Do NOT read this post if you are a girl-editor or don’t care for swearing. You’ve been warned.
So Susan, in the comments to another post here included a link to this Writer’s Digest article entitled 5 Tips to Polish Your Fiction by G. Miki Hayden. The tips given in the article, while definitely useful, don’t fit the kind of thing I do when I’m polishing. I would even say I don’t think any of those things really qualify as polishing but there’s some good stuff there. Number 5, however, threw me for a loop. Like this:
Thirsty the Sheep Looks Puzzled
5. Limit your use of possibly offensive language.
Reasons exist for characters to swear. But remember that, nowadays, most books are bought by women and many women don’t like swearing for swearing’s sake (even in gritty or naturalistic novels).
WTF? (Um, that stands for What the FUDGE, okay? It DOES NOT mean What the Anglo-Saxon-word-for-copulation.) Oh, all right. I meant What the fuck. Sorry. Okay, I’m not really sorry.
Number one, that is not advice about polishing your novel. That is advice about what you should consider doing to sell your
Could we please dispense with stereotypes like this? It’s not even true. I am reminded that someone over at some review site said of my RITA finalist paranormal My Forbidden Desire, something along the lines of (paraphrasing) my hero was foul-mouthed. She actually hated the book for that reason alone. In fact, she did not touch on one single plot element of the book. She just hated my foul-mouthed hero. But she was a reviewer. Not an editor. And not my editor, who happens to be a woman.
It’s true that most books are bought by women. But “many women don’t like swearing for swearing’s sake” — But men do? Is that what the author means? And even if it’s true, what does that have to do with buying a novel? “(even in gritty or naturalistic novels)”
In other words, women who acquire books will impose their personal moral dislikes on a book and make their buying decisions accordingly. The subtext, of course, is that a male editor would not do such a thing and that books, as a result of this this imposition of feminine delicacy, are in danger of too many rainbows and unicorns. And cute kittens.
Here’s a rejection letter such an editor might send:
Thank you for sending us your novel THE WEREWOLF’S BAD HAIR DAY for consideration. This is one of the finest novels I’ve ever read. Even Marketing agrees this book will sell millions and that the publisher stands to make millions more from licensing and movie rights. Unfortunately, your delicious and tortured werewolf protagonist says “fuck” 37 times and “bullshit” 50 times. Also cock, penis, petaled folds, and asshole. Sadly, for this reason, we cannot offer you a contract. Best wishes for your future success.
P.S. Please let us know when your novel is published!
Oh, for fuck’s sake. That’s really stupid advice. If your characters are the swearing type, they should swear. If your book is great, an editor will buy it.