Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Weighing my words II: Anne the obscene

Monday I wrote Weighing my words I: Anne the prude about all the words I felt were inappropriate and I tried not to use (at least not casually) in my writing. Today I want to talk about the words I DO use.

Young adult books are tricky. While the teenage world is rife with sex, violence, drinking, drugs, and offensive language, books which include these things may upset parents and may not be chosen for school libraries and or classrooms, shrinking their marketability. They may be outright banned.

My tutor Julia has encouraged her students to use whatever language feels natural to us and our characters. If we're lucky enough to have our books published, editors may ask us to take out certain words. However, Julia believes that by using these words originally in our writing, our language retains the flavor of the words, even if later we have to take them out.

I've taken her at her word and haven't worried about language (beyond the words I mentioned in my last post, which I'm quite cautious about). But now that I'm revising, and combing through Project Sparkle sentence by sentence and word by word, I've realized I use f**k a lot.

Now, I should say that my main character is a very angry girl. Her life is spiraling out of control and in response she's become angry and defiant. She's an in your face, take no prisoners, passionate young woman. So she swears a lot.

Her language has become so much a part of her character that I find myself using swear words to get the beats in a sentence correct. My writing, especially my dialogue, usually has a certain cadence, a rhythm of short and long sentences. If a sentence needs an extra beat or two, I'll throw in a swear word.

But one of the items on my to-do list before I send the novel out to agents and publishers is to see how much of the language I can cut down on my own. I don't want an agent's first thought upon reading my manuscript to be, "There's a lot of editing to do." Plus, it's kind of embarrassing!

After showing what a prude I am about certain words in my previous post, it strikes me as a really funny how many f**ks I have in my young adult novel. While I know many people (including myself!) consider f**k a vulgar word, I think the difference is that it isn't offensive to a specific group of people (such as the word ghetto, which I discussed earlier). Perhaps its generality makes it feel slightly less offensive to me.

Do you swear in your novel? For those of you going through the editorial process, have you been asked to remove words or tone down scenes? Have you?


  1. I swear AT my novels, but so far nobody's sworn IN them.

  2. Hah! Love it! I've thrown mine a few times, too. =)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.