What's Your Writing IQ? Writing Fillers and Quizzes
by Marie E. Cecchini

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When was the last time you measured your writing IQ? And by IQ, I don't mean your Intelligence Quotient, I mean your Interest Quotient. As a writer, this is a very important part of yourself to keep tabs on -- mainly because your interests can increase your income. As a fifteen-year veteran of the writing world, I have published five books and too many articles to count on a wide variety of subjects. But my very favorite pieces to write have always been shorter ones that pertain to things I am most interested it. Publishers and editors call these short pieces "fillers."

Webster defines "filler" as "material used to fill extra space in a column or on a page of a newspaper or magazine." Fillers can be written for children or adults, and topics for them run the gamut from parenting, health, and weight loss, to redecorating your room, dealing with finance concerns, working with technology, and managing stress. And, as I previously mentioned, they are short articles. Also on the plus side, editorial need for fillers is constant.

You don't have to have a degree to be qualified to write fillers, though some topics may require a little research. For the most part, fillers allow you to share knowledge you already have on a specific topic, which can be anything you're interested in or experiences you have had. The bottom line is: fillers can substantially add to your writing income.

What kinds of articles qualify as fillers?

Basically, there are five types of fillers.

1. Projects - These can be adult or children's craft projects, decorating ideas for teens and adults, science experiments for children, simple woodworking projects to make or how to refinish items you already have, or even easy gardening ideas. What editors are looking for will depend on the type of magazine they publish.

2. Quizzes - These are very popular with many publications because they are popular with their readers. In a quiz you basically get your message across without lecturing. The best quizzes make readers think or laugh.

3. Recipes - The current focus on health, obesity, and staying young has brought about a surge in the need for recipes that are easy to make, healthy, fun to eat, and full of flavor. If you think your recipes fill this bill, you may just have another marketing possibility.

4. Games and Puzzles - Magazines for kids and adults alike make use of games and puzzles. What you need here are some new and different ideas, something really unique, either in content or presentation. When considering giving this area a try, it is very important to pay attention to the magazine's demographic.

5. Profiles - This topic is consistently on the needs list of children's editors, and for good reason. Editors and publishers alike, realize the need for "heroes" in the lives of both young children and teens. This type of article may profile a local youngster who has done something remarkable in the field of sports or charity, for instance. Magazines in general also look for short profiles of local experts who can share their experiences in an unusual field. Makes for interesting reading.

What kind of filler-writer might you be?

Read the following descriptions to find out what category best fits you. You may find more than one "fit" for yourself.

You may be a closet project writer if...

  1. People describe you as creative, and they know your favorite gift is a project kit.

  2. You love browsing the craft aisles in stores, even though you know you already have a half-dozen half done projects waiting at home.

  3. You use a "hands-on" approach with anything you tackle.

  4. You love to watch how-to shows, and harbor a collection of craft books.

  5. You do your best thinking and problem-solving when you are working on something with your hands - even something totally unrelated to what's on your mind.

  6. Your favorite part of the writing process is the hands-on testing of ideas to see if they actually work according to what you've envisioned.

  7. You feel readers appreciate being able to read something that's written in a clear, logical manner, and that they should be able to come away from any reading with something they can actually use, either intangible, as in an idea, concept or approach, or tangible, as in something they can wear, give as a gift, or use to decorate their homes.

You may be a closet quiz writer if...

  1. People describe you as humorous or funny, and they know your passion for things that make you laugh, like humorous cards and tee shirts.

  2. You love to read women's magazines, especially those containing quizzes, which you always take, regardless of the subject.

  3. You prefer using humor when trying to make a point because people are less likely to take a swing at you.

  4. You love to watch shows and read books or articles that invite you to look inside yourself, as you discover what category is your best "fit".

  5. You tend to not take yourself too seriously, and feel that, generally, if you keep yourself moving in a forward direction, most problems will take care of themselves.

  6. You write to surprise, delight, and enlighten readers. Your desire is to encourage them to take a break from the drama in their lives and to help them see the brighter side of life. You love to make them laugh.

You may be a closet recipe writer if...

  1. People know you are health-conscious about what you eat -- and you do love to eat.

  2. You love to collect and read all kinds of cookbooks. You also have an extensive collection of unusual kitchen gadgets, which you have either purchased on your own or received as gifts.

  3. You enjoy cooking with your kids, husband, or a friend. You love creating your own recipes, sometimes combining small parts of several existing ones to make a dish that is entirely your own.

  4. You do your best thinking when you are cooking or baking. This is how you problem-solve and deal with life's minor frustrations.

  5. You love to watch cooking shows or televised trade shows that display all the latest in kitchen appliances and gadgets.

  6. Your favorite part of the writing process is the testing of new ideas to see if they actually work "hands-on" as well as they do in your mind. You love showing readers that any task, no matter how difficult, can be broken down into clear, concise, yet simple, steps. You feel gratified, knowing that by sharing a model of efficiency, you can help readers develop a new "taste" for life.

You may be a closet game and puzzle writer if...

  1. Your approach to life tends to be analytical, which sometimes results in "eye-rolls" from your kids, and deep sighs of resignation from your peers. People know they can always please you with the gift of a new book of puzzles.

  2. You keep a stack of puzzle books and a pen (no pencil for you) next to your favorite chair in the family room, and also (sigh) in the bathroom. You love to play logic games.

  3. Your idea of fun is doing the NY Times crossword puzzle.

  4. You love the challenge of a game show or mystery novel.

  5. Your approach to problem-solving involves observing patterns and analyzing how things relate to each other.

  6. You write to make people think. You enjoy the conception of surprise endings that give readers that "Aha!" moment. You imagine them shaking their heads and wondering how they could ever have thought otherwise.

You may be a closet profile writer if...

  1. People generally label you a "social butterfly", because you will strike up a conversation with anyone, from a store clerk to the mall custodian.

  2. You have a lot of friends and you love to talk.

  3. You feel you probably would have made a good reference librarian because you love to connect people with questions with experts with answers.

  4. If you won Oprah's "dream" contest, your dream would be to meet and talk with someone you admire.

  5. You scour newspapers and magazines for articles about real people. It makes you feel warm all over to read about how they are making a difference in our world or how they have overcome a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

  6. You problem-solve by talking with others, naturally. You live by the old adage "two heads are better than one", and always consider other opinions and points of view.

  7. Your favorite part of the writing process is the learning. You love reading research material and interviewing experts on almost any topic. You think of it not only as a chance to learn, but also as an opportunity to meet new people.

So, how did you do? Where do you think you fit in? If more than half the characteristics in any one category describe you, definitely consider marketing a few short pieces. It will probably be a nice change of pace for you and you just may find yourself specializing in a new "niche". Your IQ just might help you earn a few (quite a few) extra bucks.

Find Out More...

As Easy As ABC: Writing List Articles, by Theresa O'Shea

Filling in on Fillers, by Moira Allen

Five Steps to Writing Great Quizzes, by Kelly James-Enger

Six Tips on Writing and Selling List Articles, by Kathryn Lay
Copyright © 2008 Marie E. Cecchini
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Marie E. Cecchini is the author of five books. She writes informational articles for writers, parents, teachers, and children. She also writes children's poetry and designs children's craft projects.


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