The Next Bestseller

Published March 9, 2015 by swankivy

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My irritation with this phenomenon has three main points:

1. Just because I’m a writer doesn’t mean I am excited about any opportunity to write something, especially if I have to collaborate with someone else. I do not play well with others when it comes to creativity.

2. Your idea? Probably isn’t as awesome as you think. I’m sure some of these folks have ideas that aren’t terrible, but nearly everyone I’ve spoken to who is convinced of the amazingness of their concept does not have a particularly original or mind-blowing idea.

3. IDEAS ARE THE EASY PART. I personally am not lacking in ideas anyway, but execution is pretty much the entire battle when it comes to writing a good book. Even if I did like your idea and want to work with you, doing your grunt work is not appealing. If you’re looking for a ghostwriter and a place to sell your idea for cash, there’s a time and a place for that, but it certainly doesn’t involve me. . . .

Not What I Imagined

Published February 8, 2015 by swankivy

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So this is partially a true story.

The true part: This has happened to me now and then. I realize I don’t really know what a character looks like; I make a doodle of them that doesn’t really come out how I planned; I nevertheless start imagining them the way they came out of my pen, and from then on I just go with it when I’m inserting descriptions in the story.

The false part: The specific characters I included in the comic actually did pretty much come out how I planned. :X

These guys are from my new short story “Aquarius” and I think they’re pretty damn cute. Here’s the finished drawing.


Always a Hobby

Published January 11, 2015 by swankivy

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This seems to be the case with most of the arts: people who aren’t artists consider them to be hobbies, not jobs, even if you actually make a living at it. (Not that that’s the case for me, by the way.) Basically, some people think arts that are “fun” aren’t really “work”–a concept at which every single artist on the planet will surely laugh their ass off–and will insist on categorizing arts as hobbies no matter how we include them in our lives.

Personally, I never considered my writing to be a hobby even before I sold any of it; it was closer to an identity than a hobby, something I AM rather than something I DO. And yet, when I engage in it, I’m often considered to be playing, or having fun, or enjoying a recreational activity–not doing my most important life’s work. Sure, sometimes–often, even!–it’s fun. But it’s work. It’s not just something I do in my spare time to kill some hours, and it’s not something I do “as a side thing.” It’s the main thing.

I recall having a roommate in college who was a business major. I was a music major and my other roommate was a theatre major. When she got mad at us, she’d roll her eyes and say “You two just go color your homework.” Because, you see, she was the one with the real work to do. And the major preparing her for a real job.

Funny how if you dedicate your life to something you love and it happens to be an art (or, sometimes, a sport), your life’s work is considered by many to be just a game.

Real Things

Published October 28, 2014 by swankivy

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This is a sarcastic version of a conversation I actually had with someone. People sometimes actually claim that reading fiction is silly and childish, and then they’ll turn right around and consume fiction in plenty of other ways.

Hey, it’s actually totally okay if you don’t like to read stories. It’s fine if you prefer your fictional media delivered visually and aurally and you only pick up a book if you want a true story or something informative. And it’s fine the other way around too.

But can we kill the message that nonfiction is worthwhile and stories aren’t important?

So Innocent

Published August 26, 2014 by swankivy

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I love when I meet someone who’s just getting started on this whole writing journey. They have yet to be dragged through the mud on their critiques, shamed and demeaned by the submissions process, and more or less emotionally destroyed by the shiny, beautiful evil that is the publishing world. They’re brand new and precious, with that idealistic glee floating around them in a way that reminds me what it was like when this whole thing was only about telling stories.

There’s a certain sensation of feeling weathered and wise when you meet Baby Writers™, but at the same time, they have a lot to teach us. Sometimes you need to get back to when it was all about the story before you can do it fearlessly, unselfconsciously, without worrying about is this right for the market or what if my word count is out of control or should I stop here and revise or should I do the next chapter? As a writer who’s written so much and sold some of it, I have perspective now, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but sometimes I do catch that unmistakable scent of Baby Writer™ on some plucky new enthusiastic artist, and . . . a certain part of me envies them.

Hater Love

Published July 21, 2014 by swankivy

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This may be exaggerated, but it’s true for me: I’m much more likely to agree with my critics (and adjust my writing in response!). Five people could praise a favorite line and then if one person thought it was silly, I’d probably start leaning toward believing it was silly. Some of this is good, adaptive behavior: you WANT readers who will tell you what’s wrong with your story and push you to make it better. But some of it is just Insecure Writer Syndrome™. For some of us, if one reader criticizes something we wrote, we suddenly can’t see the scene the same way and it will bug us until we fix it.

There’s such a thing as too much of this, but most of us have a healthy level of ability to take criticism seriously. We won’t throw our manuscripts in the fireplace and quit writing forever if someone dislikes our work, but we’ll obsess over criticism and it will seem magnified in our minds. This is generally a good thing unless it paralyzes our ability to draft without too much fear. However, much worse than this is its opposite: the authors who savor only the praise and automatically ignore criticism. These are the authors who are more likely to defend their work in the face of criticism instead of taking a good look at what they can improve, and these are the authors who think they have nothing to learn.

So they don’t.

It’s All the Same

Published June 10, 2014 by swankivy

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I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard this one. People seem to think it makes sense that I’d want a writing job–ANY writing job–because after all, I like writing! Clearly I should like absolutely any kind of writing, even though writing for a newspaper or magazine requires a completely different skill set and provides a completely different function. No, really, guys. I’m pretty happy being an administrative assistant.

Furthermore, if you spend all your time doing a type of writing you’re not really into, chances are you’ll burn out and not WANT to do the kind you love. I would actually much rather save my word nerdery for my books. It’s not like my writing drive is satisfied as long as I’m putting words on a page. I write stories, people!