How Much Lived Experience Do You Need to Create Diverse Characters?

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“There’s a quote from Julius Caesar at the start of Area 7. I made it up. It says fiction on the back. A lot of the books – I stopped it in Scarecrow for the sake of pace – have the prologue at the start. Advantage Press doesn’t exist. W.M. Lawry & Co. He was a cricket guy. There are gags in there if you look closely enough. But it says fiction on the back.”

Matthew Reilly in Literati: Australian Contemporary Literary Figures Discuss Fear, Frustrations and Fame by James Phelan

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Truth in fiction seems to be a big debate topic these days, at least some truths. Nobody seems to mind when Matthew Reilly makes things up in his books or when George Lucas writes about an epic resistance and the religion at the heart of it a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. But when a writer wants to explore a real race or a real culture or a real disability that they have no lived experience of in a piece of fiction, it seems to be more and more of a problem. Verisimilitude, or the ring of truth, apparently isn’t good enough anymore. Some writers of those races or cultures or with those disabilities don’t want you to read a piece of fiction informed by imagination and (hopefully) a decent chunk of research. They instead want you to read their piece of writing about the same topic (whether fictional or not) so that you can read “the truth” or at least a piece of writing informed by their truth. Continue reading

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Knowing When to Stop: How Much Editing is Too Much?

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The idea of writing the first draft of a book – when it’s still in your mind, when you haven’t done it yet – seems like such a large mountain to climb. So when you finally reach the top of that goal, you celebrate. Hard. If it’s your first book, that’s because you don’t realise it’s a false hill, that you aren’t at the top at all. If it’s not your first book, it’s because you know the really tough work is just starting and celebrating each and every achievement is one of the keys to not letting writing drive you insane.

Unless you’re a first draft genius (and nobody is a first draft genius), the amount of time it takes to rewrite and edit your book to publishable standard will be lengthy. For some it will be longer than it took to write the first draft. There’ll be a second draft and a third draft and a fourth draft and on and on it goes.

So how do we know when it’s time to stop editing? Continue reading

Cheating Your Way to Better Editing

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Let’s face it – there are so many rules in the English language that no one (not even a trained editor like me) can know them all (that’s why I have lots of reference books to make sure I get it right more often than I get it wrong). But if the rules and the reference books aren’t your thing, there are a few things you can do to cheat your way to better editing.

Minimalise Headings
The rules state that certain words in headings shouldn’t be capitalised, such as “a”, “the” and “and” (unless they are the first word in the heading). There are more groups of words that aren’t supposed to take an initial capital. But do you know what they are? More importantly, do you care?

So an easy way to avoid having to figure it out is to use the minimal approach – that is to only use an initial capital on the first word and to leave all others uncapitalised. Continue reading

How readers choose what to read

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There are so many books to choose from that sometimes readers can be overwhelmed by the choice. So how do they end up making their decisions?

There are a number of factors and individual readers will rely on a unique combination of each. As writers, having an awareness of these factors may help us as we attempt to write and market our books. Continue reading