What Won’t You Write?

I think all of us who write fiction will agree that most of us have things we will not write into stories. The obvious topics or scenes would be things we find to be boring or tedious to read, those things that make us skip ahead in books or put them down altogether. No one wants to find their own works boring, correct? Other omitted items may include those things we find fascinating but don’t lend themselves to our preferred writing genres. (I’d be hard pressed to include Alexander the Great, paleontology, and quantum physics into a novel not based in science fiction, I think.)

And then there are some things we don’t write because they make us uncomfortable. I’ve heard from various writers over the years that pushing your writing outside of your comfort zones can make you a stronger writer, and I’ll agree with this advice for the most part… but there are still some things that I will not write.

The topics or scenes on my no-write list include things I believe to be common experiences that are outside of the realm of my personal experience. For instance, I’m not going to set a story in a major city, like New York, Chicago, or L.A., because I’ve not spent any respectable amount of time in such places. Neither am I going to write a space odyssey when I have read very few science fiction novels. (I grew up on Star Trek reruns among other things, but watching is not the same as reading, I’ve found.) I could probably learn to write such a story, but it would take a significant amount of reading and practice before I could wrap my mind around the standard vocabulary and plot progressions.

The final thing I will not write is a full-blown sex scene. Some writers are uncomfortable putting such things into words on a page. Certain genres and writing styles don’t easily lend themselves to such scenes without causing disruption to story flow and pacing. Sometimes it’s just better to leave things up to the reader’s imagination. For me, it’s one of those life experiences I don’t have experience with. I’m not sure whether I should shove myself into the category of asexual or if it boils down to trust issues and bad timing, but no matter which way you wish to interpret it, I’ve never come across someone I consider worthwhile who has also been single and interested in return. In light of this, I find it safer to write those parts of relationships that don’t occur in private only.

It’s normal for writers to have things they refuse to write about. Strengthening our writing skills can sometimes require us to push past our comfort zones, but that doesn’t mean we need to dig into topics or scenes that we don’t have the desire to put into words. Writing what bores us, what we don’t know, or what doesn’t fit our stories won’t teach us how to improve upon that which we do want to write. It’s good to push our creative boundaries, but we still need to focus on writing what we know and enjoy.


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