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Uncovering the Best Story Ideas

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 —

*Specific*

Don’t send a letter to a publication asking if the editor is interested in a piece about Belize. Instead, ask if she’d be interested in an article about the best jungle lodge or the top spots to invest in real estate.

*Unique*

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.

[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.]

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