How to find your writing niche

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Are you writing what you want to write or what you think you ‘should’ write?

The stories that I want to write all fit into the fantasy genre. Trying to generate ideas for any other genre is a struggle for me. It is one of the reasons why it took me so long to just sit down and write. Even though I had qualifications. I had ideas. But I did not feel that writing what I wanted to write was valid.

I believe that identifying where your interests lie is a great starting point for increasing your word count.

Writing for yourself first makes creativity easier.

A brief glimpse back in time

For many of us, our first exposure to literature is through teachers that can present convincing arguments about the particular merits of the play, book or poem. Many of these teachers teach literature because they enjoy it and like it. They are often teaching it to teenagers who are still developing the ability to critique and debate. Other forms of storytelling are generally dismissed. Either because the teacher does not recognise their relevance or they are struggling to cover an extensive curriculum with an uninterested group.

The reissued edition of Soundings, the Leaving Certificate poetry textbook.

When I did my Leaving Cert, the final exam at the end of Secondary school in Ireland,  the English curriculum had been totally overhauled. ‘Soundings’ the book of poems that had been in use for the past thirty years was replaced. The new list of poems included poets that were actually still alive, many of them were female and some of them were even Irish!

I love fantasy and in the ’90s in rural Ireland, this was Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series from the local library. But I did not have any friends to share this with. Nobody else around me was really interested. The times when I did share the latest book I was reading I had to also explain what fantasy was.

At that time, fantasy in films was Excalibur and Ladyhawke. On the few channels that were available to me, these were shown late at night. It was only when Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Sarah Michelle Gellar was shown on television that other people discovered how fun and interesting fantasy could be.

My first attempts at sharing my writing

When I decided I was going to make a decent attempt at writing I had to confront how I felt about fantasy. A lot of the creative writing classes that I had taken focused on the literary genre. My previous experiences with sharing my interest in fantasy made me nervous. When I shared my writing with other people in writing groups they saw it through their, often, literary lens. 

A short story I wrote about werewolves surprised them because they missed my full moon reference. The feedback that I received from one person suggested that it could be seen as a hallucination. I didn’t know how to respond to this at the time. Now, I will re-work the story to make it more obvious that the character did definitely become a werewolf. But that is because I have decided that I’m writing for myself first. I want to write about different worlds and realities. Sometimes I do want to escape this reality even if it’s only until I’ve reached the last page of the book.

So, choose your genre. Start with what you like. Ignore what the national media are saying. According to them, vampire stories are not popular but there are still vampire stories in the bestseller lists. 

For your consideration

I hope you are now reconsidering what your interests would be if you were not influenced by the opinions of others. To help you I have created a list of facts. These are not shared whenever writing is talked about in the media.

Romance is the best selling genre. Many writers of romance are grossing $10,000 a month.

Writing techniques still apply to every genre. The skills to produce good writing can be learned.

There are certain elements that are specific to every genre e.g. worldbuilding for science fiction, layout for a stage play script.

Tropes exist in every genre. One of the benefits of following your area of interest is that you are likely already reading and consuming stories in that genre. You will know which ones have been told before and which ones are tired and outdated.

Songwriting is poetry set to music.

Marketing is all about telling stories.

Are you ready to explore your interests but not quite sure exactly what they are?

Action Steps

Look at what you have given space to in your life? What is on your shelves or in your e-reader? It could be digital or physical space. Even if it’s gathering dust right now, at some stage it was important enough for you to put it on a shelf. Or maybe you are keeping it safe in a box? Now might not be the right time to risk putting it on a shelf with children, pets, family or roommates around.

What do you give time to? Time is another one of our precious commodities. When do you feel satisfied with how you spent your time? Is it after listening to music or watching something or spending time on a particular game?

Now list what you have discovered and keep it for a time when you need to be reminded about what you want to write about.

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More reading on how to boost creativity

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9 steps to boost your creativity and improve your novel

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