That is all.
And seeing as how I’ve written two books for teens which contain the occasional F-Bomb, I figured this is as good a time as any to insert my humble authorly opinion on the matter. (Oh … head’s up everyone. I’ve also written a post-apocalyptic zombie novel for teens filled to the brim with swearing, guns, explosives, flying body parts, mortars, anti-tank weapons and infantry field craft. I suspect it would come with a warning label and possibly a padlock if it gets published.)
Here’s my official word on the subject:
It doesn’t matter. Who cares. Moot point. Why are we even having this discussion?
This is coming from a guy whose version of POLTERGEEKS that was sold to Strange Chemistry Books didn’t contain a single swear word and whose editor said, “Yo … teenagers swear.” Why didn’t that first version contain any cussin’? Because I was focused on the plot, the action, the romance part (which I suck at) and I didn’t really even think about putting any f-bombs, shits, pisses or goddammits into the book. And that’s weird because I’m an ex-soldier, I swear like a @!!!#$ and I did so when I was teenager, I might add. My now 23 year old son swore like a #@!%%!@ when he was a teenager, though not around me unless we were having a man-to-man talk about life, growing up and how much it actually @!$!@! sucks to be a teenager.
But seriously … warning labels? I’d strongly urge those who get all “protect the childreny” to click on this link here. It’s a WikiPedia entry and it tells the story of warning labels on music albums. See, back in the early 1980’s, Tipper Gore thought we teenagers were going straight to hell, would wind up strung out on smack and kick little puppies if we listened to bands like Twisted Sister. Here’s Dee Snider talking up the matter before a congressional committee back in the day:
Look, let’s pretend there’s a world where the actual concept of Young Adult books doesn’t exist. Let’s call it, oh … how about 1982. See … that’s when I was fifteen. That’s when I was first introduced to Iron Maiden, I got righteously hammered at Tim Oulette’s house, losing one shoe as I staggered home across 32nd Avenue North East in Calgary, and when I smoked my first joint. There was no Hunger Games to read. There weren’t any Young Adult book publishers. Nada. Zip. But I was a book lover and here’s what I was reading:
Stephen @$@! King
Dean @@()% Koontz
Peter @!@)! Straub
Vincent @($@! Bugliosi
Mickey @#@!! Spillane
Elmore @@!) Leonard
In short, I read books that contained sex, violence, gore and boatloads of cussing. Why? Because holy @!$%, there were books about scary ass shit, hard core detectives, punching out bad guys and all sorts of things my then fifteen year old mind was interested in. None of those books had warning labels. I’d borrow them from the library and no librarian stopped me from taking them home. I was reading books. BOOKS! Holy crap … a teenager that was actually reading.
Martin Chilton, the author of the column writes:
But you would want the book to succeed or fail on its own merits, not because youngsters are enticed to read it in the expectation that there will be a lot of foul language. Does swearing have an impact on sales of a book, I wonder?
The short answer: @!!$ yes, but not because there’s any anticipation of foul language. They’d buy it and read it just to piss off their parents for shit sake.
So publishers take note – my next Young Adult novel, kindly forget about cover art. Just slap a big-ass crimson label on the front with a warning that my book contains swearing, sex, drugs, violence and scary-ass stuff. Please, please, please do this. It will get me more sales and then I can have a best selling novel, I will be able to afford a fur coat, a gold tooth and there might be enough left over for me to get new hair.
Teenagers swear. They have sex. They do all kinds of things that we parents used to do once upon a time when we were teens. Circle of life, man. Rite of passage. It’s called growing up. And sometimes when I read columns like Chilton’s, I think that maybe the adults need to grow up too.
Peace out, yo.
I have determined that if authors (men – this won’t work for women unless they alter the outfit and grow a biker moustache) dressed like this to their book launches/events/panels at cons, they would immediately be jettisoned to the top of the best seller lists! It should also be an author’s official photo as well. (Thanks to Sharon Stogner for finding this pic and posting it on Facebook.)
Um …. the question remains as to whether my literary agent would attend a book launch if I showed up like this. Hmmm … probably. She’s pretty badass when you get a couple of belts of scotch in her belly.
A reader has pointed out another outfit that might work as well. Apparently it can be made by simply altering an extra large speedo. Again, a moustache is required to make this work.
I haven’t been blogging for a while – I’ve been up to my ears in a seemingly endless cycle of revisions for a couple of projects. A bit of a different approach given the darkness, the bleak, bone-chillingly frigid temperatures of the Saskatchewan winter is when I’m usually found knee-deep working on a new project. Every writer out there has a best time to write – a period of the day or possibly even of the year when the creative juices are flowing like crazy. Aside from working on new stuff and/or revisions, I’m part of a small Saskatoon-based writer’s group. I hosted a couple of day-long workshops last year and each month we get together for a meetup to look at what we’ve produced and to chart a course for the next month or so.
There’s a common theme in our meetups and it generally spins around a cycle of writing, self-editing while you write, gnashing one’s teeth because you believe the story sucks and of course, the inability to focus on getting the project done. I know … I’ve been there. I get it. But seeing as how I’m the guy in the group with five published works, everyone sort of looks to me to give them a special insight into their projects. I remind them that I am in fact:
a) Not terribly bright
b) Not the best writer in Saskatoon
c) Fortunate to have the help of a brilliant literary agent and all the resources that come with being an agented author
d) Not an editor
Emphasis on the “not an editor” part. See, I try to remind everyone that interpreting a person’s completed project is a subjective process. One editor might think the story is weak, the characters, one dimensional, the plot? Predictable. Writer’s groups are great for moral support and shared insights into each person’s interpretation of what you’re producing, but the true litmus test is to throw that project out the universe and to see what the universe as to say about it. In short, querying agents or submitting to publishers. In order to do that, you have to get the damned project completed, rewritten, revised, scoured, rinsed and repeated if necessary. What I’ve found in meeting numerous unpublished authors is they can’t get past the “I should change this” stage while they are writing. This inevitably leads to the writer getting bogged down in an endless cycle of self-editing while they’re on that evil, vile creature known as the first draft.
If this sounds like you, take a chill pill. That first draft isn’t going to get first drafted when you’re endlessly changing the story while you’re trying to write the darned thing. For me, I like to think of that first draft as a nice shiny new poured concrete foundation for a house that’s about to be built. You can’t have a completed house without a solid foundation and you can’t mix the concrete if you’re constantly tinkering with the ingredients of your ready-mix. You just have to clear your head, write that draft, get it done and then print it off and read it. Send it to your beta-readers if you’ve got some unbiased non-family members available. Consider their thoughts and notes in the margins and then write the second draft. Again, rinse and repeat.
See where I’m going with this? Stage one is the first draft. Most of the writers I meet in my group tend to get stuck playing with their ready-mix concrete, trying like hell to get the right blend and then second or even third guessing their cement mix to the point that the foundation for their house ain’t never gonna get poured.
Think less. Write More. Get it done. Just … write the damned first draft and then look at the lay of the land. There’s a secondary benefit to getting that first draft done, too. It’s called “HOLY MOTHER OF GOD … I WROTE A COMPLETE DRAFT OF A NOVEL!!! LOOK AT ME GO!”
That’s a pretty cool feeling. It’s an amazing feeling. It’s an accomplishment, feather in your cap, rite of passage, insert euphemism here. It’s validation that you actually had the chops to complete something along the lines of 60-100K words. It means that you’re deadly, brutally serious about this business of getting published.
So think about my little pearls of wisdom here. Very simply, the book ain’t gonna write itself – particularly if you’re second-guessing every fifth paragraph. Set a daily word count target and write, write, write the damned draft.
Then pour your foundation and get ready for the next step as you build the book version of your dream house.