Julie's Quest

Hello, and welcome to my blog. My blog is about the trials and tribulations of writing, where we celebrate successes and commiserate our near misses. We tell it like it is here and will do our very best to help you on the road to being published and pick you up after the rejections (they will come!) Whether you are a professional or amateur writer you will find something useful here.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and will visit again soon.

Happy Writing

Julie Phillips - freelance writer - member of the Association of Freelance Writers - member of the Society of Authors

Saturday, 16 July 2011

The writing taboo

Every writer has a limit to their writing. There are subjects and lines they will not cross. For some writers that line is quite low, but for others there is little, if nothing they will not write about. Writers write about a lot of things and target a lot of different markets, the aim being to match their work to the right market. It's no good, for instance, writing a story with a high sexual content for People's Friend, or a gentle romance for a sexually explicit publication.

It takes all sorts to make the literary and publishing world go round and different people like reading different things. It's not a writers' job to be judge and jury and moralistic, (or is it?) but what would you never considering writing about? Where is your writing taboo line?  Is every thing, every topic fair game? They say write about what you know but is what you know worth writing about?  How do we judge what is appropriate to write about - can we judge? People write stories that offend some, yet delight others - it's all down to personal taste but, as a writer, how do you gauge what the reader wants? Research would be a good start, reading authors that have already been published in the genre you want to be. But writers are always pushing boundaries and taking risks, pushing the line - how far is too far?

Something to think about!

Happy writing

Julie xx


Martin H. said...

I agree, writers often write best, when they know their subject. But this can mean drawing on life experience or researching an area previously unknown to them. As for drawing a line, good writers should be able to tackle most subjects, in a considered and well balanced manner. I guess it depends, largely, on the level of each individual author's objectivity.

Thought provoking post, Julie.

Frances Garrood said...

I think there are two issues here: what can you write about, and what are you prepared to write about?

For exmaple, I'm not much good at description, so I'd leave the beautiful sunsets to someone else (Helen Dunmore?), but love dialogue, which is my strength. As to how far to go, I think with (for example) sex, it's a matter of writing about it well. I'm prepared to be fairly explicit if the context demands it. In my latest novel, one of the main characters is a tart, and tarts don't do tender glances and soft murmurs, so there is explicit sex, and I found it a challenge to do it well enough (although it was quite fun!). I think extreme, explicit violence would be a no-no for me, because it's capitalising on what has (let's be honest) happened to a great many people, and I would feel uncomfortable about making entertainment out of cruelty. But maybe that's just me.

An interesting question, Julie. Thanks!

Julie P said...

Hi, Frances

That's true. You can write about anything as long as you write it well. I always find I get embarrassed when attempting to write about sex because I worry about any of my friends and relatives reading it! But hopefully they would separate the writing from me!

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Thanks, Martin,

I was just thinking about censorship as I know there have been books banned in the past that later went on to become best sellers (wasn't Lady Chatterley's Lover one of those?) It's interesting how far we've come as to what is and isn't acceptable and the boundaries are becoming wider and wider through the years - what is acceptable now certainly wouldn't have been back in the 40's and 50's.

I totally agree with you when you say that good writers should be able to write about anything.

Julie xx

Caroline said...

Interesting post Julie - and one that resonates with me at the moment. I had the opportunity to have my work critiqued by an author who said they liked my writing etc. but that I might like to up the romantic tempo a little and recommeded an author to writes to a higher heat level so to speak. Well I went and got a book by the recommended author, and although the book was a good read it was well....let's just say... that it was a little too "hot" for my liking. I think we all write to our heat level so to speak. Wel I do anyway....Caroline x

HelenMHunt said...

I think it depends a bit on whether you're writing fiction or non-fiction. In non-fiction I'm always careful not to offend any particular person, so for example when I've written about family members I've always checked they are happy first. In fiction I guess it's more about not offending the reader - and the fiction editor is often the best judge of that. I quite like to push boundaries in my short stories, but if I push them too far I'll know because the magazines won't buy them!

Julie P said...

That's a great point, Caroline - that we all write to our own heat level.

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Yes, Helen - fiction editors are the experts when deciding what does and does not fit in their magazine and what the readers will and won't enjoy to read. What doesn't cause offence to us may well do to readers - so hard to guage sometimes!

Julie xx