I finished the rewrite. I can’t believe it. I thought I was way behind, but I caught up and just couldn’t stop. I was crying when I reached the epilogue. Sometimes I feel stupid that my own writing makes me cry, but when it happens I know I’m on the right track. I know what emotional payout I want at the end of this story, now I need to fix the rest to make it so.
I am confident I can make it more so, but it will take a few more edit passes to get it in shape to send to beta readers. It grew from 60k to 70k, and since I always write sparse, I’m pretty sure it’s going to grow a little more. It’s a little thin on backstory and a few heartbeats are missing.
I read 55 books last year, and the majority of them were by diverse* writers. A weird thing happened over the course of the year. Not only did I find myself enjoying more books, my baseline for what a good book is changed as well. I realized that as a POC, my expectation was pain.
I didn’t know what it was like to have another option. For joy in fiction free of microagressions, for not having to steel yourself to insults or exclusion, for finding characters that you can identify with more closely, to see the marginalized find their own way to happiness even if the world doesn’t change. This felt revelatory in so many ways.
And as a weird side effect, books where the representation is done badly have become glaringly obvious. When there are microagressions in the first chapters, I find it usually means marginalized characters will be treated worse later on in the story. These things are connected, not just small errors, but indicate a way of thinking/viewing the world the author hasn’t examined.
Despite that, I’m even more convinced that any writer with empathy, and the will, can learn to be better at writing characters with the marginalizations they don’t share. I noticed that those writers who are disabled etc. often did better including characters of other races etc. Because they cared about inclusion, it showed.
But there’s no perfect end state for learning how to write more inclusively, just a lifetime of learning, and willingness to keep an open mind (and yes, making mistakes that you learn from). That said, no one story will satisfy everyone, because it’s just one story. And that’s why we need so many more.
*Diverse by race, sexuality, gender, disability, etc.
- The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
- The Fisher of Bones by Sarah Gailey
- When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
- Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
- The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera
- The Devourers by Indra Das