Saturday, April 12, 2008

Finding Ideas for Articles

One of my current gigs is writing how-to articles for eHow.com. To date, I've written 30 articles. Believe me when I say that coming up with subjects and titles is the hardest part of the assignment---especially when there are already so many articles on myriad topics on that site.

Still, as a freelancer, I don't get paid unless I deliver the goods. So how can you continue to generate new ideas?

Take a cue from your own life. There's truth in that old saying: Write what you know. If you look at the articles I've written for eHow, you'll notice that most of them are about guinea pigs, careers and food. Since I'm a guinea-pig owner, a full-time corporate copy editor and I love to cook, these subjects come naturally to me. I'm able to churn out several articles in very little time since I already know a lot about these subjects and don't have to do any additional research.

Take a look at how you spend your day. What are you passionate about? What are you an expert in? These areas are ripe for article ideas---take them and run with them.

Be an Internet lurker. Yahoo! Answers is a great jumping-off place if you're stuck for article ideas. Take a look at what people want to know. Then do some research and write a how-to article about it. Google one of your favorite topics and see if one of its smaller subtopics can give you an idea for a tightly focused article. Check online message boards---if you want to write articles about baby showers, for example, you might find a forum discussing party-planning tips, food or games that could lead to an article.

Ask around. What do the people in your life want to know about? Any time someone asks a question, the answer could be fodder for an informative article. Try to carry a small notebook with you at all times. You never know when an innocent question or snippet of conversation could spark an idea for an article.

Slant, slant, and slant again. Most articles, and especially Internet articles, are tightly focused and short---usually only 400-600 words. To go back to our baby shower example, you couldn't encompass everything involved with throwing a baby shower into that small a space. Instead, you can break it up into a bunch of smaller ideas. Try writing an article about booking a venue for a baby shower. Or do a write-up about popular baby-shower games. What about gift ideas for guests at a baby shower? Or recipes for hors d'oeuvres? You could even slant those ideas into a totally different genre---the same ideas would work for articles about birthday parties, poker nights or other gatherings. The only limit is your imagination.

2 comments:

Janet said...

I like how simple you put it. Finding artical ideas can be overwhelming. You broke it down wonderfully!

A good example artical is New Ideas for Bridal Shower Games www.squidoo.com/blueskypapers

Angela said...

Thanks, Janet! The good news is that once you start brainstorming and pulling ideas, it tends to open the floodgates. One topic could lead to four more ideas on the same topic, or it could lead you in an entirely new direction. :)