I was just reading a great post over at Ebony McKenna's blog about swearing in MG or YA fiction. During a recent round of edits, she was encouraged to take out a phrase that could be found offensive. I thought Ebony's reaction was very smart, and I think I would do the same.
This is a topic that's of interest to me at the moment, because my current work in progress is riddled with bad language. So much so, in fact, that it makes me uncomfortable. The thing is, though, I had to write the first draft this way to stay true to my character.
I've been discussing this with critique partners as I'm moving into draft 2 of the novel and trying to edit out as much of the language as I can. I believe wholeheartedly in staying true to characters, but at the same time, when I read a book filled with abundant curse words, I notice that most of them don't seem necessary to me. In fact, in many cases, the language will cause me to get annoyed by the voice.
So I'm making an effort to cut as many instances of bad language as I can. I figure it's hard enough to find an audience as a new writer, and I really wouldn't want something as simple as overuse of the "F" word to make readers bypass my book. What it has come down to for me, I think, is strong writing. Challenging writing. It's easy to show character, especially a rough character, with a swear word. Much, much harder to show who they are without it! But it is possible.