Research is an important aspect of writing, often prompting authors to reach out to experts in the topics they are writing about. But things start to get complicated when we talk about fiction.
Editors must consider and balance the feelings of two groups of people when suggesting language changes: firstly, they must consider how the reader will react to the language of the original manuscript; and secondly, they must consider how the author will respond to the suggested edits.
Our May 2020 title faces down its darker elements—including violence, bigotry, and abuse—with both unflinching realism and hope. Importantly, it portrays the struggles of two main characters who fall under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella. Because these identities do not exist as a monolith, and also because this is a book intended for a YA audience, Ooligan chose to incorporate authenticity readers (sometimes called sensitivity readers) into the editorial process.
The Bad Sex in Fiction Award teaches us several things: first, many novels contain profoundly cringeworthy sex scenes; second, even great writers often flounder when they try to write about sex; and finally, there are plenty of editors who (perhaps begrudgingly, or perhaps because they too are at a loss for how to approach this subject) are letting these giggle-inducing scenes sneak through to publication. This state of affairs might lead us to wonder, Why is it so hard to write about sex? And, more importantly, what can editors do to help?