All posts in the Comics category

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?

What’s Editing?

Published April 16, 2016 by swankivy

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Well, this was a hard one for me. I’ve helped plenty of people with their novels over the years, and while some of them were pretty close to the level required to get serious consideration in the publishing world . . . most were not.

And to be honest, for most of the time I was providing beta reading for others . . . I probably wasn’t ready either.

You don’t really know sometimes. (And sometimes even when you’ve had a success or two, you might secretly think you’re a hack and you’ll never get anywhere with anything else you write.) But the truth is? Nobody’s going to respond well to being told “you are very, very, very far from ready.” It’s just not a constructive thing to say.

And believe me, the publishing world will be happy to say that to these folks without your help.

If you’re helping someone who just isn’t ready for publishing and you know it for sure, probably the best thing you can do is make global suggestions and some light copyediting. Don’t tell them they write like a beginner or don’t have a chance. Not only will they not believe you; they’ll think everything else you said is misguided too, and may refuse to consider your suggestions. (That said, there ARE writers who can handle having you tear into their manuscript and spit it back out again. It takes time before you know who these types are.)

And if you’re the writer getting some not-so-glowing commentary from someone whose opinion you’ve solicited, please don’t be insulted if they tell you you need more time with it, more practice, more editing . . . but at the same time, I beg of you. Please. Please. Do not try to jump into publishing with a first draft, and do not believe for a second that “editing” is just a matter of running your spell-checker.

(I’m sad to say I recently had someone hit me up for editing whose work was bafflingly awful but he thought he just needed a last glance on his query, and when I told him he needed far more than minor tweaks, he sent me seven vile e-mails about how actually I am the one who’s a sucky writer, full of curse words and incomplete sentences, with follow-ups claiming he’d put the misspellings into his curse-out e-mails on purpose and expected me to find them. This tirade was followed by him trying to add me on LinkedIn. Some people.)


Published March 12, 2016 by swankivy

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After all the frustration and sweat of drafting, the slog of editing, the toiling in the query trenches, and the flailing in the sea of submission, getting a book deal is not “easy” even if everything goes relatively smoothly. And even when we have fun with some aspects of our craft, WRITING IS WORK.

So please, please, if you know a writer who is fortunate enough to get paid for what they probably spent years of their life on, do not imply that their paycheck is undeserved. Especially since many of us don’t ever get paid decently for what we’ve put in, and almost all of us have a stack of books that led up to this point–books that were our labor of love; books that we were never paid for. That’s not “unfair” either, but to say we’re “lucky” to be paid when our work sells is a massive misunderstanding of what we undertake for a chance to get it out there, and it certainly isn’t a shame for us to be treated like we’ve made something worth paying for.

The Truth Hurts

Published February 13, 2016 by swankivy

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I’m a pretty harsh critic when I beta-read my writer friends’ manuscripts, so sometimes they’re surprised when I tell them there’s not much to fix! Sometimes they even think I’m just telling them what they want to hear, but the truth is, I usually have to be honest either way. And if someone isn’t ready to pitch agents, I don’t tell them they are.

If I do tell them they’re ready, I mean every word of it.

But, having been on the other side of this situation too, I know it’s sometimes baffling to get compliments you don’t expect, and it can be hard to figure out how to swallow them. Funny how sometimes praise is harder to process than criticism. . . .

Still a Thing

Published January 3, 2016 by swankivy

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And they meant it in a condescending way, too, as if I’m the one who’s out of touch.

Let’s get one thing straight: YOU and PEOPLE YOU ASSOCIATE WITH may not be readers, but I’m not gonna judge you on that. We all have our favorite ways of enjoying fictional universes. If you prefer yours in a movie, that’s great for you. But it certainly doesn’t mean the HUGE WORLD OF LITERATURE is obsolete just because YOU don’t participate in it. It’s a thriving industry and the culture surrounding it is vibrant.

Do not ever ever EVER say this to a reader or a writer. If you feel compelled to belittle their interests because you don’t share them, you belong in the trash can.

December First

Published December 1, 2015 by swankivy

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You “won” NaNoWriMo. Congrats and awesome job. Now take a deep breath.

And DON’T send newly finished novels to agents. Ever.

If you’re high on the thrill of finishing a novel and you’re just utterly tickled with your project, you will need a little bit of time to come down from that cloud and read your own book with a critical eye. This is definitely something you should do repeatedly before it gets submitted anywhere. You may be surprised by how many mistakes you made, how many thoughts you forgot to tie up, how many sentences you can improve, and how much better you can make it with some polish. This step cannot be skipped by running spellcheck.

It is also highly recommended that you get a test audience to read your book after you’ve gotten it as good as it can get on your own. Test readers will be able to give you perspective you may not realize you need.

You need time to develop your pitch materials as well. If you already had them done before writing the book, that’s great, but constructing a synopsis and a query letter also requires time and thought.

But finally, agents are not going to be impressed that you wrote a book quickly and “won” NaNoWriMo. Objectively, it’s quite a feat to write a book in 30 days, yes, but agents become interested in you only if that book is a GOOD book. You owe yourself some incubation time to make it better, and submission is not a race. You don’t want to be one of the people in the crowd waving a manuscript and drooling, charmingly enraptured with your story but woefully unprepared to go professional.

With very few exceptions, the only NaNo novels you should be submitting directly to agents on December 1st are NaNo novels you wrote a year ago.


Everybody Can Relate

Published October 23, 2015 by swankivy

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Sadly, yes, this is based on a real conversation I had with someone who believes “nobody” actually reads science fiction. Apparently I don’t know my market and there’s not really anyone reading the hundreds of magazines that accept stories like mine. Not to mention that “everyone” doesn’t exactly relate to romance, thanks.

What’s surprising is how often people who don’t know much about publishing markets are willing to unload stunning wisdom about how they work, and how consistently they think anyone who doesn’t believe them is “in denial” or “refusing to listen to criticism.”

I did not apply your “criticism” because you were completely wrong about who I’m writing for, not because I can’t handle feedback. Thanks.

One Star

Published September 19, 2015 by swankivy

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Every couple of weeks or so there’s some new train wreck featuring an author who couldn’t handle a bad review unloading all over a reviewer. Maybe it sounds like common sense, but authors aren’t supposed to reply to reviews. Even good ones! No! Don’t respond! Don’t engage!

“Why shouldn’t we?” you may ask. Well, partly because reviewers need to feel free to be honest about their opinions, and if you reply to reviews then future reviewers may not want to review at all if they think they’re being watched. Also, it’s just part of being professional; there are some cases in which I might thank a reviewer (like, if we’d had previous contact, or they were an online friend, or they contacted me personally to discuss the book and invited interaction with me), but I would never initiate contact with a customer who is reviewing the book for other members of my audience, not for me.

And it should go without saying, but you should never argue with a reviewer or sic your friends on them in the comments. Getting unfair, snotty, pointless, opinionated reviews that stab you in the soul is indeed part of publishing a book, and though there are certain instances where you can request removal of reviews if they include ad hominem attacks, unmarked spoilers, personal information reveals, or harassment, it’s better to just leave them alone. Having some less flattering reviews actually makes your book look good; it removes the potential for readers to think all your reviewers are fake.

And if your reviewers really are being unfair, that usually shows in the words they choose. As of this writing, my book has a single one-star review on Amazon in which the reviewer claims that I didn’t cover a certain subject AT ALL ANYWHERE while admitting he only read a small portion of the book, and spews various “gotcha” fact-check claims that are based on misconceptions my book would have corrected if he had read it. People can draw their own conclusions from that–and from the two dozen five-star reviews.

I’ve learned plenty of interesting things about how people are reacting to my book while reading reviews, and I’m grateful for it when they’re not 100% sweetness and light. You should be excited if someone’s willing to think about your book in depth and offer up some gently critical thoughts on it, even if it’s too late to apply them to this book if it’s already published. Still, remember reviews aren’t really for you. They’re for other readers. And they have every right to say they didn’t like your book.