Monday, May 14, 2012

Kids are reading What?

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but a few years ago an independent publisher offered to publish one of my novels. There was just one catch. No, I didn’t have any upfront fees and it wasn’t a scam. The editor liked the novel but wanted me to remove the sex scenes. They were a conservative group, and teens engaging in any form of sexual act didn’t sit well with them. In some of my novels, it’s a key factor of the plot and necessary to the story. This wasn’t one of them so I agreed to the revision.

Before you jump on the conservative band wagon and tell me no story involving teens needs sex to make it complete, I disagree. Whether we like it or not, teens are having sex. To omit these issues is to omit the ability to connect with teens. Not to mention, I try to avoid gratuitous sex scenes and keep them as tasteful as they can, keeping in mind teens don’t always have a tasteful approach to sex.

All of that aside, the novel wasn’t published. It turned out that wasn’t the only revision the editor wanted me to make. She wanted to rewrite nearly every scene in the first few chapters of my story, and no I don’t mean she wanted me to rewrite them. The editor rewrote them herself and sent me the revisions as an example to follow for the remaining chapters. I was both appalled and puzzled. Why offer to publish the work if you didn’t think it was acceptable as written? I understand the need to tweak a few things here and there, but this was too much for me. This story was becoming her story with my characters so I graciously bowed out before the contract was ever drafted, which by the way was delayed months on their end due to a leave of absence of their contract writer. Seemed no one else in the office could do it, not that it matters now.

After this experience, I made the decision to write my stories the way I felt they needed to be written. In the first draft, I always write freely. I may have some offensive language or over the top sex scenes that never make the final draft. I just don’t want to censor myself too early and wish later that I’d written it a different way.

As I’ve shared with you numerous times, I post my work to an online site where kids of all ages can view my work. All work posted is required to have a rating much like that of a movie rating. The work is also closely monitored by site moderators who will flag the work if it’s rated incorrectly. In extreme cases, they will remove work that’s offensive or inappropriate. With so many checks and balances, I’ve been comfortable posting my teen novels with some scenes of intimacy. If this rubs you the wrong way as a parent, I think you might be surprised at what your kids are reading on line.

Not only do I write and post on line, I read the works of numerous aspiring writers who want my experienced opinion. There are a lot of cliché vampire/human and werewolf/human love stories as well as the hot jock falls for nerdy girl standard fare. Then there are those jaw droppers that give me the willies as a parent.

Did you know kids are writing incest stories? They are, and the titles are the obvious: I’m in Love with My Brother, and Twincest, and so on so forth. And if the titles make you cringe, you should try reading the stories. Siblings kissing and having sex are graphically described in some of these. Sorry to say, but the readers’ comments aren’t much better. Readers are eating this stuff up and identifying with these characters. And if you think incest is bad, there’s the even more disturbing student/teacher relationship. Most of these are wholly unrealistic. The writers put the teachers in their very early twenties. Those of us who’ve been around know that’s virtually impossible unless the teacher was a genius who graduated both high school and college early enough to enter this profession, but that’s not the point. The point is the readers seem to think it’s acceptable for the characters to have this type of inappropriate relationship.

After reading the stories today’s teens are not only reading but writing, I’d say it makes my sex scenes seem pretty tame and maybe even a bit justified. Right or wrong, I’m going to write what speaks to teens. Rest assured, there are some lines I won’t cross, but don’t be surprised if you read one of my novels and run across a teen sex scene are two because the answer to the question is yes.

Yes, kids are doing it. Yes, kids are writing about it. And yes, kids are reading about it.

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