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Sensible and Sensitive: Making Your Manuscript More Desirable Through Sensitivity

Today’s writers know at least these two things: Good writing demands creating authentic characters that aren’t versions of the same character with different names, skin tones, and hair color. And there’s money in writing books that appeal beyond a particular group.

One of the services I offer my clients is sensitivity reading. This is a thorough read of their manuscript with an eye and ear out for writing that doesn’t reflect real people beyond the mainstream audience (you know, white people).  Indian women aren’t just suburban white Americans wearing saris; black women aren’t just “tall drinks of chocolate”; Asian women aren’t just 1950s suburban white housewives with “almond” eyes and math skills. (For example, my math skills aren’t great. 😉 )

Given that most people – even writers (and even writers of color) – have few friends outside of their social group, this is a skill that every author needs. While there are many similarities, sensitivity editing approaches manuscripts from a whole different perspective than editing for structure, grammar, style, and dialog. It’s like recasting Pride and Prejudice with Mrs. Bennet as the protagonist instead of Elizabeth. The events are the same, but the viewpoint is wholly unalike. In both cases, you want to ensure the things in your manuscript are correct. For structure, the important elements are the inciting incident, the turning points, and the characters’ motivations. For copyediting and even proofreading, it’s spelling, tenses, subject-verb agreement, looking for changed character names that haven’t been caught, and plot points that weren’t set up.

For sensitivity, it’s whether your characters are authentic to who they are and that you aren’t reducing them to pat and stereotypical descriptions of external features. When you do that, you’ll find your existing readers love your work even more, and you’ll appeal to a whole new group of readers looking for characters like them.

For examples of the differences and the similarities that will help those already working on a manuscript aimed beyond a small audience and to inspire those who are looking for a way to add dimension to their work, I’ll be at the 2019 Emerald City Writers Conference at the Westin Hotel in Bellevue, WA on Sunday, October 20, at 9:00 am. My workshop, Sensitivity reading vs. editing: What’s the difference? will provide authors with the tools they need to create more realistic characters and plots and send them home with a worksheet for avoiding mistakes and getting underway.

Maybe I’ll see you there?

I Wrote the Book on Editing

After All These Years, I’ve Got Stories

Editor Elizabeth M.S. Flynn Book on EditingThe proof copies of She Nodded Her Head Up and Down In Agreement: How Just a Second Thought Can Help Your Book have arrived!

After all these years, I’ve got stories. So I wrote a book on editing. Not so much editing as helpful hints that authors should keep in mind as they’re sending their beautiful words and intriguing characters out into the world.

I’ve entitled it She Nodded Her Head Up and Down In Agreement: How Just a Second Thought Can Help Your Book. As you will conclude — because you’re clever enough to draw conclusions or you wouldn’t be a writer reading this blog — I’ve captured decades of work as an editor to share some of the very obvious traps that my otherwise wonderful clients have fallen into. Things like having a character squint her eyes (is she going to squint her foot?), kiss with his mouth (what else is a he going to kiss with, his foot?), showing when you should be telling (yes! it happens!), wetting his appetite (no, just no!), baiting breath (worms? really?) — these are things you couldn’t care less about, but I absolutely could care less about. In fact, I care a great deal about these things. And that’s why my clients continue to hire me.

These little tidbits will soon be for sale in book form at Amazon and all the other places. First, you can win one in a raffle at the Emerald City Writer’s Conference, where I’ll be presenting (I’ll write a separate post about my topic, which is key to the conference). I hope I’ll see you there — and I hope you win!