The Race Card

ROW80 scroll downI want to include a diverse range of characters in all my stories. In my lunar shorts, it’s easy to imagine that the settlers on the Moon represent a wide range of nationalities, ages, familial situations etc. With the incorporeum stories, since they travel in time I can have their beloveds be any gender, any nationality, any quirks I want to them to have. In the Kingdom Come novels, it’s a bit trickier because I imagine that, by that time, humanities’ skin colors, regional customs, and sense of humor will be thoroughly mixed up from where they are now. With my Steampunk stories, it is the biggest challenge because, although I have created my own world, it is based on the civilization of Queen Victoria’s era and there’s only so much tweaking I can do.

There are some unique problems with trying to write diversely. Many details of a person’s character, such as their sexual orientation or the color of their skin, aren’t important to their overall profile. I rarely give detailed descriptions of my characters. If I imagine the guy as tall, dark, and handsome but you envision him as fair-haired and square-jawed, that’s not usually a problem. Sometimes I pick a name and try to use that to cue in the reader that someone is not a white male, or I’ll mention that they are speaking a specific language. In one story, I mentioned that the local rabbi came over for tea, but the fact that the family is Jewish isn’t important to the story. One of the easiest things to do is to mention ‘dark’ fingers intertwined with lighter ones or somehow else contrasting with something. Again, though, the fact that the character has dark skin isn’t integral to the plot. In another story, you find out close to the end that the woman’s ex-husband is deaf. When she’s talking to him via a video feed, she can’t casually turn away and keep talking. She can’t look away, because their method of communication relies heavily on lip-reading and sign language. It’s not a major plot point, it’s characterization. In my WIP (an incorporeum story) one of the characters is a blue-eyed blonde, which actually is an important plot point because, in most of the settings, that combination is highly unusual.

I have a different challenge as well. If I do decide to create a character who has a specific trait, whether they’re lesbian, Maori, atheist, or a fan of Motley Crue, I suddenly worry that any quirk I assign that character will be perceived as personal prejudice, or worse, racist. I agonize over the idea that someone will say “What? Do you really think that all short women wear too much makeup?” when it’s really just one of many, many combinations of diverse character quirks I’ve created. If someone reads a variety of my stories, hopefully they’ll realize that. But to hook that one reader who’s picking up my writing for the first time, it’s a risk I take.

I continue. I will always strive to describe a variety of very real humans in all my stories.

Even the ones about aliens.

And now, for the writing goals:

I find myself in a new situation. A year ago, I was concentrating on Tiffany Reisz’s advice to ‘pick something, finish it, polish it, and send it.’ NaNoWriMo had gone very well, and I had a duology set on Kingdom Come that were complete rough drafts awaiting revision one, then beta readers, then revision two etc. Then I signed a contract with a publisher to write The Cities of Luna, and I put all other projects on the shelf. Sadly, that relationship did not work out.

I am picking up again on the ‘finish something’ advice. A couple of incorporeum stories to send to Garden Gnome are on my plate. (By the way…the deadline for submissions to The Land of Nod anthology isn’t until summer. If you write evil, this is the antho for you!) My connections in the writing community are helping me to explore where The Cities of Luna might go. Steampunk is on the shelf not because it has a problem, but because I’m working on an arc for five books. That’s a lot of work, and at this point in my career I need to take something I have more finished and get it ready to submit. Although some Kingdom Come novels have a five-book-arc, the ones from a year ago are a duology as well as an excellent introduction to the world. They are also very complete rough drafts, unlike some other stories where I purposely left giant holes, intending to fill them in with revision one.

So I know what I’m working on, but for ROW80 I need to define weekly goals.

  • Although I’m not concentrating on short stories at the moment, I will continue to pledge that, if I start one, I finish it within a few days. Otherwise they tend to go wonky.
  • I have cut my blogging down to this weekly update, but every once in a while I post something extra. I will also continue to ask my SciFi Question of the Day on social media, and keep up with various writerly-networking activities (like ROW80.)
  • This round will see me doing both writing and revising. Some weeks it may be all of one or the other. I don’t think I should define how much of each needs to be done.
  • I think I’ll resurrect my old word count goals:
  • Write at least five days a week.
    • 500 words is not that great, but it’s acceptable, even if it’s just flash and not my WIP.
    • 1,000 is average, but not where I’d like to be.
    • 2,000 words is a good, healthy daily goal. I will continue to strive that, someday, I will break 2k in one hour. I’ve come close, I’ve never passed the mark.
  • If I’m editing, word count doesn’t mean much. Time spent is a more accurate measure of productivity. If I’m editing a longer work, then I should spend at least a couple of hours doing so each day. Preferably more, since writing is my career, not an expensive hobby.
  • Hopefully, soon I’ll need to do promo again. That eats up a lot of time, but it’s important. I think I’ll try to celebrate the fact that I don’t have anything I need to push at the moment, and use my time for actual writing.

Someday, I want to be successful enough that most of my time is spent in actual writing. But that’s a long-term goal, not something I’m going to accomplish this week or this round.

So, fellow ROWers, how do you measure editing? Word count? Page count? Time spent? I’m interested to hear!


About AmyBeth Inverness

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice.
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8 Responses to The Race Card

  1. Cindy says:

    That’s tough! I currently am terrible at editing. I usually count words when writing and pages when i do edit.

    This year I am trying to redefine my editing steps. Any suggestions?

    Have a great week! It’s very cold here, so I hope your warm if it’s cold in your neck of the woods. 🙂

    • It is OMG cold in VT right now!

      Everyone has a different style when it comes to editing. Although I might say “I’ll just read it through and make notes now, then come back and do the revisions” I can’t resist the urge to revise as I’m reading through. I still extensively use the ‘comment’ function in MS Word, so I can say things like “did I decided this was going to be __ or __?”

  2. Can says:

    I would encourage you not too let worry about writing a character with a trait different from you own, dictate the characters you create. I am sure you can pull it off 🙂 Imagine if William Shakespeare only created characters similar too himself… One of my favorite books of all time is actually written by someone with no African blood, featuring a main character with the same exact ambiguously first nations background as me. I actually loved the book because it was so meticulously researched and gave a fresh perspective on rituals I’ve observed only from an insiders perspective.

  3. theworld4realz says:

    I love that you’re trying to write diverse characters, even if those traits don’t necessarily show up in the story itself. I’m trying to do that same, at least insofar as appearance, cultural background, and ethnicity. But since mine doesn’t involve romance, I am not even touching sexuality or gender-identification. I have wondered if I’m skipping it because I’m too scared to try it out, or because it’s unimportant to the overlying story arcs. Maybe the truth lies somewhere in between… Kudos to you for addressing it.

    • It’s very tempting to add too much detail. Although I tend to err in the opposite direction, I think a balance is best.

      Someday I want to write three stories about the same person in the same time frame. But one story focuses on him at work, the other focuses on his love live, and the third focuses on something else entirely. Yes, these things are intertwined, but you can have a complete story and never, ever mention his sexual orientation, or his profession, or even his hair color.

  4. shanjeniah says:

    I think the way you write diversity says a lot – but there may always be people who take it wrong. I suppose all any of us can do is our best…

    These seem like good solid goals, and I’m eager to see how you do! =D

  5. stephseclecticinterests says:

    From what I’ve read so far, my fellow ROWers are putting forth very reasonable goals for themselves – ambitious but still reasonable. Kudos!
    And I love that you realize you can’t necessarily divide your time any given day/week between writing, editing, and promoting. Sometimes we writers need to spend significant chunks of time on those writing-related endeavours rather than actually writing.
    I spend more time editing for others than myself, so I’m not a good judge on that one.
    At any rate, all the best with Round 1 … and your long-term goal of spending most of your time actually writing.

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