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Posts Tagged ‘inspiration for writing’

Finding Article Ideas & Writing About Them: 30 Inspiration Tips for Writers


Image via 123rf.com.

Image via 123rf.com.

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:

-          Most Enthralling Story Conflicts & Dilemmas: The Ledge – Kill Yourself or Your Loved One Will Be Killed

-          Your Daughter’s a Liar or Your Best Friend’s a Pervert: Most Enthralling Story Conflicts 2 – The Hunt

On inspiration:

-          The CSI Guide to Finding Your Next Killer Idea – A Guide for Bloggers by Pippa

Having fun analyzing fictional writers:

-          Writer Character from 27 Dresses – Getting Involved with Your Source

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.)

Two good examples would be Where Oh Where Are All the Good Article Ideas? from Writing World and 50 Ways for Writers to Find Article Ideas from Susan Jonhston.

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:

How Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Matthew Macfadyen’s Darcy Ruined Women Forever

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.

17)   Rant.

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:

Resources for Writers & Bloggers:Travel Blogger Academy Review

E-book Review: Crafting Unforgettable Characters by K.M. Weiland

Write Great Fiction Dialogue with Gloria Kempton

23)   Cover stuff that inspired you.

Paul Arden’s Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite -The Bedside Book for Creativity, Motivation and Life Management

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.

Like I did with How Mads Mikkelsen and Gerard Butler Can Motivate Writers Like Hell: The Ultimate Gerard Butler and Mads Mikkelsen Guide to Freelance Success.

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.

To wait for inspiration? Or to chase it? That’s the question.



Above: A writer waiting for inspiration to start writing. Image via kateevangelistarandr.blogspot.com

Some people love to chase. While I am not a big fan of chasing when it comes to dating, chasing inspiration is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a writer.

I love it when inspiration comes by itself.  When I have a magical A-HA! moment. When an idea comes by itself and not when I was brainstorming, forcing my brain to fix a plot problem. When it comes unannounced, unexpected and gives me the rush to start writing it right there and then. And even if I can’t start at that moment, I am smart enough to take enough notes so that I don’t let it get away.

Except this rarely happens to me. Especially when writing fiction. An exciting, entertaining idea doesn’t just come on its own. An idea- typically an ordinary one- comes when I think about what I want to write about. I know I want this ordinary situation or character in some way, but I don’t want it to be ordinary. No, I am not contradicting myself.

OK, think about it like this. You want to write about cancer. But you don’t want to go down the old, depressive, tragic, “what-have-I-done-to-deserve-this route”. Or the “I’m-already-dead-might-as-well-go-all-self-destructive route”.

Instead, your character decides to make the most of her life right there and then. She finds out humorous, practical and innovative ways to deal with her son and husband. She doesn’t care that much about saving money any more. She buys a red convertible – which will go to her son after he reaches a certain age. See how she lived for the moment, without screwing up anyone’s future? She also has workers build the swimming pool she always wanted. Impulsive? Yes. Irrational? No. If anything, this will increase the value of the house.

Did the plot sound familiar? Well, it is the plot of the comedy/drama show The Big C starring Laura Linney. Before watching it, I remember thinking        “Humor in cancer? Right. Like that could happen!” But it has, and the show turned out to be really good and unique.

Isn’t this more interesting than typical ways of grieving?

This happens to me a lot. I respond to my ideas by changing the core of the story, changing the sex of the main character, shaking stereotypes, or adding some unexpected traits to the archetype. Victoria Connelly did a wonderful example of this by creating a writer character in her book “A Weekend with Mr. Darcy”.

In the book, the main character is Lorna Warwick – a modern day, famous author of best-selling Jane Austen style novels. But of course Lorna is the pen name and the writer is actually a guy. And he is not gay or a nerd. He is a masculine, heterosexual, sexy guy who hides behind the persona – and does adrenaline-inducing outdoor activities with his friends while he is not writing. And best of all…his interest in Jane Austen, and his novels, is genuine.

A Weekend with Mr. Darcy may not be the best book ever-created but I really liked the male protagonist being a guy’s guy and loving Jane Austen, and her characters, as much as the next gal. And guess what? Connelly has been published many times.

Where did the inspiration for this article come from? It came while I was reading this Writer’s Digest article about how not to write a novel, and one of the best ways to do it was to wait for inspiration. I am trying to write a novel and yet after all this time creating stories, I still tend to make the mistake of waiting for inspiration. The article stroke a chord and I wrote about it.

So an article about writing inspiration came when I was studying writing (so I could write my novel better and I could get to know the magazine enough to pitch great queries.) Not when I was doing something totally unrelated, or not doing anything at all.

While inspiration might occasionally do the favor of dropping by out of thin air, it mostly loves to be chased with vengeance. So you can just start writing about anything in anyway…and spice things up later.

If there is something that bothers me than writing something ordinary…it is not writing at all. The name of this blog is not a coincidence. I truly am addicted to writing. And while ordinary can be changed into extraordinary through trial and error, extraordinary isn’t born from nothing.

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