Category Archives: Revising

E. Tip of the Week: Character Count

Characters are the life of every story so it’s important to treat them with respect and pay close attention to the details. However, it’s easy to get carried away and forget about  some of the “don’ts” that come along with character building.

  • If your reader needs to keep a notebook by their bedside every time a new character is introduced in your book, you’ve got too many characters.
  • If you are having trouble keeping your characters straight in your own head, it’s time to limit the number of characters in the story.
  • If your characters are screaming to have their own story, and not be a supporting role, it might be time to start an outline on a new story.
  • If you have multiple characters whose names all start with the same letter like “s” or “m” consider changing two of the characters names to start with a different letter so the reader can keep the characters straight in their head. Or, decide if you really need those other characters.
  • If you have a character just so the main character isn’t talking to themselves out loud, is that “friend” really necessary.

There are many more character “do’s” and “don’ts” but these are just a few I thought worth mentioning now. What are some of the “do’s” and “don’ts” you’ve learned over the years?

Writer’s Wednesday: An Interview with Award-winning Author, Karen Wiesner

I was given Karen’s book, First Draft in 30 Days a few years ago by a friend, and it’s still one of my favorites to guide authors through the novel-writing process. So, recently when I found out that a mutual friend of mine also knew Karen, I was excited to get in touch with her about sharing her wisdom on writing. Please welcome Karen Wiesner to The Editing Essentials!

Karen Wiesner is an accomplished author with 96 books published in the past 15 years, which have been nominated for and/or won 125 awards, and has 28 more titles under contract. Her books cover most genres of fiction, children’s books, poetry, and writing reference titles. Her previous writing reference titles focused on e-publishing, book marketing, and setting up a promotional group like her own, Jewels of the Quill, which she founded in 2003. The group produced two award-winning anthologies, edited by Karen and others, per year from 2005-2011. For more information about Karen’s fiction and many series, consult her official companion guide The World of Author Karen Wiesner: A Compendium of Fiction. If you would like to receive her free e-mail newsletter and become eligible to win her monthly book giveaways, visit her websites: http://www.karenwiesner.com  or  http://www.falconsbend.com .

WD: What drives you to write more books, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction?

KW: Not writing simply isn’t an option for me. I have to. It’s as vital as breathing. Even if I’d never gotten published, I would always write if for no one else but myself. Nonfiction, I admit, I write for others, not so much for myself. I realize there’s a need for this crucial information, and I’m happy to provide it for any author who requests it. Having it in book format is convenient and profitable, lol, but whenever anyone writes to me asking for advice, I respond. To me, it’s a way of giving back to all the generous, experienced authors who helped me along the way.

WD: How did you become involved with the group of writers that make up Jewels of the Quill?

KW: I founded the group. In 2003, mass market publishers shut out new authors by rolling out a new requirement that went almost across the board for all of them: no submissions without an agent. My frustration was pretty intense, so I started brainstorming a way around this. Jewels of the Quill started out as a group of authors who would “agent” other authors, allowing us to submit each other’s material under the umbrella of being agents. In the midst of this, I realized how satisfied I was with the electronic and small press publishers I was working with. So the group decided that instead of banding together as agents (what seems like a bit of a silly concept to me now), we would band together as authors and promote in a group setting…safety in numbers. I wrote a book about how successful the experience has been. Leading to your next question…

WD: How do you market your own works? What have you found successful?

KW: See my book The Power of Promotional Groups, which teaches authors how to jumpstart their careers by advertising in long-term, affordable ways within the safety and strength of a promotional group. These groups of authors accomplish together what few can do alone: they share the cost of long-term promotion and market their releases individually and as a group. No other book currently on the market comprehensively explains how authors can set up a promotion-specific group. Promotional groups offer authors the means to gain focused, irresistible promotion—indefinitely!

WD: What was the inspiration for writing your non-fiction works— First Draft in 30 Days and From First Draft to Finished Novel {A Writer’s Guide to Cohesive Story Building}?

KW: Both of my Writer’s Digest books, First Draft in 30 Days and From First Draft to Finished Novel {A Writer’s Guide to Cohesive Story Building} work together perfectly, and those who have read and used both methods say the same. Used together, they really are like a well-oiled machine focused on productivity, high-quality and unending momentum. One thing From First Draft to Finished Novel really targets is the importance of working in stages. I can’t stress how crucial this is for all authors. In an ideal situation, a writer goes through the following nine stages to get a finished novel:

 

  • Brainstorming
  • Researching
  • Outlining
  • Setting aside the project
  • Writing the first draft
  • Setting aside the project
  • Revising the first draft
  • Setting aside the project
  • Editing and polishing

(Incidentally, between my two books, I cover every single stage in-depth and step-by-step, so each aspect of writing a book is detailed from start to finish.)

A few words about why “setting aside the project” so many times is crucial: I believe a book is best if you give it time to “breathe” between these stages. Whatever fears you had about whether the story is working will dissolve after you’ve set the project aside for a good amount of time because it’s as if you’re coming into the work brand new. Allowing your projects to sit for a couple of weeks—or even months—will provide you with a fresh perspective. You’ll be able to evaluate if the story is really as solid as you believed it was when you finished it. All writers get too close to their outlines or manuscripts to really see them objectively. Distance gives you that objectivity and the ability to read your own work like you’ve never seen it before, so you can progress further with it. Another reason for setting projects aside between stages is that writers always reach a point where their motivation runs out, and they may simply want to get away from the story as fast as they can. Who wants to write a book you’ve just spent weeks or even months outlining? Who would want to revise a book you’ve spent weeks or months writing? With every single book, I get to rock bottom and I’m convinced that if I ever see the manuscript again, I’ll tear it to shreds. Setting it aside between the various stages the project goes through really gives me back my motivation for it. I’m always amazed at how much better I can face the project again when I haven’t seen it for a couple weeks or even a month or more. I fall in love with it again. The next stage in the process becomes easier, too, and that helps my writing to be much better.

Also, the more books I have contracted, the more I seem to need these breaks in-between stages. I need breaks even when I feel a project is working beautifully. If I put it on a back burner for an extended period of time (as long as I can possibly allow and still meet my deadlines), amazing things happen over the low flame. By the time I return to it, I find myself bursting with new ways to fix any problems I couldn’t resolve when I was too close to, and sick of, the project, and this also allows me to see more of those connections that make a story infinitely cohesive in terms of knitting your characters seamlessly to the plot and setting.

Another reason for working in stages is that I’m able to start brainstorming on upcoming projects sometimes years in advance. When it’s time to work on that project, I’m just raring to go. I have a ton of ideas and the motivation to get them all down will carry me through the outlining like a breeze. Because I’ve always got multiple books going at one time, each one in a different stage of the process, I’m constantly brainstorming on the projects in the back of my mind, analyzing them for any weaknesses and coming up with ways to improve them. That’s so crucial to the overall strength of your stories.

The most important reason for working in stages is because each of those steps is a layer that is added to the book, a layer that makes it stronger, richer, and—I have to say it—more cohesive.

The only way to stay on track with your writing career is by working in stages and allowing yourself to come into each of them completely fresh and eager to add another layer to the project. On my website, you’ll find a page that includes my annual works in progress and accomplishments: http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/WIP.html

I encourage listeners to visit this page because you’ll really see how well these methods work.

In an average year, I outline, write and revise 5-10 novels and novellas, and I follow the annual goals you’ll see on my Work in Progress page. All of these are done in the stages I mentioned before. This year, I’m working actively on eight separate projects (with the greatest of ease!), each one in a different stage in the process. I love that I’m never doing the same thing in terms of outlining, writing and revising projects. I move from outlining one book, to revising a different one, to writing something altogether, layering and building and developing each book into something wonderful that I could never get if I wasn’t working in stages.

Using my own writing methods, everything in my career is planned well in advance, and I keep tweaking my schedule to make it as productive as it possibly can be. Most people think that I must work 24 hours a day based on my productivity. That’s the really amazing part of this whole method. I don’t have to. Working in stages, using an outline and goals, I work from eight o’clock to noon on weekdays and I can take off every weekend and most of the summer and yet I’m constantly moving forward. At this time, I’m working about a year ahead of my releases. In other words, I’ve already completed all of my 2013 releases and I’m deep into 2014 contracts.

Look for my next writing reference release from Writer’s Digest books coming May 2013: Writing the Fiction Series: The Guide for Novels and Novellas

What are the common pitfalls in a crafting a series, the best ways to get organized and plan it? The purpose of How to Write a Novel Series is to cover all things that need to be taken into consideration when writing a series and provide a one-stop resource for the who, what, where, when and why of this monumental endeavor. This helpful guide will give writers everything they need for creating their fiction series from dealing with story arcs and keeping things focused to characters, consistency, organization and more.

WD: What is the single most piece of advice you’d want as a new writer just starting out that you have learned the hard way?

KW: Actually, my advice is in multiple parts. I don’t believe there are absolutes in writing. There are so many writing trends, and I admit I find most of them silly. If anyone tells me when writing Never do this or Always do this, I immediately take a step backward. There’s only one rule in writing: If it works for the story, go with it. The only rules are the ones you enforce yourself. Don’t let anyone else tell you differently.

In the same vein, I realized early on in my career that there was little that a publisher could do for me that I couldn’t do just as well for myself. I’m a polished writer so I can make sure every book I turn in is the highest quality (and ensure that my editors hardly have to do anything at all for me) so in that way I’m my own editor. It requires dedication and commitment to my goals. I can’t blame anyone else if I’m not disciplined. I’m responsible for my own success (or failure) in that way. I can create my own, gorgeous covers. I can market my own books better than anyone else (though I love it when a publisher helps). Ultimately, I’ve even published my own books and the result is comparable to (in some cases, better than) any publisher I’ve ever worked with. My point is that an author is responsible for herself from start to finish. When I realized that, I knew I could make the rules, write my own ticket. I never expected that early in my career and it’s difficult to give up that perk now to work with a publisher who wants to control every single aspect of the work. I love working with a publisher who trusts me and can see my vision instead of the other way around.

So my advice to any author: Make your own rules and always be responsible for yourself in every aspect of your career.

Giveaway: Karen is giving away 3 autographed copies of From First Draft to Finished Novel {A Writer’s Guide to Cohesive Story Building}. Winners will be chosen from those who leave a comment to this interview on the blog.

Thanks, Karen, for being our guest today! If you have questions or comments for Karen, she’ll be with us all day. Thank you!

E. Tip of the Week: Endings

There’s a lot of advice on how to write great beginnings and getting through writing the middle of stories, but what about that ending?

An ending should be everything the story has been building up towards. Powerful. Intriguing. Satisfying. To have a great ending means it needs to be satisfying to the reader. So many times when I’m editing a novel, the emotion of the story will build and build. Then, in that last page it’s like there’s a cliff there and the story just drops off the face of the earth. I’m not talking about a cliff hanger. I’m talking about an ending that builds towards the end but doesn’t have a satisfying end for the reader. An ending when the reader walks away and says “That’s it? That wasn’t worth it.”

Those are words no writer wants to hear, yet so many times in editing novels I see a writer spending so much time on crafting their beginnings –it’s imperative to have a great hook, after all–and middles, the writer will just leave their ending to just “come together.”

Don’t do that.

When you’ve finished writing the first draft, second draft, third draft, go back and read just the last five pages of your story. What is the emotion you feel after you’ve read the ending? Did you feel the tension, the sadness, happiness, or shock you as the writer were going for? Or, did you feel empty or confused?

Make sure to spend the same amount of time on your ending, as you do the beginning and middle. After all, if it’s a satisfying read, your readers will be more apt to tell others about your characters and the journey they just experienced. And isn’t that what you really want? 🙂

Formatting For A Clean Manuscript

E. Tip of the Day: After finishing the draft of your novel, and before sending it to your editor, do a quick proof on it. Don’t forget to check for these things:

1) No extra spaces between words or sentences: it should be one space between words, and depending on your preference one or two spaces between sentences. I prefer to use one space throughout the manuscript. It makes global searches faster. 🙂

2) Missing punctuation: make sure every sentence has punctuation.

3) Misspelled words or missing words: spell check is helpful but doesn’t check for things like a missing “c” in “exited” when it should be “excited.” Your editor should do their job and help with this, however it’s great for the writer to get into a habit of checking these things.

4) Chapter Headings are consistent: do you want your chapter headings centered? Bold? A different font size? Three hard returns above the first paragraph of your chapter? Whatever you decide, consistency is important.

5) Paragraph indents, margins, and spacing between paragraphs is consistent: sometimes this can be tricky to fix after several drafts of revising, but if you begin your novel in a certain format with specific spacings, there shouldn’t be too many issues down the road for you. Be aware of this early on.

6) Your contact info is in the top left hand corner of the first page of your manuscript: This is nice to know, just in case your editor needs to contact you. 🙂

If you’re having trouble with any of these, let us know and we can help! 🙂

Please Clarify…Please Clarify…Really, I Need More Clarification Here

E. Tip of the Day: Clarification

When an editor says, “Please clarify,” or “More details are needed here,” or “Clarify the reasoning here” what does it mean exactly?

Every editor is different, with varying opinions on what needs clarification in any specific story. As an editor, I tend to look at this way: if I’m confused about what is happening in a story, there’s something wrong, and that something needs to be fixed. Immediately.

Why? The fast answer: Because it’s not a good thing to alienate and confuse the readers. 🙂

As an author, what can you do to understand better what the editor is trying to tell you? Listen. Ask questions. Ask your editor to clarify to you what they need more details about, if it’s not clear in the comments they’ve made in your manuscript. Ultimately, what they’re telling you, is there’s not enough details being conveyed to the reader in order for the reader to understand what is happening in the story. If the reader is confused, that’s not good. So, when an editor mentions clarifying an area, whether it’s setting, eye color, or something happening in the plot, you should stand up and take notice. And then, find a solution that fits both your needs as the author, and the reader’s needs for understanding.

Here’s a cheat sheet–in my opinion–of areas that usually need clarification and how they can be addressed. And please, keep in mind, every novel is different, so some areas in a story may be more important to clarify than others.

1) If the comment is made on dialogue and is something the reader is explaining that happened, ask yourself: how much does this comment pertain to the overall plot? If my ending will be unaffected by anything I add to the story, how important is it that I add more details (in this specific place)? Or, is this something that can be cleared up later?

2) If the comment is made on setting, and the setting is as much a character as the rest of the cast of characters, it’s probably a good idea to make sure what is being conveyed makes sense. Ask yourself literally–maybe even by making a drawing of a chicken’s scratches map–if I took this route, would I get to my destination?

3) If the comment is made on your character’s personality, in my opinion, that’s a biggie. If your characters are inconsistent, it’ll make your novel a much more difficult read. The story is all about the characters, and when it comes down to it, is the reason why the readers are reading the story. So, ask yourself, why is my character acting this way here? How are they acting differently than in the previous chapter? Why is it important for them to act this way, or can I have them act more like themselves, and still get my point across?

Make your revisions based on your best judgements. Take time to read your work out loud after the revisions have been made. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes, not having any of the back story in their heads before they begin reading. If you’re still confused, and the editor is unhappy with your choice of clarifying on the revisions, it might be time to a) find a new editor, or b) do a self-evaluation on your writing style. It’s important to work with an editor who understands where you as an author are coming from, and what the story is at heart that you’re trying to tell. Editors are there to help the process, not hinder it. 🙂

Creating Characters Not Like You

Every Monday, writers can now look forward to starting their writing week right with an inspirational writing exercise! We’re starting with something everyone is familiar with–character building. 🙂

1)     One problem many writers encounter is how to create characters that are significantly different from themselves.  Sure, the character may be a nineteenth century male archeologist excavating in Egypt, and the author a hometown girl who has never left the state she was born in, but does that character react like its creator when angry?  Frustrated?  Joyous?  Successful?  An exercise I’ve found helpful is to consider a specific situation or problem in my own life, write briefly about how I handled it, and then put my character in the same situation and consider how he or she would handle it, concentrating on the differences between us…and making sure there are some!   I often discover qualities and emotions I didn’t realize my character possessed doing this exercise. 

 

For example, I have a character who is an adolescent girl confronted with a very strange young man who, while not violent or overtly threatening, is either from another dimension or mentally disturbed.  As a fifteen year old in a similar situation, I was very polite, very shy, and very scared: how do I get out of here as quickly as possible without hurting anybody’s feelings?  My character is also scared, but feeling even slightly threatened leaves her confrontational and unconcerned with being polite, or with getting the heck out of there.  She is, for the moment, ready to stay and make her points clearly. 

When and how do you and your character react differently? How would your own character react?

Actions Speaks Louder Than Words…Especially in Fiction

E.Tip of the Day: Everyone’s heard the expression, “Actions speak louder than words.”

Actions do speak louder, especially in fiction. Which scenes do you remember better from books you’ve read? Where characters are showing how they live their lives. Exploring, building, cleaning, fighting, saving someone’s life, or protecting their own, etc.

Scenes with action should draw the reader in, put them on the edge of their seat (if written correctly) and engage the reader with the story. Although inner thoughts and exposition is needed to show some details of the story, the actions of the characters will be –in most cases– more memorable in the reader’s mind. So, as you’re writing this week, think about what you’ve done in your life, and which actions you’ve taken to show what type of person you are personally. Then, take it those memories a step further with your writing. Show what your characters are doing, and what makes them stand out. Use the five senses to explore, and describe their actions.  And most of all, have fun with it! 🙂

Writer’s Wednesday: Casey Clifford And How She Wrote Multiple Books In One Year

I first met Casey at a writer’s conference a few years ago. I felt instantly welcomed by her warm spirit and her love of writing. When she shared her story with me recently of the amount of work she had produced in the last few years, I knew other writers could gain from her experiences. Please welcome Casey Clifford to The Editing Essentials!

Born and raised in Wisconsin, Casey Clifford retired from college teaching and writes women’s fiction and romantic suspense. Her debut novel won the Holt Medallion for Best First Book and the Write Touch Readers’ Award for Best Romantic Suspense. She enjoys speaking about craft, writing under pressure and for pleasure, and motivation techniques for writers. She’s a seasoned woman who uses her experiences and her observations of life to enhance the stories she creates. Those stories always involve love, family, friends, good food, great wine, superb desserts, and problems–big or small. Just like life. Her Sunday blog does also. Visit these sites to learn more about Casey’s books: http://caseyclifford.wordpress.com/ or her Amazon Author page: http://amzn.com/e/B0046UYW3G

Brittiany suggested I write a few words about how I produced 4 books in one year. First of all I want to clarify I didn’t start from scratch, and the time frame was more like 14-15 months.

In the fall of 2010, I sold my second romantic suspense An Island No More to The Wild Rose Press. Edits didn’t begin immediately, but were scheduled to start early January 2011. My editor had a family emergency which shoved my start date into early February. The email with her suggestions, comments, and requested changes/edits arrived the same day my son died unexpectedly. Since I was his closest living relative, I faced edits and funeral arrangements simultaneously. I notified her and she offered an extension but that would put me at the bottom of her project list. Not going to happen. I said I’d meet her deadline and did. I edited through my grief.

My son’s death affected me deeply. He was too young to die. But his death forced me to come to terms with the fact that I was getting older. And I had many stories I wanted to get into the hands of readers. Traditional publishing is a process of being patient and waiting–contract to published can take up to 2 years. I could die before I produced another book publishers would take to contract. This was especially true for the women’s fiction stories that were really exciting me. My agent told me she loved my book, but couldn’t sell it. However, she believed readers would love it, so I listened when she suggested I look into independent publishing. I heard the buzz on the loops and from writers I knew personally who had taken the plunge and published some of their work independently.

After I finished with the edits on An Island No More in March, I decided to take out those manuscripts that editors had rejected for reasons that had nothing to do with readers but everything to do with not wanting to take a chance on something just a bit different from an unknown author. Then I got to work.

Revision was my way of dealing with my stress. Polishing and fine-tuning manuscripts I’d worked on and set aside because the “market wasn’t ready” or “romance can’t have the hero and heroine married to each other,” I realized I was now writing love stories of a sort. So in October 2011, I independently published Seasons of Wine and Love, a romance with a 40ish heroine/hero, which isn’t the norm. In December 2011, Fireweed went live. That one continues the adventures of Caitlin and Mike from my award-winning first novel, Black Ribbon Affair. But now they’re married so it’s not a romance. In February 2012, Better Than Dessert was published. In September More Than A Trifle went live. These last two are part of my ongoing women’s fiction series about a group of women friends in their early 50s. Each book is stand alone but characters continue and new ones are introduced. Each book centers on one of the friends who’s dealing with a serious life-changing event.

Only More Than A Trifle wasn’t finished in rough draft in 2011. So I guess I’ve polished and produced 5 books in 14 months.

How?

As I mentioned. I’m driven to write–initially to work though my grief at the death of my son. Also, I love the process. Even the boring parts like doing that final check for too often repeated words excite me. Yeah, I know I’m crazy. I’d rather write than promote which isn’t a good thing. From what I’ve read, if you’re not good at promotion, then have more books available. I’m trying. :)

Besides being driven, I’m blessed with an adorable husband who loves to cook and grocery shop and supports my need to write. This allows me time to work uninterrupted in my office every day. And I do mean every day.

I set monthly goals and weekly goals to achieve them. I retired to my second career as a writer so I keep a daily log of what I accomplish each day to achieve those weekly goals. Generally I spend a minimum of 2 hours writing/researching/editing. One day is a “free” day, usually Sunday, but I’m reading or catching up on PR items on that day unless I’m doing something with my family. Holidays the writing schedule lightens but that means I only write/edit an hour a day unless we’re traveling. With my laptop I get writing in before anyone else gets up.

I have my own writing process but that’s another article. However, I will leave you with 2 ideas to ponder.

1.  A rough draft is a rough draft. Get your story on paper or in a file and don’t worry about making it pretty. After 27 years of teaching writing, I understand when ideas flow, let them flow and don’t worry about perfection. The more you do this, the better your rough drafts will get. No, they won’t be perfect, but those elements you’re strongest in will become stronger and those weak ones? They get better.

2.  Don’t believe in writer’s block. If you don’t know where to start, start where your mind takes you. With that scene that’s playing in your head–you know the one. OR maybe you need to do a bit more research or thinking about your characters, setting, that scene where you think you should start. Maybe write the setting, only hitting all your senses concerning it. Or “interview” an interesting secondary character. Or your hunky hero. Or that love scene you’ve been thinking about. Or the ending that you know exactly how you want to write. Any of these will get you going. You’re a writer, all you need sometimes is that little push.

I appreciate this opportunity to share my story with you. I’ll be available to answer any questions and in fact would love to hear from you. Write well. :)

Thanks so much for being our guest today, Casey! We hope you enjoyed her story, and learned something from her experiences. Please feel free to ask questions. She’ll be here with us all day.

Vague Descriptions

E. Tip of the Day:  It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Vague descriptions? Yet we see them all the time in some of the manuscripts we review here at Written Dreams.  What the author is really doing is telling the story to the reader instead of showing what is happening to the characters. What the reader reads is a vague description that doesn’t really say much of anything at all, takes them out of the story, and frustrates the  heck out of them.

The reader can’t see what the author is seeing inside their head, so instead the reader finds something else to do with their time. Reading that book is not one of their options.

So, as an author how do you fix this? How do you learn to show the emotion and tension of your story without telling it? How do your recognize when you are telling instead of showing?

One way to see the vague descriptions is by reading the story back to yourself aloud. We’ve talked about this before and doing this yourself as a writer is an invaluable tool. (You’ll have to put the story down for a few days to distance yourself first so you’re reading it with fresh eyes.) When reading aloud, you won’t be able to feel the emotion that the characters should be feeling at that given moment. You know the emotion that you had thought you had written into the story? Instead, the characters may feel hollow or wooden, and not really alive. Just partly alive–like a walking zombie. 🙂 If you’re writing a zombie book, this might be a good outcome. If you’re not writing about zombies, then you may want to go back and revise to show more emotion and tension.

When showing the emotion, put effort into the words and be creative. Really get inside the heads of your characters and become them. Learn their habits, hobbies, and skills. Learn their vocabulary. Do they like to complain about the referees when watching football (my dad is famous for this 🙂 or do they sit back and enjoy the game? Once you get the hang of it, it will actually be easier showing than it is telling. Hard to believe, I know, but true. Don’t give up! You’ll get there. Just keep working on putting down those words with emotion.  🙂

Cursing Up a Storm

E. Tip of the Day: Vulgar Language—Is it needed or not?

It goes back to growing up as a child, being told you’re acting disrespectful to Gramma by swearing in front of her. Then, being threatened by Gramma that she’ll wash your mouth out with soap if you continue to use those strong–and very wrong–words. Gramma obviously doesn’t like swearing.

But in today’s society where most curse words are accepted as part of the regular vocabulary on TV and radio, it seems okay to use those words as part of the dialogue in a novel. But is it really okay for characters to swear on screen in dialogue? Ask these questions of yourself to help determine the answer for your particular writing style.

1) Do you feel uncomfortable as a writer having your character swear on screen? Does it go against your own personal beliefs? (If the answer to this question is “yes,” don’t do it. It’s that simple. You should feel comfortable with your own writing.)

2) Is cursing something your character–if they were alive and well in real life–would really do? (If the answer to this question is “no,” and you’d still like it in your dialogue, then you need to figure out why it’s really important to you. Also, make sure it is properly set up why your character does let loose and swear so it doesn’t push the suspension of disbelief for that particular character if they normally don’t swear.)

3) Does it fit within the general guidelines of the sub-genre you’re writing in to use curse words in your novel? (If “no,” then why are doing it? For controversial reasons?)

4) Are you using curse words to add tension to the scene sprinkled in here and there? (This is one of the purposes of using curse words in dialogue. If “no,” then why are you doing it?)

5) Do you think your readers will be offended by reading curse words in your story? (If “yes” then don’t take the risk of alienating your readers. After all, having a large readership is what you’re working for.)

It’s important to review whether or not it’s really important for your characters to swear in your story. Excessive overuse of any curse word is unnecessary and poorly translates to the page. If you have further questions about your novel and the use of curse words within it, contact us for a consultation. Our editors would be happy to help you!

Happy Writing! 🙂