Writing Diversity: campaigns, resources, terms and how you can help to read between your own lines

IS09AL15JThere are so many great campaigns going around the internet about diversity in publishing and books. This is my attempt to share that wisdom and it is not an exhaustive or complete list. Diversity is a word for the growing awareness (not a trend) that all types of people should honestly and accurately be represented in literature. Learning where we’re starting from and questioning our assumptions is how we begin to grow as an industry.

Get in the know about the movements and if you’re writing fiction learn some new resources to better support your work.

Firstly, let’s get on the same page:

  • Bad representation is worse than no representation.
  • Check your privilege and your biases. Question your assumptions. Change doesn’t happen unless we ask the right questions.
  • If you’re not sure this post is for you, you’re wrong. We can all learn something. Open your mind to new ways of thinking about your work and how it reaches people.
  • Diversity is more than race. It’s socioeconomic, it’s (dis)ability, it’s religion, it’s gender, it’s sexuality, or it’s age. Most importantly, it’s about intersectional equality.




What can you do?

  • Share what you’ve learned with your critique partner or writing group.
  • Write real people honestly. And if you don’t know how, then do research–don’t guess or rely on secondary resources.
  • Speak up when other writers make you uncomfortable.
  • Organizing a conference, speaking event or blog tour? Think about diversity and inclusivity.
  • When in doubt, find the honesty and the truth by listening.
  • Learn how to describe characters’ physical attributes respectfully and naturally. (Try this character development master list.)
  • What you’re not saying is as important as what you do say: All white cast? Nuclear family? Stereotypes of poverty or sexuality? Are you truly representing the real world?
  • Try getting your news from diverse sources like The Root or The New Civil Rights Movement.
  • No one can change where they are from or how they were raised, but you can choose how to live your life as an educated adult.
  • I don’t believe anyone sets out to offend others. I think some writers just haven’t questioned their biases or world view. Set out to educate others with facts and resources like this. Read between your own lines.

Q: What are your favourite writing diversity resources? What did I miss? 

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

8 thoughts on “Writing Diversity: campaigns, resources, terms and how you can help to read between your own lines

  1. Great Post, Carly, and I checked out most of your resources. This issue came up recently on Writer Unboxed and it is important and should be something all writers are not only aware of but including in their work. My novel contains four characters who definitely do not fit the white man/woman character mold. And though my MC is a white female, her goal is to interact with everyone on a plane of equality. The question a reader might ask: how successfully is she doing that?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Carly, great post, excellent resources, ~ thank you. In speaking of diversity, you write that it’s more than race: socioeconomic, (dis)ability, religion, gender, sexuality, ~ intersectional equality. Can we add age to the list? It seems to me that publishing is a marketplace where age discrimination is considered correct. As an older, first-time writer, I read and hear at conferences from agents who want new clients who will be around for many productive years ahead…it’s in print, and it has been discussed openly at agent panels during conferences. The older generation has much to share, and those who are retired have the time to delve into a passion–writing–that they have had to delay in order to make a living. I know agents don’t ask a writer’s age, but they can google birth dates very easily. I hope the emphasis on diversity can include age: it’s present in every area of the population.

    Liked by 1 person

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