Skip to main content

Writing rules.



YOU CAN’T DO THAT…

This might be a rant. I haven’t had one for a while, so that’s no bad thing. Anyhow, this blog is about what we’re told we can and can’t do as writers and why, actually, it might not be good advice.

Writing is a funny old conundrum. It’s a business, at one end of the spectrum, and a creative endeavour at the other, and sometimes the two struggle to meet.

When I first started to write, I didn’t give much thought to the market for my story. I assumed it was the sort of thing I would like to read, so there must be one. It was later that I discovered there were all sorts of rules and strictures about the book you write.

I took them all terribly seriously at first. I tried to meet them all. I turned myself in knots forcing my story into the convenient boxes the marketing side of writing wanted, and out of the story-driven ways my creative side demanded. It was exhausting and tiring and – wait for it – got me nowhere. At all.

Here, along the way, was the sort of advice I tried to live up to:

A first novel shouldn’t top 120,000 words for Space Opera. My debut topped that – because my editor wanted more. Not a single reader has commented the book is too long.

A novel can’t straddle young adult and adult: it must be clearly one or the other (now crossover is back in vogue, so it's okay again). 

This piece of advice took up three years of my life, between getting an agent (so many refused because of my adult/young adult narrative structure), then seeking a publisher. The book didn’t sell. I brought it out myself, in a version that totally straddles the two markets and it's getting amazing reviews and selling well. Not a single reader has mentioned that there is an adult/young adult combination in it. Not a single person in the market cares. Amazon are happy with where to stock it – on the sci-fi shelf. So are the bookstores who carry it. No one is confused.

There are other rules, of course, but this blog isn’t just about my personal experience. It’s a plea for all the writers who are jumping through hoops, trying to do what the industry asks to the detriment of the story.

Just stop. Write your story. Its time will come. 

When I started Abendau’s Heir, Space Opera was out of vogue. No one wanted a big old space epic. By the time it was picked up, everyone was looking for Space Opera. Inish Carraig was the other way around – when I wrote it everyone wanted dystopian (not that it strictly is, but it has that feel) and, by the time I subbed, no one did. 

But it’s selling. The readers don’t care about the number of books out this year, or whether a story conflicts with another. They just want a darn good story.

Write your story. Write it as it should be. Don’t believe all that you’re told. Because a good story trumps all (Patrick Rothfuss, anyone?) This is not a market where the hoops have to be jumped through to be published anymore. This is a world where you can publish yourself, where myriad small publishers take the stuff that the bigger publishers believe they can’t sell. It’s a world where if an agent tells you to change your story for the market, you can choose not to. 

We’re luckier than we ever be – so why not challenge the norms that have encased us? 

My big old Space Opera can be found here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Abendaus-Heir-Inheritance-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00VF6C1Q4/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

And my YA/adult crossover here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Inish-Carraig-Jo-Zebedee-ebook/dp/B012782E0G/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8




Comments

Razib Ahmed said…
Thanks a lot for your tips. What I feel now is that most of us start writing with a sense of joy and optimism. However, as time goes on, we start to become frustrated and leave trying too soon. We lose hope.
Joanne Zebedee said…
I think there are times when you just have to hang tough and seek cake. :)

Popular posts from this blog

A NATURAL HISTORY OF GOBLINS - a guest blog by Teresa Edgerton

Some fantasy writers like to write about elves, others prefer werewolves, vampires, or zombies. I have a penchant for goblins.

In folklore, the word "goblin" has been applied in myriad ways. A goblin might be a mischievous sprite like Puck, a hideous, vengeful ghost, or even a beneficient house spirit such as a brownie. Sometimes it was used as a synonym for fairy, sometimes applied to a separate race: small, ugly, and malicious. I've taken advantage of this ambiguity, and in each series of books I've written where goblins appear, I've reinvented them.

In the second Celydonn series (sequels to The Green Lion Trilogy) they are fuathan, bad fairies if you will. I like writing about fairies. Even the best of them are not nice; they are not benevolent. On occasion they may be extravagently generous. Grateful for small favors, they return them with magnificent gifts and spectacular rewards. But you cannot trust them. Their morality is not our morality, their laws…

Getting hearts racing, an interview with fantasy-romance novelist Suzanne Jackson

Today I'm chatting with Suzanne Jackson, whose debut novel has been picked up by Venus Ascending, a new fantasy/sci-fi romance imprint headed up by Teresa Edgerton. I'm lucky enough to be a critique partner of Sue's, and can confirm that this book is something special with a great, unique world, sumptuous writing, a fantastic female lead, and the so-bad-he's-irresistible Nicholas Jarrett.
So I thought I'd be the first to nab the elusive Suzanne and find out what makes her - and her world - tick.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------




Firstly, tell us a little about your world, and how you've managed to marry fantasy with romance?


Hi, Jo. Thank you for inviting me onto your blog for my very first interview. I’m thrilled to be able to talk a little bit about my book and characters.
The Beguiler is set in a fantasy world similar in many ways to Georgian England. Many people are superstitious, with goo…

ON COMMUNITIES

This week a theme has emerged over my conversations and interactions, almost organically. That theme is about communities and how they can give a voice and strength to the individuals within it. I’m a member of a range of writing communities. Some, such as Women Aloud and the SFFchronicles, I’m pretty central to. Some, less so:
Despite having a reputation for writing some dark scenes, my work isn’t dark enough to be classed as grimdark*. And I don’t read a whole heap of Grimdark books (the odd one slips through my eclectic book-selection part of my brain, but so does the odd macho-man romance.) But I like the Grimdark community grimdark fiction readers & writers – they’re funny and warm (I know, I know, they really need to up their grim credentials) and very welcoming. And moderated as tightly as a group needs to be. So, I hang around and post the odd comment and chat with the odd member – not that they’re all odd, of course – and that’s as far as it needs to go. The group have …