Category Archives: Writing style

IWSG: Are Australians more worried than Americans about political correctness in fiction?

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

For this month’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group post, I’d like to talk about political correctness in fiction. Do you temper your writing style to accommodate other people’s insecurities or do you throw political correctness to the wind for the sake of ‘real characters’?

I take somewhat of a middle road. I want my characters to be as authentic as possible, but I’d prefer to do that without offending people.  I’m sure writers’ and readers’ opinions fall across the whole spectrum on this issue, but I noticed something interesting during my beta reader stage for The Big Smoke. I had a number of beta readers from both Australia and America, and several of my Australian readers pointed out phrases that could potentially offend people’s sensitivities. None of my American readers made comments of a similar nature. Is there something in that, do you think? Does it say something about our different cultures? Are Australians more worried than Americans about political correctness in fiction?

Obviously, my sample size is quite small, so I wanted to see what you think. These are the phrases that some of my Australian readers suggested I re-word:

  1. Robert forced a laugh. ‘Don’t worry about Cindy. She’s a schitzo.’
  2. I nodded in the direction of this fat chick in super-short shorts. ‘There’s your talent. Whatchya waiting for? Make a move.’
  3. She named me after the opera singer. Seriously, could you get any gayer?
  4. I was about as coordinated as a nine-year-old girl with bow-legs.
  5. And that hair. That fake, slutty red hair.

I took my readers’ advice on board and changed these phrases, but I’m interested in what you think. Would you suggest re-wording any of the above to avoid potentially offending people? Or do you thinks it’s OTT to even consider these phrases potentially offensive? I’ve numbered the phrases so you can be specific if there are particular ones you’d  like to refer to.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. In your comments, please identify where you live (country) so we can see if  cultural influences could be at play. Looking forward to hearing what you think!

P.S. Don’t forget to support other insecure writers!


Filed under Beta readers, Insecure Writers Support Group, The Big Smoke, Writers, Writing, Writing style

New Adult fiction – the missing genre?

Have you ever read a book that didn’t seem to fit squarely in either Young Adult (YA) or Adult fiction? It might have been about someone who has just moved out of home to go to uni. Or someone who’s just finished uni and is now trying to prove himself in his first professional job.

The protagonists in these books are too mature to be considered YA protagonists, but they’re not worldly enough to be considered Adult protagonists. So where do they fit?

According to St Martin’s Press, they fit in a new, previously-unidentified genre called ‘New Adult’. JJ from St Martin’s Press explains that, ‘New Adult [fiction] is about young adulthood, when you are an adult but have not established your life as one (career, family, what-have-you)’.

Kristin Hoffman elaborates further, explaining that New Adult fiction is, ‘…about transition. The transformation from child to adult doesn’t happen overnight—just ask as anyone who is or has been (or is a parent to) a teenager. But the transition from teen to adult doesn’t happen overnight either. There’s a period of time where adulthood feels like a new pair of shoes. The expectations of independence and self-sufficiency are still new, still being broken in. New Adults are the people who have just begun to walk in those shoes; New Adult fiction is about their blisters and aches.

Kristin goes on to explain that New Adult protagonists are mostly likely in the range of 18 to 26 years old. ‘College, first jobs, first relationships, or marriage… There’s a lot that can happen when you’re 18-26, but the fact is, those same events feel very different at that age than they do at 12 or at 40. Because kids and teens focus on the present, while adults draw on their past experience to inform their present and future decisions. New Adults are somewhere in between…. That distinction might seem subtle, but it comes through loud and clear in the voice of New Adult fiction.’

I’ve been overjoyed to discover this new genre of fiction. Why? Because I’ve always described Tangled (my novel-in-progress) as Young Adult, but that categorisation has never sat comfortably with me. Now I know why. Now I have a genre that fits. Tangled – which follows the journey of two country teenagers as they try to survive living away from home to attend an inner city university –  is well and truly New Adult. It describes many of those New Adult blisters and aches Kristin talked about, including struggling to get along with flatmates and trying to deal with changing relationships with close friends.

A number of my favourite books could be classified as New Adult, including:

Queen Kat, Carmel and St Jude Get a Life and Somebody’s Crying by Maureen McCarthy

World of Chickens and Bachelor Kisses by Nick Earls

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Book covers of new adult fiction

So, what do you think? Do you agree there should be a New Adult genre? Or do you think it’s splitting hairs and the Young Adult and Adult genres are sufficient? Are there any books you’d classify as New Adult fiction? Do tell!


Filed under Authors, Maureen McCarthy, New Adult fiction, Nick Earls, Reading, Tangled, Tracy Chevalier, Writing, Writing style, YA fiction

Is this novel autobiographical?

Tangled - Cally Jackson's life storyNine times out of ten, when I tell someone the basic premise of my novel-in-progress, Tangled (country-raised teenagers trying to survive their first semester at an inner-city university), they ask whether the book is based on my personal experiences. I answer that there are some similarities, but it’s predominantly fictional. But for some reason, at that point, people often give this wink-and-smirk combo, as if they know that Tangled is really my life story but I’m too embarrassed to admit it.

I’ll be honest with you. This frustrates me for a couple of reasons. Namely:

  1. If it was my life story, I’d just come out and say it. 
  2.  It implies I’m not creative enough to conjure a plot purely from my imagination.

So, here’s some proof that this book really is fictional:

Jeez she was a good kisser. Slow and sexy. I could taste the guava cruisers she’d been drinking on her lips, real sickly sweet. Then her tongue touched mine, and my heart started beating real fast. I could tell where all my blood was pumping to. Hopefully it wasn’t as obvious to her as it was to me. But then she laid back on the grass and pulled me down on top of her, so there was no way I could hide it. I mean, it was pretty much poking her in the thigh and saying, ‘Hi, wanna play?’ 

I definitely haven’t experienced that personally! Hopefully that will convince those with doubts that I have an imagination. 🙂

To my writer-readers, do you have this same problem? Do people assume your fiction is based on real life? (I’m assuming this is only relevant to contemporary writers, but if you have any stories about people asking if your fantasy fiction is based on reality, I’d love to hear them!)


Filed under Creativity, Tangled, Writing, Writing style

Guess what I did yesterday…

I did something wildly adventurous yesterday. Can you guess what it was?

Cally bungee jumping

No, not bungee jumping.


Cally skydiving

Not sky diving either.


Cally with shark

Wrong again. No swimming with sharks for me.


Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that adventurous, but it was definitely unusual for me. So what did I do?

I… wrote a chapter out of sequence. *GASP!*

Totally wild, I know.  

As you may have realised from my weekly updates, I usually write in a linear fashion. I start at ‘Once upon a time’ and write in order all the way through to ‘The End’ (or equivalent).

But last night, after I completed chapter 92, I skipped 93 and went straight on to 94. Why did I make this monumental change to my approach, you ask? Because chapters 92 and 94 are both told from Seb’s perspective (my lead male character) and together they form one long scene, with a break (a scene from somebody else’s perspective) in the middle. So, in this instance, it just felt… right.

But that made me curious about how others approach their writing. So, please tell me: do you write linearly like I do? Or do you take more of a ‘greatest hits’ approach, jumping from highlight to highlight and return later to fill in the blanks?

I’m off to write chapter 93 now – poor little chapter has been feeling left out all day. But, who know? Maybe one day I’ll really be adventurous and give the ‘greatest hits’ approach a try. Or maybe not. Makes me nervous just thinking about it…


Filed under Tangled, Writing, Writing style