If you study writing markets, you’ve seen the call for “diverse manuscripts.” Editors want fiction with diverse characters. They want manuscripts that deal with diverse topics. They want pieces that relevant to diverse readers. These calls leave many writers wondering – is this something I should try to write.
I came into children’s writing from a slightly different direction than most writers. My background is in history and anthropology. In anthropology we were taught how difficult it is to study your own culture. The belief is that you are simply too close to judge the ideal (what we say we believe) vs the real (what we really do).
Imagine my surprise when I entered the world of publishing and heard, “No. If you aren’t part of the culture, don’t write it. Quit stealing the stories that belong to people who actually belong to these groups.”
So, which is it? Can you write a story if you aren’t a part of that group? Or should you leave it be? Personally, I think you need to consider some things before you decide.
Why do you want to write this story? If the answer is “There is a lot of money in diversity and I want my share” then back off. Any manuscript that you attempt just for the money will lack the verve that comes to a manuscript you really believe in. If, on the other hand, there is something about this particular story that just won’t let you go, proceed to question #2.
Do I have biases that will keep me from doing a good job? Sometimes we simply cannot see a topic clearly because of our biases. Avoid writing about things that touch on your pet peeves. Have a topic you tend to get on a soapbox about? Leave it alone.
Am I willing to do the research? Try writing about a topic with which you have no personal experience and you are going to have to do a lot of research. If you’re not ready to take that one, leave this story for someone else. If, on the other hand, the idea of the research excites you, this may be a manuscript for you.
Am I willing to listen when someone tells me I have something wrong? Writing from another perspective means learning to think in a different way. Your character is going to interpret things from a perspective that is not only different but may also be contradictory to your own. To do this right, may require help.
Still not sure you can do it right? Read my post from yesterday at the Muffin to find out how these worries can block your creativity.