So You Write: A webcomic about being a writer

Published June 10, 2012 by swankivy

This is my webcomic about being a writer.  It’s very silly, with autobiographical details about my life as a writer and what sorts of things we creative types deal with while interacting with the outside world.

There is no update schedule planned; I’ll add a new one whenever I feel like it.  It’d be too demanding for me to try to keep this one regular too since I already have another webcomic that has been updated every Friday since May 20, 2005.

Please send me a message if you’d like to leave private feedback or ask questions about any of my projects.


Published April 30, 2021 by swankivy

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Actually, Amazon has rules about authors reviewing each other’s books because it can be taken as an attempt to influence competition! When I heard that I thought it was hilarious and ridiculous. Authors DEFINITELY don’t think of each other as competition. If someone writes something similar to me, chances are her audience is my audience! And readers don’t sit there going “well, I’m only ever going to read one fantasy novel, so if I buy hers, I’ll never buy yours!”

That’s . . . like . . . THE OPPOSITE of how it works.

Support fellow authors, folks.

Not an Agent

Published March 31, 2021 by swankivy

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It’s rare (though not unheard of) for an agent to read a client’s book very quickly and offer almost immediately. But if you’re an unpublished author writing fiction and an agent is offering to represent you without reading the full book, RUN. and if you’re querying agents who then offer representation contingent upon using “editing” or “book packaging” services they charge for, RUN.

(Also, basic research of any agent you query should help you avoid even getting approached by people like this.)

There are a lot of scams out there and one of their nastiest tricks is making you think you’re an exceptional writer worthy of extraordinary offers outside what you hear is typical. They’ll pretend the “services” are standard and they’ll lean on your inexperience to dupe you while dangling praise and promises in front of your starry eyes.

Agents will not charge you for their services until they’ve sold a book for you (and that fee will be taken out of your earnings, not paid by you directly). Agents will not refer you to paid editing or packaging services and they do not offer on fiction projects by new authors without reading the whole book. And agents will not try to convince you to sign with them by promising you’ll be a bestseller or, in general, talking like an advertisement.

Read that “contract.” And listen to your more experienced friends who are trying to protect you.


Published January 31, 2021 by swankivy

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It’s interesting how often people who talk about literary merit and artistic worthiness are so quick to assume women aren’t writing about real problems, or that the differences we do see in common elements of writing based on gender have clear divisions between what’s nutritious and what’s empty calories. There are more women than men in this world, and still our thoughts, issues, and lives are thought marginal.

First, these are all slightly exaggerated and paraphrased from real quotes by men about women’s work. For context, here they are:

  • “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think it is unequal to me.” [Women’s work presents] “sentimentality, the narrow view of the world. And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too.” —V.S. Naipaul
  • [Women exhibit] “lack of range—in subject matter, in emotional tone—and lack of a sense of humor. . . . the embroidering of trivial themes; a concern with the mere surfaces of life . . . hiding from the real agonies of the spirit; refusing to face up to what existence is; lyric or religious posturing; running between the boudoir and the altar, stamping a tiny foot against God. . . . ” —Theodore Roethke
  • “[R]omance novels, like racists, tend to be the same wherever you turn. It’s pointless to spend much time impugning these books as writing because they really aren’t meant to be considered as actual writing, the same way a Twinkie wasn’t meant to be considered as actual food.” —William Giraldi

The common theme here is  through some combination of bad experiences with literature, socialized disgust for and condescension toward anything that women enjoy, sexist attitudes toward women in general, overreliance on “award-winning” literature as if the awards are given objectively through some distant assessment of pure merit, overexposure to men’s work as deep and “classic” and women’s work as lowbrow and “popular,” or simple assumption that women’s stories aren’t relevant/applicable/interesting to them . . . these men conclude that they can and should write off literature about, by, and/or for women.

And what’s really interesting is how many men, when challenged on this, will have one of these two explanations for why they aren’t interested in women’s work:

  • They just . . . just aren’t INTERESTED, inexplicably, and don’t know what to say when you ask why or what they could possibly believe about ALL women’s work being “not for them.”
  • They have indeed tried women’s work and didn’t like it, insist that the sex of the author has nothing to do with that, and feel justified in generalizing their reaction as applying to any and all literature by women.

You KNOW they have not concluded men suck at writing whenever they read a sucky book by a man, or when they encounter a genre or subject primarily written by men that they aren’t interested in. Yet somehow, even though they’re totally not sexist, guys!, reading a comparatively small number of books by women has given them all they need to know about all women authors–they all write the same, or about the same things, or with the same lower or basic quality that they’re sure they objectively assigned to the sample they’ve read.

I guarantee you some of these men’s favorite books were written by women writing under an androgynous name or deliberately under a man’s name.

Who You Know

Published November 30, 2020 by swankivy

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Yikes. I got a really pushy message from someone once who claimed that his failure to get attention from the agents HAD to be the fault of his lack of connections. And that if I would ask my agent to take a look, he would “get in” with my crowd or something. (And then of course I was Very Rude since I wasn’t able to do that.)

This was an extreme example, but some people do think like this–that everyone who got scooped up from a query or succeeded at the things they’ve failed at must have a secret they’re not sharing, and that said secret is likely about inside deals and corporate connections. Not sure how they don’t realize how insulting that is to those of us who certainly did not lean on nepotism to receive attention in the arts.

That said, there’s nothing at all wrong with “using” connections you might possess to make an introduction, get an audience, request a favor. You’ve earned those connections and those relationships, and you would do it for someone else in your network if it were in your power. Right?

It’s just never going to work for these kinds of people, who think everything’s rigged and they just have to find the right person to rig it for them next.

Used to Be

Published October 31, 2020 by swankivy

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Was reading over some of my old stuff and revisiting a book I want to finish soon. But it’s written way better than I thought I could write, and I don’t know if I’m actually that good anymore. It’s weird to feel impostor syndrome inspired by your own dang past self.

Seriously, can’t this book just write itself? I don’t know if it can trust me….

It’s Fantasy

Published September 30, 2020 by swankivy

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Whose fantasy, exactly?

If someone offers a critique on a piece of art for being “unrealistic” due to perceived inappropriate diversity, it’s almost always rooted in prejudice.

Most of the time they have no special knowledge of history or what realistic renderings would look like, and can’t quote or cite anything except the feeling that variations from “typical everyman” constitute forced diversity or PC pandering. But even if they do offer some basis in fact for their attempts to insist on homogenized casts, it’s important to pay attention to what they excuse. In some cases, like the exaggerated portrayal in this comic, they’re happy to scoff at “warrior chicks” for being unrealistic but have no problem with magical creatures, male protagonists with superpowers, and technology that’s mismatched to the perceived historical setting. They only even think to criticize if they feel that inclusive casts constitute stolen spotlights for people like them.

I once read a criticism of the Ghostbusters remake consisting of a guy objecting to a fat character running. He just couldn’t believe, he said, that a woman that overweight would be able to handle running the way someone in her position would need to, especially with all that equipment on her back.

Meanwhile fat people in the real world sometimes run marathons and he has no problem with the dozens of ghosts in the movie.

He finds athletic fat people more unrealistic than ghosts.

Obviously I do have to admit that complaining about one thing doesn’t mean you do necessarily know about or excuse other glitches in an artistic work. I get that. But watch these people when they react to diversity with sudden need for “realism” that a) isn’t demanded of other aspects of the work and b) often isn’t even realistic.

The real reason a man complains about fat women in a movie is not because he really thinks this lack of realism ruins the movie for him. It’s because he isn’t attracted to her and he wants the women to all be attractive to him. If a woman doesn’t do that for him, she isn’t worth anything to him. So she shouldn’t get to exist in his sphere of attention.

Too bad. Many fat women can run a marathon better than you, sir.

And if you get a dragon, I can at least have a sword.