Forget about Niche Writing
Writers, especially budding writers, are often advised to write about what they know. The Internet is peppered with this guidance, that writers should opt to write about what they know best, or are familiar with.
In fact, I gave the same tip to aspiring or budding writers in this blog and in my Facebook group. But take note of the operative words here, the adjectives for the noun writer – aspiring and budding.
These two words describing a writer could only refer to someone who aims to pursue writing as a profession, or one who is in the early stages of writing as a career.
The target readers in my Facebook group and this blog, where I do not sell anything but, instead, just share practical writing tips, are – you guessed it – aspiring and budding writers.
And guess again: I will not advise an aspirant or someone who has just started to wield his or her pen from outside the bud to go niche.
Going niche, or writing about a specific topic, which a writer deems to be his or her field of expertise, is another advice I see a lot of on the Internet.
It makes sense, somehow.
This is one tip, however, that I will not suggest to writers who are past the aspiring or budding stage.
Writing about what you know does not equate with niche writing.
For a start, an aspiring writer or anyone for that matter surely knows more than one thing.
It could be about broken hearts, happy hearts, broken homes, happy homes, life as an unwanted child. Or perhaps when is the best time to avail discounted pastries in your favorite bakeshop? Or maybe how to raise pigs?
Surely, there are offshoots to these few things in which an aspirant can explore in his/her writings. (Ask me how if you’re curious.)
Writers past the budding stage should be able to write about almost anything.
Let me digress a bit. I want to assure you that contrary to the pedestrian saying –
writers who know write, writers who don’t teach – I do know some things about writing. I have over three decades of experience (as writer and editor), and what I share are culled from this wealth of experience.
So how does one write about almost anything?
The so-called secret sauce is not actually a secret.
It just involves harder, more concentrated work which, if you are a dedicated writer, will not be that strenuous. You should have been doing these things already, as follows:
- Reading anything, even if you’re not interested in the subjects
- Listening to everything, even if you feel the topics are boring to you
- Observing everything around you, as far as your eyes can see, as far as your ears can hear, and beyond what you currently understand (for further research later)
- Exploring places physically, not only doing armchair travels
- Doing further research and thoroughly analysing the things you have read, heard, and observed.
Let me illustrate to give context to the above:
Many years ago before the advent of the Internet, I wrote a weekly astrology column for True Horoscope Comics-Magazine for Atlas Publishing in Manila.
While I was, still am, interested in astrology, I had only read at that time a few articles about it.
But when I accepted the assignment, you could not imagine the number of astrology books I read with full focus, the astrology tutoring I underwent with a special mentor, how I observed people (kin, friends, acquaintances) all the time to determine what their astrological sign was. I needed to evaluate them to check if what I had learned, at that point, were accurate.
My head was a bedlam of information on astrology that I analysed, organized and wrote for my weekly column. It was not easy. But my determination to learn saw me through. My column ran for two years until I requested the editor to assign someone else to handle it.
Or when I did a women’s column, double-spread, for Mariposa Weekly Magazine (Roces family publishers, also in Manila). As there was no Internet and no search engines then, I relied heavily on print media (newspapers, magazines, and books) for references on make-up, fashion, beauty regimens, women’s health, nutrition, pre- and post-natal exercises, and the like. I also did informal interviews with experts to confirm the data, if and when necessary, I would share to my readers.
Books and reading materials, plus newspaper cuttings were all over my house, including the kitchen, the bathroom and – no kidding – the toilets. I was forever reading and learning to be able to write about almost anything, even on topics I had no interest in.
I could cite other concrete examples, but you get the picture.
Suffice it to say that aside from doing columns on advice, matchmaking, human interest, women’s concerns, I also wrote romance novels, stories for children, about ghosts, love, drama, horror; wrote grammar books and business reports, ghosted for academic compositions. I’ve done almost the whole enchilada of fiction and non-fiction writing.
Don’t think of this as a cheap boast. Oh, please, don’t. I just wanted to share the things I learned over many years.
Many other writers, especially the famous ones, will have different experiences and pieces of advice to give and share. Those would and could be more practical and more promising towards achieving success. They should be listened to; their advice could be the magic ingredient that will lead to a brilliant writing career.
Meanwhile, once you have passed your budding-writer stage, when the petals in the bud start to open, work harder in absorbing new knowledge and novel ideas from all available sources while writing about the things you are most familiar with.
Forget about niche writing. Don’t limit your learning, your competencies and potentials.
Reach for the top. Aim for the ideal, that of being able to write about almost anything.
First published here.