Thursday, September 15, 2011

Swearing 2

OK, Heath Lowrance has inadvertently provoked me into writing that post about swearing, the one I couldn't be bothered to yesterday. There is so much to say on the subject that I didn't know where to start, but now I do.

To be fair on the guy who complained in the Amazon review, Royston Blake is a heavy swearer. But he's based on the kind of heavy swearer that we all know exists. There are tons of them out there in every corner of the western world, punctuating their short phrases with expletives and not even aware of it. The fact that people complain so much about coming across this in books (my ones anyway) just shows me how powerful language is. These are simply words, most of them only four letters, but they cause so much upset. They spark violence and high blood pressure and heart attacks. They put up huge barriers between people.

Confession: I also get pissed off by swearing. A few years ago I was watching Jonathan Ross, and I noticed that he was ramping up the "fuck" count big time. Every show of his I watched thereafter (God help me), the cuss count stayed high. It was so obvious that a backstage conversation had taken place where it was decided (probably by committee) that more swearing was the way to go. So old Wossy obliged, finding opportunities to shoe-horn in those babies no matter what. Wossy, it don't work. Swearing to shock is a dead end. Authentic swearing slips out against the swearer's will. It's natural. It's wholesome.

It's funny.

That's what I get from hanging around heavy swearers. I just love the power of these words, the explosive effect of one being dropped at the perfect moment. But what if everyone loved them? Worse still, what if people just weren't bothered by them, not even batting an eyelid at an avalanche of class A obscenities? They would lose their power, and they would just be sad little words.

Which would be no fun at all.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Because you're mine, I cross the line

From a recent reader review of One Dead Hen on Amazon:

"I don't mind the odd swear word in a story where it is relevant but there is a line and this book crosses it for me"

I was going to write an eloquent, measured riposte, touching on subjects such as authenticity of speech and the innate beauty in all language, but do you know what? Fuck it.

Thursday, September 01, 2011


I've had some lows in my writing life this year. In February I had to abandon a half-written novel. Hopefully I'll pick it up again but it seemed dead at the time. Then I had an event at the local library where no one turned up who I didn't already know. These are the things that can happen to a writer. (This writer, at least.)

But you also get highs - I got to jet over to New York for BEA. I got to say I'm finally a full-time writer (although that's not necessarily a good thing, me being laid off from my day job). And yesterday I had the biggest high of all - finishing an MS.

I wrote "The End" a few weeks ago, but the cigar I had then didn't taste right, knowing as I did how many problems were still lurking in that MS, crying to be fixed. So I've spent the interim tackling them, and now the bug list is down to zero. I have run the spell check (never a small task with my books) and the MS is printed out, ready for one last pass of pencil editing which I have never found to be that onerous.

Out of all the milestones in all the cycles a writer goes through, I think this is my favourite. For months you walk around, weighed down by something and not even realising it. It is the problems, the battle that is always going on somewhere in your head. And that battle is won.

I took the dogs out for a walk and looked at the sun setting behind the Malvern Hills and felt like I had snorted cocaine (I hadn't, I promise). I could look at trees and birds and even dustbins and see the beauty in them. But it will be short-lived, won't it, that dustbin moment? Already I have something else planned, a great idea for a book just waiting to be put into words. Or maybe I could re-animate one of those dead MSs. And the moment you type that first sentence, the problems begin all over...

Until I get the dustbin moment again.