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How To Edit To Get A General Audiences Rating On Your Novel
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How to Edit to Get A General Audiences Rating on Your Novel

Although movies are rated from General Audience through Adult Content, novels typically aren’t rated, yet editors always know what pleases young adult audiences. Parents like novels for their pre-teens and teenagers that reflect the general attitudes of middle school and high school, while not encouraging bad habits. So what do you as a writer do to insure you meet the editing policies of your future publisher related to young adult readers?

Here’s my list of editorial changes to my novels to insure a PG-Rating:

Edit Out Profanity to Get a PG-Rating on Your Novel

Profanity is a matter of taste, but for young adult audiences, the less used the better. I specifically eliminated the use of profanity in my novels to an absolute minimum. The only characters that used profanity were villians and they only used it in the absolutely worst situations. If the heroine or hero uses the words, make them aware that perhaps they shouldn’t have said it aloud.

What words are considered profanity?

1. The F-word.

2. Sexual body parts unless used in a medical context.

3. Using bodily functions in your language.

4. Asking God to do something less than nice to someone, especially damn.

5. Using slang versions of above.

How do you replace swear words in your text?

1. Explain that your character cursed, i.e. Harry cursed.

2. Use a made up word that the character uses in exclamation i.e. oops.

3. Leave it out.

How do you easily fix your novel if you wrote it for an adult audience and then want to tone it back? Build a list of the words, then search and replace.

To Get a PG-Rating on Your Novel Remove Explicit Sex

What is explicit sex?

1. Sex with penetration

2. Sex with violence

3. Nudity

4. Underage sex i.e. with someone under 14 years of age.

In general, explicit sex is the orchestration of sexual acts in your text. Many young adults are happy to imagine what happens when the lovers go into a bedroom, progressively get more intimate while necking, or just can’t keep their hands off each other. The rule in television used to be that you could do anything as long as the hero or heroine had one foot on a different side of the bed.

How do you remove explicit sex out of your book?

1. Ask yourself, can the reader imagine what happens next? Then edit out anything that explains the answer.

2. Ask yourself, does this character have to appear naked?

3. Ask yourself, how does this sex scene further the plot i.e. is this important for the character’s growth?

4. Replace the details with “they made love”.

5. Make the details sensory i.e. smells, tastes, touches rather than sexual.

6. Make the scene seem sensual by lingering over emotional reactions rather than bodily functions.

7. Make the scene inviting by using soft words, caress rather than chewed.

8. Make the scene inviting by establishing an appropriate setting, i.e. places of beauty and places of meaning for the hero or heroine.

Edit Out Graphic Violence to Get a PG-Rated Novel

What is graphic violence?

Violence in a novel should be appropriate for the genre. Violence typically should escalate. Most people associate graphic violence with blood and the inner parts of the body. The more blood and guts the worse violence is deemed. The more it affects others, the more graphic it seems.

How do you reduce the violence and make it seem less graphic?

1. Make conflict more personal and escalate to the point of body contact.

2. Focus on the physical and emotional reactions of protagonist rather than visual cues.

3. Ask yourself, does the protagonist learn, grow or change as a result of the experience. If not, cut the scene.

4. Limit the exchange of blows to convey the sense of the scene

Street Talk

very interesting article. I am working on a book and bookmarked this one. :)

  about 9 years ago

i like your article Sheri

  about 9 years ago

Kinda tough writing the way described in the article but I'll try -)

  about 9 years ago
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