How to Choose Your Writing Niche in Two Easy Steps

This blog is part of a series of helpful pointers for fellow writers in the “The Six-Figure Writer” Community

A working writer must be a “Jack (or Jill) of All Trades” when it comes to their abilities. He or she must be versatile and easily adapt their craft to various writing formats in order to meet client demands. You don`t want to be a one trick pony when it comes to selling your services.

The hard part is actually choosing what your niche should be.

Often times, what we may think of as a niche is actually too broad. Or we just aren`t sure which one to choose. For example, many business-minded writers pick “marketing” as their niche. But marketing isn`t a niche; that’s far too big of a discipline with multiple sub-categories.

I too struggled with finding my niche and it cost me a lot of time and missed opportunities. I tried to position myself as knowledgeable in multiple disciplines, but by doing so I diluted my focus. After careful consideration, my niche became very clear: content marketing and strategy. That’s my niche. It’s what I specialize in. Am I well-versed in other areas outside my niche? Absolutely. I have years of copy writing experience. But with so many copywriters going after this area, why throw my name in an already overfilled hat?

So how do you go about choosing this elusive, mysterious niche?

Step one:

Begin with a candid self-audit. What are some things you are genuinely knowledgeable about? What are topics that know through and through? What do you have a lot of experience in? Do you have a unique approach or experience in a particular field that sets you apart?

The key here is to choose something where you actually have credibility. That may sound like pretty obvious advice but you would be surprised at how many people try to brand themselves as experts when they have no actual experience. It shows. How many of you have come across so-called marketing “experts” offering online courses on how to get clients, yet they don`t really have any?

Step two:

Once you have listed your strengths, ask yourself an important question: which of those topics are you genuinely passionate about? Which ones do you actually love exploring, discussing, and learning about? Case in point, I`m well read on SEO, but I would never try to promote myself as an expert on it because truthfully the subject doesn`t excite me. I`m not passionate about it.

Next, don`t choose a niche because you think it’ll make you money. If you`re not authentic about your niche, chances are you`ll never build the audience necessary to actually make any money.

Final Thought

Selecting a niche is about finding that wonderful equilibrium between passion and expertise. Seek out topics you enjoy. But also look for something that you`re knowledgeable enough about to teach others and engage with them. Let these two items be your guiding principles: passion and knowledge. 

How to be Extremely Productive by Doing Nothing

This blog is part of a series of helpful pointers for fellow writers in the “The Six-Figure Writer” Community

We live in a day and age where everything is about productivity. Increase profits, reduce costs, sleep less, work more. There’s a cultural anxiety. We buy books on time management and how to get organized. We live in a perpetually caffeinated state just to create more time in order to be more productive.

For a professional writer, productivity is determined primarily by self-governance and the ability to focus. We measure our productivity in terms of word count and pages written in a day along with the quality of what we write. Rather than live and die by the clock like most professions do, we`re slaves to document size.  

Rather than be told what to do in terms of tasks and duties, like most jobs, we writers must be in a perpetual state of creation. We have to pull words from our imagination and somehow group them together in a way that is engaging and at the very least, coherent.

Therefore, in order to create, we must make the space and time to allow ourselves to do so. As much as we may love the thrill and joy of writing, it does require mental strain to consistently conjure up words. Far too many writers hinder their creativity by not allowing themselves time to decompress. Space for yourself is needed in spite of the urge and panic of “being productive”.

That’s why it’s important you make time every day to be the opposite of productive. To do nothing mentally demanding. This even includes reading, because reading requires your brain to work. In other words, it’s necessary to be lazy.

How much time should you put into this non-activity?

30 minutes a day. 30 minutes is the optimal amount of time for your mind to decompress and recharge. Take a walk, nap, sit and watch mindless TV, browse the Internet. Just do something where your mind is on autopilot.

This seemingly wasteful time will provide two important things to optimize your writing.

1)      Give you a Break

Think of your brain like a muscle. You don`t work the same muscle, day in, day out without taking some kind of break, do you? Your brain needs brain-breaks too in order to function at its top performance level.

2)      Make You More Creative

By giving your brain needed rest, it will help you avoid writer’s fatigue and writer’s block. Practicing non-activity will also help alleviate stress, providing you separation from your work. A relaxed brain generates better quality content. 

Why I Do What I Do

I recently listened to Joe Rogan interview the very talented Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys. Several times in the Podcast, Rogan couldn’t help remarking how tremendous it was to hear someone so passionate about what they do. Auerbach adores making music. It’s in his soul. All day he long he gets to do what he loves. How great is that?

What we’re talking about here is passion. Passion is an incredible thing. Little kids have it when they play. My son has it and he’s a year and half old. How do I know this? Because when he starts playing with his “tet-tet” (his word for a train) nothing can distract him. Time seems to disappear.

Time disappears in a different way for people as they age. The exigencies of life force us to become “serious” and get a job. Jobs don’t engender passion. They’re what we have to do to participate in society. Unfortunately, if we are not careful, our passion can ebb and ebb until we are no longer in the present. We are merely fulfilling obligations. We are bereft of former passions.

I meditate every day. My instructor, Light Watkins, once taught me that after you are done repeating your mantra you should do something constructive to cool down for two minutes. I use my cool down period to say what I am grateful for. I always say to myself that I am grateful to be a writer. People have told me how refreshing it is to see someone so passionate about something that their enthusiasm feels contagious.

So why do I do what I do? Joy.

When I was a little kid, my “tet-tets” were Star Wars Action figures and G.I Joes. I loved story-telling. I used to make up elaborate tales about my toys which I would play out in real-time. That was my passion. As I got older, I planned my life so that I could continue telling stories. Like Auerbach, even if there was no paying attention, I would still do what I love. I would still write.

That’s how you know you’re passionate about something. What are you passionate about?

The Five Mistakes Fiction Writers Make and How to Avoid Them

This blog is from “FICTION IN A WEEKEND” brought to you by Alicia Dunams
— http://www.aliciadunams.com/askafictionwriter/

My answer is always this: “Yes, but it doesn’t have to be.”

Writing a novel, whether it’s a fantasy involving new worlds or a romance containing scintillating love scenes, can be a challenge. The key to not being overwhelmed when authoring your book is preparation and perseverance.

Here are five common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1 Plunging into the Actual Writing with No Outline

Take it from someone who made the mistake (more than once!) of not creating an outline, you should ALWAYS structure one before beginning any writing. The rationale is analogous to building a home. It would be foolish not to draft a blueprint before initiating construction. The same mindset applies to writing a book. “Winging it” is a recipe for disaster.

Mistake #2 Not Thinking Through the Plot at the Outset

Similar to the preparations involved in outlining, you want to know where your story is going throughout. The more you map out each chapter before writing, the better prepared you will be to tackle the actual scenes you will eventually write. A good idea is to consider which character will be in each scene, the setting, and what each character will want as well as their obstacle(s).

Mistake #3 Creating Unsympathetic or Two-Dimensional Characters

Fiction readers want to fall in love with the characters they read about in books. Even the villains. It’s crucial to take the time to make your characters’ qualities as specific as possible so they feel real. Find reasons for your audience to empathize with your creations. Give them strengths, but don’t be hesitant to make them flawed too. Perfect characters are boring.

Mistake #4 Procrastination

Once you begin writing, don’t take time off. Breaks for more than a day or two at a time are detrimental to your success. Inertia can be a powerful force. Don’t put off your writing. Even if you hate every second of it, force yourself to do a certain amount every day until the work is done. You’ll feel incredibly satisfied when your book is finally complete!

Mistake #5 Failing to Follow a Consistent Writing Schedule

This relates to #4. Establishing daily goals is key. Set a quota, such a word, page or timer count and follow through with your program no matter what. Little milestones matter to your overall mental health. So long as you feel productive, you will stay productive. Even if you don’t think your work is outstanding yet, continue to make your quota. The most important thing is to get all the ideas out of your head and onto the page. You will have plenty of time to revise the material later. Once your first draft is finished, rewrite and rewrite it until it is perfect.

Then rewrite it again.

For more information related to this topic, click here: http://www.aliciadunams.com/askafictionwriter/

5 Tips for Writing Your First Book

This blog is part of a series of helpful pointers for fellow writers in the “The Six-Figure Writer” Community

I get this question a lot: “Is it hard to write a book?” It depends on what you wish to write. Writing a novel, especially a fantasy epic involving new worlds and a rich backstory, can be challenging. Writing a non-fiction book on the other hand, may require less conceptual imagining but more time-consuming research. The key to not being overwhelmed when penning either is preparation and perseverance. Below, please find some suggestions on how to begin your first book.

1. Always Create an Outline

Take it from someone who made the mistake (more than once) of not creating an outline, you should ALWAYS create one before beginning any writing. The rationale is analogous to building a home. It would be foolish not to draft a blueprint before initiating construction. The same mindset applies to writing a book. Simply “winging it” is a mistake. You want to know exactly where your story is going. The more you map out each chapter, the better prepared you will be to actually start writing.

2. Do the Heavy-Lifting at the Outset

Similar to the preparations involved in outlining, you want to tackle the taxing mental work upfront. I suggest front-loading each project with all the difficult aspects. The more prepared you are, the more you know your material, the better off you will be down the road. You want to make all the significant content choices as early as possible in the process so you don’t end up painting yourself into a corner later by not thinking things through first.

3. Leave Room for Innovation

The flip-side to suggestions #1 and 2. Know your book’s through-line or trajectory but don’t get (unnecessarily) bogged down in the specific details. Though it’s important to be highly prepared, you want to leave room for spontaneous creative bursts. Build in some room for flexibility.

4. Don’t Give Up

Once you begin writing, don’t take breaks for more than a day or two at a time. Inertia can be a powerful force. Don’t stop writing until you’ve completed your first draft. Even if you think what you’ve typed is not ideal, don’t halt. The most important thing is to get all the ideas out of your head and onto the screen (or paper if you’re oldschool.) You will have plenty of time to revise the material later.

5. Consider a Ghost-Writer or Writing Coach

Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you get stuck. Depending on the ambitions for your project, perhaps bringing in a professional is a good idea. If the purpose of writing a book is to give your business credibility and it’s not your literary opus, then it is okay to acknowledge the fact that it was your idea, but you may need someone else to bring it to fruition.

There are many, many more tips to writing your first book. Please feel free to share yours. For more info and helpful resources, please visit the Six-Figure Writer Page.

 

3 Philosophical Concepts To Make You Look Smart

This blog is part of a series of helpful pointers for fellow writers in the “The Six-Figure Writer” Community

As a wordsmith you deal with ideas, not physical objects. A handyman, for instance, needs to know his way around a hammer. If he didn’t, you probably wouldn’t hire him to fix your door.

Likewise, a writer needs to be well-versed in concepts. It would be highly embarrassing to be in a creative meeting and not understand what’s being said. You could even lose a client if you are not well-versed on topics educated people are expected to know. Never fear, fellow writer. This primer explains three fundamental philosophical concepts to help you look smart.

1. Plato's Allegory of the Cave

Imagine a cave where prisoners are forced to work. Since birth, they have all been chained so their arms and legs are immobile. They are forced to look at a wall in front of them. Behind the prisoners is a fire. The fire casts flickering shadows on the wall. Since the prisoners have never seen the flames, only their shadows, they assume the shadows to be real. They have no concept of the greater reality: that the fire exists and that the shadows are merely images.

What Plato is trying to say is that often times, human beings mistake illusions for reality.


How might we escape such limited thinking? In the story, one of the prisoners breaks free from his chains. He looks directly at the fire. It’s so bright, the illumination hurts his eyes. But as his eyes adjust, he comes to recognize reality’s true nature: there are (often unnoticed) primary causes that create our world. This prisoner helps the others to wake up from their delusions too by leading them out of the cave and into the enlightening brightness of the sun.

One of the most insightful attempts to explain the nature of reality, this metaphor is meant to describe the limited mental state of many human beings before reaching enlightenment.

2. Mind/Body Dualism or the Ghost in the Machine Debate

Rene Descartes (famous for saying, “I think, therefore, I am”) theorized that the body and mind were two separate entities. Thoughts exist on a different plane than the physical. Modern scientists disagree. They contend the brain is the physical thing inside controlling everything. The ongoing debates centers on this: how can thoughts (immaterial things) cause material things to occur?

3. Existentialism

Existentialism concerns the search for self and the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility. Most people think that existentialism is only about moody intellectuals brooding about alienation, despair, and absurdity. However, this important movement was borne out of the angst of post-war Europe. The unifying idea is that individuals are seeking to discover who they are as they make personal choices. An existentialist believes each person must be responsible for his/her own actions without the need of laws, culture, or traditions.

For more information and helpful resources, please visit the The Six-Figure Writer Page.

“Big Magic” and the Provocative Theory of Ideas as Living Entities

Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book on inspiring creativity, Big Magic contains a startling notion. It is Gilbert’s unusual contention that ideas exist on this planet in the same way other sentient entities, such as humans, cats and bugs do. Unabashed in her assertion, Gilbert owns her words by suggesting not only does magic exist — but it exists in the same deliriously whimsical way that say, Hogwarts does.

So what are these disembodied entities Gilbert speaks of? Are they platonic ideals our earthly realm deigns to duplicate as droll but ultimately derivative facsimiles of the one true source? No. Ideas exist in the psychic sphere, beckoning us to bring them forth as physical manifestations. The only hindrance to their expression is our own creative will.

Gilbert speaks of inspiration in the same way the ancient Greeks used to talk about genius. People weren’t geniuses. They possessed a genius: an attendant inner spirit assigned to each person at birth. The modern conception of creativity usually features an individual tapping into the flow, “being in the zone.” A more alchemical, non-rational viewpoint such as Gilbert’s or even the teachings of Carlos Castaneda, would suggest that life is a lot weirder than we presently fathom. When we usher in ground-breaking concepts from the deep recesses of our unconsciousness, we are not so much plucking proto-thought forms from the Idea Tree, we are actually summoning forth ideas as beings.

Likening ideas to freewheeling Jinns evokes a kind of pleasing fairy tale aspect to the creative process. It suggests that powerful thoughts have a kind of plasticity and can flitter in and out of people’s heads, symbiotically interacting with their hosts. If the person is willing to put in the necessary time and focus towards manifesting the idea, then the entity will remain loyal, whispering in their ear sweet nothings until both the creator and the created are validated by the effort. Likewise, an idea not nourished, not lovingly wrought, will engender nothing corporeal and will assuredly dissipate into the ether before passing to the next willing collaborator.

Such unusual meditations on creativity’s nature will assuredly inflame critics eager to denounce anything smacking so highly of the suspect mystic. But even those ideas have their rightful place if we are to consider Gilbert’s provocative notion. More interesting than that old debate is the pragmatic implication. Do we dare birth heart-stopping ideas when they playfully dance on the edges of our dreams? Shall we take the lead of fearless thinkers, like Copernicus, two-stepping with alien thoughts and thus birthing our Heliocentric cosmology? Shall we shrink from the sight of wild new economic paradigms? Groundbreaking artistic forms? Divergent new modes of existing?

One last thing. Gilbert points out that what makes humans so special is our ability to be creative. Excavated works of art predate practical antiquities by thousands and thousands of years. That means the primal urge towards creativity was far more pressing than the rigors of farming and livestock domestication. We were put here to be creative. Let’s find ways to live up to that ideal.

You'll Never Guess How Many Words These Authors Type a Day

Daily word count is a daily concern for me. As a writer with my company specializing in written content, it’s my job to be prolific. If I don’t knock enough words every day, I don’t earn a living.

The good news is I have multiple ongoing projects that require my literary services. Not only do I have retainer accounts that pay me every month for content, I have been commissioned to ghost-write several books. Additionally, I am paid to coach other aspiring writers pen their own material. I’m not telling you this information to brag about how much work I’ve got lined up. I mention it to demonstrate the practical reality of a working writer juggling creativity with commerce. Ultimately, my daily output predicts how well I am managing my responsibilities to my clients.

In recent months, I have been averaging 3,000 words a day in order to not fall behind on my work schedule.

An important caveat here: When I say I write 3,000 words a day, this refers to days when I am strictly batching for writing. What does that mean?

Well, as an entrepreneur whose business is dependent on relationships, I must do many other things besides writing. I attend networking events, meet with (potential) clients, and of course, invoice and do all the boring paper work stuff. Therefore, there are “catch up” days when I do not put in 3,000 words. I may write 2,000 words on these days. Then on the days in which I batch writing, I actually write 6,000 to 8,000 words. You see how this averages out?

One more thing- when I mention these numbers, they refer to first draft-writing. The object of this practice is to figuratively vomit all my ideas onto the page so I can edit the material later. For me, the hard part when writing is always the initial draft. That’s why I try to write quickly. The fun part is editing all that goop later.

Okay, so enough about my output. Let’s look at some other authors. The idea behind supplying you these numbers is to help you see where you land on the scale of productivity. And before someone writes in to tell me it’s all about quality, not quantity, let it be known I agree.

But all those soon-to-be quality words have to come from somewhere first.

 Barbara Kingsolver: 1,000

Ernest Hemingway: 500

Jack London: 1,500

Jon Creasey: 6,000

Mark Twain: 1,400

Maya Angelou: 2,500

Norman Mailer: 3,000

R.F. Delderfield: 10,000

Stephen King: 2,000

W. Somerset Maugham: 1,000

This article first appeared on The Six-Figure Writer website. Click here for your copy of the book.

What Happens When You Stop Writing Alone

This blog is part of a series of helpful pointers for fellow writers in the “The Six-Figure Writer” Community

When you think of a WRITER what mental image comes to mind? Is it a person alone hunched over their computer typing away? Emphasis in that last sentence on the word “alone.” The archetype of a writer is an introvert. Popular depictions of writers depict a solitary individual working in isolation. Though that reality may be true for certain writers (at certain times), a strong case may be made that some of the best writing occurs in collaboration. I’d like to give you an example.

Soon after graduating my master screenwriting program, I begin collaborating with Charles D. Borg, a fellow screenwriter from Chapman University. Together, we “beat out” our story ideas, talking over every aspect of a script from theme, to dialogue, to characters. Then we wrote each screenplay together. It was an amazingly beneficial experience for both of us.

Right now, I’d like to go over some reasons why you too should consider partnering up with other writers to achieve greater levels of success.

1. Conceptual Help

Whether dreaming up a screenplay, a fictional book or a non-fictional guide, it doesn’t hurt to have someone you can bounce ideas off of. To me, the most challenging aspect of writing is creating the broad picture or concept that will eventually be captured through an outline. Having another person to discuss and figure out your big idea can be helpful. Together, you can refine and polish your approach until you feel happy with the material.

2. Real-time Responses

Charles and I wrote many comedic TV and Feature scripts together. Unlike other genres, such as drama, comedy is easily measurable based on the visceral human reaction. Essentially, I could tell if something was working if my writing partner laughed aloud. The feedback was instantaneous and helpful. Regardless if you are writing comedy, though, receiving another person’s reaction can save you time. You know right away if you are headed in the right direction or not.

3. Reduced Workload

This may sound obvious but it’s important to recognize. Being able to split the work amongst a collaborator should be one of the prime motivators of writing together. Though some writers are of the mind that it only counts if you are the only person responsible for the material, I beg to differ. There are monetary benefits of sharing the workload. You can produce more content quicker, allowing you to take on more assignments and thus earn more pay.

Author’s note: Charles D. Borg operates his own screenwriting analysis and development company @ http://www.smashtoconsulting.com/. Contact him for outstanding script coverage or to write your screenplay.  

For more information and helpful resources, please visit the The Six-Figure Writer Page.

 

  

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