If you’re writing nonfiction, you’re probably trying to zero in on a category or topic that you’d like to write about and be known for. You’re trying to find your focus.
If you haven’t already been exploring the possibilities by writing blog posts or articles, you’ve probably had some inkling. If not, look for clues.
When you’re leafing through a magazine, what articles catch your eye? What do you rip out and stick in a folder? When you’re skimming your Twitter or Facebook feed, what do you retweet or share? What do you save to Pocket or Evernote?
What Topics Fascinate, Captivate, or Energize You?
Make a list of those fascinating, captivating, energizing topics—the ones you return to again and again.
Once you’ve identified those topics or categories, you have some choices. For example, do you see a common thread that ties them together? If so, see if you can create an umbrella under which they can fall.
Lifestyle bloggers do this, where under that “umbrella” they have categories on their website—buttons or tabs to click on—for things like “travel,” “health,” “style” and “photography.” A mom-blogger “umbrella” might have these for “recipes,” “crafts, “money-saving tips” and “organization.” It all depends on the things you love and want to write about—the things that fascinate, captivate, and energize you.
Narrow Your Categories
A couple of things may help you at this point.
First, as much as possible, consider narrowing down—or “niche-ing down,” as they say—to stand out in a crowded online world. You can try to enter the lifestyle blogger world, but by narrowing, you’ll make it easier for people to find you and your focused topic.
You can narrow by the audience or reader you find yourself drawn to—or the readers drawn to you already if you’re out there writing now.
Or, you can narrow the topic to a subtopic and focus on that.
For example, instead of “travel,” which is a big, crowded category, maybe you focus on frugal travel tips—that’s narrowing the kind of travel, but even that’s kind of a big category. How about frugal travel tips for young families? That’s narrowing the target audience. You could mix and match given who you are, what you’re drawn to, and the people you want to reach.
Maybe you want to offer frugal travel trips for big families, or frugal travel tips for retirees. Or singles. Or maybe you want to focus on camping for big families. You see how you can narrow the topic and the audience or reader? That’s niche-ing down.
To illustrate how this will work to your advantage as a blogger or writer, consider this: If I want to find an article about frugal camping tips for big families, am I going to be more inclined to dig into a lifestyle blogger’s website that has high-end photography tips and craft beer recommendations as well as three or four camping articles under their broad “travel” category?
Or am I going to spend some time digging into the resources I find at a blog offering all kinds of camping tips for big families? Chances are, I’m going to bookmark that second website and return to it. I’m going to pin their stuff on Pinterest and share it on Twitter.
That’s the power of narrowing or niche-ing down—the people who need that specific information, and the people who care about a certain subject or the people who are captivated by certain types of stories, will come to you: the one writing exclusively about it.
If You’re Feeling Constrained
A frustration I’ve heard is that this narrowing feels constraining to some writers. It’s like I’m asking you to be a bookseller crammed into a tiny rented space squeezed in next to a barber shop with barely enough room to sell just one category of books, like mysteries. But you do it. You’re fascinated with mysteries, so you limit yourself and get to know mysteries really well and put them on the shelves that line your tiny space.
But you’re fascinated and captivated by all kinds of books. You don’t really want to be limited by mysteries. Your desire is to offer every kind of book under the sun and you really want to take over the abandoned Border’s bookstore down the road and fill every shelf! You want to sell all the books!
As a writer, in this analogy, you want to write all the things. You don’t want to narrow your writing to just a few things or one thing.
Listen, you can write lots of things. But maybe you won’t write all the things at your blog. You can write caregiving articles for magazines and submit short stories to literary journals, but then at your blog, depending on the kind of writing you do, you can specialize to find readers who are fascinated, captivated, and energized by one of the same things you are.
Find Freedom in Specializing
Back to that analogy, if I’m a reader and I want to find some great mysteries, I’ll probably go to that little bookstore squeezed in next to the barber shop, because that bookseller knows everything there is to know about mysteries. He’s going to introduce me to some old mystery writer I didn’t even know about as well as a new author just released by an indie publisher; whereas, the giant bookstore offering all the things probably has nothing more than a little section marked “mysteries,” and the person on staff points me in that general direction. I’ll browse the shelves but the selection is limited and no one will talk excitedly about mysteries with me, and there’s nothing in that giant space I couldn’t have found on my own.
So, consider what you can offer readers if you narrow your focus and your categories. You’ll be the person to talk excitedly about your topic with the reader who finds you. You’ll offer incredible resources pointing to ideas and books and stories and solutions you never would have had time to dig for if you were writing about five big categories all at once.
Be the little bookseller next to the barber shop and the people who need you will find you. Because there’s no one else in town providing the depth of what you’re offering.
You don’t have to write about everything in the whole world for everyone in the whole world.
There’s freedom in that for you as a writer and blogger, and gifts in that for the reader who finds you and builds a relationship with you. Those readers get to know you for one main topic. They grow to really like you and your style, and turn to you as a trusted resource.
So let’s say you found a little place to rent squeezed in next to the barber shop downtown. Of all the things that fascinate, captivate, and energize you, what are you going to settle on? What’s your specialty? What are you going to set on those shelves?
Next week we’ll try out one practical way to confirm you’ve landed on the right topic for you—the right specialty.
Click on the podcast player above or use subscription options below to listen to the full episode.
- #73: Your Writing Platform – No Need to Be a Wandering Troubadour
- #72: Don’t Miss This Platform-Building Opportunity (like I did)
- How to Find Your Blog’s Niche + Focus (Melyssa Griffin)
- Your Writing Platform episode collection
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