Story ideas

ideaThe end of the year makes me think of something I spend all year pursuing: elusive story ideas. They’re the freelancer’s best friend and also her bad boyfriend who doesn’t always call.

If you ever want to perk up a freelancer, tell her something improbable that clearly hasn’t become widespread public knowledge yet. Doesn’t happen that often, but occasionally I’m at a party listening to someone tell me about something and all I can think of is “pen, pen, I need a pen so I can write this down.” If you’ve ever dropped a piece of news like this on me, know that I’m no longer listening to you and am just repeating your idea over and over in my head.

But livelihoods cannot be sustained on random chance alone, so there are a few other ways that I try to pursue those elusive ideas. In exchange for your keeping an eye out for ideas for me, I’ll share a few here:

News releases: they appear in my inbox, on the sites of clients and potential clients. Every few weeks I try to scroll through them on the lookout for something new. I rarely know what I’m looking for until I see it, but when I do, it’s gold. That is, as long as I can sell it to an editor.

Evergreens: these ideas are ones that come along in your writing niche every few months or years. I am always thinking through my repertoire of past stories to think about what’s changed in that field and where I could do something fresh.

Lateral shift ideas: I’m always reading magazines outside my specialities, or outside the geographic areas I usually write for, trying to think if there’s a way I could write an idea for a different market. If I read about a new trend in business or the style world, I think, how does that translate to the world of careers or higher education?

I file these away in a long Word document (lately I’ve been experimenting with Evernote as well) for my next approach to editors. But I’m still open to random chance, so keep those anecdotes coming.