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Flash Fiction Contest!

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“Find your niche,” beginning writers are often urged.

It can be satisfying to find your niche in the writing market. But isn’t there a danger you’ll become a little too comfortable; a little too complacent? It’s arguably more profitable to work outside your comfort zone and become a multi-talented writer.

My aim has always been to emulate one of those many-bladed Swiss Army knives coveted by schoolboys. Versatility is essential when you're short on expertise. And humor is a key that will unlock the door to otherwise inaccessible markets. A humorous take on everyday events can form the basis for numerous saleable articles. A good memory for anecdotal material dating back to your earliest childhood is also useful.

Never turn down any money-making idea out-of-hand. Stop regarding yourself merely as a novelist, poet, reporter, or copywriter. If you're serious about wanting to make money from writing you must be multi-disciplined.

Every day we're bombarded with the written word. It pours through our mailbox in the form of junk mail. It jams and spams our computers and blares out of our radio and television sets. That's just the stuff that's thrown at us. What about the newspapers, books and magazines we buy and the websites that we visit of our own volition? What about the library books we borrow willingly?

There are a lot of words in circulation out there, and people are getting paid for stringing them together. Why shouldn't you be one of them?

“Never turn down any money-making
idea out-of-hand.”

If you're hungry enough for success, you'll find fresh markets in unlikely places. Keep your options open and provide a comprehensive service. Everyone you meet is a potential client. Listen to the people’s needs. They might want someone to compose business letters, write press releases for them or appraise their own writing.

Has your new acquaintance been roped in to make a speech at a wedding or retirement function? If he's nervous, offer to write his script for a fee.

Do you know a businessman who is preparing to deliver a presentation to colleagues? Offer to give it a professional polish, preferably punctuated with one-liners that will reveal him to be the soul of wit.

Perhaps you have a talent for light verse. Set yourself up in the business of writing personalized greetings for special occasions.

“Once you start listing them, the topics
you know a little about seem endless.”

Visit websites that cater to your personal interests. Can you write better content? Of course you can if you put your mind to it. Click on the submission guidelines.

Perhaps you have a specific area of writing expertise. Produce a booklet or e-book for aspiring writers and market it.

If you see a gap in the market, fill it. Better yet, seek it out. An inquiring mind, a positive approach and the confidence to push yourself forward are all the marketing skills you need.

Take stock of your life and prepare to push out the boundaries of what you think you can write about. For instance, if you have children, you probably know more than many people about parenting. If you have pets, you know as much as most people about animal welfare.

Perhaps you kissed a lot of frogs before eventually finding your prince. So you must have all the knowledge you need to write serious articles on relationships. Possibly your experiences will lend themselves to the basis for a romantic novel or short stories.

Have you spent years of your life as a homemaker? Then you can write about the joys of being a stay-at-home mom or the frustrations of living your life between four walls. And years of cooking for a family qualify you as an expert cook/food writer.

“If you see a gap in the market, fill it.
Better yet, seek it out.”

Do you juggle home and career? Then you either have some tips to share on how to succeed or you can write about the seemingly impossible task you confront on a daily basis. Some publications love angst.

Do you have any hobbies? Enthusiasm is infectious and the magic ingredient that will sell your work. Uncover a unique approach to embroidery, antique collecting, carpentry or gardening and you’ll have editors eating out of your hand.

Have you overcome a serious illness or helped a close friend or relative through a tough time? Editors of some of the better known anthologies, such as Cup of Comfort or Chicken Soup for the Soul tend to love strong human interest stories.

Freelance means mercenary. Be as mercenary as you darn well please and use your friends and relatives. Cut them up and recycle them as fictional characters. They can’t touch you for it.

Do you have a famous ancestor? Write about him or her for a family history magazine. Describe how you dug him up, figuratively speaking.

Do you live in an area renowned for its tourist attractions? It may be home to you but to many other people it’s “abroad”. Articles about your home town can be submitted as travel/tourist articles to travel markets. Take the dog for a walk around your neck of the woods. You may learn something new about your area and your dog will love you for it.

Does your regional tourist board need people with local knowledge to contribute to guide books or promotional material? Inquire – you may land some lucrative work.

Once you start listing them, the topics you know a little about seem endless. But each topic can be approached from a number of different angles. For example, one subject could be the basis for an article or series of articles. Perhaps the same idea could also be the springboard for a novel. It could then be turned into a short story or abridged still further for a flash fiction piece. Or you could start at the other end of the spectrum with flash fiction and expand it through short stories to the novel form.

Why not try expressing your original idea in verse? Experiment with various poetic forms, ranging from free verse to haiku.  

Now you can see you know a lot more than you ever realized. What’s more, you’ve discovered how you can put that knowledge to profitable use. In other words, you’re just like one of those multi-bladed knives. You see that blade there with the pointy end? It’s for helping this little old lady across the road to the bank.


Mary Cook is a UK-based freelance writer and former newspaper reporter. Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in numerous publications, both in print and online. For a number of years she was an overseas correspondent for the Tokyo-based Hiragana Times, as well as a spoof agony aunt for an adult newspaper. Her main writing interests are humor, horror, self-sufficient living, and the craft of writing. Her e-books, Top Tips to Enjoy Your Retirement and Top Tips to Please Your Partner are available at


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