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25 Article Ideas in an Instant (or at least in under an hour)
by Cheryl Sloan Wray

Go ahead and admit it.

There are times when you want to come up with ideas to submit to a publication and, instead of developing some brilliant concept for an article, you hit a brick wall.

Nada, nothing, zilch.

We’ve all been there, so don’t feel bad. I’ve had more than 1000 articles published in a variety of newspapers and magazines, and I still have plenty of days when I hit that wall head-on.

I’ve developed a technique, though, that can invariably get me out of that slump. It’s an idea that I actually learned more than 20 years ago in a college feature writing class, and I have gone on to use it in every writing class and conference workshop I’ve ever led.

I call it the Article Idea Chart, and it guarantees that you will come with 25 article ideas within minutes (or very soon after).

It works something like this:

Start off with a clean sheet of paper and a willingness to brainstorm and go with the creative flow. On that sheet of paper, create a chart (or box) with 25 squares inside of it (five rows across and five columns down).

Now think about two things: (1) the types of magazines (children’s, travel, health, etc.) you’d like to write for, and (2) some of the topics (hiking, wine, cats,etc.) you’d like to write about. Above each of the five horizontal columns, write one of five types of magazines you’d like to write for. Next to each of the five vertical rows, write one of five topics you’d like to write about. You should now have five types of magazines you’d like to write for, five topics you’d like to write about, and 25 empty boxes.

Now comes the fun part!

In each empty box that intersects a magazine type and an article topic, you must generate a specific article idea.

For example, let’s say that one of the empty boxes intersects a women’s magazine (magazine type) with chocolate (article topic). What specific article ideas could you come up with that mixes those two together? The possibilities are actually quite endless with that one (“The Health Benefits of Eating Dark Chocolate,” or “Low Calorie Chocolate Treats,” or “A Chocolate Girls Night Out”).

Sometimes it might seem a little more difficult to come up with a marketable idea, but stick with it. Let’s say, for example, that you combined a travel magazine with the topic of dolls. You might be stumped for a moment, until you got to thinking: What doll museums could I write about? There are plenty of them around the country and they might be a good focus for an article, but I hazard to guess you might have never thought of the topic otherwise.

I have come up with countless article ideas from this creative exercise, and have sold many of them. I once sold an article about how the baby brain works, after thinking about how the topic of “learning” might go with a baby magazine. I once sold a piece on Callaway Gardens in Georgia after brainstorming ideas that combined gardening with travel magazines.

If you’re a freelancer of magazine or newspaper articles and have never been in an idea-generating slump, this isn’t for you. But if you’re like every other normal writer I know, this is a fun, creative, freethinking sort of exercise that is guaranteed to get your brainstorming juices flowing.

Go ahead, I challenge you to do it. See if you can come up with 25 article ideas in an instant!

© Copyright 2010, Cheryl Sloan Wray

Cheryl Sloan Wray is a freelancer writer with more than 1000 articles to her credit. She is also the author of Writing for Magazines (McGraw-Hill), a popular guide for freelancers.

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