If you’re like me, and happen to fall into the ninety-nine point nine, nine, nine percent of all emerging authors, at some point or another, you’ve had to have found yourself with a fresh cup of coffee, staring at the blinking cursor on your laptop thinking, “What’s my writing niche?”
As emerging authors, we all wrestle with what area or genre we want to work in. Some may have been intuitively born with this mystical ‘knowing’, while others found it by sticking their toes in more than one watering hole. But how do you and I go about finding where our place is on this highly populated Mountain of Authorship? And once found, just what in the heck are we supposed to do with it?
Since the starting point for most of my own life is always asking questions and finding answers, I decided to start digging this one out by asking the obvious:
What is an author’s niche?
According to online Urban Dictionary: Niche 1. A position or activity that particularly suits somebody’s talents and personality or that somebody can make his or her own.
Oxford Online Dictionary says the origin of the word niche is: early 17th century: from French, literally ‘recess’, from nicher ‘make a nest’, based on Latin nidus ‘nest’
For some authors like E. E. Orme and Anita Diamant, this nesting flows out of their the passion to tell someone else’s story. For others such as James A Levine, Alexandria Szeman and Kimberly Rae, it’s the need to bring attention to the social elephants standing within our communities and homes. And then there are those like Jane Freidman who find their nesting niche helping you and I write about ours.
In NRichford‘ s post “Top Five Ways to Find Your Writing Niche” for List My 5, the author shares that it’s our passion that determines one’s niche, “If you can’t put your heart into it, you probably aren’t passionate enough to write about it.”
In part I’d have to agree. It is possible to write about a lot of things, but to write them in such a way that our words are capable of immersing the reader into a voyeuristic experience of the characters or experiences we’re writing about…that can only be transmitted through passion; coupled of course with a tremendous amount of experience and skill.
How do I find my niche?
In my guest post Writing Your Passion, I said that finding our niche is no more difficult than paying attention to …”Whatever it is that makes us want to fight back, stand up and scream “Hell yeah! “, or simply be the buffer for someone else, is a clue to what it is that has given birth to your passion.
According to author, professor, and copy editor, Sharon K. Owen finding one’s niche or genre “… is always the hardest for the writer but basically effects all the others.”
But what if we enjoy reading a variety of subjects and not just anyone in particular? That in and of itself, might make settling on just one in particular, a bit of a challenge. And another thought; what if, like myself, you realize that to read just one genre becomes rather incestuous, and limits the resources you have to draw upon.
NRichord believes that another way for emerging authors to identify their niche is“…If your writing excites you and gets you motivated for the day, you can be pretty sure its (sic) one of your real interests. But, if you wake up thinking about what you “need” to write today, there’s a good chance you haven’t identified your real interests. Find something that energizes you and you will energize your readers, too.”
Unlike a pet, friend, or relative, our niche isn’t’ something we can simply jump in the car and get away from. It will influence everything we see, think, and often, dream about. It’s the thing that moves us, keeps us awake at night and causes everyone you know (except for other writers) to think your nuts.
What do you do with your niche?
So now that we’ve finally located what it is that drives our souls, how do take that and begin to apply it to writing? The obvious answer would be, use it to write what you know.
But is that really the right answer?
Maybe a better application would be to use it to experiment with a variety of genre, prose or mediums. Why limit ourselves to just one thing like romance, horror, mystery or social injustice. What if we took this impetus out for a number of test drives, applying it in a variety of ways, until we find the creative cog that fits our wheel?
“If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.”- Benjamin Franklin
This writer is passionate about God, but I don’t believe limiting myself to just that one topic does either the passion or the subject much justice. I’d hate to think that someone who is unlimited in own His ability to think and create, would want to limit any of us in ours.
So instead of listing all the ways you and I can use our niche, what if we released ourselves to try out as many watering holes as we can find. Maybe spend some time doing freelance articles (C. Hope Clark maintains that learning to write on a deadline is excellent training for learning to write a book), writing poetry, entering various contests (in a variety of genre of course) or writing both a novel and a non-fiction.
Another really challenging exercise, and one this writer is always stretched by, is doing ghost blogging for someone else. Just the discipline of writing in someone else’s voice, style and mission helps hone writing skills for my own stuff.
I think becoming a writer is more than just finding a niche, putting words up on a white screen, or in a high school composition book. It’s more than the novels we read or the movies we watch. I believe that finding our niche is more about finding whatever it is that holds our universe together, and then discovering the media(s) that simply lets us live that life-giving expression, out loud.