I met J.L. Gribble at one of the many conventions I've attended. She's a smart, talented, author and editor who is wonderful to talk to. I've enjoyed her writing in the past and I'm sture I'm going to enjoy reading Steel Blood. Also, I'm all about the rule breaking. :)
Though I only officially added “author” to my credentials two years ago, I’ve been involved in the publishing industry for much longer. And one thing I’ve noticed is that, like any profession, authors really like their rules.
In order to be a REAL author, you have to write every day. Writing should be your priority above all else. You must constantly be reading in your genre. Et cetera.
Something else I’ve learned is that rules are meant to be broken. I’d love to write every day, but I manage it when my time and spoons allow. Writing is a priority, but yesterday was dedicated to hacking an IKEA media stand with my husband, because life is a priority, too. And urban fantasy is always my go-to genre, but I’ll read anything that’s well-written, whether it’s as similar as epic fantasy or as different as a cozy mystery.
In that spirit, I’d like to propose a new “author” rule—and why you should break it.
Steal from the masters.
There are multiple ways to interpret this, which is why this rule is already easy to break. Craft books written by experts in the fields of writing, editing, and publishing are a great place to start. Take their advice, but put your own spin on it. Do what works for you and your own craft and creative process. Follow successful authors online, through blogs and their social media. Find out what seems to work for them, through both writing and marketing, and adapt it for yourself.
Or we could get a little more literal.
(This does not mean plagiarize from the masters. Plagiarism is a rule that should NEVER be broken.)
Have you heard of the Hero’s Journey? It’s a storytelling structure often used in mythological, heroic storytelling, boiled down to boring academic discussion by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. You’d probably recognize it from the Greek myths of Hercules.
But you’d also recognize it from Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope. Because it’s a storytelling structure that works, and it can be adapted numerous ways. Adaptation is the key word. There’s no point in reinventing the wheel, but you can, and should, put your own spin on it (pun not intended).
In my most recent novel, I realized that I’d set things up perfectly for a “Romeo and Juliet” relationship scenario between secondary characters through my previous world-building and where I wanted the political factions to go in the future. But since I’m not experienced in writing romantic story arcs, and I didn’t want the book to be primarily a romance, I decided to go right to the source. I sat down my battered college copy of Death by Shakespeare (okay, it’s really the Norton Shakespeare, but you could kill somebody with this sucker) and read the play. And read it again. And read it again, this time taking notes about what else was going on, outside of the “love” story. And discovered that I could literally craft my next novel based on the structure of The Bard’s original play, representing Nurse as my own main character (a perturbed vampire mercenary contracted to bodyguard my Juliet). Even though this wasn’t the first time I’d ever read this play, I learned so much this go-around about narrative structure and pacing, especially when adapted to the crazy alternate-history fantasy world that I’m playing in rather than a medieval Italian city.
If you’re a writer, or in any creative profession, go forth and steal from the masters. Make your own rules. And break them.
By day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.
Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook, and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits).