Monday, September 22, 2008


© Susan Wingate 2008 all rights reserved

Last night I was up at 1:30 a.m. working. That’s the way it goes. You wake up with a drumming idea banging at the side of your skull, one that won’t let up. So, you get up and click on the computer. It’s comforting somehow, that glaring blue-white ray emanating from the throbbing monitor. This usually happens when I’m involved in a story and rarely happens when I’m not. Why write then? Why suffer tormented sleepless nights and logy days? Why burn out your retinas finding that perfect lexicon, that perfect phrase? Because writers must – that’s why. It’s our passion and we can do nothing about it nor would we, if we could.

And what am I writing that wakes me in the wee hours of the morning? Well, of late, my writing examines the odd and often volatile relationships of women. In each of my three novels, (BOBBY’S DINER is my latest release), women have been forefront at the heart of each novel’s conflict. Recently, my interests about women-in-conflict have led me to writing about that conflict. I can say that, in my thirteenth year of writing professionally, women’s fiction is my writing niche.

“Oh sure!” I hear you say. “But, how does one find their writing niche?” That’s an important question, a question I hope to answer in three different ways.

Find Your Niche #1 – Analyze the different writing genres.
You can find many resources for writing genres (and subgenres) by going to different writing websites, online bookstores and, if you’re involved with any, writing associations may list the various genres on their websites. As a member of the Romance Writers of America, I have a full-blown website available to me at my fingertips. The RWA website lists not only the various genres of romance books but also subgenres.

Print and online resources such as the WRITER’S MARKET (Writer’s Digest Books, an imprint of F+W Publications, Inc.), provide a host of publishing opportunities but they also list each genre category for fiction as well as nonfiction. It’s a great tool – one that no writer should be without. Plus! The Writer’s Market online guide is a screaming deal for around $30 a year. That’s cheap, folks. It’s well worth the extra money spent to find publishers who publish in your genre and at your fingertips.

Find Your Niche #2 – Know the genres of the books you like to read.
Nine times out of ten, people who read in one specific genre, write in that genre as well. Examine the books you enjoy and ask yourself why you enjoy them. Parse out the way an author develops her story. Break down the stories she writes into the parts found in every book – the beginning, the middle and the end. Map each moment of conflict – different genres normally settle into different plot structures.

A great tool for understanding key elements of different plots is a book called, 20 MASTER PLOTS: AND HOW TO BUILD THEM by Ronald Tobias. He not only lists the plots but he provides a handy checklist after discussing each plot.

Find Your Niche #3 – Find a reliable group of readers.
As a writer, by now you should be putting your work in front of other eyes. And, I’m not just talking about your husband and your children. No, I’m talking about people you know who read a lot. Are you involved in a book club? If you are, ask one of those folks to read your work. Make sure the person you choose is someone whose opinion you value. Ask them to answer specific questions about your work – like “does my main character feel fully-developed” and, “what genre do you think this book would fall into?” You don’t really need more than three readers.

People you know are a wealth of help when it comes to your writing. Getting feedback from readers is a crucial step for writing your novel. Their responses will allow you to understand how a larger populace might respond to your story. Plus, more often than not, they like being involved at the early stages of the book. And, by all means, add your readers to your acknowledgments. Because, when the day comes and that special publisher says, “We’re sending you our standard book contract.” You’ll be ready to thank your readers properly.

Your writing niche is part and parcel to the publisher with whom you will market your book. I’m not going to submit my work fully aware that I write women’s fiction to a book publisher who publishes paranormal horror stories. That may sound obvious but you would be amazed how many writers blindly submit to publishers who just dump their submissions into recycle because they don’t publish the writer’s genre. It’s as ridiculous as submitting fiction to a nonfiction publisher. You’ll be wasting your time submitting and wasting the publisher’s time reading.

Understanding your writing genre can get your book published faster than not. Take the time to do your research. For goodness sake, you’ve spent how long writing your book? The least you can do is spend some quality time researching publishers who publish to the market in which your book was written. Be smart. Know your writing genre.
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Susan Wingate, novelist, poet and playwright, received a BS in Accounting from AZ State University. Wingate brings a rare and diverse background to her creative writing. Presently, she lives in Washington State and writes full time. Wingate has written three novels. Her second book, BOBBY’S DINER, just received a book contract with and will be released in the fall of 2008. Her short story, THE LION OF JUDAH, received 1st place honor (a monetary award and publication) in the August 2008 Fantasy Gazetteer Short Story Contest. One of her most recent accomplishments comes on the heels of completing her third novel, THE LAST MAHARAJAN, with an excerpt selected for publication in literary journal the Superstition Review, an ASU press publication. She is a contributing writer for several magazines. Since the 2007 publication of her mystery novel, Of the Law, Wingate has kept busy teaching at writing workshops and at her studio. Her short stories and poems consistently receive awards and articles can be found in many magazines, journals and reviews. Wingate publishes an online newsletter called, Sincerely, Susan which has a readership of close to one thousand subscribers. She is also a co-founder of the San Juan Island Creative Women's Group. Currently, she organizes a series of reading events for her local library. These events spotlight the community’s writers and provide a wonderful venue in which to hear their work. For hobbies, Wingate likes to read and paint.

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Marta Stephens said...

Great advice, Susan. I've always loved a good mystery/suspense so when I made the decision to write, I didn't have to think twice about the genre.

Thanks for stopping by MB4!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Well said, Susan! And so true. I've been a mystery buff since a child, and never doubted that I'd some day write a series. Or two. LOL. Thanks for stopping by as our guest blogger today!

Helen Ginger said...

So true, Susan. You write what you read. And if you ever think about writing something else, you should read, read, read in that genre before you try to write it.