Uncovering the Best Story Ideas: Three Keys to Writing Articles Editors Want
Once you have a general story idea in mind, you’ve got to really hone it. The best — the most marketable — story ideas are specific, unique, and targeted to a particular audience.
If you’re anything like me, what you’ll scribble on a scrap of paper and toss into your “story ideas” file will most often be just the core of an idea… something that struck you as a possibility for a piece, but not something you’ve really thought through.
So when you sit down to decide on the actual story you’d like to write, you must make sure that your idea is —
Don’t send a letter to a publication asking if the editor is interested in a piece about Belize. Instead, ask if he’d be interested in an article about the best jungle lodge or the top spots to invest in real estate.
If you’ve been reading a lot of travel stories, you’ll develop a sense after a few months for what’s run-of-the-mill and what’s new. Also, by keeping country files you’ll have on hand some examples of what other people have written about the place you’re going to write about, so you’ll know in what ways your piece will need to be different.
I’ve found that one way to keep ideas unique is to think about what the stereotypical view of a place is and write to counter it. If most people know about the diving in the Bahamas, then you write about the hiking trails.
*Targeted to a particular audience*
When you target a particular audience with your story idea, it becomes a stronger idea. Here’s what I mean: If I were to write to the readers of Walking magazine about St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, my story would, most likely, be about the trails there — the best walks, the best guide, the best time of year to go, maybe the best “outdoors” hotels to stay in.
That story is specific and it’s unique — at least to the readers of Walking magazine. While you might regularly find stories about St. John in travel publications, it’s not run-of-the-mill fare for Walking.
39 TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR WRITING Author unknown
1. Avoid alliteration. Always.
2. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
3. Employ the vernacular.
4. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
5. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
6. Remember to never split an infinitive.
7. Contractions aren’t necessary.
8. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
9. One should never generalize.
10. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
11. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
12. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
13. Be more or less specific.
14. Understatement is always best.
15. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
16. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
17. The passive voice is to be avoided.
18. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
19. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
20. Who needs rhetorical questions?
21. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
22. Don’t never use a double negation.
23. capitalize every sentence and remember always end it with point
24. Do not put statements in the negative form.
25. Verbs have to agree with their subjects.
26. Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
27. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
28. A writer must not shift your point of view.
29. And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)
30. Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!
31. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to the irantecedents.
32. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
33. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
34. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
35. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
36. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
37. Always pick on the correct idiom.
38. The adverb always follows the verb.
39. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; They’re old hat; seek viable alternatives.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]