The Secret Reason Why You Need A Niche

When you start looking into marketing your writing, whether it’s selling a book, a blog or an article, you’ll frequently come across this advice: “Find your niche. Decide what you’re going to focus on, what you’d like to be known for. Write your way into that niche and stay there.”niche

But do you really need to have a niche? And when do you know that you’re ready to commit to one?

I resisted the idea of a niche for a long time. In fiction, I’ve written sweeping historical novels, but I’ve also written quirky young adult books. I’ve produced disparate short stories about an Amish teenager, an exercise bulimic, and a Christmas cookie baking party. I even made a brief foray into horror with a story about a woman six weeks postpartum who discovers her child isn’t what she thought. I’m interested in reading different genres; what’s wrong with wanting to write different genres?

Then there’s the daunting task of actually choosing that niche. For two years on this very website, I dipped and dabbled, experimented with writing about parenting, cancer, time management, and even existential concepts like fear and gratitude. (See “Ye Olde Posts” on the sidebar Categories drop-down for all these subjects.) I enjoyed the variety, but eventually came to understand that some of that shunned advice was correct: it was hard to attract new visitors to the blog when they didn’t know what it was about, and the new readers who did visit often didn’t visit twice, because my next topic might not interest them. Readers need to know what to expect if you want them to come back. 

After those two years, I finally figured out the secret to niche writing. [Read more…]

Friday Book Love #3

In this series, I give a brief snapshot of three unrelated books that I recently read and enjoyed. If you decide to read them too, I’d love to hear what you thought! 

glitterandglueThe Category: Memoir

The Book: Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan

In Three Words: Motherhood. Reconciling. Gratitude.

Biggest Takeaway: I’ve never read any of Corrigan’s work, but I’m absolutely going to look for more. She ably handled the challenging subjects of profound loss, healing resentments, how people change, and where to find true adventure, all in one short book. The final two sentences brought me to tears.

The Category: Psychology/Self-Improvementthetimeparadox

The Book: The Time Paradox by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd

In Three Words: Mind-bending. Sociology. Perception. [Read more…]

10 Ways Journaling Can Make Your Life Better

This post is part of a short series on journaling. To see previous posts, click through to the main page of the website. 

We’ve talked about how journaling can help you through a tough time, but have you ever considered some of the other benefits of chronicling your life?

1. You can always find out when something happened. Memory is fallible, and everyone remembers the same event differently. If there’s a family disagreement about something in the past (did Johnny break his ankle before or after we went on vacation to Florida?) you can solve it by looking it up in your diary.

2. You can plan out disagreements with other people. Don’t you always know when a big fight is coming with your husband, child or co-worker? If you write down your thoughts and opinions on the problem, you’ll be calmer and more sure of yourself when it comes time to speak them out loud.

3. You can figure out disagreements with yourself. If you have a big decision to make, writing about it will help you think through benefits, costs and potential outcomes.

4. It sheds light on a recurring issue. [Read more…]

How To Write Your First Journal Entry (Or Blog Post)

This post is part of a series about journaling; to read previous posts, click back to the main page of the website.handswriting

Thinking about starting a journal or a personal blog, which is essentially a journal that other people can read? Here’s everything you need to get started:

Step 1. Find your tools and your writing space.

Not everyone writes best with a paper and pen or with a computer. Writing is like magic- it can be channeled through any instrument, but it’ll work better through the “wand” that suits you best. I’ve mentioned that my first journals were sketchpads and Crayola markers; now I write on a laptop. Of course, if you’re blogging, you’ll need to get your words online eventually, but it’s fine to write your first draft using the tools you like best.

It’s also important to find your own space to write, whether it be your office, your bed, or during (non-driving) travel time. Finding a specific daily time to write helps with the journaling habit, but it’s not necessary for everyone.

Step 2. Get a header in place.

How do you want to start each entry? With the day and date? With “Dear Diary” or “Dear Progeny” or “Howdy, You”? [Read more…]

The Number One Reason for Keeping A Journal

This post is the first of a short series on journaling. 

When I turned fourteen, two important things happened. The first was a big life-changing event: I got cancer. The second began as a small daily habit: I started writing in a journal.

These two things had an equal impact on my life.

Almost two decades later, I don’t remember what prompted me to start writing for myself. It may have been my eighth-grade English teacher who gave us ten minutes at the start of every period to free-write; it may have been the influence of the diary and epistolary-style books I was reading at the time. For whatever reason, I began to write daily, generally at the end of my day. I wrote in big artist sketchpads with bold markers to express my creativity and give myself space; small, spiral-bound notebooks made me feel claustrophobic.

I would start off most entries by complaining about the tough things I was going through: the MRI that showed more affected lymph nodes, the looming surgical dates, the embarrassment I felt over my scars and feeling different from my peers. But as I wrote, I began sharing happier things: what my friends and I had laughed about at lunch, a test I’d done well on, the fun music we were playing in band. Gradually, a pattern emerged. I’d sit down with my markers, ready to pour my darkest thoughts and fears onto the paper, but in the process, those thoughts became lighter and more hopeful. [Read more…]