I 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!