Genre Niche Needed

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“Finding Your Niche in a Christian Genre

In both Christian and secular publishing there are different genres. Whether you are an experienced or novice Christian writer, your story will integrate within a particular genre. Therefore, every writer must ask, what is my writing niche and where does it fall in the realms of the various genres?

Your book will be classified under a specific type of category — or genre. A niche takes what you do — your uniqueness, insight, or experience — on a topic one step further, differentiating your writing from other authors within your genre. The journey towards discovering your niche may lead your writing through various avenues but the end result will prove rewarding for you and your writing. Begin by evaluating your own experiences and interests. Then, look inward to evaluate the following writing opportunities:

  • My Writing Life: What do I want to write? Is there a common theme among my writing topics? Do I hold special knowledge or insight into a particular topic? Do I have to/need to write?
  • Nonfiction vs. Fiction: Do I prefer the exploration of ideas or specific facts? Would I rather tell stories or research facts? Am I led by imagination or do I need structure and organization? Do I prefer to create my own truth through my story and characters or present the truth from interviews and studies?
  • Audience: What targeted age group am I most comfortable with? Am I motivated to inspire or to teach? Where do I envision my book in a bookstore? Who do I envision reading an excerpt from my book to?

Defining your niche begins with knowing you. Understand your own writing and style while exploring what it is that makes you different from other Christian writers within your same genre. Recognize the unique positioning in which you can hold an exclusive advantage to. Here is where you will discover your writing voice — your story and your niche.

Once your niche has been defined, study it. Read the works of other writers in your genre and examine the similarities. Your comparison will help you lay out the varying elements of Christian-based works and better understand your position as an author.

Focus your efforts towards enhancing the niche in your book and your writing. Develop your marketing and branding strategy around your niche and create a forte to your writing. Your author blog can supplement your work with active postings regarding your book’s content, helping you to further your own insight into the topics through research.

Writing within a niche allows you to meet the needs of or appeal to a certain segment of readers. As your targeted niche audience grows, your writing profession transforms from writer to niche writer to expert, and, here is where readers, Christians and the Christian publishing industry turns to you for an outlook and inspiration.”

For more tips on writing from Westbow Press, click HERE.

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New Writers, Listen Up

[found on; by Jeff Goins]

“Getting started

  • Start small. 300 words per day is plenty. John Grisham began his writing career as a lawyer. He got up early every morning and wrote one page. You can do the same. (Need some ideas for getting started? Check out these book ideas.)
  • Have an outline. Write up a table of contents that guide you. Then break up each chapter into a few sections. Think of your book in terms of beginning, middle, and end. Anything more complicated will get you lost. If you need help, read this book: Do the Work.
  • Have a set time to work on your book every day. If you want to take a day or two off per week, schedule that as time off. Don’t just let the deadline pass. And don’t let yourself off the hook.
  • Choose a unique place to write. This needs to be different from where you do other activities. The idea is to make this a special space so that when you enter it, you’re ready to work on your project.”

For more tips from GoinsWriter, click here.

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Query Letter Help

[found on; by Max Barry]

“The Query Letter

The idea of a query letter is to take this book you’ve written, this incomparable masterpiece that took five years and destroyed your marriage, and summarize it on a single piece of paper while still leaving enough room in the margins for a publisher or agent to scribble, “Sorry, not for us.” You have to try to pitch your book in such an intriguing way that the publisher immediately writes back to you, demanding to see sample chapters (or the entire manuscript). This may sound tough to do, but in truth it’s even harder. Your query needs to stand out from the other 80 the editor is going to read that day, but avoid amateurish gimmicks, like $50 bills.

There are plenty of good web sites on how to write a query letter and approach agents/editors. Some of them are:

One thing you must do is say what sort of book you’ve written. This is what agents/editors will be scanning for when they read your letter: is it a thriller, a comedy, a rural human drama? Most writers, including me, find this very difficult to do, and tend to produce descriptions like, “It’s kind of a futuristic science-fiction comedy-come-romance set in Medieval France with a strong anti-war message.” This is why authors should be banned from describing their own novels.

So I suggest enlisting help: have your friends read your book and ask them what novels they think it’s similar to. Then at least you’ll have a rough genre to start from. Also, for practice, try to describe your book in a single, short sentence. Ask people if it sounds interesting, and rework it until it does.

This is very much personal opinion, but I think a good description often combines something common (“It’s a detective story”) with something original (“where the PI has a terminal illness”). The common part grounds the story, letting us know what ballpark it’s in. The original part shows it’s something special.

Update (May-07): If you’re interested, I’ve posted my old query letter, which I sent out while agent-hunting in 1998. It’s kinda cringe-worthy reading it now, definitely over the top, but since it worked…”

For more great info from MaxBarry, click here.

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How To Write Historical Fiction

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“…The realities of the everyday things in your chosen time period will shape what your characters can and can’t do. This will constrain your own plot choices. It’s part of the challenge and joy of writing historical fiction to share with your characters the real problems, the real world, they live in. It stretches your imagination. If you aren’t fussy about your details, if you think it’s all right to have Willem know latitude and longitude or for Maria Dolores to carry a purse, then you aren’t up to the demands of historical fiction. Your characters will not be real, your story will have no life, and you will have failed your readers. If you’re that kind of writer, you’ll have stopped reading this essay as soon as you hit the word ‘research’. But you’re that other kind of writer, the historical novelist, the one who cares. You’ll have done your mountain of research both for the love of it and for the love of your story. What to do with all those cherished, hard-won facts?

…Once you’ve created your plot, you begin to write. Knowing the realities of the small, everyday things of your time period now allows you to conjure an authenticity into Willem’s and Maria Dolores’ lives. Long skirts swept the floor. Willem knows she’s hiding in the courtyard because he sees the lines her skirts have made in the sand his sister sprinkles on the paving tiles. Maria Dolores seizes a tankard to brain him – it’s leather, not metal, and her escape attempt collapses in laughter. When a Calvinist mob, incited by Willem’s sister, bays for the blood of the Catholic woman hidden in their midst, Willem and Maria Dolores are able to escape across the ice in the harbour, for this is the time of the Little Ice Age, when broad rivers froze.

Notice that the sand on the paving tiles, the material of the tankard, the unusually cold winter, are only included because they help propel the plot. As much as you’d love to discuss the construction of the typical Dutch house or the rise of Calvinism in the Netherlands, these aren’t pertinent to the actual events in the story. It’s pertinent that the leader of the mob has skates, it’s pertinent that the gunpowder in Willem’s pistol cakes when soaked with ice-water, it’s pertinent that the woolen skirts of the time were thick and heavy enough to stop a bullet. But if a beloved fact (the wheat for their bread came from Poland) doesn’t propel the action of the story, it doesn’t belong. You’ll use less than 20% of the facts you’ve researched in the events of your story, but the other 80% filling your head will give you a heightened understanding of the period, illuminating your characters and their world for you so that what the reader sees is the distillation of your sympathetic imagination, a richness condensed….”

For more great insights about historical fiction from Caro Clarke, click HERE.

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How to Choose a Story…

 [found on; by Courtney Carpenter]

“Which Story Should I Write?

The first editing question you need to ask is, Which story do I select to turn into a whole novel? To write from start to finish?

You’re going to be spending a long time with your novel. Months. A year. In some cases more. I don’t want you to wake up twelve weeks from now and chuck all that work.

So here are a few keys to self-editing in the story selection phase:

1. GET LOTS OF IDEAS. The key to creativity is to get lots and lots of ideas, ironically without any self-editing at all, then throw out the ones you don’t want.

It’s a little like how lawyers choose juries. In reality, they don’t select jurors; they deselect them. The potential jurors who are seated in the box are drawn randomly. Then, through a questioning process called voir dire, the lawyers probe and ponder, then exercise challenges. They try to get rid of those jurors they believe will not be favorably disposed to their case.

So, too, you as a writer face your box of ideas and, through probing and pondering, toss out the ones you won’t be writing about.

But first you gather, and as you do, let your imagination run free.

2. LOOK FOR THE BIG IDEA. A novel-length story has to have a certain size to it. Not length of words, but potential for a large canvas of emotions, incidents, and high stakes.

This is something you need to feel in your writer’s spirit. Think about the novels that moved you most. What was it about them that got to you? If it was an unforgettable character, what made her so? If it was a turning, twisting plot, what were the stakes?

If it was a quieter novel, it had some simmering intensity about it.

Think on these things as you look at ideas to nurture.

3. WRITE YOUR BACK COVER COPY. There are several questions to ask yourself about your idea, but at some point you need to see if it holds together, if you can get it in a form that both excites you and will excite publishers and readers.

One of the best ways to do this is to write your own back cover copy. That’s the marketing copy on the back of the book (or on the dust jacket) that’s intended to get readers to buy it.

When you do this, concentrate on the big picture. You’ll need to write and rewrite this several times, but doing so will serve you well for the entire writing project.”

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12 Questions for Writers

[found on by Kelly Belmonte]

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” ~ Stephen King, On Writing

I cannot disagree with King on this point. I have been reading a lot and writing a lot my entire life. But only recently have I gotten “serious” about being a writer. To be clear, what I mean by “serious” is really “published” — someone whose written words are read a lot by folks who are not otherwise obligated to do so.

A big shift for me occurred when I realized I could apply my years of accumulated project management experience to my writing. I found that if I treated each written thing (whether a poem, a blog post, a technical document, or any other piece of writing) just as I would a project for a client, I’d get more traction on meeting realistic publishing goals.

This post offers a list of 12 questions that, when answered, will provide a workable project management framework for the “serious” (!) writer.

1. Who is the ideal reader (“end user”) of my piece?

If I want my words to be published, the assumption is I want someone else to read them. Communication 101: speak the same language as your audience. Even if you are thinking, “I want to write things that I want to read,” you still want to identify the key elements of what makes you tick so you can know how to find more people like you to read your stuff.

2. Who is my client?

The client is the person, group, or organization that will compensate you for your efforts, whether through money, copies, publicity, recognition, validation, connections, or something else of value to you as a writer. This is also who is going to connect you with your ideal reader. Unless you’re self-published (in which case you have a direct compensation relationship with your reader), this is usually going to be a publisher with a specific agenda, format, or type of writing they promote. It’s important to know what’s important to them. If you have a fantastic collection of sonnets, you probably don’t want to submit your chapbook to a publisher of haiku, right?

3. Who is on my team?

Writing is never just writing. There’s research. There’s first and second drafts. There’s proofreading, copy editing, content editing, and fact checking. There’s formatting, graphic design, and packaging. There’s marketing and distribution. Are you good at all of these things and (here’s the clincher) do you have the time to do them all? Do you seriously think you can edit your own words? (Guess what I think about that…) Figure out who can help you, whether for pay, barter, or goodwill. It will be worth it in the end.

4. What is the purpose of the piece?

Do you want to inspire, connect, challenge, relate, instruct, change behavior, anger, illustrate, or simply tell a darn good story? Or some combination? This is both your roadmap and your test in writing. Your purpose keeps you on track.

5. What is the scope?

This is where you describe what you think is being asked of you by your client and what you want to create for your ideal reader. Get a handle on whether you’re writing the entire history of the Great American Experiment or a day in the life of a 21st century Bostonian. Articulate for yourself (and confirm with your client, if possible) the number of words, lines, chapters, pages, required thematic and stylistic elements, and formatting constraints. Only then can you begin to map out a plan for completing your writing project.

6. What is your end state for this piece?

“As a result of my words being read, _________________ [fill in the blank].” This may be easily confused with number 4, the purpose. They are connected — one should lead to the other — but not the same. For example, if my purpose in a piece is to provide instructions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the desired end state will be “As a result… the reader will be able to make a pb&j sandwich.” If my purpose is to inspire, my end state may be, “… the reader has an ‘Ah ha’ moment.”

7. How much time will it take?

Your scope (and to some degree, your team) will provide you with a good guideline for the amount of time required (the “level of effort”) for each element. While there are some standard estimates for pages per hour, different types of writing require different levels of effort. Get to know your own pace, tracking the amount of time you spend on each project, so that estimating your time gets easier as you go along.

8. When does it need to be finished?

Even if there is no deadline or entry date, make up due dates for yourself. It will give you some basic math to work out the answer to the next question. (Due date – today’s date = number of days left to work on project.) Don’t forget to take into account time for review and editing.

9. When will I work on it?

Many writers like me have day jobs, families, friends, other interests, and need to work our writing in around an already full schedule. If I am going to be “serious” about my writing, I have to answer this in a real and manageable way. I have to recognize my priorities, logistical challenges, and areas I’m willing to sacrifice for the words. This, too, is clarifying.

10. When will I know it’s done?

This isn’t as easy to answer as it may appear on first glance, especially given the independent nature of many writing projects and the varying schedules of publishers. But this is the million-dollar “ship it” question. It can be crazy-making — there’s always just one more tweak, another review, an alternative viewpoint, a bit more white space perhaps. Will that tweak make the difference between rejection and acceptance, between runner-up and winner? You may never know. But one thing you can know for sure: if you never submit your work, you will never be published. Decide what “good enough” looks like for you.

11. How did it go?

Conduct an “after action review,” looking at your original purpose, scope, end state, and deadline. If possible (and if appropriate), engage a reader and the client in evaluating if your piece (and the process for completing it) met expectations. Listen, and learn from the gap between what you said you would do and what you actually did. This is a great opportunity to get better or to pat yourself on the back for hitting it out of the park. It’s also a constructive way to handle the inevitable disappointments that will come with writing, whether it’s negative feedback from your ideal readers, a missed deadline, or a rejection slip. Use those disappointments as fuel for the next project rather than a reason to give up.

12. Would I do it again?

Ah, there’s the rub. Would you go back to that well, that publisher, client, magazine, meta-blog site again for another opportunity to be published? It’s certainly ideal when you’ve found your niche, the exact right space where your words connect with ideal reader and are supported by an influential client-champion. But usually there’s some middle ground between lousy experience and ideal. Know your limits and your ideals. Find the opportunity in that middle ground where the good outweighs the bad.

And here’s my bonus question: Do you take yourself seriously as a writer? If the answer is yes, how many of these questions do you regularly ask yourself, and are there others that keep you moving forward on your own publishing goals?”

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Writing Articles for Newspapers and Magazines – Tips and Tricks

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“When it comes to writing for magazines and newspapers, the technique is quite different to that of writing fiction and non-fiction books, and even writing for the web. At the Boyup Brook Book Bonanza in May, I went along to a workshop on this particular subject. I picked up some useful tips which I thought I’d pass along to you.

The Opening Line

The opening line of the article must grab the reader’s attention straight away. This is no different to any other form of writing: a story must hook the reader in a very short space of time. The difference? In article writing, this hook must be the first sentence, not the second or the third.

Another crucial point here is the length of the opening sentence. The word count needs to be no more than twenty-two words for your grab line. This in itself is a challenge.

Sentence Style and Structure

Sentences need to be short in this style of writing. Similarly, paragraphs consist of only two or three sentences. There’s a lot of what they call white space in articles, a technique that’s used to break up the text, make it more appealing to read.

The Use of Quotes

An article is always more interesting to read if it includes quotes from someone with an expert opinion on the matter. But when doing this, the writer must make sure that he or she has relayed the quote accurately. It’s important to always check with the source to avoid the possibility of misquoting. This sounds like common sense, but it wouldn’t be hard to make assumptions or get a bit slack towards a deadline.


In the examples read out at the workshop, and in further research I’ve done, it seems that the rules of fiction writing go out the window in article writing. Adverbs and adjectives are scattered throughout the text, as are metaphors and similes. Whereas in fiction writing, the emphasis is on erradicating adverbs and not overusing metaphors which can distract the reader, this is not the case in composing articles.

How To Query Editors

Sending off a query to a magazine or newspaper editor is different again to querying book publishers. In the latter case, the writer must follow the publisher’s submission guidelines to the letter. This could mean submitting a query letter and a synopsis, or a cover letter, synopsis and the first three chapters, or even the full manuscript. If the guidelines aren’t followed, the publisher won’t even consider the manuscript.

When a writer is contemplating having an article published in a magazine or newspaper, the instinctive response would be to send off the article as a way of demonstrating the high quality of work. Wrong. The advice in this workshop was not to waste time and energy producing articles that might never be picked up.

So what’s the answer? Easy. Send a query letter containing the following information:

      • knowledge of the magazine’s themes and content and an idea that would suit the readership;
      • a sample of writing
      • a writer bio, outlining credentials and past publications, if any; and
      • the writer’s qualifications for being able to write the proposed article.

The sample of writing referred to in the above list ideally should be the first two lines of the article; the opening sentence (the grab line) and the first sentence of the second paragraph. This demonstrates the ability to write and write well.

Some writers might feel terrified of submitting a query without having written the article. What if the idea is accepted? Can I deliver the goods on time? But the general consensus amongst the group was that sometimes writers need that little push to fire them up.

Expect Rejection

One thing that comes up time and time again in the writing world is to expect rejection. It’s normal in this industry. The important thing is to keep on going; keep writing those query letters, researching markets, coming up with new ideas. The more a writer’s name is seen by editors, the better the chance of finally getting something accepted.

One interesting school of thought amongst writers who submit to magazines in particular, is to go outside the magazine’s themes and styles. For example, some writers have struck gold when submitting a fiction piece to a non-fiction magazine, but still following their main theme. Obviously there is some leeway here with magazine editors. If something takes their eye and it brings another angle to the magazine, they’ll snap it up.

So what’s the bottom line? Keep on trying, think laterally, and enjoy the writing experience.”

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