Advice for Writers: Find Your Niche
When I first started writing novels and trying to get published, I wrote historical romance novels. I created the business cards to put my best foot forward and portray myself as a professional at writing conferences. I thought the card would tell others that I was a real writer. I worked hard, entering contests and attending conferences and reading every book I could in the genre.
But one day everything changed when my thirteen-year-old daughter asked me to write a dragon story for her. I thought it would be fun, so I wrote a fantasy scene featuring a dragon. The next thing I knew, my family loved that scene much more than the historical stories I had worked on for several years. I decided to see what would happen so I entered my dragon story—or rather the first chapter—in contests. And guess what? That fantasy story produced better results than my historical romance offerings. Judges gave it much higher scores, and it was a finalist in several big contests. Okay, so I decided to run with it. I expanded the story to a full-length novel proposal, with three chapters and a synopsis. Then I pitched my new fantasy novel at conferences—for two years.
I got nowhere.
Still, I considered that venture into fantasy as progress. Shifting from writing historical romance to writing fantasy was forward movement on my writing journey because it helped me to figure out who I was as a writer, and who I was not.
Fast forward a few months, and I was invited to join a contemporary anthology romance collection. I mean . . . I wasn’t going to say no. I wrote up the synopsis, sent it in, and forgot about it. A few months later the editor contacted me to ask if I had completed the whole manuscript. Um . . . I assured her that I could get it to her in six weeks. And I did. The first entire novel I had ever written I wrote in six weeks. As it turned out that manuscript was filled with romance, suspense and mystery. If I had to write a contemporary romance instead of a historical or fantasy romance, then it needed to have much more going on than only romance.
That was the first novel I sold—a short, sweet romance with suspense and mystery elements. But I still had a long way to go and a lot to learn. I continued to write in this style and then realized how much I enjoyed creating multi-layered stories with explosive tension and twists and turns.
I admitted that I wasn’t a good fit to write historical novels (at least back then) because my voice didn’t lend itself to that genre. My eyes were opened to what I’d been missing all along—my voice worked well in romantic suspense. My natural tendency is to layer in all the suspense and mystery. I’m passionate about stunning settings that allow me to inject adventure. I had finally found my niche!
I know this because I just turned in book number fifty-one. I hadn’t even realized that I’d hit 50! But I’m celebrating anyway, so there.
It took me about twelve books to figure out the best place for my unique writing voice and style. That might not be your story, but then again, maybe you’re still searching for that perfect fit—like that perfect pair of jeans or the most comfortable running shoes.
After so many books, I’m adept at writing in my genre now, and when I start working on that next story it feels like I’m sitting in my favorite, well-worn recliner that fits my body perfectly. If you don’t already know you’ll learn soon enough that happens, literally, after sitting in the recliner and writing scores of books.
Things to consider when searching for your perfect niche.
1.)Finding your niche depends on finding your voice. They’re linked. As it turned out, I really didn’t have a great “historical” sounding voice. I developed some close writing friendships with historical writers and in reading their work, critiquing for them, it was easy to see they had it. And I did not. “It” being the requisite word usage and tone as well as structure to give the reader the feel of a historical novel, or rather to make readers feel like he or she is in, for example, 1830 Missouri, preparing to sit in a covered wagon while traveling the Oregon Trail.
2)Finding a niche that clicks for you could take several tries and many starts. The usual advise tells us that we should write what we love to read. I’m living proof that what you love to read doesn’t necessarily translate into something you could write well. That was my experience but yours could be different. Keep an open mind.
3) Listen to feedback from contests and critique groups. If you don’t feel like you’re making progress, or getting the kind of response you want or expect, then try something else. Write in a different genre—just for fun. Shake things up. You never know when a dragon story could lead you down a whole new path!
4) Keep writing every day. Complete your novel and start on the next one. Learn from each book and keep bumping up your game. No matter what’s going on around you, get your hands on your keyboard (Or voice to text, however you prefer) and write. Nothing good can come out of only dreaming about being a writer. You have to take action. Writer’s write and in the writing, they discover who they are and where they fit.
5) Trust your instincts. With all that writing you’re doing, you’ll develop instincts. They’ll tell you when you’ve found your groove. You’ll know that moment when the story you’ve written is your own special brand and style. Your niche doesn’t have to be like anyone else’s. You can push the boundaries of any genre and even add in a fun mix of sub-genres, coupled with your own special unique voice.
I hope my experience encourages you to find your niche. Keep an open mind and you never know what adventures will open up for you!