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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!

I Already

Published November 23, 2016 by swankivy

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It’s never quite as blatant as this, but yeah, I’ve had quite a few people steamroll over me with explanations of how to get published without realizing they’re not talking to a n00b. I’ve also had a peculiar number of people assume my book is unfinished, or is self-published or only published digitally. Sorry self-important person who made weird assumptions: I don’t need the process explained to me.

Five Times

Published October 22, 2016 by swankivy

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Yes, yes. Everyone’s heard the stories of authors who get rejected a bunch of times and still go on to be very successful. Everyone knows it’s easy to say that AFTER you’ve made it, but while you’re going through it, it feels like every rejection is proof that you can’t do this.

You can.

It’s true that maybe the one you’re trying to sell, or the one you’re looking for representation for, isn’t “the one,” and sure, you won’t know until later whether a different project is the one that will get you off the ground. But five rejections . . .

. . . let’s just say five rejections is not a lot.

But I know it’s hard and you’re allowed to be sad.

Comfort Zone

Published September 28, 2016 by swankivy

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Psst . . . sometimes trying new to you can even give you a peek into innovative ways to apply it in your established genre, or it can give you new appreciation for your old favorite. When you’re stagnating, sometimes delving into it with renewed focus just makes it work.

Sometimes you need to fly away. Into something experimental. Into a place where writing is low-pressure and fun again. Into an experience that reminds you what it’s all about.

And sometimes you need a clean slate before you see why you’re in a rut.

Try it.

But You’re a Girl

Published July 16, 2016 by swankivy

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“Girls just don’t write science fiction.”

Yeah I guess I’d better go double-check my gender and get it validated, ’cause I write science fiction/fantasy.

And lots of my other female friends write SFF.

Many of us write such things without a focus on romance. Try not to sound so disbelieving as you take this in. But if you’re going to make these kinds of assumptions, at least leave the condescending smirk off your face. Someone might get the idea that you believe romance is an inferior genre, and/or that you believe the female writers who dominate it are beneath you.

I promise I have NEVER in my life preemptively assigned a man a probable writing genre before he speaks, and would never utter a phrase like “so you probably write shoot-em-ups and police procedurals, yes?” Nor have I assumed a man’s romantic stories are probably framed in a battle setting.

You really don’t need to sound so surprised when a woman writes science fiction. Get over it.

Good luck

Published June 18, 2016 by swankivy

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What to even say about this one, besides that it’s happened to me TWICE?

Random person that I don’t know from Adam suddenly wants me to spend time and energy editing their work (even though I try to make it clear online that I can’t critique for people I have no relationship with). I am polite to random person and give them an idea of where they can get the help they need. Random person insults me using LOTS of swear words, displaying entitlement and claiming I’M rude for not dropping everything to edit for them just because they asked. And then . . . random person . . . tries to friend me on social media.

The more egregious of the two was someone who sent me a really awful query letter to critique, grudgingly thanked me when I gave him feedback, and then at a much later date spammed me with vulgar messages about how I’m stuck up and think I’m better than other people but am probably lying about my accomplishments, also with bizarre follow-up requests that I find the ~intentional~ errors in his e-mail. And then he tried to add me as a contact on LinkedIn (where I don’t have an account), and sent me kiss-up friendly mails many months later. I never talked to him again, so I have no idea why I’ve received over a dozen communications from this guy, with no acknowledgment that he treated me appallingly after I tried to help him.

(The other one was just some dude who hit me up for beta reading in his first message, then cussed me out because I said I wasn’t up for it, and told me how my writing was probably terrible. Then he added me to his favorite profiles list.)

So, not that any of my readers probably need this, but here’s a numbered list on how not to be that guy:

  1. Don’t ask for advice or services from people you don’t know or people who are not advertising said services.
  2. If you do ask for something and they say no, either thank them for their time or don’t reply. Do not curse them out or insult them for refusing to help you (presumably for free).
  3. If you do ever get frustrated and lash out at someone, do not, under any circumstances, try to befriend them later with no explanation.
  4. What the hell. (????)

Sometimes I Write

Published May 4, 2016 by swankivy

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It’s a multiple of ten–number sixty–so you get a longer-than-usual comic this time. Also, enjoy the sappiness.

I write for so many reasons. Sometimes it’s about the writing itself. Sometimes it’s about what the writing accomplishes. Sometimes it’s both. It’s a tool and a pastime, a hobby and a passion. And it’s what I love.

Why do you write?