"Snippet" -- a small piece or brief extract
I've been talking with a CP (critique partner) this week about finding our "niche" -- what kind of author do we want to be? "Author branding" is a big buzz word these days. I'm no expert on either of these things. But as an enneagram 4, knowing myself is important. As a faith writer, knowing my values are paramount. And, having been around the sun 54 times and married for 32, I guess I have some wisdom to offer. Since coming to the writing community, I realize more and more the importance of "knowing ourselves" I believe this is one of the keys to finding our "niche" or our "author brand". Every year when I apply for the PBChat mentorship, one of the questions is: what kind of stories do you want to be known for? What do you want to put on the shelves? What do you want people to remember about you as an author? These type of questions can help us identify who we are as writers -- and who we want to be, what legacy we hope to leave behind. If they are difficult for you to answer, maybe some of these strategies will help.
These suggestions are not a course in creating your brand or even finding your niche. They are simply exercises that may help you to that end.
Recently, I watched a webinar about writing for the educational market, and one of the things they recommended was to make lists of things that really interest you -- things you know about, things you're good at. Think about your job, your hobbies, your trainings, what TV channels you enjoy watching, what sports you participate in, what instruments you play, etc.
Another training I attended early on (I think the speaker was discussing writing about what you know) talked about creating a list of all the things you know, love, are trained in, have experience with, etc. Still another (Joana Pastro during StoryStorm: Here's the link: https://taralazar.com/2021/01/13/storystorm-2021-day-13/) recommended making lists: festivals/celebrations, music, dances, clothing/accessories, food/dishes, places, people, sports/entertainment, aspects of nature, etc. that you have experienced or know about. Someone along the way recommended keeping a running notebook/document of childhood memories AND their feelings to incorporate into your writing. While all of those are brainstorming tools, I think they also give you a window into yourself and your experiences that might help you identify your niche. Now that I have over 40 manuscripts (at least rough draft or further along), I'm definitely starting to see some patterns of those things I love showing up: music, nature, animals, and lots of stories based on my childhood memories.
Reflect on your jobs/trainings/hobbies/experiences/childhood memories/family history/faith and spiritual values, etc. One version of that exercise is to create a page in your journal/notebook called 100 Things I Love. That may help you narrow it down as well. It's always a good exercise. It's great for brainstorming, when you're stuck and need something to write about. It's great for identifying those things that really matter to you. Perhaps 100 seems like a lot. If so, you don't have to do it all at one sitting. Keep it near your workspace, and keep working on it until you're up to 100! I tried to think about these questions as I made mine:
1. What are the most important things to me? (Quickly I filled in friends, family, our cats [fur babies], God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Church, Bible, music, reading, writing and books.)
2. What would I miss the most if it disappeared from my life? (Here I added things like playing trumpet, singing, prayer, etc.)
3. When I think of having a really good day, what comes to mind? (For me, this meant sleeping in/waking naturally to bird song, pajamas [or other comfy clothes], reading, writing, worship, nature, etc.)
4. What are some hobbies/activities that are important to me? (Music, playing trumpet, singing, cooking, reading, writing, etc.)
5. What are some things that have enriched my life? (Twitter kidlit, picture books, worship, , being included/belonging, etc.)
6. What things do I find fun or relaxing? (sleeping in, singing, looking at the stars, hanging out in a hammock, listening to wind chimes, twinkling lights, playing in the water, camping, walking on the beach, etc., etc.)
7. What are some foods that I particularly enjoy? (cheesecake, food boards, ice cream, pineapple upside down cake, s'mores, etc.)
8. What are some sensory experiences that I love? (warm blankets, cool breezes, moonlight, firelight, wind chimes, snuggling, misty rain, twinkling lights . . .)
9. If I have nothing I HAVE to do, what will I choose to do? (reading, writing, cooking, sleeping late, etc.)
10. What do I MOST enjoy about what I do for a living? (teaching, singing, dancing, music)
Etc., etc., etc.
Where would you travel?
What do you most like to wear?
What are your favorite colors?
By the time you actually get to 100, you'll probably think of quite a few more and be disappointed by what you left off. You could always start another one :-). These are great places to start when you need to brainstorm for a new story or a blog post. It also really helps you identify who you are at the core. What matters most? Your values show up in some way of other. Here's my current one:
If 100 is too much for you to think about, here's a link for a template for 50 Things I Love -- perfect to get you started (or if you're a teacher --a great way to teach your students how to find some things to write about):
If you'd like to find out your personality type using Jungian-style quiz (MBPTS/ Myers-Briggs, etc), you can do that here: https://www.16personalities.com/
This site is full of lots of resources for understanding yourself better. (There are lots of other sites that have free quizzes and resources as well; this is simply one I'm sharing.)
If you're not familiar with the enneagram and would like to see where you fall on that spectrum, you can find out here: https://enneagram.bz/en (Again, there are lots of sites that have free quizzes and resources for the enneagram too; I'm sharing one for simplicity's sake.
Knowing yourself in these ways: your personality, how you process the world, how you function in the workplace, your innermost dreams, goals, etc. can help you become a better writer in many ways. Hopefully one way they are beneficial is to help you begin to identify your niche and/or begin to think about your author brand by knowing the things that are most important to you.
Good luck as you seek to identify yourself and find your place in the writing community! If I can help in any way, please feel free to reach out!
I've been a teacher of K-3 students for over 20 years; I'm also a writer of poems, short stories, devotionals and picture books. I'm wife to an amazing husband and mom to Sparkles, Mocha, and Rusty -- our feline fur babies . I love reading, writing, singing and listening to music. I enjoy nature, Bible study and spending time with friends and family!
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