Thursday, 29 January 2015


I’m not going to pretend there isn’t a place in writing for rules.  There is.  If someone is writing a novel with the intention of charging others money to read it, you bet your ass it needs to be professionally edited by a third party. And before that even happens, the author has the responsibility of improving their work though constructive feedback until it is the absolute best story that they can tell.

That’s how the members of All Over Ink met, as you may know.  We started as critique partners. I was the first of the four of us to join the critique site where we share our writing. In my first round of feedback, there were a lot of good points of things that I could improve. But I was amazed when someone told me not to use the word was or adverbs (words ending in ‘ly’). 
This was before I had Anna, Marianne, and Megan to bitch to, so I could only stare at my computer in shock. I’m writing a romance novel in past tense and have to stay away from the word was and adjectives?

really animated GIF


Like I always do with my feedback, I took it into consideration and stayed aware of all the forbidden words as I kept writing. But after a few weeks, I wound up using them again. I don’t write to be technical. I write to shut up voices in my head (and because I enjoy it). Since I’m putting it out there I have the obligation to make it as clear and easy to read as possible. But other than that, I just let my characters tell their story. They say was and use adverbs. And to be honest, I really don’t think it’s a big deal. I just ignore all of the debates in the writing world over the merits of these words and do my thing.

However, I realized when I started submitting my first completed novel to small press publishers that there was another set of rules I didn’t take into consideration:

(The following is an actual email that I received.  I removed identifying information about the editor and the publishing company, and identifying information about the story I submitted)

Hi Kelly,

We would like to offer you a contract, but would need some alterations done first. The sex scenes are too erotic to fit your plot and [our line of books]. There is an overabundance of unnecessary 'key' words--clit, dick, cum, etc. Also, you have a lot of 'fuck'--mostly used as an expletive. Most of that should go. I have attached the manuscript with notes made by [our senior editor] to guide you.

Editor’s Name

Take out my fucks and tone down my sex scenes????
seth green animated GIF

Yeah well, I wanted to see what the contract looked like so I did it.  It took me less than an hour and I sent it back to her that evening. And two months later, I got this reply:


I really like the premise of the story; it’s different from many that cross my desk these days. I’ll have to pass on this story though. For a couple of reasons.

The first seven pages are [main character and her daughter]. Then we meet her sister and there’s some interplay between them. [Our company] requires the hero and heroine meet asap in the story—preferably by page 5.

In reality, the story doesn’t start until she meets—remeets—[the love interest]. There can be some lead up, of course. But shorten it. Remember, your job as author is to get the reader to know your main characters, especially the hero and heroine. A romance shows their meeting, sparks fly (whether good ones or not), they build a relationship (rocky or not), then eventually fall in love.

Chapter two begins between the [main character and her daughter]—still no [love interest]. See where I’m going with this?

Another thing our company likes, but doesn’t demand, is to see the point of view of the hero. It’s nice seeing how he feels/reacts to his new neighborhood and the lady next door.

Anyway, I am really sorry not to have a more positive response for your story. It’s clear you’ve worked hard on it.

Editor’s Name

I’m going not going pretend that after being told I would be offered a contract and then waiting two months, I was happy to receive a rejection. But then I remembered, it was rules. In both instances, the reasons why it came back was because my way of writing doesn’t follow their guidelines.

In all honesty, when I made those changes for the contract, small as they were, my novel didn’t feel like the story that was told to me from the main character anymore.  It felt like someone was choking her voice. And all I did was take out ninety eight uses of the word fuck (and a few clits and dicks).

In the novel I am working on now (and will be self-publishing in June), there is a fuckload more swearing and sex. The male main character doesn’t come into play until Chapter Four. And I don’t plan on changing it. The character that’s telling the story isn’t ready to meet him until then. And I love her voice and wouldn’t dream of taking it away from her. If I did, she won’t be the same character whose story I wanted to tell.

So I’m a bad writer because I use the word ‘was’ and words that end in ly and ing. And I’m a bad romance writer because my characters like to be established as an individual before the love interest comes along.

                                                                (Source: assholedisney)
’m cool with people thinking that. I don’t write to follow guidelines or rules. I write to tell stories, and they’ll be told the way the people living in my head want to tell them. Fucks, clits, dicks, was, adverbs, and all


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