Before I get started on this topic, let me clarify. I'm pretty sure 'f-bomb' is an American concept. The Brits and Aussies don't hesitate to use the word 'fuck.' In fact, some Brits or Aussie is probably going to laugh at me in the comments for even discussing this topic. Oh well. I've 'ad worse, as the English like to say.
If you're American and you're a writer or a would-be writer who has any writerly education, or even someone who's just read a lot of advice about writing in America, you've probably come across the warning against sprinkling your prose with expletives. In particular the f-word.
So the question is, do you have to worry about using it? Will it get you banned from anything, like libraries, or bookstores?
As with everything else in life, it depends.
Rules of thumb
If you're writing for children, obviously swearing will not help you sell books. If you're writing literary fiction, f-bombs will be impact words, most likely. One or two or three of them in the whole book will be okay, but the text is unlikely to need to be littered with them. If you're writing romance, ditto. (Though there are potential exceptions to this rule. For example, if your heroine is from New Jersey, where the f-bomb is affectionately called the 'Jersey comma,' you can probably get away with it.)
If you're writing a gritty urban fantasy, noir, thriller, crime novel, or any other modern dark or even humorous book, sweary language is an option you can play with. It will be in the dialogue, not likely in the narrative (unless the narrative is first person) and it will need to not sound stupid in the context. Context is queen.
So I say all this, but...
I just worked on a very sweary book. I had to warn my parents before I sent it to them. I mean, they watch TV, so they must be used to it by now. I warned them anyway. America is, for the most part, not that sweary of a place. Except New Jersey. Bless you, New Jersey.
An editing client of mine was asked by her publisher to remove at least half the fucks in her manuscript. She did. Then she panicked and decided to put them back in because she felt it weakened the voice. The publisher tried to talk her out of it, while admitting that none of the test readers had objected to it. In the end, the book went to press with all the fucks in place.
If a publisher takes your book which is full of f-bombs, they could still ask you to take some of them out. Or maybe they would ask you to take them out before they accept it. You'd have to decide how important you feel they are. Which is actually a pretty good problem to have, in my opinion.
What's the moral of this story?
Just like with any other word, if you don't need it, don't use it. You don't put curtains on a camel, the saying goes... Actually I just made that saying up, but it's a very effective way of saying that things, including words, are needed where they're needed. Language is language. It comes with the meanings people ascribe to it. So swearing in America is gong to carry more weight and possibly put some people off. Use it appropriately for your genre and your audience. That's the best you can do with any kind of wording.
Now, with all that said, is it okay to use the f-word? Yes.
That's the conclusion I've come to, anyway. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this. Leave 'em in the comments.