Undiscovered Genius

Published December 31, 2019 by swankivy

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You know what, I’m pretty proud of the fact that I’ve learned how to deal with criticism. It doesn’t just mean you automatically do whatever people tell you needs to be changed, of course, but sometimes if someone offers criticism, there’s still work you can do so the next person won’t say that. But if you just convince yourself that REALLY the problem is that you’re perfect and everyone else is wrong, you’re going to have very limited opportunities in the future.

Publishers (and editors along the way) aren’t there to squash your soul and chop up your book so it’s unrecognizable. They’re there to help your vision be realized. If you can’t get out of your own way enough to realize it does not necessarily fall out of your pen as pure gold–especially if nobody but you is having that reaction to your material–you won’t develop a healthy understanding of how to make your work better.

Keeping Up

Published November 30, 2019 by swankivy

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You know, even though some NaNo participants like to have sprints and contests, and even though some people enjoy healthy competition . . . ultimately we are not here to tear each other down. If your goal in commenting on my progress is to make me feel like it’s not enough, I don’t want you on my team or near my work.

I used to avoid participating in NaNoWriMo because writing 50,000 words in a month was such a low-ball goal in my experience. I once wrote a 155,000-word novel in two weeks, for crying out loud. But as a working adult with a busy life and a palette of interests that has diversified as I got older, I find myself not really making time for writing like I used to. That’s why I decided to try NaNo last year and this year. It got me writing. And it allowed me to set limits so I could also stop at a reasonable place and not feel obligated to let my novels totally eat my soul.

(I mean, they still do that eventually. But the actual drafting process while working on a NaNo novel is much more of a controlled experience. I don’t know if that’s better or worse.)

Things change sometimes. We have to change with them or we get stuck and don’t do anything. I don’t ever want to be in that position.

And I sure as hell won’t feel any realistic pressure from any writer who gloats about their progress at the expense of mine. I want others to feel good about their accomplishments and I’ll cheer you on even if you’re doing things I haven’t been able to reach yet. That’s just what being a good writer pal is about, and jealousy or dissatisfaction with any aspect of my own work does not figure into how I support yours. I ask for the same courtesy.

Feel Like It

Published August 25, 2019 by swankivy

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I get like this too, kinda. But sometimes I talk to a writer who seems to . . . really not like writing, and never seems to be in the mood to do it. There are some authors who believe everything has to be ideal for them to be able to sit down and write (and, you know, then by that point they’ve kinda built it up so much that there’s a lot of pressure to perform!), but then there are others who have no such mythology; they just don’t really ever feel like doing it, but maintain that sometime soon, they will do it.

I’ve definitely been in a slump like this myself lately, with just plain not making time for the stuff I used to make time for. Different creative activities seem to be taking priority. It’s okay when that happens (though it feels weird to be away from it for so long).

I’ll get back to it . . . sometime . . . when I feel like it (or when I make myself). . . .


Published July 31, 2019 by swankivy

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So, when you want to offer criticism on an in-progress piece of writing, constructive is the way to go.

That means that your end goal is the construction of a solid end product. You don’t get solid end products if you nuke the structure from orbit.

And if you’re particularly nasty, the author won’t be receptive to your feedback. They will feel attacked, and they will feel like what you’re saying is designed to destroy their work or make them angry. They won’t feel like you’re participating in their goal of a better product if the words you choose are about how bad it is now instead of how much better it could be if they apply your thoughts. If you talk like this, the author will likely feel that you’re primarily there to enjoy hurting them over something pretty personal.

And don’t ever imply that non-constructive feedback would be useful if only the author weren’t too sensitive. People can tell when you’re out for blood. Yes, there are authors who will snap and feel attacked if you say a single critical word, but most authors who would participate in seeking out feedback actually want to use your commentary to make their work better. Be a responsible critic and give them something they can use.


Published May 27, 2019 by swankivy

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Sometimes it’s hard to believe the journey can be so hard if all we ever see are the people who reached the finish line. The struggles along the way are often invisible–and they can make writers think they’re having an atypically difficult time if they’re convinced everybody else “got discovered” faster, with less mess, with fewer crises.

In the movies, they don’t even bore us with the part where it’s a slog because IT’S NOT INTERESTING. It’s the same thing over and over, and days blend together, and the work is sometimes nowhere near as fun as you thought it would be. And when even all that pain still leads to rejection after rejection, sometimes you find yourself saying “I should be there by now. I did all the things. I put in the time and the effort and I think I have something really good. Why isn’t it my turn?”

Luck is always a factor, true; some people were in the right place at the right time but aren’t any more talented than you. But you have to keep doing it, and you cannot under any circumstances skip to the part where you already won if the actual journey is a dealbreaker for you. Worse, I’ve met a few prima donnas in this rat race who think they’re the exception; sure everyone ELSE has to edit, query, workshop, and suffer, but why should THEY? Well, that’s a great way to become resentful and bitter and still never get what you want. The hard parts are necessary parts.

And if you look around at everyone else who’s doing what you’re doing, you’ll be able to find and offer support–which works out way better for everyone involved than simply throwing up your hands and claiming you should be better than this even though you didn’t do the work. Prejudice and unluckiness and endless setbacks happen, yes. They are real. They may be in your way. But you still have to do all the training those picturesque cut-together scenes are screencapped from. You have to do the whole workout, and you have to do the one that looked just like it the day before and the day after. You have to do it when it isn’t interesting. You have to do it when you don’t really want to. You have to do it when someone said you can’t. You have to do it when the voice in YOUR head says you can’t.

You deserve that pretty wrapped success story at the end. Don’t drop out during the hard parts because nobody told you how much you would sweat and cry. We want to see you shine.


Published April 30, 2019 by swankivy

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You are the expert in your own life. Sometimes people who are used to being the expert in their craft don’t know how to trust you about yours, and in their defense, they talk to a lot of people who don’t know what they’re doing. It’s still their responsibility to do their homework and not let their biases and assumptions get in the way of doing a good job.

This incident came up recently while I was on a book panel for asexual authors. When asked to discuss the publishing process, I told this story–about how an agent I queried assumed I made up asexuality and was trying to start some new thing, and how the sales would really depend on whether I could get my book to the necessary audience. The whole interaction was pretty yikes. When I found an agent who actually told me how much she thought the book would help people, I knew I’d chosen the right path for my publication. And unfortunately, facing people like this guy is sometimes just part of that journey.