Five Unusual Places to Look for Article Ideas
by Chryselle D'Silva Dias
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Every writer knows that ideas for articles are everywhere around us. Books, websites and magazines on writing tell us to seek inspiration from our lives and the world we live in. To invite the muse, we're asked to make lists of our hobbies, life experiences and the topics we dearly want to write about.
We do all that and yet find ourselves often staring at a blank page wondering if there is anything left to write about. Stuck for inspiration and deadlines brewing, we blame it on 'writer's block'.
If you are having trouble finding ideas for an article or a nonfiction submission, here are five under-your-noses places that could spark off some much-needed brainwaves:
- Forums: Go where your target audience is and find out what it is they need to know. Web forums and message boards are two great places that new and experienced users frequent. Every kind of hobby, trade or occupation has a forum on the internet. If you are writing nonfiction, this is a ready-made breeding ground for article ideas. Forums are buzzing with activity as users post questions, find answers and seek information. They also give you insight into current topics in the field. Whatever it is you are interested in writing about, chances are that there is a forum on it.
- Editorial Calendars: If you would like to write for a certain magazine or website and are struggling for find something 'suitable' to pitch to them, get hold of their editorial calendar. Also known as the 'Advertisers Pack' or 'Media Kit', this is a goldmine of information for the freelance writer. You may think that as a writer you have no use for rate cards or ad copy deadlines, but hold on! Look beyond the prices and the page sizes. Editorial calendars and advertisers guidelines often have information on proposed themes for the year and deadlines for submissions. That gives you fertile soil to generate any ideas within their themes. If you're lucky, you may also find a detailed listing of special issues along with what they're hoping to feature. Media Packs also give you information on the publication's reader profile, what they want the magazine to represent and circulation figures. This is vital information for a freelancer and saves you a lot of money in sample copies to study a potential market.
- Search Engines: Everybody has questions, including potential readers. With the advent of websites like Yahoo! Answers (http://answers.yahoo.com), writers now have access to hundreds of possible article openings. The website has topics bundled under 'Categories', resolved and open questions, and even a 'Best of Answers'. These can all be potential leads for a story or article. For example, if you write about parenting, a quick look at the 'Resolved questions' section shows questions on childhood obesity, when to tell a child he's adopted, and dealing with toddler tantrums. That's three ideas for articles already!
- Magazine Classifieds: As freelance writers we are reminded over and over that targeted ideas work better than a random pitch to a magazine or newspaper. While you may have access to the editorial guidelines of a publication, nothing gives you better insight into readership profile than the classifieds. With advertising bringing in the bulk of the revenue, ads are always carefully targeted towards the readership. Studying the ads will always give you a good idea as to what the editor is looking for and who is reading the magazine. Ads for stair-lifts, assisted living and holiday homes in Europe will hint at senior readers who have retired and have money to spend. Magazines for an audience of young parents are likely to have advertising from fashion houses, health food brands, and child related products. Study the advertising and think about its intended audience. What kind of article would be of interest to them? Every magazine has its own unique branding. Look at the classifieds and you will be able to come up with ideas targeted to each individual publication. That's a sure-fire way of becoming an editor's favorite freelancer!
- Press releases: You may not be a PR person, but having access to press releases for your area of interest can be key to pitching regular, relevant stories. Whether your focus is local, national or international, keeping abreast of breaking news and developments is now easy with the help of websites like http://www.prweb.com. Users on the site can choose their topic of interest and specify 'keywords'. The site then collates press releases as per your keyword and emails them to you. For example, if you write about weddings, you will get a whole range of press releases from wedding companies, wedding organizers, bridal wear companies, hotels offering special honeymoon packages, travel destinations catering to newly-weds, florists and caterers. You can choose to make your search as specific or general as you like. As you can see from the above, just one keyword 'weddings' can generate a dozen or so ideas for future articles.
There you have it. The usual places are good for generating ideas. But when faced with writer's block, it helps to look beyond the box and find ideas in less obvious and frequently overlooked places.
Find Out More...
- 25 Unique Places to Find Story Ideas, by Michelle Giles
- Where Oh Where Are All the Good Article Ideas? - Patricia Fry
Copyright © 2007 Chryselle D'Silva Dias
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.
Chryselle D'Silva Dias is a UK-based freelance writer whose
print and online articles have been published in the UK, US,
and India. To see more of her work,
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