overworked mind needs to push forward.

4. Give yourself permission not to hit that goal. It might sound silly, but accepting that you’re human and that sometimes life gets in the way of our goals is a very liberating thing.

Paradoxically, it could actually lead to greater productivity because all the time and mental energy that goes into beating yourself up is suddenly free for making progress.

5. Make a new goal. Use this experience with NaNo to inform your goal setting process.

That nifty little word tracker on the NaNo site can be a very useful tool for analyzing how many words you average per day or per week, thus allowing you to set an informed target word count for your next goal rather than some arbitrary number set forth for you by someone who knows nothing about your life.

Now, I have to add a disclaimer.

To the people who spent hours and hours, day in and day out, scrolling through tumblr or tiktok, or sharing memes on Facebook, or playing games on their phone, or binge-watching three different shows instead of writing and now want pity because you fell behind…

This blog is not for you.

You need someone to light a fire under your ass to get you moving, not someone to make you feel better. If you want to be a writer, you have to write. That’s it.

I have a different blog for you:

How do you have the time?

Just ignore the progress report opening/ending. The books mentioned in that blog have already been released. (Soul Bearer came out 10/22/2019 and The Gem of Meruna cam out 12/31/2019)

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Word count got you down? Don’t worry about it.

When trying to find a metric to measure your story by, word count seems to be the go-to. That’s how you separate novellas from novels, flash fiction from short stories.

Too often, people get hung up on the length of their story, trying to pigeonhole it into a specific category.

But you know what?

Your story will tell you when it’s done. Whether it’s too long or too short for the category you wanted it to fit in, it’s done when it’s done.

Cutting the juicy bits so it can be submitted as a short story or adding a bunch of extra bullshit so you can call it a novel instead of a novella isn’t going to improve your book.

It just fucks up the story.

And the story is more important than what category it falls into.

If you primarily write standalones in a genre filled to the brim with series (First of all, if it’s fantasy romance, hit me up. I’m always looking for a standalone fantasy romance. Second of all, looks like we’re in the same boat.) that doesn’t mean that your books are less worthy. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. It doesn’t mean your books won’t sell.

It just means that your stories, to date, are not the norm.

And that isn’t a bad thing.

It just means marketing might be more difficult because each book is a bit of a blank slate, whereas marketing a series means that each successive book already has an audience that you can build upon.

But if you intentionally stretch a standalone into a series, adding fluff here and there, it’s going to detract from the overall quality.

Same goes for cutting stuff out specifically to slip it in under a word count threshold. The character you cut because they added one too many subplots might have been the character that provided relief for a dark story or the character that provided the edge necessary to offset an abundance of silliness.

They might have been the character readers would fall in love with.

Is that sacrifice really worth getting the story finished at a certain length?

No.

Of course, add or cut things when you need to. If something needs more backstory, provide it. If something needs less exposition, get that shit outta there.

But don’t do it for the word count.

When I started writing The Regonia Chronicles, I intended it to be one book. Not a series with a prequel and everything. But then, it expanded to include a second alien race and three additional planets (It already had a couple).

Now, each time I sit down to work on it, it looks more and more likely that I’ll be splitting it into three books rather than two. Because that’s what the story needs. All that other stuff was necessary to make the original story idea make sense, I just didn’t know it when I started writing because I’m a pantser.

A Heart of Salt & Silver was intended to be a novella, but it blossomed into a novel.

Meanwhile, Second to None came in at half the word count that I thought it would.

And you know what that means?

It doesn’t mean that I didn’t fill enough pages or that I filled too many. It means that the story ended exactly where it needed to end.

It found its natural resolution.

Writing a good, solid story is far more important than meeting a specific word count. There’s an audience for every length of story within every genre. Some of those audiences hide better than others, but they’re there.

So stop stressing over word count and just write the damn story.

Do it the justice of letting it be the length it needs to be.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Writing with Curse Words: What to Consider

Should you write with curse words?

This question gets bandied about in writing groups far too often. It seems like people are afraid to break certain rules, and cussing is just one of those things where readers either don’t care at all or they care A LOT.

And the people who care A LOT about cussing tend to get super offended by it.

So I see where there might be a bit of trepidation when it comes to putting cuss words in your book.

So, should you do it?

It kinda depends. The answer for me and my books is… Fucking go for it. Lol.

But that answer might be different for you. Which means we have to get back to that “It depends” part.

First and foremost, what age group are you writing for?

I write books meant for adults, so it’s no problem for me.

But your book is going to be a hard sell if you drop a bunch of F bombs in a children’s book.

Unless it’s a “kid’s book” that’s actually meant for adults. Like “Go the Fuck to Sleep” by Adam Mansbach. Then, it works.

YA isn’t real big on cursing either. Despite the fact that most people reading YA novels frequently use those words, within typical guidelines for that age range, cursing is to be kept to a minimum.

As always, there are exceptions to the rule. Ellen Hopkins might use some cuss words, I don’t remember. It’s been a bit since I read her books. But she tends to go for the gritty depictions of real life struggles that teens face, so cuss words make sense in her books.

You should also consider your genre and the conventions within it.

Christian fiction isn’t going to have curse words. If they appear, it might be a little slip on the worst day of the MC’s life, and it probably won’t be any worse word than “crap” or “damn.”

And the character will likely regret it.

Unless it’s a reform/convert type book, in which case there might be a flashback, but even then, the foul language would likely be kept to a minimum.

Aside from those things, you should also consider setting. If you’re writing a book set in the Vatican 200 years ago… There probably won’t be any cussing.

Whereas, if you’re writing something in a modern day bar and you don’t include cussing, the flattened dialogue will almost certainly break the immersion.

But do you want to know the most important things to consider when deciding whether your books should include cussing?

It isn’t whether it’ll be embarrassing if your family or spouse or close friend reads it. That should never dictate what you write.

It isn’t whether the market hates or loves it, because there’s a market for just about everything.

The two most important things to consider are:

1. Is it right for the character?/Does it line up with their personality?

2. Is it right for your author voice?

If the answer is yes, then damn the doubt. Damn the fear of what others will say. Write those fucking cuss words.

If the answer is no, leave them out.

It’s really that simple. If it’s the right thing to do for you and your book, just fucking do it. If it isn’t right for you and your book, then don’t.

Give yourself the freedom to write your book the way it needs to be written.

Just be sure to market the book accordingly so you don’t get people who want grit reading clean books or people who expect clean books reading stories that have been carpet bombed with cuss words.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

How to Use Fashion to Build Your Fantasy World

Hi, guys!

We all know that fantasy worlds tend to have their own unique fashions. But they’re not all about beauty and appearances.

The styles and fashions in books can be used for some major world building.

What your characters value (or don’t value) says a lot about their society.

The trends in any world are likely going to be set by those in power, i. e. those who have the means to do what they want. Those who don’t have the means are just… stuck trying to keep up.

Which is unfortunate.

But usually true.

A society with rulers who don’t have to work the land or fight battles opens up the door for highly impractical fashions such as corsets or massive jeweled head-pieces.

A hunter-gatherer society might value durable clothing more than crowns with pretty rocks fastened to them.

A highly capitalistic society will likely revere brands over craftsmanship.

A warrior society will likely value clothes that keep their armor from pinching them or items that show their physiques to advantage.

So if you show me your character eyeing a gemstone-encrusted doublet, I’m going to assume that wealth is important in their country. Those in power likely sit on their asses making decrees, going to pompous parties that the rest of the realm could never afford, and wearing things just like that doublet.

If you show me your MC getting jealous over someone else’s brand new sash (They got one with 20 pockets?!), without further context, it tells me that your character lives in a gatherer society of some sort. Whether they’re gathering berries for food while on the run or spell ingredients, having the ability to keep things close at hand is clearly important.

Which tells me that people need to be somewhat mobile and very prepared.

These are all important world building details that can be worked into the story through fashion.

And then there are the gender roles that can be conveyed with fashion. If every woman in your book wears a long dress at all times, it implies a certain level of gender inequality.

Dresses, by their very nature, are less practical than pants. Forcing a certain gender to wear them limits some of the things they can reasonably do.

They catch on things. They drag the ground. They wrap around your legs (making it harder to run, thus also implying that the society sees little open conflict on the home front or that the men of the society are using cheap tricks and deeply embedded oppression to keep the women of the society in check).

Requiring long dresses of women also implies that a level of “restraint” is required from the women of that society. After all, long dresses (unless worn with a slit up the side) are notoriously known as modest clothing items in reserved patriarchal societies.

And this “fashion used for world building” thing doesn’t even apply strictly to clothing. Fashionable body types, i.e. what’s seen as desirable in a mate, depends heavily on the society, as well.

If your characters just survived a famine, they might find a well-fed/softer body more attractive than if they live in times of plenty. Because clearly, that person has a good food supply.

By contrast, warrior societies will prize strong, fit bodies.

Maybe certain tattoos mean certain things (I’ve done this in The Regonia Chronicles).

Maybe a certain hairstyle means they’re grieving (I’ve done this in Allmother Rising).

At the end of the day, this is fiction, and you can make up whatever you want. If your warrior society wants to run into battle with diamond encrusted armor because diamonds are super plentiful there and they’re super hard to cut… Go for it.

It’s gonna be heavy.

They would literally have a bunch of rocks hanging on their armor.

But you do you.

I’m just saying that looking into some sociology and using fashion to full advantage might be a good way to convey the world your characters live in without wasting page after page after page on exposition.

As for my own writing efforts last week, I wrote about 4,000 words in The Regonia Chronicles and made some major headway on the new cover for Soul Bearer.

I also edited about 7500 words on Where Darkness Leads. I had hoped to have this round of edits done by the end of August, but it’s turned out to be way more labor intensive than expected. I’m just over a third of the way through and have already cut 4,000 words. I cut about 7,000 words in the last round of edits.

This was a really old manuscript though. I used to be pretty long winded, apparently.

Anyway.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Writing with Tropes: 4 tips to help you do it well

Hi, guys!

So, there are these things in literature called tropes. Basically, tropes are themes or character types that pop up over and over in a lot of books. The hero’s journey or forbidden love, the jock or the hardass or the air headed pretty girl.

Or the smart pretty girl that doesn’t realize she’s pretty even though literally every one she meets falls in love with her and wants to get into her pants. That one seems to be increasingly popular, of late.

Tropes are everywhere, and they’re pretty hard to avoid.

And tropes aren’t bad, in and of themselves. If you’re not sure where to begin, they can provide a jumping off point.

But relying on them to heavily can prove disastrous for a book.

It breeds boring, two-dimensional characters and insanely predictable books.

If every character is a well-known stereotype and the story itself is a formula story, then there’s no real depth to draw a reader in and make them wonder what might happen.

Because they already know.

Because they’ve read that exact story with those exact characters a million different times.

Or worse, the cheesiness of all the over-the-top tropes could just become too much, ruining what might otherwise be a real edge-of-your-seat page turner.

You might think, “Well, I’ll just be completely original and not use a single trope.”

To which, I say…good luck. There’s bound to be some sort of trope in there somewhere.

There are literal tons of them.

Orphan finds out they’re magical, marriage of convenience, whirlwind billionaire romance, elderly mentor, secret heir, magical object to save the world, love triangle, the list goes on.

Plus, when you’re busy striving for originality, you get stuck thinking of what’s already been done (trying to avoid it) rather than just writing and letting your voice make whatever you write an original.

Which brings me to the first way to avoid over-troping your book.

Find your voice.

Every author has a signature style, a way of writing that is uniquely them.

It’s a mixture of the types of stories they tell, the words they choose, the aesthetic they tend to go for, the level of detail they strive for, the tense and the POV they write in, and many other things.

And if you really develop your voice as an author, you can write the tropiest tropes that ever troped, and still make something original.

Because it’s been spun in your unique voice.

The second way to avoid accidentally trashing your book with tons of blatant tropes is to study psychology.

Getting a better grasp on how people think (and what might have lead them to think that way) will inform your writing and deepen your character development.

You don’t have to get a degree. (I did, but not with the intention of using it for writing. I intended to become a therapist, at the time.)

But do some research into personality development and the effects of trauma or various disorders. Maybe buy a used psychology textbook online or take a class at a community college.

Third, study sociology and history. Again, no degree necessary, but do some research, watch some documentaries, read some books.

Learning how empires rise and fall, seeing how precarious some societies really are, and how small problems can topple mighty countries might show you something that you could use in a rebellion in your book. Or it might show you what it takes to rebuild afterward.

Tropes for the story line (star-crossed lovers, make-over, villain decay, the chosen one, etc.) are usually okay because there’s so much going on within and around them that it mixes it up. Just try not to draw attention to the fact that it’s there (let the readers analyze/enjoy the story without you saying hey look what I did here), and don’t throw too many of them into one story.

And last but not least, ask yourself these simple questions. (And answer honestly. The success of your book depends on you being honest with yourself about what it contains.)

Is there more to this character than the trope they spawned from? If the answer is no, you need to workshop that character and develop their personality.

Are all of my characters directly linked to a trope? If the answer is yes, you might need to mix it up. There should be at least a few characters that don’t spawn from a trope.

Get a second opinion, if you aren’t sure. Ask them to read it with this in mind. If you’ve developed your characters well enough beyond their trope spawn point, you could pull it off beautifully. But there’s the risk of making your book cheesy if all your characters are tropes.

And no one wants that.

Now, go forth and write deeply developed characters and plot lines.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.