I will be volunteering at Empire Game Con this weekend. So you all get a break from my ramblings. Hope you all get lots of writing done and I’ll see you again on Wednesday.

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Stock characters. Stereotypes. Tropes. Whatever you call them, they both exist and do not exist simultaneously. They are pervasive, and very sneaky. You sit there writing, and a stock character pops out of your subconscious mind without your realizing it.

A stereotype, according to Dictionary.com, is “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.” So you think of a particular place or kind of person, and a certain picture immediately appears in your mind. An “Arab” with a head-rag who is hateful to women and Jews. The country of Thailand as a haven of drug use and prostitution.

This kind of stereotype is not real, because nothing in life is that simple and concrete. When you take the time to learn about the country of Thailand or “Arabs” as part of the world’s heritage, it immediately becomes clear that there is so much more nuance and variation than the trope captures.

Yet stereotypes are real, because they show up again and again. They are ingrained in our minds. One time, I was working on a short story and it felt very off to me. Reading back through, I realized that every one of the men characters was an ugly trope. There was a mean dad, a deceitful preacher, a lazy cop. Actually, there was only one woman character, and she was a stereotype, too — a weak mom who should have stood up to the dad but didn’t.

I was annoyed with myself for falling back on these negative types. As a writer, I pride myself on doing better. So I tore that story down to the ground and started over again. The dad became strict but concerned, rather than dominating his son, who was the main character. The policeman was honestly doing his job. The preacher vanished entirely. The mom offered her son words of support.

When we’re trying to get that first draft down, it can be all too easy to rely on stock characters. But when you get to revisions, it’s always better to resist the stereotypes. Allow interesting variations, or even deliberately turn the character to make readers question that stereotype. Turn those tropes into treasures.

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First Review!

My first review has come in on The Tower in the Mist, and it’s a lovely one. Alden Loveshade delivers perceptive comments on his Loveshade Family Blog. Thank you so much, Alden!

I also have a minor puzzle. One of my goals for the year has been to revitalize my author newsletter and get more activity going there. They say these can be a great way to connect with fans and perhaps get them to use those purchase links in the e-mails.

So far this year, I have improved my record of putting the newsletter out on time each month. I’ve tried to have entertaining things to say. Although one person does interact consistently, which is more than I had before, I have unfortunately seen more people drop off the list each time I send one.

Maybe it’s natural, and those who were accustomed to the previous moribund newsletter find monthly contact a bit too much. It’s a little disheartening, all the same.

What’s an author to do? Keep on trying until I weed out the disinterested subscribers, I suppose. And keeping peeking back at Alden’s review to cheer myself up!

Did you know I have an author newsletter? You can get it! I’ll even give you a free e-book for signing up. Just click here.

Word counts can be useful for more than helping you decide where and how to market a particular story. You can also use them to track your productivity. Writing… and productivity. Ha ha, right?

Word counts really can help you set goals, though. Say you’ve been working on your WIP for a while, and you need a push to the finish line. If you have a goal of 7,000 words total, and you have 5,000 already done, you might set a goal such as “write 2,000 words in the next week.” Then, knowing how many words you typically get in a day, you can calculate how many days you need to finish the story. Or, if you usually get a certain number of writing days in a week, you can calculate how many words you need to write each time.

Where word counts can be problematic is when we flog ourselves for not meeting a goal, or when we use them to compare ourselves to other writers. If you’re like me, there’s a steady stream of people posting stuff like, “I wrote 1,700 words today.” For the person who wrote that, it’s a celebration that they met their goal, and maybe a way to inspire themselves for the next day’s work.

But if you’re having a rough day and only wrote 170 words, it can be a real downer. Lots of people get Imposter Syndrome when they hear that someone finished a story, or sold one, or have a new publication. Generally speaking, it’s never a good idea for writers to compare ourselves to other writers. The process and the finish products are so different, it really is like apples and oranges.

For myself, I’m more of a “it will be done when it’s done” type of gal, but everyone has their own ways, right? So try to keep your goals in perspective and be kind to yourself.

Did you know I have an author newsletter? You can get it! I’ll even give you a free e-book for signing up. Just click here.

Word Counts

Amid all the excitement of publishing The Tower in the Mist, I also managed a third draft revision of its sequel, which I’m now calling The Grove of Ghosts. It started out being 36,850 words and ended being 36,760. Having only a 90-odd word difference convinces me that the story is really solid at its length.

The whole exercise made me think a bit about word counts and why they matter. One factor is that the word count is a defining characteristic for our genre. The way I was taught is this: 1) Flash fiction is anything under 1,000 words. 2) Short stories are 1,000 to 10,000 words. 3) 10,000 to 15,000 is a novelette. 4) 15,000 to 30,000 is a novella. 5) 30,000 to 90,000 is the Dead Zone. No publications buy stories at this length. 6) 90,000 words or more is a novel.

Based on this, maybe you can see why I was worried that my novellas were 32,000 words (The Tower in the Mist) and 38,000 words (The Grove of Ghosts) in their first drafts. Strictly by the word count, both of them are too long for the novella format.

The word-count-as-definition trope comes from the 19th and 20th Centuries, when all publications were on paper and editors had to gauge how many pages a given story would take up in their magazine. And the calculation still holds true in print books and magazines, which require editors to balance page counts vs. price point.

However, as an author of e-books, page count is really a non-issue. With no actual book to fit on actual shelves or ship in actual boxes, I can write 38,000 words and call it a novella. I don’t have to worry that it’s in the Dead Zone. The calculation that I have to make is price point vs. value to customer. After buying my e-book, I want my reader to believe they got a fair value for what they paid. If the book is too short, they may feel cheated. It it is too long, they may suspect I padded it to inflate the word count.

What’s your thought about word counts and story length over all?

Did you know I have an author newsletter? You can get it! I’ll even give you a free e-book for signing up. Just click here.


After all those guest posts, it seems like time for me to write something new just for this blog. We went to see Avengers End Game over the weekend and enjoyed it a lot. There is one time paradox that wasn’t resolved, and I felt in many cases that they lingered too long on the emotional shots. The editors could have trimmed a good 15 minutes by controlling those better. Still, these quibbles weren’t enough to interfere with my pleasure in the story.

One thing I had heard in advance was that all the women characters were sacrificed to make the plot go. For a long time, activists have been pointing out that characters in movies/TV who represent an outsider — gays, women, minorities — very often are killed or suffer some other grievous harm, such as a rape. This spurs the hero — almost always a white guy — to seek revenge or whatever the plot entails.

Having seen the movie, I must partly disagree. Not ALL the women were sacrificed to push a man’s plot. Several were, but at least one of them completed her own arc rather than merely dying to propel her male comrade forward. Also, there was a gay character who was not killed off. It was a small part, but significant, I think.

And that, actually, is about all I can say without giving anything away. If you saw Avengers End Game, I’m interested in whether you spotted the same time paradox that I did, and what else stood out for you. Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

Did you know I have an author newsletter? You can join! I’ll even give you a free e-book for signing up. Just click here.

I’m honored to visit the blog of my friend, and sometimes editor, David Lee Summers. Sometimes you set out to write a story and every character turns out to be some sort of negative stereotype. This is how I re-imagined The Tower in the Mist and made the story much stronger.

David Lee Summers' Web Journal

Today, I’d like to welcome author Deby Fredericks to my blog. I’ve had the honor of editing her novels The Grimhold Wolf and Seven Exalted Orders. I enjoy her writing and she has a new book out called The Tower in the Mist. In it, she presents a group of non-traditional warriors. Presenting characters in non-traditional gender roles is something I have done as well, and I thought it would be interesting to hear Deby’s take on this subject. Without further ado, I’ll turn it over to Deby.

When I began writing The
Tower in the Mist
, I did not plan to include a group of Amazonian
warrior-women. A woman mage had been captured by warriors who served an evil
wizard. But the more I worked on that setting, in the Land of Skaythe, the more
I realized that the minions of an evil wizard were also…

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