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.

Vampires, Aliens, and Trilogies: A Writing Update

Hi, guys!

Last week was pretty productive, thank goodness. I’ve needed a week where I can just get shit done, and though not as productive as I’d like, I still got a decent amount done.

So, there’s this little piece of flash fiction that’s been bouncing around in my head for a couple years now. I have a playlist of songs specifically for it (as per my usual) called 90s vampire nightclub.

The vocalists sound like, well, like they’re not slacking off, but if they had anything better to do, they probably wouldn’t have been recording that day, which fits for the boredom that would set in after living for millenia.

Because these are old vampires running this night club.

They’ve lived recklessly. They’ve lived carefully and slowly, savoring everything. They’ve been every iteration of themselves, and now they just want the music and the drugs and the sex and the dancing, just to pass the time, just to get through another day.

And the music has to be grungy, it has to call to the violence within them. They’ve drawn blood, and they’ve tasted it, drawing that violence within themselves.

And one song is poignant and existential, with just the perfect amount of desperate disdain, reminding them that even after the Earth dies, they’ll still be there, trudging across a dead and barren rock, burning and suffocating, at once and forever.

And I can see them in my head, passing the time in this little nightclub they own in 1990 America, trying desperately to forget what they are and what it means to them.

This scene has been bouncing around in my head for a couple years, and I finally just wrote it.

It’s definitely just flash fiction. It’s less than 800 words.

But finally getting it down felt like an accomplishment, even though I literally could have done it at any point in time and just…didn’t.

Idk why, either.

But it’s done, now.

I also made some progress on editing Where Darkness Leads (nearly 10,000 words).

I’ve been steadily writing The Regonia Chronicles (I added nearly 4,000 words last week, 30,000 since July 14th) and decided that I may have to break it into three books. We’ll see what the final word count comes in at, but there are a couple natural breaks.

And doing three books would let me move the end of book one back to where it used to be, thus avoiding an absolutely MASSIVE cliffhanger that, if I were reading it, would make me mad. I’d get the next book, for sure, but I’d be super pissed about the cliffhanger.

So idk how many books it’ll end up being.

But I have titles lined up for both scenarios and potential covers for if it’s two books. Though they’ll likely change, regardless. I almost never go with the first covers I come up with.

But all in all, last week was a fairly productive week, despite the overtime at work.

I’m interested to hear your opinions, though. Three books with no (potentially) rage-inducing cliffhanger or two books with a massive cliffhanger?

Let me know in the comments. As always, feel free to subscribe to stay up to date on everything relating to my books. With the release of A Heart of Salt & Silver coming up, I’ll have giveaway news soon, and subscribers will always be the first to know (as well as having the added benefit of an extra chance to win).

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Why are we comparing short stories to novels?

Hi, guys!

Recently, in one of the many writing groups that I’m a part of, someone asked if people write short stories when they give up on writing a novel. As if writing a short story were something that could just be done with no thought or skill, whatsoever, because supposedly, it’s the easiest thing to write.

And that kinda stuck with me.

I was just flabbergasted.

That level of prejudice toward a type of story just… hadn’t occurred to me before then. I write stories of all lengths, flash fiction, short stories, novellas, novels, and now, series. So, I know that each one poses its own unique challenges.

No single one of these defines a writer’s skill.

None of them denote having given up.

Series require the solution to some problems, but the tension of certain things left undone for the next book. The characters have to develop and grow (or fall apart). They have to encounter one stumbling block after another, without it reading as if you’re literally just trying to draw the story out to make money on a second book. Or a third. Or a seventeenth.

Novels require all the loose ends to be tidied up by the end of the book, and hopefully enough intrigue to carry the reader to that point. Throwing in just enough obstacles to carry the characters (and the readers) through 70,000 to 110,000 words is a difficult balance to strike.

Novellas and novelettes have to operate on a smaller scale or go out with one hell of a bang. You have to choose your words carefully to get the exact right meaning across, which should be done regardless of book length, but especially so when you don’t have the word count to spare. And you have so much less space to truly develop your characters. It can be done, but it can be a challenge.

And then, there’s short stories and flash fiction.

Building a world, developing characters, and putting together a plot (then wrapping it up) in less than 7,500 words for a short story or less than 1,000 words for flash fiction is not an easy feat.

You have to grab people so quick. You have to make them give a shit about the character immediately.

Because there aren’t enough words not to.

So to say that failed novel writers become short story writers is a load of bullshit.

Writing short stories instead of novels has nothing to do with whether an author is successful or creative or smart. What it truly comes down to is the number of words it takes to successfully express a given story.

That’s it.

Some stories are meant to be a series that keeps you hanging on from one book to another. Some are meant to come in, punch you in the face with 700 words, and leave you reeling.

That’s just how it goes.

The stories should decide what length they are.

The writer’s skill or work ethic has nothing to do with it.

So, if you write short stories or flash fiction, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Your work poses it’s own unique set of difficulties.

Overcome them and show those judgmental jerks who’s boss.

Now, as far as my own work is concerned, I’ve been forging ahead on projects of varying lengths over this past week.

I did a full round of edits on a short story called Born of Heathen Gods. I’m torn between releasing it on its own or saving it back for an anthology, down the road.

I made some progress on this round of edits on Where Darkness Leads, cutting out over 1,000 words of info dumps/repetition so far.

And I’ve written over 5,000 words in The Regonia Chronicles. Some pieces are falling into place within book two, and I’m pretty excited to keep moving ahead.

Just not tonight.

Today’s 12 hour shift in the sweaty ass tire factory really took it out of me.

So for now…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Writing with Detail: How much is enough?

Hi, guys!

We all want to find that perfect balance of detail in our books.

Too little might not accurately depict the scene in our head, which could result in a serious miscommunication between you and your reader.

Too much will slow your reader down, possibly driving them out of the book.

So how much detail should you use?

The short answer, unfortunately, is…

It depends.

I know, that isn’t what you want to hear, but it’s the truth.

But here are some things to consider to help you decide what level of detail you need to provide for your reader.

Is it an action scene or a sex scene?

Is it the opening scene?

What genre are you writing?

Action scenes and sex scenes need to be gripping. They need to flow. They need to glue the reader to the page and keep them on the edge of their seat, holding that book in a white-knuckled death grip.

And if you stop to describe the brocade on the settee…

That won’t happen.

So maybe skimp on scenery detail unless it’s important to the action or “action” of the scene.

If you’re working on your opening scene, avoid info dumps at all costs. Don’t pile descriptive detail and world building and character backstory and the history of the type of garment the character is wearing into your opening scene.

Opening scenes need to have some pull, some gravity.

Hit your reader with some sort of interesting event or conversation, something to draw them in and keep them reading, and they’ll still stick around for the details later in the book.

As for genre, if you’re writing contemporary romance, you don’t have to describe every detail of the world. We live in it. There are certain things you can take for granted.

Modern readers know what a cell phone is. We know what it means to work full time. We know what a cat is.

You don’t have to explain these things at any point in time. You can say the basic name for what’s happening (“Ugh, I have overtime, again.”), and your reader will know that your character just got hit with an extra shift at work.

But if you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy, there are going to be a lot of things that require some explanation.

Your readers won’t see the name of your country and automatically know what kind of government is in place. They won’t just magically know how time is measured in that world.

So, there will need to be more details in a book of that sort.

And then there’s your own personal writing style to consider. Some writers are just more detailed than others. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The trick with detail is to spread it out. That way, your reader gets the information they need without feeling overloaded or bogged down.

And if you’re ever in doubt, enlist the assistance of a beta reader, alpha reader, or critique partner. You can always ask them to go into it with the intention of keeping an eye out for the level of detail.

Or, you can ask them after they read it if there was anything that needed clarified or any scenes where it just felt like you were beating them over the head with adjectives and scenery.

Now, I have a strong personal bias on this matter. I don’t like loading up on extra detail. I like my books to be “punchy.” As such, I have a tendency to multitask with the details I choose to include.

If you want more information on that method of employing of detail, check out this blog post:

Just disregard the little update section. Soul Bearer came out last October. I’ve released two other books since then, with another coming out this November, so the writing progress section of that blog is… outdated. Lol.

If you’re new here, don’t forget to subscribe down below to stay up to date on all my future book releases, giveaways, and blog posts.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

The Joys of Being a Pantser

Hi, guys!

As you probably know, I’ve been working on The Regonia Chronicles and releasing A Heart of Salt & Silver.

And out of all my books, these two are the ones I knew the least about when I started writing them.

I certainly had no idea that The Regonia Chronicles would be a series with 5 unique worlds, two alien races in the book (tons more not in the book), and a whole language.

I had no idea the twists and turns (or sheer drops) character arcs would take. I didn’t expect thousands of deaths.

As for A Heart of Salt & Silver, I intended to write a cut and dry romance that just so happened to take place in a fantasy world.

But as the characters developed and the villains revealed themselves, it kinda spiraled and lots of blood spilled.

That was just what the story called for.

And that’s why I love not planning my books.

Just writing means that I get to discover the world and the characters and the story as I go, just like a reader would.

It means that sometimes I get the joys of an epiphany, where a solution or a development just comes to me and everything falls into place (or gets infinitely more complicated).

It means that I get to go back and lace the framework of the revelation into the story in a way that will go unnoticed until the big moment, at which point, the readers can look back and see all the little things that lead to that. Or, I can take something small that’s already in the book and let it snowball out of control.

It means that anything and everything is subject to change, right up until the moment I publish it. So as I’m writing it, I’m just diving into the unknown.

And that unbridled discovery and creation is just so pure, so addictive that I can’t even imagine plotting a book ahead of time.

Especially since if I know exactly how a book is meant to end, I lose interest.

It just doesn’t have that mystery.

So, I’ll keep jumping into each new project with no idea where it’ll go.

You can check out the dark and twisty results of that process in my upcoming paranormal high fantasy romance novel, A Heart of Salt & Silver. These characters make an absolute mess of themselves, even though two of the three main characters are total badasses.

Pre-orders are available in ebook, paperback, and hardback at: mybook.to/AHeartOfSaltAndSilver

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Why I Write Romance (Even in My Darkest Books)

Hi, guys!

If you’ve been around books for long, you know that certain genres carry reputations. Hell, if you haven’t been around books for long, you probably still know that.

And I think I can safely say that romance probably gets more trash talk than any other genre.

There are a lot of people that like to say that romance is silly, or that those who write it are immature or just sad and lonely. I even heard a crime writer say that “romance is written by and for idiots.” (Of course, this was right before he launched into a tirade about crime fiction being the best that literature has to offer, which is clearly a matter of opinion.)

But when it comes to all the stigmas surrounding romance in literature, I call bullshit.

Yeah, sure, some romance books fit the stereotypes (throbbing members and heaving bosoms and all). But not all.

And romance is an important aspect of any fictional world.

There are a few reasons that I put romance into almost all of my books, even the darkest ones.

Yeah, there’s the obvious need to balance the darker aspects of a book with something more positive.

And yes, I genuinely enjoy writing that tension, that aching slow burn. It’s one of my favorite parts of writing and reading.

But I also write it because… romance is part of life.

Humans, by nature, are not solitary animals. The vast majority of humans crave companionship, even the most introverted among us.

Even in war zones, people want someone there. Even when their life is falling apart around them, people want someone to turn to, someone to help them through.

Perhaps even more so than when things are going well.

Love is a part of life. It’s part of our world.

Excluding it from books out of some bullshit elitist attitude doesn’t make your book better.

Honestly, including some aspect of it, even as a subplot for a side character, makes the world more realistic.

With very few exceptions, people do not desire a life alone.

We crave love. We crave acceptance. We crave companionship.

So almost every book I’ve written to date includes romance. And I expect the same to be true of the books I have yet to write.

Which brings us around to my books.

As you know, A Heart of Salt & Silver is available for pre-order. I FINALLY got the technical issues sorted with the hardback, so all three formats are waiting for you.

So, if you’re looking for a book with demons and magic, werewolves and witches, vampires and gods, love and gore, you can preorder your copy at: mybook.to/AHeartOfSaltAndSilver

It releases on November 3rd of this year, and I can’t freaking wait.

As for The Regonia Chronicles, I’m breaking the shit out of my characters in this one. Well, one character in particular, at the moment. Some are actually getting a break. But this one is having a very rough time.

Let’s just say book one leaves off on one hell of a cliffhanger. And the cleanup at the beginning of book two takes some time. This character arc fucking plummets.

I think me-writing-a-series is a dangerous thing for my characters. It’s that much longer for their lives to fall apart.

But anyway, I’m gonna keep on trucking.

And you should, too.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

My thoughts on Insta-love vs Slow Burn

Hi, guys!

So, it’s no secret that I’m not a fan of insta-love in books, whether I’m writing or reading.

I much prefer the sweet, drawn out tension of a slow burn. That will they/won’t they, that back and forth, is just way more appealing to me.

But I’m not sure I’ve ever explained why except to a few individuals.

Now, bear in mind, this is just my opinion. You’re free to write or read whatever you want. In fact, I actively encourage it. The literary world needs to serve all readers and writers.

But that’s a rant I’ve done before.

On to the topic at hand.

To me, insta-love just isn’t immersive or realistic.

I know that sounds rich coming from a sci-fi/fantasy writer. Magic and dragons and werewolves aren’t real.

But that’s the element of the fantastical that I prefer.

I want the characters, their personalities, and their interactions to be believable and immersive.

Instantly falling in love just isn’t believable for me.

Instant attraction, yeah. That makes way more sense. That happens to people all over the globe, day in and day out.

But if two characters just fall in love within a day or a week, I start trying to figure out if they have some sort of attachment problems, psychologically speaking.

And that isn’t usually what insta-love writers want their readers focusing on.

Plus, I always find myself picking out red flags, little things the characters should notice about each other (but don’t), and find it all a little worrisome.

Because there are usually a few.

Or a lot.

So I just tend to stay away from insta-love books, in general.

There are exceptions, of course.

If it’s written into the fabric of the world and based in a magical element…that makes more sense to me. Or in books where the aim is to show the dangers of losing yourself in a relationship, insta-love makes sense then, too.

But it just doesn’t work for me, outside of those few exceptions.

I’ll take the slow progress, the building chemistry, the back and forth and will they/won’t they of a slow burn over insta-love any day.

Again, this is all personal opinion. I strongly advise you to read or write whatever you want.

Where do you stand on the matter?

Come back next week to find out why I write romance into even my darkest books.

Now, as far as my progress on my books is concerned.

I finished the first round of edits on Second to None last week, battled countless technological demons, wrote about 6,000 words in The Regonia Chronicles, decided to move the divider between book one and two within the series, and got A Heart of Salt & Silver up for preorder in paperback and ebook. The hardback will be available soon.

Check it out here: mybook.to/AHeartOfSaltAndSilver

I need to jump into another round of edits on either Allmother Rising or Where Darkness Leads, soon.

I’d say that I’ll have eventually have fewer projects going at once, but that would be a lie. And I’m okay with that.

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.