Have You Found Your Writing Specialty?

Sunday, January 13, 2013
My 1988 copy of Phyllis A. Whitney's
wonderful "Guide to Fiction Writing."
Credit | E. Humphrey
In the introduction to Guide to Fiction Writing, Phyllis A. Whitney writes that "When we start out as writers we need to explore our own talents. We can't possibly know where we will write most comfortably until we've followed various leads." Whitney writes that after writing about 300 short stories (with 100 published!) did she realize she needed "the book length to move around in did I begin to be happier as a writer." She continued to make a living writing, but had not found her specialty: romantic suspense.

As I finished one client's work during the holidays, I realized how much I enjoy writing. But I also realized I need to find my own specialty. The project was something I wanted to do well with...but it was difficulty for me to shine in its writing. This one particular client's assignment was painful for me and it made me start thinking about my writing as a whole.

Whitney begins her book by countering Joanne Greenberg's belief that "writers can be divided into two categories:  those who are 'venturesome' and those who are 'consistent.'" Whitney's romantic suspense fits both categories, which she believes helps to attract readers.

As the year progresses, I've vowed to become more devoted to my own writing and less to the client work that sucks the life from my writing. I've followed a lot of leads. I still love writing nonfiction. I have my eye on a work-in-progress novel. But perhaps this is my year for discovering my specialty. And maybe it isn't something I've tried yet.

What about you? Do you know what your writing specialty is? How long did it take you to discover it? How did you do it?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a North Carolina-based writer and editor. Still searching for a specialty, in 2012, Elizabeth completed a certificate in technical and professional writing.


Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, this is such a relevent topic for me and something I gave a lot of thought to last year. I'm still figuring it all out but getting closer. Interestingly, I spent a lot of time on a project that taught me what I didn't want to pursue. All valuable information.

Stephanie said...

I work as a staff writer and a columnist for a local weekly newspaper. My first magazine article will be published in a regional travel magazine this spring, as will a nonfiction essay in an anthology. My heart is in everything I write; I would dare say that I have more than one specialty. I write suspense novellas, too, but so far I have not had much success. If I have learned anything, it is to continue doing what makes me happy.

Mary Anne Benedetto said...

I chuckled when this post arrived in my email. I am the proud owner of that same book, which is only one of MANY on the craft of writing that I have collected over the years.

I write nonfiction and Christian fiction/romance, and one issue I constantly struggle with is having a multitude of ideas stored in my head and scribbled on various scraps of paper. Although I currently have four main projects in various stages of completion, there are others waiting in line for their turn at being the focus of my affection.

Life erects gigantic roadblocks to our writing time. People need us, want our undivided attention, circumstances interrupt us. Don't we selfishly wish we could take one solid month with no extraneous demands or distractions, rent a house or condo by the sea, and simply write?

Sometimes I wonder if I will actually live long enough to see each project that is partially knit together in my brain through to finalization!

Nothing makes my heart happier than having a block of time to sink my teeth into a writing project and then the reward of hearing someone say, "I loved your book" or "Your book inspired me to..." It's what we do because we are driven to educate, entertain, and inspire.

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