Wednesday, June 6, 2012
On Choosing One's Words...
The reason? RIVAL contains a decent amount of swearing. And this isn't the first time I've heard readers, librarians, teachers and parents mention it, which weirds me out because when I was writing it, I didn't feel like it was a particularly foul-mouthed book. My work is nowhere near what you'd call "edgy." Compared with many other YAs, my books are fairly sweet and clean. But I write the way I hear my characters speak, and they speak like today's teens, which means they occasionally have potty mouths.
I don't mean to give the impression that RIVAL is littered with f-bombs. Though it did surprise me when one blog did a tally of all the swear words in the book. I didn't think there were *that* many. And now I wish I'd thought twice about some of the language I used.
I know authors who feel like they shouldn't have to censor themselves at all. Kids are hearing and saying those words, and worse. Of course they are. And our books need to reflect their lives. Certain topics and certain voices demand that kind of honesty. I, personally, am not offended by swearing in literature for teens.
But when I look at my book, and the instances where foul language is used, I have to be honest and say that I could easily have found different words. None are vital to my story or to any character's voice, and I hate to think that a few cuss words might be the one thing keeping RIVAL out of some libraries and schools--that girls who might really love the book might have a harder time finding it.
I'm often asked if I have advice for debut authors, and this has become one of my biggies: If swearing is necessary for your book, then don't shy away from it. But if you can choose less-offensive options, and thus open more doors for your books to get read, then you might want to consider a lighter touch. That's what I'm doing with all of my new projects--so if you see an off-color word, you'll know I thought long and hard and decided it really, really, really needed to be in there!