I read an interesting article by Anne R. Allen about whether authors now need sensitivity readers.
A sensitivity reader will go over your manuscript to find anything that might be considered offensive to someone.
It could be a word, phrase, representation, or other.
You would usually hire someone who can knows the subject matter and can easily depict the nuances of the particular culture you’re writing about, or the character. The sensitivity reader should also know what’s appropriate and what’s not.
The reason for this type of reader is to make sure characters, scenes, and situations are accurately represented.
An article at Reedsy explains that “characters must be represented accurately without perpetuating stereotypes. This kind of reader helps by pointing out unintentionally insensitive or incorrect portrayals of race, sexuality, religion, and physical disabilities.”
Along with this, they should be able to check for language. From the article at Anne R. Allen, I learned the word “duh” is racial.
You wouldn’t want to unintentionally write something that’s in anyway offensive, so a sensitivity reader may be a necessity in today’s sizzling sensitivity environment.
This in essence is a good thing; no one wants to unintentionally hurt any one or a group of people.
But with today’s angry social media mobs (small in size but highly agitated, ready to attack, and apparently powerful), even the slightest perceived offense that may or may not actually be offensive, it’s also a dangerous thing.
And, what’s worse, as noted in Anne’s article and comments, most of the viral posts are soared into that viral momentum by people who blindly ‘share’ the posts. They don’t take the time to actually read the original ‘possibly’ offensive content that would allow them to make an educated and responsible decision as to whether to share the post or not. It seems Twitter is notorious for this.
But I’m getting sidetracked. The point of this article is that while sensitivity readers are important, they can take it too far and pick your story apart to the point where it’s no longer your story.
Walking Through Walls, based on an ancient Chinese tale, was published in 2012. I fear that if it were published now, it would be torn apart.
While I did tons of research and the original ancient tale was given to me by a Chinese author, I’m not Chinese.
Right there, I would have a strike against me.
Next, the main character is a Chinese boy who through most of the story is self-serving, scheming, and selfish. If I had a sensitivity reader go over it, would they have told me I’m somehow stereotyping, even though his culture is not known for this?
I’m sure someone, somewhere would have thought this.
Would they have picked at the lack of contractions in the dialogue?
Or, with my Planetman picture book series, might they (the social media bullies) slam the books because I don’t have any girls in it. Or might they find fault because the three superheroes are white? Or maybe a word or phrase might trigger someone’s anger?
While deliberately offending or hurting someone is despicable, and obviously should not be tolerated, it now seems there are ‘invisible’ lurkers on social media who will find just about anything offensive. And their opinions and viral postings can ruin books, careers, and so on.
These invisible lurkers work hard to cause any trouble they can.
Where does it end?
You should read the article and comments at Anne R. Allen:https://annerallen.com/2022/03/need-a-sensitivity-reader/
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Self doubt can creep into your psyche without you even suspecting it’s there until the first niggling thought makes itself clear.
This happens to writers all the time.
If you’re a writer, you must constantly be aware of your thoughts and how you’re reacting to them, so you can weed out thoughts of self-doubt before they grow and take over your creativity and destroy your goals.
Doubts can run wild in your mind, making you question your abilities about anything new or different.
If you’re prepared, you can recognize the doubts for the untrue limiting beliefs they are and let your knowledge and common sense get you through.
When you check in to reality, you’ll realize that the negative thoughts are occurring for various reasons.
For example, you could be lost in comparing yourself with other writers.
This may make you feel inadequate and doubt your ability to succeed.
Make a firm decision and stick to it.
When self doubt about what you’re trying to accomplish creeps into your thoughts, make a decision to either carry through with your goal or trash it and go on with something else you’re more certain of.
If you do decide to go on to something else, don’t think of it as a failure.
It was a learning experience that taught you a lesson and you aren’t wasting any more time on it.
If you decide to go through with the plan, take action immediately.
Making a fast decision may seem impulsive, but most likely the decision is based on intuition and the knowledge that you’ve prepared enough for the journey ahead.
You can always fine tune your plan as you progress.
At least you’re taking action toward your goals.
Replace negative self doubt with positive thoughts. Choose any method that works for you. Meditation, journaling, affirmations, listening to music or reading a good book or simply chatting with positive-minded friends may give you the boost you need to move on.
All of us find ourselves dealing with self doubt at some point in our writing careers.
But if you let self doubt get the best of you, by feeding into it and actually believing the untrue stories you’re telling yourself, it can destroy even the best of intentions for success.
Learn to recognize and weed out the crippling, negative thoughts and get on with achieving the goals you’ve set for yourself.
Begin by becoming aware of your thoughts – check in with them a few times a day.
You’ll soon be able to discern the “keeper” thoughts from the “discard” pile.
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Are you an outliner or a pantser? I don’t know if there has been a study of how many writers prefer each, but I know there are many in both camps. You know the saying, “different strokes for different folks.”
But, before I go on, the definition of an outliner is a writer who creates a written (or typed) outline of the plot of their story. A pantser is a writer who creates the story as she goes along – no outline. The story unfolds as she is writing it.
If I had to take a guess though, I’d say the majority of writers/authors are outliners (plotters).
Creating an outline of a story before delving into it provides a foundation. It’s something to build upon. It’s like a map. You mark out your driving route. You know you’re going from Point A to Point B. You see the highways, roads, and so on between those two points. And, they’re all written out in your outline.
It’s interesting to know that there are different kinds of outliners. Some create full detailed accounts of getting from Point A to Point B. Some simply have a rough outline of what the story will be about – possibly that John is at A and has to get to B.
Jeff Ayers (a top crime writer), in his article “Doing What He Loves,” in the May 2009 issue of the Writer, says:
Outlining allows me time to think. Does this ever happen to you–you’re in line at the market, some pushy person cuts in front of you, you mumble something ineffectual or stupid, then when you’re 10 blocks away the light bulb goes off, and you think “That’s what I shouda said!” Well, outlining gives me the 10 blocks to think of something better.
I think this is an excellent explanation of why writers use the outline method of writing.
In the article, Ayers explains that he spends lots of time outlining. In addition to coming up with ideas, it allows him to get better acquainted with his characters. This more intimate knowledge allows him to bring them to life.
As I mentioned earlier, outlining is like using a map. But, depending on how detailed you make your outline, it can be more like a GPS. It can lead you street by street from your starting point to your ending point.
Even if you run into a detour that was unexpected, as in writing can happen, you have a guided system in place to get you back on track. And, if it’s very, very detailed, you even know where the rest stops are, where to eat, where the scenic sites are, and so on. It doesn’t leave much to chance.
Knowing every step, every detour, all the characters . . . there is a comfort in this method.
I’m much more of a pantser, but I have used outlines now and then. And, it certainly does offer a sense of security. But, with that said, I love to watch my story unravel before me. I love to watch characters develop and move forward – they kind of write the story themselves. This comes with the pantser method.
It seems though that no matter which style you use, it’s not a guarantee of success or failure.
Gail Carson Levine has some good advice in regard to this, “Quality comes from word choice, plot, characters – all the elements [of a good story].”