Saturday, June 7, 2014

Magazine Articles 101--Generating Ideas

So, I got another rejection delivered hot and fresh to my inbox today. Sigh….only…. about 75 to go before I break ol’ Stephen King’s record.  Trying to keep it positive. For the record, these are different things I’m sending out that are being rejected, it’s not the same thing over and over. Glad we cleared that up.

This new adventure of magazine article writing is… well, it’s maddening and fun at the same time. I thought I would write a little about the process and what I am learning as I am chugging along. Today I am going to talk about generating ideas for articles.

Read the magazines! If you are going to write for a magazine, this is an important first step. You need to be familiar with the audience so that your article works for the tone, reader level, and point of view of the magazine. Many magazines have online articles you can read, or they send sample copies for free or cheap.

Do the Twist:  Look at newspapers and magazines and see if there’s a spin you can put on articles they are running. Maybe something local can be cultivated into a national story, or vice versa. I’ve seen articles that I’ve read online, suddenly pop up in the local news as, well, “news”—this ticks me off to no end, because these folks are supposedly journalists and are being paid to WRITE, not to troll the ‘net for stories. Do better than that. Find a twist--an angle--that makes your story unique. The upside to this method—you can capitalize on the buzz the topic is already generating. The downside—by the time you’ve read the story, thought up the angle, done the research, and written the story, the buzz may have fluttered away to some other trendy topic. It behooves you to either write quickly, or make sure your story idea has staying power and isn’t all buzz.

Let Us All Press On: You can glean information from press releases sent out by organizations, as well as reports from government websites. If you have an interest in anything, from PETA to child welfare issues, subscribe to the organizational newsletter and let the ideas find you.

Brainstorm. Literally sit and start coming up with whatever you think of. Let your mind wander (as long as your pen follows so you can scribble down topics or gibberish that may become topics). Often, getting everything in your head on paper can open the floodgates and suddenly you’re drowning in great ideas!

Idea Charts/Mind Mapping/Graphic Organizer:  This is the idea of visual aids to help your creativity. I won’t go into the specifics, but you can find resources here and here. The gist is that the visual aspect helps your brain to organize and channel its creativity. An added bonus is that often it will help you to organize and outline for the story while you are generating the idea.

Everywhere! Yup, I said it. You can get ideas from everywhere. The one place you CANNOT get ideas from is while banging your head on the keyboard because the ideas aren’t coming. Except for that one article idea I just got about the sharp increase in emergency room visits for laptop-key-from-forehead-ectomies among the author demographic. But really—the best way to get ideas is to get out there and chase them. I know in my own experience, I tend to wait for my muse to download ideas into my brain. This works often with the creative storytelling aspect of my writing. However, if I am to write articles as a business, I need to have a steady fountain of ideas to query to magazines, and this means that a part of my day, every day, needs to be idea generation.

I’m putting a couple of links below to some resources for idea generation. The internet is full of articles like this, but these were two that I really liked.

I want to hear from you:  what do YOU do to generate story/article/book ideas?


  1. All great ideas! One more thing I would add that isn’t really about getting ideas, more about getting published- check around for local magazines. Often the local ones are smaller and you have a better chance of getting your work in them. I write 2 articles each month for a local magazine- I was fortunate that a friend got involved with it and recommended me for the Kids & Family section. I usually do one “serious” how-to type article, and then I do a humor article. I decided to contribute humor articles because I knew it was something I could do that would set me apart from the other writers on the magazine and it would (hopefully) make me indispensable to the publication- that is, if everyone likes my humor, anyway. :-)

    1. Thanks for the comment and your idea--great minds must think alike because I'm currently exploring that option!

  2. I've never considered publishing articles in magazines. Very helpful post!

  3. I found this to be an intersting post

  4. I've been able to do a few articles writing for other people's blogs, ghostwriting, and one article on NewsCastic. I found these opportunities looking on Craigslist and setting up an account on a freelance website It doesn't cost any money for the freelancer and there's tons of small job posts on oDesk or other freelance sites. The jobs go from big to small. The pay ranges widely.



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