I’ve often seen authors get confused over which form to use when it comes to toward and towards. I know I had to look it up when I first started writing. Seeing both forms being used in books and on the Internet only seems to confuse writers more on which one they should be using. I notice people around me often use towards in speech. Heck, even I notice myself using this form.
Technically both forms are correct. Which one you use depends on where you live and what style guide you follow. If you are American, you’ll want to use toward. For you style guide sticklers, both Chicago and AP style use toward. But if you use British English, you’ll use towards.
Other words act similarly in American vs. British English. Similar examples include afterward, downward, upward, backward, and forward. In American English they lose the s, and in British English you add the s. Be careful about sticking to only one form. I see authors switch between toward and towards when they aren’t sure which one they should be using. If you’re worried about this, when you’re editing do a search for the form you don’t want to use and replace it with the correct one.
Before I dive into what I really want to talk about in this post, I just wanted to say this isn’t aimed at any specific book or authors that I’ve read or edited. With that out of the way, let’s talk about childfree couples in romance, a topic near and dear to my heart. I’m not talking about couples who want children but haven’t had them yet, but couples planning on not having children at all. I rarely ever see this in romance. Now and again I see books where having kids isn’t mentioned and that’s about the closest I get to seeing true childfree couples. More often I see a character claiming to not want children, only to have their mind changed by the protagonist or the protagonist’s child.
I see a lot of call for diversity in the publishing industry, but no specific mention of adding more childfree couples in romance books. For me, that’s the diversity I want to see. I’ve read and edited more interracial and LGBTQ romance than I have for romance that includes childfree couples. The rates of childfree couples are growing in reality, yet they don’t make enough appearances in romance to reflect this change. According to this Time article, more woman in the U.S. are now choosing to not have kids compared to past women. To add to that, fertility rates have been steadily dropping. The Huffington Post also has a bit to say on the matter including why Millennial women aren’t having kids. With this growing uptick in the childfree population, the romance genre would make for a good spot to highlight this change and even why childfree couples choose to not have kids. It could add an intriguing element to a romance story: how to find someone who doesn’t want kids in a sea of people looking for someone to settle down and have kids with while combating family and friends who just don’t understand? That’s a reality that a lot of childfree people face.
Not only have I noticed a lack of childfree couples, but people without kids are sometimes painted as the villains of the romance. Like the bitter stepmother or new girlfriend who is awful because they aren’t interested in the protagonist’s child. Or the boyfriend who just isn’t Mr. Right because he doesn’t take the protagonists’ child to the playground like his romantic competitor who always wanted a child of his own. These people are painted as selfish for not having kids or even worse, their lack of interest in child rearing is used to prove that they are a terrible person because who doesn’t want a cute baby?
Why the lack of childfree couples? Well I have a few guesses. Having children is a romanticized aspect of being a couple. What better way to cement your love for each other than combine your genetics and raise a child that has piece of both of you in it? Except not every wants that or finds happiness that way. There’s romance out there featuring single parents trying to get back on the dating scene with kids in tow. By the way, here’s a list of books featuring single parents for anyone who enjoys that category. Funnily enough, my search on Goodreads for popular childfree books turned up a lot of nonfiction instead of romance. Another reason for a lack of childfree couples could be that for a long time, having children has just been an expected part of life and marriage in particular to the point that some people view child rearing as the end goal in marriage. I’ve even heard people complain that it’s pointless for childfree couples to get married if they don’t plan on having kids as if there is no other reason for marriage.
Let’s face reality, childfree couples are real and growing in number and enjoy romance as much as couples with children. I would love to read a romance about a woman being pressured into having children, only to realize she really doesn’t want them and doesn’t need them to complete herself. Or even a woman or man looking for love but struggling because they can’t find someone with the same childfree lifestyle. Come to think of it, I feel like empty nesters don’t get much appreciation in romance either. Let’s tell the stories of those not living the 2.5 kids lifestyle.
No, I don’t meant that as a euphemism. I’ve been posting advice on Twitter, but I keep forgetting to update my blog. And let’s be honest here, I can give way better advice when I have more than 140 characters to work with.
Recently I mentioned on Twitter to be careful about overusing the word that. You might not think you use that often, but if you do a search and find on a manuscript you might be surprised at how many hits turn up. I often see that being used as a filler word where it can be deleted without changing the sentence. Sure, that can serve legitimate writing purposes, but when I see it being overused, its often as a filler word. Doing a search can make it easy to get rid of these instances. If you use that constantly, the word can get distracting and repetitive. And when it’s used as a filler, it’s best to just get rid of it.
Let’s go through some examples now. “I think that spiders are gross and icky.” You can get rid of that without changing the meaning. “I think spiders are gross and icky.” In a similar vein, “I miss the umbrella that I lost last week,” can be shortened to “I miss the umbrella I lost last week.” The sentences keep the same meaning while becoming more concise.
When searching for instances of that to delete, read the sentence without that to see if the sentence still makes just as much sense as it did with that. If it does, get rid of that. If you have trouble overusing that as a filler word constantly, doing a search for it and deleting the filler instances will show you how you overuse the word so you can start breaking the habit.