So You Write: A webcomic about being a writer

Published June 10, 2012 by swankivy

This is my webcomic about being a writer.  It’s very silly, with autobiographical details about my life as a writer and what sorts of things we creative types deal with while interacting with the outside world.

There is no update schedule planned; I’ll add a new one whenever I feel like it.  It’d be too demanding for me to try to keep this one regular too since I already have another webcomic that has been updated every Friday since May 20, 2005.

Please send me a message if you’d like to leave private feedback or ask questions about any of my projects.

Not Up to Me

Published September 30, 2017 by swankivy

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Oh man! I love that some people are so giving when it comes to getting involved with a book they like or support. It’s so encouraging sometimes when people want to request copies of the book for an event or want to do something to help spread its message. There are so many well-meaning people out there.

But . . . authors of mainstream-published books are not able to make these decisions, nor do they have the right to do stuff like authorize third parties to create translations or accept alternate cover art. Yes, even if you’re doing it for free. When it comes to adapting my intellectual property in the case of translations, that’s actually against the law because my publisher has the right to make those arrangements.

One of the things that surprised me most about getting published was how many readers think I’m directly involved with the marketing or distribution of the book. They’ll contact me to ask what happened to their order, or ask me to get their local bookstore/library to carry it, or ask me to change the price. When you get published, part of what you get paid for is selling certain rights. This is why authors don’t have control over certain marketing decisions. My publisher owns those rights.

One thing I can do, though . . . is sign your copy. Heh.

Copyright

Published August 27, 2017 by swankivy

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Regarding copyright on a book:

a) If you’re trying to get an agent, DON’T PUT THE COPYRIGHT SYMBOL OR THE WORD COPYRIGHT ON YOUR TITLE PAGE. It makes you look like an amateur, because

b) You automatically own the copyright to your work as soon as you put it in a fixed form. You do not have to announce that it is yours for it to really be yours.

c) Also? Nobody wants to steal your ideas. It is very hard to execute an idea, and a lazy person would not be up for the task of making a good book out of your idea and trying to sell it. If you’re really worried that literary agents are out to reject your book but secretly sell it for themselves, you are a conspiracy theorist.

d) Yes, theft occasionally happens. Generally not at that level and not by agents, though. But if it is going to happen, slapping “copyright” on your work is not going to stop it.

e) Registered copyrights exist so you can pay money to prove via an outside source that the copyright belongs to you. You have a copyright even if you don’t register it, but you should not register a copyright for a book in your name if you are trying to sell it to a publisher. They will copyright the book.

f) If you really are truly unable to stop worrying that someone is going to swipe your idea because it’s just that good (even though an agent is hoping to collect part of your paycheck for selling it for you), buy some peace of mind by sending the manuscript to yourself through the mail in a sealed envelope so you can prove, due to the postage stamp date, that it has been yours since at least that date. (The process is affectionately called “the poor man’s copyright.”) This doesn’t necessarily hold up in court, but at least it’s evidence of some sort that you wrote this thing and put it in a package that’s been sealed at least X long.

g) I don’t mean to shame anyone for worrying that your precious hard work might be taken from you, but ideas are cheap and selling them/fleshing them out is hard. Agents, especially, are in a business that helps connect writers to publishing opportunities. They want you to write the book and succeed. They have nothing to gain as an agent by sneaking off with your work, and if you’ve done your research on agents, you should know which ones are reputable. Don’t submit to anyone disreputable and you’ll be fine.

Mary Sue

Published July 28, 2017 by swankivy

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I mean, this doesn’t always happen, but it’s peculiar how often the same things that make a male fantasy character badass, dark, and fascinating are interpreted as fake deep, annoying, and “Mary Sue” if they’re applied to a female character.

And if I may extend the concept a bit, some people judge others’ stories as overwritten, melodramatic, or heavy-handed when they aren’t able to see the same qualities in their own work.

I have a fairy tale retelling in which the main character is practically a poster child for Mary Sue syndrome–but she’s basically SUPPOSED to be because she’s invoking an archetype that’s super popular in fairy tales. Some will appreciate how it fits together, and others will turn their noses up at the same thing and think it’s cheesy. It’s a risk you run when you write something deliberately derivative. Not to mention that writing about someone unusual, special, and extraordinary does not automatically make them a “Mary Sue”–it’s become such an overused term, wantonly slapped on lady characters every time they’re the most interesting character in the room.

When their perfect warriors with painful pasts and hearts of gold make me yawn, I just don’t read them. Let ’em write what makes them happy.

What’s Next?

Published June 25, 2017 by swankivy

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Sometimes you actually kinda forget you wrote it. ;___;

Can’t someone else just come here and finish it for me??

(This doesn’t represent anything that’s happened recently, but yeah, I’ve been here, getting to the end of the document for an unfinished novel and hoping I got farther writing it than I think I did.)

[Don’t you love when I’m too lazy to draw a background]

On Tour

Published March 31, 2017 by swankivy

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I mean, sometimes a publisher you sign with will book you for an event, or encourage you to appear at a group event, or ask you to arrange participation at a local authors’ event, or include you as one of their authors at a conference. And you don’t necessarily have to be a huge success to get those. But generally? You probably shouldn’t assume “book deal” goes hand in hand with glamorous all-expenses-paid tours where people line up to see you, all thanks to the hard work and dedication of your publishing team.

They DO do a lot for you, even at smaller publishers. But unless your participation is allowing them to create sales where there wouldn’t have been sales, it is ever so unlikely that they will choose to pay your bill as you travel the country doing signings. I was my imprint’s bestselling book the year I was published. I did some appearances, but not because of anything my publisher asked me to do.

You can arrange your own events and participate in others, and sometimes your publisher will work with you to make sure copies of your book are available! But yeah . . . book deals usually don’t lead to road tours. Sorry. :/

Ripoff

Published February 27, 2017 by swankivy

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I think nearly every writer has had this happen to them. We’ve all seen stories that are creepily similar to what we’ve already written or were going to write, and usually they’ll come out ages after we’ve written or conceived the thing (but you’d still be the one accused of being a ripoff artist if yours was published after). The good news is that it’s very common and not indicative of you being unoriginal or secretly inspired by someone else’s work, and there’s hope if you’re stuck with a concept that bears striking resemblance to something else that’s popular.

If you’re inevitably going to be compared to another piece of media, be informed about what that other thing IS, and then make it clear in your pitching materials what sets yours apart. No need to explain it isn’t a ripoff of the other thing; best not to even mention it. Unless your book is an actual retelling of an established tale (like a modern reboot of an existing book in the public domain, or a legend/fairy tale), you don’t explicitly want your book officially tied to other media that you want to be seen as distinct from. But books being similar to other stories is inevitable, and that similarity doesn’t have to kill you. You just have to know what to do to make a case for why there’s room for yours too, and that starts with research!

As an aside . . . you can’t copyright ideas. Write them down and then the copyright belongs to you, but you can’t reserve concepts and then prevent other people from using them.

Original

Published January 27, 2017 by swankivy

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I’ll add that I never did anything with my annoyance at fanfiction; it’s not like I ever found a fanfiction writer and told them they should be doing something more productive with their time. It was just that I was irrationally annoyed by this kind of hobby because after all you can’t publish a story that’s about someone else’s characters or uses someone else’s premise! What were they thinking?

But obviously–as detailed in the comic–I came to realize people write for many reasons. Just because I had no desire at that time to connect with other people’s ideas about fictional characters that didn’t belong to them, and wasn’t seeking a bonding experience between fans, and didn’t want to spend my writing time using someone else’s characters . . . does not mean there are no reasons to do those things.

Furthermore, fanfiction can be a training ground if you do one day want to write your own original stories. So much has to be done when you write a novel–not only do you have to invent your characters and their back story and their premise and their plot and figure out pacing and learn to write dialogue and come up with engaging relationships . . . you also have to master the mechanics of writing. It’s very intimidating for some people, especially if they don’t know where to start.

So they can start with something they love. Maybe they want to know what it would be like if two characters who aren’t interested in each other in the original had a romantic relationship with each other. Maybe they want to invent their own character and bounce them off of characters they love. Maybe they really like a plot concept and want to set their story in an existing world. They can take these smaller steps on their own terms, without much pressure since they know they can’t publish fanfiction traditionally, and then they can develop skills and increase confidence. Get the feel for how words flow for them. Understand how to approach peers for proofing. Learn discipline.

Or . . . not. Because you don’t have to justify an interest in writing fanfiction by claiming it’s preparing you to write original material. If fanfiction is it for you, and it’s a hobby, and you love it, there’s no shame in that. Enjoy it however you want. And don’t let snobs like my former self make you think you’re a lesser writer because of it.

The Hard Part

Published December 23, 2016 by swankivy

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Some people struggle the most with one particular aspect of writing and publishing, depending on what their individual challenges are, but . . . to be 100% honest? Every part is difficult in some way, even when you’re also enjoying yourself.

You can always look at this the opposite way (and I often do): view everything that’s behind you and in front of you as the hard part, but convince yourself that you’re currently doing the easy part. Tell yourself you’ll just breeze through this and the most difficult bits are either already done or a problem for another day. You’d be surprised how well this works!

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