Published July 28, 2015 by swankivy

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Woohoo! Issue 50, so we have another long comic!

So, yeah, when I was a teenager I seem to have had a habit of making my characters kinda look like me, though they were always reasonably different from me when it came to their desires and personalities. But as I drifted away from modeling their looks on my own, I found that some people were determined to see them as “me,” no matter what I did.

While it’s frustrating that some people insist on considering similarities as evidence that characters are self-inserts, I don’t really see a reason to deliberately create characters who are nothing like me just to answer and fight this misconception. We tell stories about people who are sometimes kinda like us. That’s all right for authors to do, though they can be boring for others if the stories we write are nothing but idealized versions of ourselves or wish-fulfillment fantasies.

We DO put ourselves into our characters. But at least in my case, that does not mean those characters “are” me, nor do their characteristics manifest identically to the way those same characteristics might manifest for me.

Long story short: writers, there’s no need to attempt to excise every particle of yourself from your characters in the name of avoiding the self-insert, and readers . . . just remember things aren’t necessarily what they seem.


Published June 25, 2015 by swankivy

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Sometimes it sounds like a cop-out, I guess, but . . . reading books IS research. You need to be a reader to be a writer. You need to remember why you write. You need to connect with stories that inspire in you the kinds of feelings you want to inspire in your audience. And you need to pay attention to how they do it and draw your own conclusions rather than expecting instruction divorced from context to teach you everything you need to know.

Publishing resources, instructional writing, and feedback on your work are absolutely priceless, and those are often needed to get your stuff out there too. But if you just keep trying and you don’t seem to be getting closer to your publishing goal, you do have to remember that sometimes it isn’t just about persistence and study. Sometimes it is about your material not being ready.

Look at your heroes and see how they did it. You might be surprised how much they can teach you just by doing it again in front of you when you’re ready to listen.

Know Your Audience

Published April 21, 2015 by swankivy

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I’m really sad to say this is based on several real conversations I’ve had, and it just blows my mind. I’ve had several grown people condescendingly tell me fantasy is childish and mythical creatures aren’t actually ever in books written for adults. In reality–say these people who know nothing about fantasy because they don’t read it–the presence of imaginary creatures actively MAKES the story juvenile, and adults who read these things are both Not Really Adults and Not Very Plentiful.

I’m not even kidding when I say I’ve been told that I don’t know my audience. Because I actually think adults who would read about fairies exist in droves.

I’ve seen the hundreds of thousands of reviews and excited discussions about fantastical stories, guys. Most of the buzz comes from grown-ups.

Also, it kind of irks me that as soon as I say I write about fairies, people immediately default to regarding my work as for kids. There’s nothing wrong with writing for kids or young adults, but it’s just so frustrating for me that I discuss the subject of my work and my conversation partner switches to “oh that’s so cute, I bet my kid would like it.”

Your kid would not. Like. This. Unless they like nightmares.

Wait until they’re at least a little older until they pick up my stuff. It leans creepy. The fairies I write about aren’t all sweetness and light. . . .

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?