With romance being such a female-dominated genre, it’s rare to find male authors writing kissy stories — but Jordan Riley Swan is one of those rare birds. In this interview about his novel The Heart’s Bidding, we talk about his experiences with finding his footing in the romance genre without ending up on the r/menwritingwomen subreddit.

I knew I was going to be writing in two genres for most of my career — romance and fantasy. There’ll be some crossover into paranormal fantasy and things of that nature, but if you do any research online, one of the first things…

William Faulkner once advised, “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write.”

So, can you be a writer if you don’t read?

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Of course you have to read. What kind of question is that?” …

An eternal debate in the writing community involves whether plotting or pantsing is the better approach.

Plotters develop outlines, summaries, and/or detailed notes before writing. They usually know the main story beats and have planned out the character arcs and world in advance.

Pantsers write by the seat of their pants, letting the characters and story reveal themselves as they go. They could have an idea for the ending they’re working toward, but it’s liable to change; they might have a structure in their head, even if they don’t write it down.

When I’m writing, I plot some stories and…

The girl was scared of the wilderness, her heart pounding at every frightening noise. But suddenly, her fear disappeared. She touched the ground, and it felt like her new guardian.

What’s wrong with this picture? Well, for one, this passage doesn’t actually paint much of a picture — and it fails to make me feel anything as a reader. That’s the core problem with writing that relies too much on telling. We’re told the girl is scared, that the noises are frightening, and that this place feels like a guardian. Yet there isn’t much evidence to back up those claims.

It’s a surreal experience to witness a story grow from the seed of an idea into a fully bloomed novel. And it all starts with landing on an interesting concept — the unique selling point, the elevator pitch that makes readers go, “Oooh, I want to read that!”

“Swear to God, Perce, if I remembered, I’d tell you.” I take another swallow of sherry straight out of the decanter and set it down on the sideboard, nearly missing. It lands a little harder than I meant. “It’s a burden, you know.”

“What is?”

“Being this good-looking. Not a soul can keep their hands off me.”

He laughs, closemouthed. “Poor Monty, such a cross.”

“Cross? What cross?”

“Everyone falls in immediate, passionate love with you.”

“They can hardly be blamed. I’d fall in love with me, if I met me.” And then I flash him a smile that is…

“You could rattle the stars,” she whispered. “You could do anything, if you only dared. And deep down, you know it, too. That’s what scares you most.”

The above quote comes from a pivotal moment in Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Some might find it cheesy, but writing YA means tapping into those teenage moments of feeling the world is full of infinite possibilities. When looking at the big picture, remember that fantasy stories are about capturing that sense of adventure.

The book that renewed my love for young adult fantasy was Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone, where wishes can be bought with strange currency:

It wasn’t like in the storybooks. No witches lurked at crossroads disguised as crones, waiting to reward travelers who shared their bread. Genies didn’t burst from lamps, and talking fish didn’t bargain for their lives. In all the world, there was only one place humans could get wishes: Brimstone’s shop. And there was only one currency he accepted. It wasn’t gold, or riddles, or kindness, or any other fairy-tale nonsense, and no, it wasn’t…

“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”

— Natalie Goldberg

When was the last time a book changed you? What stories have made you think, cry, fall in love, feel uncomfortable, left you in a state of awe or despair?

Pouring our deepest feelings into stories allows us to connect with other people across time and space. And in writing with emotional honesty, we better understand ourselves.

As much as I’ve internalized inspirational messages like “write the book you want to read” and “believe in your writing,” I still procrastinate and feel down about the quantity and quality of my stories. Change is easier said than done.

But on rare occasions, I’ll find a piece of writing advice that triggers a metamorphosis. My entire mindset shifts, and I become an altogether different type of writer, behaving in ways I had never attempted before.

These are the three pieces of writing advice that changed my life.

1. Aim for Rejection

In 2017, I started seriously submitting my writing to professional publications. That…

Diane Callahan

Fiction writer and editor, a.k.a. YouTuber Quotidian Writer. www.quotidianwriter.com

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