If you’ve been writing at all in the past century, you’ve probably heard this advice more than a few times, and it applies to every kind of writing. In fiction, it’s easier to set up a world you’re familiar with than one you have to either research or create. In other words, if you’re from New York City, it’ll be easier for you to write about New York City than it will be if you’re from LA. Now, that’s not to say you can’t write about something you don’t know, or won’t be able to bring it to life. It’s just that it’s easier to write authentically about things you authentically know.
In non-fiction – particularly article writing – it’s a good thing to develop a ‘niche.’ That’s why, if you study resumes of freelancers, or bios in magazines, you’ll see things like “Jane D. Writer is a bioethics specialist and has published in Scientific American, Popular Mechanics and Discovery Magazine.” If you’re an editor reading a pitch, chances are you’re going to feel more confident with a writer who has the background, contacts and experience to handle a complicated story within a given field; more so if s/he’s already been published in similar magazines, or written similar articles. The point is, you always want to build on what you’ve done, and sometimes the best way to do that is to start with what you know and/or what you enjoy.
Frankly, while conceptually I am intrigued by bioethics, and occasionally I like to read articles about the subject, I really have no interest in writing about it. Being a good writer, I probably could. And if someone came to me tomorrow and told me they’d pay me a bundle of money to write an article about it, I’d be able to. I’m good at research. I’m intrepid when it comes to contacting experts from out of the blue and asking them questions. I’m a smart writer, so I can figure things out and explain them in the best possible way given the target audience.
However, as much as I could write that story, it’s not something I want to do. It doesn’t inspire me, doesn’t interest me enough to want to delve into it as deeply as I’d have to in order to write a high-quality article on the subject, and the amount of effort it would take me would be twice that of someone already engaged in and connected to the field. So why bother?
In fact, I do have some of my own ‘niches.’ I love romance novels, so I’ve leveraged that into a small writing gig with a big literary review site (thanks in part to my columns here). My own small business provides newsletter and blog copy for small businesses, which is where my understanding of ‘voice’ and my eclectic interests — as well as all those other strengths I mentioned above — really come in handy.
So consider – what do you want to write? What do you like to write? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Be scrupulously honest with yourself and start there. Then brainstorm and develop story ideas and ways to break into even a small market that caters to the things that interest you most, or you have a strong background in — personally or professionally. Once you’ve done that, you have a clip — and you’re on your way.
Then remember, always ~ be polite, be accountable and do good work.[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://howtowriteshop.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/bobbiColumn.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Bobbi Dumas loves good writing. Of all kinds. She also loves romance, a mesmerizing story and the company of friends. When she’s not in the virtual world or one of her own making, she can usually be found in Madison, WI with her husband, two boys, and a clan of great writers she feels grateful and honored to know (some of whom you get to meet here, too). Lucky you! [/author_info] [/author]