IWSG: Drawing the Line

Logo for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Picture of a lighthouse with text reading "THE INSECURE WRITER'S SUPPORT GROUP"

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The awesome co-hosts for the October 6 posting of the IWSG are Jemima Pett, J Lenni Dorner, Cathrina Constantine, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, and Mary Aalgaard!

October 6 question – In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?

I’m not a huge swearer. It’s not so much a line, as a natural inclination. I used to average about two “fucks” per book, when I was writing thrillers, and usually just as expletives or intensifiers. That’s less, now that I’m writing Sci Fi and Fantasy. I don’t run around making up cuss-words for aliens or anything like that.

Topics, though!

Topics are something I find myself struggling with. I don’t draw a line on writing topics… but I’ve definitely been thinking twice about publishing some of those stories. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all full of opinions. But I’m beginning to realize that I have to choose which ones are worth fighting over, or my whole life will be a battlefield. I don’t like arguing for argument’s sake. Lately, I’m finding myself looking at this story or that story, and wondering if it’s worth it to publish. Do I want the hassle of putting this out there, or would I be happier shoving it in a drawer somewhere.

Everyone has a hierarchy of opinions that starts at “Hey, nice haircut.” and goes all the way up to THIS IS THE END OF THE WORLD!!!

I’m trying to find a balance I can live with. That’s meant trunking certain stories because they’re on topics closer to “Hey nice haircut” (for me) than THIS IS THE END OF THE WORLD!!!

I don’t want to be a topics writer. I don’t want to write the adult equivalent of “So Grandpa’s Dying of a Horrifying Hereditary Disease, and You Will, Too.” I don’t want to be one of those writers where people list their political party before the fact that they are a writer. (George Smith is a (political view) writer). And sometimes, that means toning it down, and selecting topics more carefully.

I also like to avoid the topics which will make me miserable. That’s one of the reasons that I switched to writing science fiction. It’s just more fun than writing murders. More… for me, at least… mentally healthy. And sex? Well, let’s give the poor characters some privacy.


  1. Diane Burton


    I’ve gone from quite sizzling to “let’s give them some privacy.” I enjoy reading both. I do cuss a lot, except around my grandkids. Gotta clean up my language. LOL

  2. Ronel Janse van Vuuren


    Let’s give the characters some privacy. LOL. I like that. Write what interests you, what makes you happy — and publish what you’re okay with your mum reading.

    Ronel visiting for IWSG day as co-host The IWSG Goodreads Book Club

  3. Loni Townsend


    This post speaks to me. I actually told my critique group I didn’t plan to publish anymore because I don’t really want to deal with the topics either. I just want to write, not deal with people’s reactions to what I write.

  4. Juneta Key


    I get what you are saying. I just tell a story and only worry about the storytelling. If I don’t do that, I might as well quit writing all together. I can’t worry about other people and try to stay to my characters and worry about the story they want to tell. I don’t think about topics or worry and try to ignore all the negative out there as much as possible when writing.

  5. debscarey


    I really enjoyed reading your thought-provoking response. I’ve not really given a vast amount of thought as to what I write, as it’s enough of a struggle to find the time to write. But this question has brought up lots of previously unconsidered questions and I totally agree with you that I’m done with going to battle on topics – did that when I was young, too old now. Still feel strongly about many things, just don’t have the energy for the corresponding drama.

    And a final thank you for the “let’s give them some privacy” concept – I like it 🙂

  6. Reply

    I struggle with the topic issue so much. I like to write about dark things, painful things (even though IRL I’m a cheerful, upbeat person), but so many people either find those topics off-putting or want to police who’s allowed to write about them and how they’re allowed to do it. If I ever publish my first novel, I figure it’ll make everyone mad.

  7. Lori


    I agree! I don’t want to write about gloom and doom all the time either. I hope you find that balance soon!

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