Your writing platform will have a lot of elements, but it starts with you, the writer, and what you’re about or what’s your thing, your topic, your niche.
We’ve talked about establishing an online home, because you want to have a place to welcome people who are searching for your niche or your name.
When people arrive, they should have some idea of your focus. “Ah, I see that Alice Author writes about the Arts.” The visitor—whether editor or reader—won’t be surprised to find the image of a painting or a still shot of a stage production on Alice Author’s home page.
Nonfiction Ned writes about leadership. His website will offer some clues through design choices and content—maybe taking inspiration from leadership book covers or from websites like Fast Company and Entrepreneur.
Let’s say Ned decides to narrow his niche from leadership to leadership for entrepreneurs in the startup phase. That’s his niche. And Alice writes not just about the Arts in general but about introducing children and families to the Arts.
If you’re like Alice and Ned, narrowing your niche, you want to ensure you love it enough and can write enough about it without getting bored.
How will you know you’re able to sustain interest in this to write about it over the long haul?
The Temptation of Trends
Resist the urge to pick a topic because it’s trendy—it’s tempting to think If it’s working for others, I’ll increase the odds it’ll work for me, too, and I’ll find plenty of material from others to inspire and inform my own posts.
But that’s their thing. Is it really your thing? Maybe. But remember that you need to be fascinated, captivated, and energized by it now and long into the future. So just be sure before going in that direction.
The Temptation of Popular Posts
It’s also tempting to pick a category because you’ve been writing about all kinds of things for a while and happen to find some success with one topic—an article went viral or you got hundreds of comments on one particular post. This could be a clue, yes. Maybe that is pointing to your narrowed niche. But it might be a random post you wrote that happened to hit people the right way, and you would never sustain interest in it longer than a dozen posts.
If I’d made a decision about my narrowed category—my specialty, my niche—based on the popularity and response to a post or article I wrote, I’d have a blog devoted entirely to oatmeal. And while I do like oatmeal, I don’t like it that much.
Confirm Your Niche
But back to you. When you think you’ve got some narrowed topics in the running, pick one. Just one, for now. The top contender. The narrowed-down category that makes you smile because you realize you think about it all the time. You read about it all the time. You talk about it all the time.
That’s a good place to start.
Step One: List Subtopics
Make a list of subtopics related to this narrowed category. Let’s say it’s Ned’s leadership for startup entrepreneurs. He starts thinking about all the startups he’s consulted with and realizes he could write dozens of case studies, interview entrepreneurs, ask if they want to guest post. He could talk about organizational tools for startup teams, communication skills, startup statistics, recommended conferences, top leadership books. His mind goes wild as he thinks of all the subtopics he can explore.
Alice, who loves the Arts, starts thinking of how families can begin to engage with the Arts, so she lists all the museums she’s visited with her family, all the Broadway shows she’s seen, the concerts and operas she’s attended, and what she did to prepare her children to understand and appreciate it all. She looks into virtual tours she can link to and starts listing educators who might offer guest posts, courses people can sign up for online to learn about art, individuals she could interview—from actors and artists to docents and curators.
Now it’s your turn. Think about your main category—photography, camping, the Arts, science fiction, leadership, faith—and the narrowed category you’ve been thinking about.
Follow the lead of Alice and Ned: start with your already narrowed idea and think of subtopics.
Step Two: List Actual Article Ideas
When you start looking at those subtopics, a bunch of ideas for articles and blog posts are going to start popping into your head—actual articles. If your niche was the same as Alice’s, you might end up generating some working headlines like, “Your Family’s First Art Museum Visit: 10 Tips for an Inspiring Outing” or “Introduce Preteens to Opera with this Essential Playlist,” or “Intro to the Arts: Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf.’”
Go ahead. Start writing them down like we did during the 50-Headline Challenge back in May 2016, or compose a one-sentence or bullet-point description that could serve as a prompt for a blog post you can write later. Get down as many ideas as you can.
Step Three: Gauge Your Enthusiasm
As you’re thinking and writing, maybe you’ll start to slow down after 25 or 30, or maybe 50. Or maybe you’ll keep going. But let’s just say you try to imagine having to write 312 articles on this topic. You don’t have to actually record that many, but imagine if you have to eventually generate 312 specific article ideas.
Three hundred twelve.
That’s how many posts you have to write to publish content twice a week for three years: 312.
Are you thinking, “Ugh. I’m going to get so bored!”? Or, “How could I possibly generate that many ideas for this category? It’s way too narrow and restrictive!”
Or are you thinking, “I could write about this forever! I could write double that number! I could triple it! Nine hundred thirty-six articles? No problem!”
This is how you start to figure it out. This is how you confirm your niche. Could you write about it forever and not ever get bored?
If so, I think you found it.
The key is to realize you are fascinated, captivated, and energized enough by these subcategories to know you will be able to write about this 312 times and more.
I recommended this to a writer recently who said she narrowed down a niche topic, then brainstormed subtopics. She plowed through and in one sitting, listed 320 blog post ideas and still has more.
“I think I hit my well!” she said.
That’s it. Right there.
Narrow down, generate subcategories, and then churn out article ideas until you realize you’ve hit your well. When the ideas flow, you’ve confirmed that this is your niche, and you can starting building a clear, focused writing platform.
Click on the podcast player above or use subscription options below to listen to the full episode.
#50: Stop Waiting for Last-Minute Writing Inspiration (home of the 50-Headline Challenge)
- #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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