5 Creative Ways to Find Ideas for Articles for Magazines

These creative ways to find ideas for articles for magazine writers to pitch to magazine editors will help you get published. If you can master the craft of finding the best article ideas, you’ll earn a good living from writing!

“I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten: happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.” ~ Brenda Ueland.

Isn’t that a calm, peaceful – yet practical – way to look at writing? Writers need to find the best words to string together to create sentences. But before the sentences and paragraphs and pages come, freelance writers need to find ideas to write about! Read on for Johnston’s tips on how to get good story ideas for magazines.

Here, freelance writer Susan Johnston of The Urban Muse shares five tips for finding article ideas. For more magazine writing tips, read From Spark to Flame: Fanning Your Passion & Ideas into Moneymaking Magazine Articles that Make a Difference – it’s a new book for writers.

Creative Ways to Find Article Ideas for Magazine Writers

Finding ideas for magazine articles to query can be challenging, but I promise there are tons of fascinating subjects just waiting for you to uncover them. Here are five of the methods that I use when I’m stuck for inspiration.

1. Read alumni publications. Class notes and alumni magazines are great place to search for under-the-radar ideas that haven’t the mainstream media yet. Which of your classmates are doing interesting research? Which ones have started companies or published books? It’s easy to break the ice with someone from your own alma mater, but remember that many alumni publications are available online to anyone, so you can also look further afield.

2. Combine two seemingly unrelated topics. What does food have to do with personal finance? Or what does the TV show “Lost” teach us about dating? By mixing together subjects in unexpected ways, you might stumble on an interesting new angle. Ditto on sources with a fresh perspective on evergreen topics. Perhaps a drama teacher could offer new insights on office communication or a telemarketer could teach us how to bounce back from dating rejection.

3. Mine your past blog posts. What subjects might lend themselves to a full blown magazine feature article? Which posts got you thinking about topics you’d like to explore in more depth? I know that Laurie has used this method of brainstorming, and I have as well. Look especially closely at what posts are getting the most comments or drawing the most traffic, as those topics might be worth exploring in more depth for a magazine or other website.

4. Follow forums. If you’re writing for an online publication, and they offer a forum for readers to ask questions and share ideas, then you’re in luck! Even reading forums on other sites can be a gold mine for ideas. Look at the types of questions readers ask each other, and see if your editor might be interested in a more authoritative take on the topic.

5. Repurpose past articles. Rewriting old articles is one of the best ways to find article ideas, because you’ve already done some of the legwork! And in many cases you can get more mileage out of the same idea by tweaking it for a different audience. For instance, the students in my writing class brainstormed a story idea about how to introduce your pet to a new baby. That article could appear in a parenting magazine with a focus on keeping babies safe around pets, while a similar article could also work for a pet-owner’s magazine (but focus more prominently on the pet angle).

For more tips, read How to Find Article Ideas That Editors Will Pay to Publish.

Your turn! What methods do you use to find ideas for articles? Have you tried any of the suggestions listed above?

Writer's Market 2020: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published
Writer's Market 2020: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published - Yes, you CAN get published! It's not impossible - but only if you're willing to do the work. Writer's Market 2020 offers thousands of opportunities for writers, including listings for book publishers, consumer and trade magazines, contests and awards and literary agents — and even new playwriting and screenwriting sections.

Susan Johnston is a Boston-based freelance writer and blogger who has covered business and lifestyle topics for The Boston Globe, DailyCandy.Com, and many other publications. She also contributed a letter to the newly released anthology PS What I Didn’t Say.


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