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Max your Mileage: Getting More than One Story Out of One Idea
by Kelly James-Enger

Spin off related stories from your initial idea and you’ll nail more assignments and make more money in the process. It’s easy once you know how.

I call these kinds of stories "reslants." Reslants are different than reprints. A reprint is a piece that’s already been published. A reslant is an entirely different piece with a new angle, new approach, and possibly new sources as well.

One Idea, Many Angles

To come up with reslants, take a look at your initial story idea and think about other angles and other possible markets for it. If you’re pitching a nutrition piece about the benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables to a general interest magazine, for example, you could take a weight loss angle for a fitness magazine and pitch a piece on ways to get your kids to eat more produce for a parenting magazine. In the meantime, you could query a woman’s magazine about a piece on make your dinners healthier by including more vegetables and a regional magazine about types of fruits and vegetables grown in the area.

Reap your Research

Here’s an example. Several years ago, I wrote a piece about the benefits of using a heart rate monitor during exercise for a women’s fitness magazine, focusing on weight loss. Last year, I did another story on heart rate monitors for Experience Life, a custom publication that’s sent to members of Lifetime Fitness clubs, covering the benefits of using them regardless of your individual fitness goals. A few months ago, I wrote about heart rate monitors again, but this time for a men’s fitness magazine. This time I focused on how they can help body-builders squeeze the most benefits out of their cardio sessions. Although I used several different experts for these stories and used fresh quotes each time, the second and third stories took little time to write because I already had done the background research for the first article.

Look for New Angles

Even if you can’t come up with a slew of different angles at the outset, watch for possible ideas during the research process—you may find unexpected story ideas popping up. When I was researching a story on the glycemic index ("GI") which rates carbohydrate foods on how dramatically they affect blood sugar, I discovered a number of studies on the GI and exercise performance. That idea became a second article for another magazine.

The Sky’s the Limit

The number of ideas you can spin out of one basic concept is an unlimited as your imagination. The key is to think creatively when pitching and researching stories. To query an idea, you come up with a specific angle on the idea. Challenge yourself to come up with multiple angles for every story you write—then look for appropriate markets and start querying!

Even after the story is completed, watch for other ways to reuse your research. Maybe a new study’s been published that makes your topic timely again, or you’ve discovered a new angle for a different market. Reslanting lets you reap the information you already have on your computer’s hard drive, and that means more money in less time in the long run.

© Copyright 2004, Kelly James-Enger

Kelly James-Enger has authored more than a dozen books, including Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success (Writers Digest, 2012) and Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writers Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books (CreateSpace, 2010). Check out her blog, Dollars and Deadlines, for practical advice about how you can make more money in less time as a nonfiction freelance writer.

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