Back to the Beginning (Holly Schindler)

I published my first book in 2010. A Blue So Dark--a story of the intersection of art and mental illness, told by a young girl caring for a schizophrenic mother. 

The rights reverted, and I'm now in the midst of a re-release.Which also means a potential rewrite. 

Really, it's my own biggest internal conflict, as a writer: when to let go of a project, when to tinker some more. It's really hard to figure out, sometimes, when a project is done. 

Now, here I am, with a book I wrote more than a decade ago. I've changed, as a writer. So how far down do I pierce into the work? And, no, it really doesn't help that the book got some good reviews and won a few awards. In fact, it only complicates matters. 

So: what's the strategy? What do I most wish I could re-do here? Is it simply a matter of bringing the book forward a decade? 

After a few brainstorming sessions (read: a few months of about a jillion different brainstorming sessions, and tons of conflicted feelings about the whole thing), I came up with this. The one thing I'd like to tackle in this book. The one thing I think would make a difference, without destroying the core of the book--the parts that are responsible for the starred review and the IPPY gold medal:

Take out the cussing.

That probably sounds silly. Empty.  And there's a definite case for the occasional, well-placed swear. During moments of intense fear or pain or anger, people aren't going to not swear. 


It's everywhere in Blue. I mean everywhere. Beyond being a reflection of how realistic teens talk. It's...

Well. In short, in Blue, I think it's lazy writing. 

I'm only about seventy pages in, and I've already found that having to remove the swear words is bringing characters and feelings and--yes, even conflict--further to the front. 

It's fascinating how one seemingly unimportant aspect can (when used extensively) have a pretty profound impact on a book. 


Holly Schindler is the critically acclaimed author of books for readers of all ages. She is currently preparing for a re-release of her first YA, A Blue So Dark.


  1. However, it's a great challenge and opportunity to make both characters AND readers connect at a more intimate level. I read plenty of YA fiction and there's a definite cutoff point where profanity starts draining my interest in the story. Good luck with this challenge.

    1. You know, I feel that way, too. It's distracting. You pay more attention to the profanity than the story!

  2. Fascinating! I do like cussing if it's natural, but of course too much of anything is too much.


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