Sourcing ideas for feature articles

freelance articles freelance writing Writing Tips

Although I love writing feature articles, at times I find it can be a laborious process that consumes time I could spend on other things to do with my business.  It depends on the subject matter and how much I am “into” it at the time.  I need to be in the right mood and have access to bowls of chips and maltesers in order to deliver interesting, newsworthy, accurate content.

I’m bringing this up now because I’ve just been asked by an editor at Jane’s for story suggestions that can be used in an airport magazine during 2010.  If you are asked to write a feature article or story, dependent on the industry you are writing for, there are a number of approaches you can take to source ideas.  Most of the articles I write for Jane’s are news items which are relatively easy to source and get published online immediately.  But lengthy feature articles or stories require more planning, a substantial amount of research and a degree of luck.    And of course once I’ve sourced my ideas, I’ll need to “pitch” them first and get the editor’s approval before going any further.

Here are a few suggestions to help you source ideas for feature articles:-

1.  Find out about what is happening in the world by researching the internet, watching the news, reading newspapers and listening to the radio.  This not only helps you to find out what the “opposition” is doing, it also helps stimulate ideas for stories.

2.  News stories also provide plenty of clues and ideas for more detailed story possibilities.  A news story has a very short shelf life but the story behind the news tends to have a much longer shelf life.  The news story may be a brief report on essential facts, but perhaps a really interesting profile could be written or a lengthy article that explores an issue, or maybe a personal opinion piece based on your own similar experience?

3.  Writers must also be readers.  And it helps if you are a good listener and observer.  Many writers derive story ideas from what has already been written by other writers.  But this isn’t to say that we should copy what others have written.  To do this is dishonest and illegal.  It does mean that we can allow ourselves to be inspired by what has already been written.

4.  Other sources of inspiration for story ideas include the theatre, TV documentaries, radio talkback, classified advertisements, community festivals and commemorative days such as ANZAC day, Father’s day, etc.

In my next post, I’ll provide a few tips on what you should do before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to create a successful feature article.  In the meantime, happy writing!

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