Writing With Tropes

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Writing with Tropes (words on red background)
Tropes are your friend. Use them!

You want to make money? Write tropes.

What is a trope?

A trope is an expected story line. In romance, it's usually how the couple meets/falls in love and is the type of relationship explored. It is possible (and encouraged) to combine tropes to create a unique take on the familiar.

Romance readers love tropes. They have their favorites and will search them out. As a writer, you can use this. If you give them what they are looking for in your story, your readers will love you. If you can hit the beats of the trope, the parts that make the story resonate, then you'll find success with your readers.

Can you be successful not writing these beloved story lines? Sure. It happens. It just doesn't happen very often. Take a look at the best selling books and I can guarantee you'll see some form of at least one of these tropes. Human beings like the familiar. We like knowing what our stories are going to be, especially the ones we're reading for fun and relaxation.

If you want to make money with your writing, write tropes and write them well. Here's some of my favorites, but you can find many, many more!

-Enemies to Lovers: start out as enemies (business rivals, family feud) until their hate is actually just disguised love. (Example: Pride and Prejudice and Mr. Darcy's Kiss)

-Childhood Friends: couple starts as friends that mature into lovers. I include “best friend's sibling” in this, as the sibling was a friend that couldn't be a lover until now. (Example: Beautiful Disaster)

-Second Chance Romance: a long lost love returns and they have a second chance at love. (Example: Champagne Kisses)

-Forced Proximity: something forces our couple to spend time together. This can be weather (blizzard traps them) or social (must go to wedding together). The couple has no option but to be around one another and thus fall in love. Works well with enemies to lovers. (Example: Hurricane Kisses)

-Fake relationship: Couple pretends to be together but ends up falling in real love. (Example: Pretend You're Mine and The Wedding Date)

-Accidental pregnancy: There's a baby and the couple has to deal with it. Can be the result of a one-night stand or a longer relationship. Can easily tie with Secret Baby. (Example: The Tycoon's Revenge)

-Secret Baby: there is a baby, but no one can no about it (not even the father of the baby!) (Example: Forever Kind of Love)

-Arranged Marriage: Usually found in historical romances. It forces the hero and heroine to deal with each other. (Example: Highland Surrender)

Marriage of Convenience: the couple gets married for a reason (medical benefits, green card, political advantage, inheritance issues) and they end up falling in love. (Example: The Billionaire's Baby Arrangement)

-Billionaires: Modern day “princes” that can sweep women off their feet. Their money makes it difficult for them to find love. They can buy anything but love. (Example: The Kisses Series)

Mafia: bad boys who are dangerous and the innocent women that love them. This is basically beauty and the beast tropes. (Example: Crime Boss Baby)

-Forbidden love: For whatever reason (political, racial, class, societal, or species) the two characters cannot be together. (Example: Romeo and Juliet and Stepbrother Hero)


Plotting Vs Pantsing

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Do you plot or pants your novel?

There are two schools of thought on how to write a novel.

Plotters: outline their novel. They plan it out.

Pantsers: Fly by the seat of their pants. They write the novel as it comes to them.

There are pros and cons to both.

Pantsers: the author is basically telling themselves the story as they write it. It's more exciting to write the story this way because you don't know what's going to happen next!

Plotters: They know where the story is going. There are no surprises.

I have a writer friend that is a dedicated pantser. She absolutely hates outlining a story because then she looses all interest in it because she knows what is going to happen.

However, she also stares at blank pages a lot because she doesn't know what's going to happen. She also has to rewrite a fair amount because she needs to clarify things that happened earlier and set up plot points that she made up on the fly.

I am personally a plotter. I LOVE having an outline. Sometimes, I'll basically make a first draft out of an outline. (I've written 20 page outlines…)

An example of a very detailed outline
An example of a very detailed outline

However, I also use the chapter by chapter outline as well. I write down the 30ish chapter points so I know where my story is going.

An example of a chapter by chapter outline
A chapter by chapter outline.

I like this method because I don't get lost. I always know what is going to happen next and I can write in the details needed to make it happen. My editing time is a lot less because I don't have to backtrack and fix things. I also don't stare at blank pages as much. (I still stare at them, but at least it's not because I don't know what I'm supposed to be writing about)

I also know someone that uses the “note-card” method. She writes down each big important scene on a note-card. Then she sticks them to her wall for a rough guideline of where she needs to go. It's not 20 pages of detailed outline, or even a chapter by chapter outline, but just a broad path of what needs to happen next.

As with all writing, find what works best for you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a pantser– as long as it is working. If you are spending all your time staring at a blank page, make a note-card outline. Make it work for you.


Create Drama With Conflict!

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Create better drama with conflict!

We love stories because they tell us what could be. They are the what-if that our brains are addicted to. As such, we crave drama in our stories. We want to know how to survive the worst possible outcome and stories give us that knowledge.

There are two ways to add conflict and drama to a story.

Internal conflict: This is all the conflict that happens inside a character. This is their thoughts, feelings, past experiences, and inner turmoil.

This is ANGST.

Edward Cullen from “Twilight” has lots of Internal Drama.

In Twilight, this is why Edward can't be with Bella. He has INTERNAL CONFLICT about not eating/eating her. His emotions get in the way and create tension between the characters.

As a romance writer, this is gold. Readers need this because it's usually the best reason why the hero and heroine can't be together. This is also where love stems from (as it can be a point of drama!). Internal drama is vital for romance.

External Conflict: This is what happens to the characters. These are the situations that they can't control. This is the asteroid coming to impact earth, the fire that destroys the hero's home, the dragon that is burning up the village.

The Rogue Vampires create a lot of External Drama.

In Twilight, this is the rogue vampires. Bella and Edward don't really have any control over them and what they're doing. They have to react and respond, but the conflict comes from outside of their emotions. It's also good for keeping Bella and Edward from drowning in their romantic angst. It moves the story forward.

For romance writing, external conflict is awesome for getting the plot moving. It makes the characters stop wallowing in angst and do something.

A good story will have a little bit of both. The internal conflict connects us to our characters. The reader with empathize and become emotionally attached to the story because of emotion. External conflict will keep them from getting bored.


Traditional vs. Self-publishing

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Traditional vs Self Publishing
Traditional vs Self-publishing

Traditional publishing: send your manuscript off to a publisher or agent. They decide if they like it. They do all the work. They get a percentage of the profits.

Self-publishing: You do all the work. You make all the profit.

It's a tough decision. Traditional publishers have a lot of skill and knowledge. They have cover artists, editors, proofreaders, marketing teams, and bookstore contacts. They have decades of experience publishing books and marketing them to readers.

If your book gets selected, then it has a good chance of being successful. You don't have to learn how to pick a good cover or run Facebook ads.

You can focus on just writing.

However, you will have to deal with rejection letters when they don't want your book and you will get less money when they do want it.

On the other hand, as a self-publisher you get to pick your cover. You get to hire an editor that you like and not one that someone picks for you. If the books succeeds, it's all because of what you did. And, you'll get all the profits. It's a lot more risk, but a lot more reward.

I love self publishing. From the couple of books I've pitched, it's very possible that I wouldn't be published at all if not for self-publishing. (Here's a link on how to get started!) However, my books sell well enough that this is my full time job.

It's a lot of work. I would love to get a publishing contract (it's actually one of my goals this year) because I want to write more and do the publishing side less. I'll still self-publish because I love the freedom and choices. I love not getting rejection letters, too.

The best of both: pitch your book to a publisher. If they don't want it, self-publish it.


Impostor Syndrome

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How to Manage Impostor Syndrome
How to Manage Impostor Syndrome

Impostor Syndrome: Feeling like a fraud. That you don't deserve anything you've worked for and that everyone will see you for what you are.

I feel like this all the time.

I didn't go to school for writing. (I wanted to be a doctor.) I don't have a fancy publisher that picked me (and even if I did, I would worry that it was a mistake.) I know that a lot of luck went into my success as an author.

How do you deal with this feeling?

  1. Acknowledge it and put it into perspective. I feel like an impostor because I don't have fancy credentials. But, that doesn't mean that I'm not good at things. A person doesn't need fancy credentials to be successful.
  2. Reframe how you talk to yourself. The only difference between someone who experiences impostor syndrome and someone who does not is how they respond to what's happening to them. You are as good as you tell yourself you are.
  3. Talk to friends and coworkers. Odds are, they feel the same. It helps to know you aren't alone in this feeling. Plus, they will tell you the truth of if you are an impostor or not.

This is something that a lot of people struggle with. I see other authors doing better or posting on social media about their latest release and I feel like I'm not doing enough. Like I'm not earning my position as an author.

Even writing this blog, I question my own credentials. I've been writing and publishing romance novels for seven years. I've made enough money doing it to support my family, yet somehow, I feel like I'm just getting by on luck.

It doesn't help when I have a book that fails. If anything, that just solidifies how much I don't know what I'm doing. That I got here purely on luck.

Logically, I know that isn't true. When I talk to other authors and we share knowledge, I know that isn't true. I know a lot about what I'm doing. That doesn't mean that I don't have a ton to learn, but I'm not a newbie either.

Impostor syndrome is hard. It never goes away. It's always whispering in the corners of the room, hinting that there is a fraud.

The only way to get through it is to keep going. Keep learning. Keep trying. Keep talking.


How to Self-Publish a Book

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The basics of how to self-publish a book

Welcome to the amazing world of self publishing!

These are the basic steps for self-publishing a book. It's an overview, not a guide. Entire books are written about this subject, so this is very bare bones but should give you a good place to start and give you a basic idea of what to expect.

CREATING

1. Write stuff. (You've done this part! Good job) Now figure out what genre you fit in (contemporary romance, urban fantasy, paranormal, ect). Look at Amazon and figure out similar works. Look at their covers, blurbs, excerpts, and categorization. You will want to mimic successful books.

  1. A note for e-readers: anything more than about 3-4 sentences looks like a giant wall of text on small screens. Thus, try and make lots of small paragraphs to make it easier to read.
  2. Do not use tabs to indent a paragraph. As your book will be read on a multitude of electronic devices, the tab is too much for most of them. Instead, in your word doc go to tools>paragraph>first line and set it to 0.3

2. Get a cover. A good cover is critical. People won't click on your book to even read the description if the cover doesn't catch your eye. This needs to be professional looking or no one will pick up your book. I don't recommend making your own unless you have a lot of practice making book covers. However, if you can't afford a premium cover there are plenty of premade covers available for reasonable prices.
(www.goonwrite.com andSteveRicherBooks.com/covers/ are great options)

3. Write your blurb. To write a good blurb, it should sound like a movie announcer is reading it. Keep it short and sweet. This is harder than it sounds, so keep in mind that this is what is supposed to entice a reader to click buy. Read the best seller blurbs in your genre to get good examples of the tone and wording your readers are looking for.

PUBLISHING

The big player is Amazon, especially with their Kindle Unlimited (KU) program. (Read about choosing between KU and being wide!)

*If you want to make going wide easy, you can distribute through draft2digital.com (D2D) or https://publishdrive.com. You upload your stuff and they will format it and send it out to Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Apple. They just take a portion of your sales as payment for the service./

  1. Decide on a price. On Amazon, you will get 70% royalty if you price $2.99-9.99. If you price under/above that, you only qualify for 35%. Some countries are only 35% royalty rates, but they aren't the big ones.
  2. Format your book. There are services (like D2D) that will do this for free or you can pay someone to make it super fancy.
  3. Follow the directions on the screen and publish! It will take a few hours for it to go live, but you will get an email when it does.
  4. Be sure to use your keywords! This is how people will find you!
  5. KDP Select/KU: This is an OPTIONAL program for KDP authors, where you can choose to make your book exclusive to Amazon for a 90-day period.
  6. Please note that returns are common on Amazon. Their return process is crazy simple so a lot of people use Amazon as their own personal free library. If it feels like you are getting a lot though, check your formatting to make sure they are actually just being cheap and that there isn't something actually wrong.
  7. Rank: the more you sell the lower your rank. It is based on how all books in the store are selling compared to your book. The lower the number, the better you are selling.
  8. Physical copies: Kindle Publishing and IngramSpark are venues to use Print-on-Demand publishing. You will need to format and make a print cover for your book.

PAYMENT

  1. Retailers pay out 60 days after the end of the month, so you won't see any money for the first two months.
  2. Please note, you will need to pay taxes on this income at the end of the year. Taxes are not withheld like at a normal job.
  3. Don't get discouraged if you don't sell very much. It is a tough market to get into (especially with the first book). Get on some blogs, goodreads, send out to reviewers, tweet, facebook and promote.

My first book barely made back my costs (cover, physical copies, and some small promotional stuff). I took it as a learning experience and wrote something a little more mainstream (a billionaire novel).
Sometimes stuff just doesn't sell and then other times it will take off. The best advice is just to write more. If something doesn't sell, leave it. You can either spend your time trying to fix it (which might work) or you can write something new (which probably will work, and if nothing else brings in more readers).

Good Luck!


KU or Wide?

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Kindle Unlimited (KU) or Wide?
How to choose between the two as a self publisher

In today's indie author world there are two choices: Kindle Unlimited (KU) or Wide.

There are pros and cons to both, but ultimately there is no “right” decision. It really depends on your genre, level of involvement you want, and a whole mess of luck.

What is Kindle Unlimited (KU)?

Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service offered by Amazon. If you spend $9.99 a month, you get unlimited access to the Kindle Unlimited library.

This is awesome if you are a big reader. Since many romance readers are voracious, there is a great market for romance. (Also LitRPG is big here too)

Authors are paid by how many pages are read. This is traditionally around .05 cents a page (half a cent). At 250 words a page, that means a 50K novel read from cover to cover nets an author about a dollar. This money is paid out of a monthly “pot” that fluctuates in amount.

Any author that wants to be part of this program must be Amazon exclusive. They cannot sell their books on any other sellers. (E-book only. Print is different) Their book will be part of the KU program and be available for sale on Amazon only.

Authors can join KU for 90 day contracts. You cannot get out early.

What is Wide?

Going wide is when an author sells their book on multiple sites. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, GooglePlay, and Kobo are the big book sellers. Authors sell their books on all these (and more).

Pros and Cons

Pros of KU

  • Ease. Being exclusive means you only have to have one version and uploaded it to one place. It also means that when you advertise your book, you can have all the ads lead to the same purchase page instead of making readers choose which version they want.
  • Higher search rankings. Books that are “borrowed” in the KU program are counted in Amazon's search algorythms. Check out the top 100 books on Amazon and you will see a lot of KU books.
  • Readers are more willing to try new authors with KU. They haven't “spent” money, so they are more willing to take a risk on an author they haven't tried yet.
  • Amazon has some nice perks for exclusive books. There are Kindle Countdown deals and sales.
  • If you are a top seller, you can get bonuses.

Cons of KU

  • Exclusivity. You can't publish other places and have other revenue streams
  • No hitting lists. With only one seller, you can't hit NYT or USA Today's bestseller lists.
  • Following the rules. If you break the rules, Amazon will kick you out of the program. Unfortunately, many authors have been caught up in unfair practices or even targeted by other authors.
  • Payment. One dollar for a full novel that sells for $2.99 or more is a big discount. The theory is that there are more readers in KU, so you'll make up the difference with volume.
  • Unsure payments. All the page reads come out of a big pot. This means that the actual value of a page fluctuates on a monthly basis. It's usually around half a cent, but also tends to trend lower. You will never be exactly sure how much money you are getting paid.
  • The problems with KU. KU is a mess. There are so many issues, scams, and payout issues. I'm not going to go into them here, but you can read about them here: https://andrewbeymer.com/2018/05/11/kindle-unlimited-snafu-scammers-suspended-accounts-and-page-read-reductions/. Innocent authors have seen their Amazon accounts terminated without warning or recourse. As someone whose entire income is books, this is terrifying.

Pros of being Wide

  • Selling your book everywhere. Not everyone wants to buy from Amazon, and this means you can sell your book to them. It also means you can use cool promotions (B&N just announced coupons!)
  • Can hit best seller lists like New York Times or USA Today
  • You know exactly how much money you are making
  • Amazon is less likely to ban your account due to scammers

Cons of being Wide

  • More work. You have to upload to each site. You have to set your advertising to a specific website. You have to keep track of it all
  • Less visibility on Amazon. Amazon favors their KU books because that makes them money. It means less natural visibility from Amazon unless you are a big seller.

So, how does an author choose?

If you are brand new, I recommend KU. It's easier and you will get more readers willing to take a chance on a new author in KU. It simplifies marketing and it gets your foot in the door.

If you're not brand new, this gets trickier. You have to look at your numbers. Are page reads a huge part of your income or are sales? Are you willing to do more work? What does your audience expect? (For example, the only website that sold stepbrother romances was Amazon. The other retailers wouldn't sell them, so being wide with a stepbrother romance isn't a good idea.)

It really comes down to whether you will make more money selling to multiple websites or if you'll make more with page reads.

There are many authors that do the first 90 days of their book launch in Amazon KU, then at the end of their term, go wide.

There are authors that launch wide and then go to KU when sales have slowed down on other retailers.

There are authors that are exclusive. There are authors that hate KU. There are authors that fluctuate and change as the market and their needs change.

It's a tough choice. Luckily, it's just a 90 day one. Experiment. Find your market. Then roll with the punches to keep your books where you want them.


Heroes

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I need a hero!

Since the reader will see themselves as the heroine, you have to make the hero someone the reader wants to be with.

The Physical

The hero should always be inwardly attractive. It helps if he's outwardly attractive too, but it's possible to have a scarred, deformed hero that we still love. (Jane Eyre for example, or even the Beast in Beauty and the Beast.) He doesn't have to be handsome on the outside, but he does have to have a heart of gold.

Most women still say the tall, dark, and handsome look is preferred. Taller tends to be more attractive.

Hair, skin color, race, eye color, and builds can vary. They need to take care of themselves, though. They don't have to be Mr. Universe, but they shouldn't be Homer Simpson either.

There is definitely a wish fulfillment aspect here. We want to be with the hot guy. We want to have the prince. So give your reader that if you can.

The Emotional

Your hero must be intelligent. Since this is a book, we only get a description of the physical but we get a play by play of what he says. He needs to have a brain or your reader will lose interest. If he's just a pretty face, why would our heroine (us) want to be with him? We'll be bored since we don't actually get to see those rippling muscles.

Intelligence, humor, and kindness will win the hearts of your readers.

The hero can be dark and brooding. He can be locked away inside himself with his emotions, or a bad boy with a dangerous past. He can be an assassin, a gangster, a soldier, a doctor, or a gigolo.

But he must be intelligent and have a good heart. Why would we fall in love with him if he didn't?


Dealing with Bad Reviews

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You wrote an amazing book. You spent hours agonizing over the cover. You poured your heart and soul into the blurb. You published it. Months of hard work.

And then you get this:

1 star: Unbelievably Lame
I've never given a one star before, but this book deserves it. The authored tried too much to make the book a contemporary romance novel, but failed miserably! Waste of my time.

1 star: One Star
This was so poorly written I couldn't get beyond the 2nd chapter. How could this get published?

1 star: Very disappointed. I think I could have written a better …
I would give less if it was an option. Very disappointed. I think I could have written a better story. Didn't know it was a short story, feel ripped off for purchasing it. I should have requested a refund.

And your heart breaks.

I know mine does. Those are real reviews on one of my books. (Yours Completely. It was the #2 selling book on Amazon for a month in 2016. You can get it HERE)

So, here's what you do.

  1. Curse them. I yell at my computer and tell them that they are complete a-holes. If they think it's so easy- they should do it. Also, 50,000 words is not a SHORT STORY! It is a novel! It took months! F*** YOU RANDOM STRANGER!
  2. Have someone else read the reviews. I have my husband do this. He's close enough that he'll tell me if there are real issues (like I need to get a better editor) or if they're just jerks. He doesn't tell me about the just jerk reviews.
  3. Know that some people are haters. Seriously- how sad do you have to be to give a book a one star and call the author names? I figure those people are just pathetic sad individuals that need to get their kicks by feeling superior to others.
  4. Forget about them. This is the most important. You are not your reviews. I'm going to say it again and in big bold letters because it's incredibly important.


YOU ARE NOT YOUR REVIEWS.

I actually find that one stars are worthless. They are always sad, bitter people hoping to troll. Two and three stars are where you learn things. The two and three stars at least acknowledge that work went into this book. They usually have more than just “Ugh. I can't even!”

Use those reviews to improve. If you have lots of negative reviews, figure out why and come up with a plan. If you have lots of positive reviews, then you're doing your job well. Keep improving.

Harry Potter has made billions. Yet there are one stars on her work. Everyone's a critic. There are people that gave Harry Potter one star reviews. You are not alone.

Basically, ignore the one stars. You will never please someone who gave a one-star rating. Never. They are lost causes and don't deserve your time.

Also, NEVER respond to a review. It does you no good. It's like arguing on Facebook. No one wins and you just end up looking like an idiot.

Yell at them in your head. Write their names down and burn them in a fire. But don't respond. It won't change anything. It will only cause drama that won't help you sell more books. Let the stupid people have their opinions.

It's probably all they have.

*If you need someone else to tell you basically this same sentiment, check out Chapter 14 of “Girl, Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis. She says, “Someone else's opinion of me is none of my business.” And it's true. It doesn't matter what someone else thinks.


Writing Resources

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I recommend these in no particular order! *And I will update these periodically!

Books I Recommend:

  • Wired for Story by Lisa Cron –On Amazon
  • 2k to 10K: Writing Faster, Better, and more of what you love –On Amazon
  • Writing the Great American Romance Novel by Catherine Lanigan- On Amazon
  • Write Naked: A Bestseller's Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success by Jennifer Probst –On Amazon
  • The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi –On Amazon
  • Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes –On Amazon

Websites for Writing: