Writers really need to be a jack of all trades these days since we are expected to be writers, editors, bloggers, platform builders, marketers and so on. We also have to have a million “sellable” ideas and we can’t afford to run out of them. Because all our other skills won’t add up to much if we don’t have any sellable ideas to begin with.
We need them for all types of fiction and non-fiction. We need them for our blogs and other publications. But there are times even the most prolific creators can feel stuck and uninspired or they can get lost in their search for an angle that hasn’t been done way too often.
The list I gathered offers what I do, and should do more of, to find ideas. While I get quite a few intriguing ideas without even trying (when the magical “what if……? “questions seem to come out of nowhere), most of them come through a lot of effort.
1) Go through your old posts on your blog.
What have you covered? What else should you cover? Should you update existing posts? Or are there posts that you need to turn into a series to make your advice more thorough and helpful?
*If you don’t have a blog, you might want to read 6 Reasons Why Every Writer Should Blog.
2) Go through your pitches. Maybe they landed you assignments. Maybe they didn’t. The ones that didn’t might be lying down somewhere forgotten because of the depression mode you got into due to rejection.
Is it possible that you targeted the wrong markets, you just got better at querying in time or you’ve just discovered other markets that could be interested in those ideas?
Recycle, improve upon and use those ideas.
3) Go through your published articles. You probably know more now than you did then. Do you think there could be another slant hidden there somewhere? Can you use the same research to write other articles around the same topic?
4) Study the markets you are interested in, focusing on titles, reading the articles, focusing on the slants/angles. There’s a chance you’ll disagree with some points, and develop an article idea on that. For instance, I came up with my Freelance Switch article How Coffee Shops Can Make the Best Substitute Offices after reading a few articles on the site that covered libraries and co-working spaces. Since I have a couple of favorite coffee shops I switch back and forth (in addition to my home office) where I worked productively, I decided to make a post of it.
5) Study the markets you find interesting, even the ones you think you may not write for. They might inspire you for fiction and slants. You might even think of an idea for them. You never know.
6) Recycling/revamping your ideas lists. You need to check your list of ideas regularly for updates and editing. You may have written about some of them, you might find inspiration while looking at the others. If you have used all of it, go ahead and delete it. Now you’ve updated yourself about some of the things you’ve already covered.
7) Watch TV shows and movies without switching off the writer in you. I’m a sucker for an engaging story, and I am running an entertainment blog, so I am tuning off the productivity tips about watching less TV. Of course keep in mind that I hate reality TV, and I quit or fast-forward a show the moment it stops being interesting.
How do they make good posts, you ask? Below are some articles that were inspired by them:
On story analysis:
- Crying for a Good Story, by PJ Reece (on Good Will Hunting)
- Two New Movies That Demonstrate Story Physics by Larry Brooks (on Lincoln and The Sessions.)
On delicious conflicts:
Having fun analyzing fictional writers:
I have so much fun doing this, I have an entire category dedicated to it.
8) Talk to professionals in different areas that you are interesting in writing about.
9) Make a list of your failures. Some of the most popular posts were born through author mistakes.
10) Make a list of your accomplishments. See what topics you can dig up from there.
11) Go through the “finding ideas” posts on sites you love, bookmark /print out the ones you find useful (that include tips you don’t already put to use or haven’t tried yet.)
12) Find a great “writing headlines” source and think in terms of titles, getting article ideas from them. Try Jon Morrow’s 52 Headline Hacks.
13) Analyze characters from novels you love. Think about them. Maybe they can tell you something. Lots of fun dating article ideas can be born from them, such as:
14) Think about the jobs you hated/you loved.
15) Think about your career progress. I realized that for me, a combination of a part-time teaching job and writing worked wonders. You bet I wrote a story about it: One Freelance Writer’s Surprising Strategy for a Revved-Up Career. It was published on Carol Tice’s Make a Living Writing blog.
16) Write about songs. Especially if you’re writing about music, the ideas are endless.
18) Find things in common between Blockbusters/best-sellers and your writing topic.
19) Never turn off your creativity switch. Even if you are just watching a celebrity interview on YouTube.
20) Collect the best list posts on your chosen subject. Bookmark them, study them. Focus more on the information you haven’t internalized.
21) Gather your ideas in one place and look through them occasionally. Add, subtract, improve. It’s hard to keep track of them all when they are scattered on post-its, notebooks, word files and so on.
22) Cover your favorite resources. I do it often here. It helps me restudy the material, gives me something relevant to write about and helps me share valuable information with readers.
Some of my review posts are:
23) Cover stuff that inspired you.
24) Write case studies.
25) Brainstorm niches, and then brainstorm further from those niches. Here’s a great list from All Freelance Writing to get you started: 101 Niches to Write About.
26) Think in “how (to) ” terms.
It works wonders especially if you back it up with a real life success story.
You might try How I Made 6 Figures as a Freelance Writer in 2011 from Carol Tice of Make a Living Writing.
27) Think about how not to do something. Think about what not to do. Or the reasons why you shouldn’t be doing that. And start taking notes.
28) Gather your favorite resources in a list.
You might want to check out 60 Resources for Freelance Writers by Jennifer Mattern on All Freelance Writing.
29) Share success stories, and it doesn’t have to about writers.
30) Find inspiring, fun and useful templates/how-to (e) books and work your way through them. I really like Steph Auteri’s Freelance Awesome: A Starter Kit and Thursday Bram’s New Ideas on Old Topics. They can be acquired through their sites, and they are free.