My “weekend project” is almost at its final stage. I’ve entered the phase which Dani Shapiro describes as the work guiding you – pulling you forward like a gentle giant – except mine is more shoving me forward, spilling coffee down my shirt, and telling me to just eat peanut butter straight out of the jar. (No time to make an actual sandwich, you see. It’s too much work.)
I’m always a little bit hyper around this time, but since this is round 4 or 5 of revisions (O.o) there’s also a little bit of “when will it end?!” kind of thinking involved. That said, I know there will be at least one read-through that I’ll have to do, for the specific purpose of weeding out the curse words.
It’s something an old critique partner flagged to me, way back in 2012 (o.O): I have the same approach to profanities as I do to cheese in quesadillas. (Sin now, repent at leisure.)
A necessary caveat: the curse-per-page ratio varies according to every single book. Some audiences don’t mind curses. Others do. Some characters curse more than others. Some readers view cursing as gratuitous, while others don’t notice it at all. Obviously, there is more likely to be profanity in fiction than in non-fiction, but that’s a stylistic/genre thing. Everyone, decide for yourselves.
IN MY CASE!
There is a reason why a draft is called a draft, and not a finished story. It boils down to the question of: Can you stand behind your work? Can you justify every character decision, plot twist, and, in this case, every single word choice? Is every f-bomb necessary, or is there a word that fits the character and situation better? There is? Why didn’t you use it then?
Covering those bases is what edits are for. At work, I don’t think I’ve ever had a first draft of anything accepted, straight up, with no edits or suggestions made for edits. When I was just starting out, that used to frustrate me, which wasn’t fair: there’s a reason why I am the intern. Or the student. Or, when the sensei is sweeping the floor with me to demonstrate a technique, the uke. I’m here to learn.
Obviously, such edits, especially over 70,000 words, can be frustrating. They are extra-frustrating when the work is constantly on your mind, and you feel torn in all different directions, and you just want to get it done. I guess I’m writing this as a reminder to myself more than anything else – slow down. Enjoy the ride. Have patience.
Everyone else can wait.