One Truth About Diversity In Publishing

Publishing is primarily white/straight/cis/able bodied. That’s going to be slow to change. So if you, dear author, want to write diverse, perhaps outside of your own knowledge, there’s something very important to consider:

You are responsible.

Your agent, editor, publisher, while well intending, might not know one thing about the diverse subject matter in your novel. They are unable to fix your mistakes and fact check you. This is your job to do, prior to handing your baby over.

It’s on you.

I write diverse. I write from my own experiences, and let me tell you, I had a mini panic attack while on the phone with my agent, when my book deal came through. Realizing that no one else will make sure I didn’t make any errors. They were trusting me to get it right.

Yes, I write from my own experiences, but as humans we make mistakes.

All through the process, I had to advocate for my diverse subject. Not to fight, just to clarify as needed and answer questions. From first edits through copy edits. If I didn’t have first hand knowledge, could I have done that?

No.

Things would have gotten missed, or changed, and left for my readers to find fault with. Heck, things might still be in there with me thinking too much with my hearing world knowledge.

This is why own voices matter. This is why you better do your research if you are writing outside of your personal experiences. This is why you, and only you, need to do your homework.

Yes, publishing is responsible, too. But it starts with the author.

I’m part of a small minority. I can’t imagine it would be easy for my publisher to find an in house person to fact check me. Other diverse groups should be easier.

Bottom line: I’m Hard of Hearing, with a degree in Deaf Studies. If I wrote something inaccurate…who would know to stop me?

What It Takes To Create A Novel

So, you want to write a book. All you need to do is open a fresh writing document—or grab a fresh piece of paper and a pen—and start writing. Right?

Yes…and no.

Ultimately speaking, yes writing is words on the page. Some of those words come easy, others are yanked from a writer’s very soul. I’ve finished the very last thing I will do for SIGNS OF ATTRACTION—as far as I can currently foresee—and took a look at its folder on my computer.

171 files.

That couldn’t be right, could it?! I started counting and realized—holy shit—171 files is correct. 171 files to create one book.

This folder is still titled SILENCE, the original working title I used. Some of the files are titled SILENT HEART or SILENT ATTRACTION, two other working titles utilized along the way, until the final title came to exist. There are chapter by chapter breakdowns used to send to CPs (Critique Partners). There are images of inspirations for my characters. Queries. Entries into contests. Full versions sent to agents. My own agent’s edits. My editor’s edits. Copy edits.

This folder was created on October 20, 2014. A year ago I sent my query to my agent. A year ago this whole journey was a dream, a goal, a hope I yearned for. And, as journey’s go, I didn’t realize it was just the beginning.

Each file contains a small part of the journey. A part of my growth as a writer, a part of my story’s metamorphosis. What began as a single POV story of my heart, grew into a dual POV story of my soul.

Make no mistake about it, without hard work, and the willingness to bend, mold, and shift my story, I wouldn’t be where I am.

171 files later and the novel is out of my hands, ready for its release in just under a month. So much went into this one digital file people will download to read. Is it really worth only 171 files?

The “Chosen” Life of Publishing

I have found a single gif that sums up publishing, and if you follow me on twitter, you’ve already seen me post this:

Chosen Toy Story Alien

Now, in reality, we are not all identical green, three eyed aliens in blue space suits. Each one of us is original. We have our own stories, our own voice, and our own level of expertise to bring to the table. Some of us are surely near the top, having honed and fine-tuned our craft. Others are in various positions along our journey.

The rest is luck.

Two authors, able to bring the same skill and talent to the table, will endure very different time tables. One may be picked up right away, while the other has to wait for years. There is no magic ball. Only work, determination, and the will to never give up.

And when that magic day arrives, it really does feel like winning the lottery. I’d say it’s like winning a toy in a crank machine, but I used to be mighty talented at those games, and can still be drawn to them like a moth to the flame! However, the newer machines have less and less grip, making them almost impossible.

As publishing surely feels at times.

The joy on that alien’s face in the gif, that’s something I can surely relate to. I hope I never forget that high feeling. Through the highs and lows of this business, we all need a feel good moment to hold onto.

Should Writers Follow a Formula?

Different genres have different formulas generally accepted for the genre. Follow the formula too closely and one may be accused of being “formulaic.” Follow it too loosely and one may be accused of not following the genre close enough.

It’s a catch 22, a difficult tight rope to travel across. An author may have a great idea, execute it well, but the home for this idea may not be immediately clear. Without a clear home, selling the novel may prove challenging.

So what does one do? Follow the formula or not?

This is a question every author must ask themselves. Step one is learning the accepted formula and protocol for the genre. For instance, a romance novel has a HEA—Happy Ever After. This is non-negotiable in the romance world. Romance readers pick up a book expecting that happy ending.

But not ever rule is the make-it-or-break-it kind.

There is that old saying: know the rules so you can break them. A writer has to know what’s expected, and then decide how they want to follow it, or not.

There are options either way. I know of authors who have gone the Indie path specifically because they know they don’t follow a specific formula and they are okay with this fact. There is nothing wrong with this! New Adult wasn’t a genre until some Indie writers decided to make it so. But it is a gamble to step outside of accepted boundaries.

I’ve written off formula before. I’ve written on formula. The more strict I get with my writing, the weaker it becomes. I’m a point where the formula is ingrained in me as I write. I know when the first kiss should happen, when the first sex scene should occur.

I don’t stick to the hard fast rules. Some stories need that first kiss later, others earlier. It’s not about following the formula with binders on. It’s about knowing WHY the formula is there, and then making the novel unique and original.

But what happens when the novel is good, it fits but doesn’t fit? What do you do when you’ve made it follow as close as possible, while staying true to your unique vision, but it might not be enough?

Sometimes, you put your heart and soul on the page, pick a path, and cross your fingers. Whether one follows formula or not there is one crucial elemental part of any publishing path: luck.