Generating Ideas for Magazine Articles (Part 1)

18 Jan

(The following information–and future posts I will be publishing in the next couple of days–come from work I am currently doing on my newest book on feature writing. I hope that it helps as you start developing ideas for stories you want to have published in the new year.)

The first thing to realize in searching for publishable ideas is that all effective magazine articles fill some perceived reader need. A feature writer’s goal is to come up with ideas that will in some way help, entertain, inspire, or otherwise reach into the reader’s life and needs. When you fill a reader’s need, you are in turn filling an editor’s need since an editor’s main concern is the reader.

In thinking about readers of magazines, consider the following needs that the professional writer consciously or unconsciously plays to.

1. Readers want to be entertained, and reading is one of the ways they have fun. Their sources of entertainment can range over everything from traveling, to cooking, to sports, to hobbies, to pop culture.

2. Readers strive for emotional and physical health. They want to know how to make all aspects of their lives better.

3. Readers sometimes have problems with human relationships. Most problems relate to raising a happy family and maintaining nurturing relationships. Few things are higher on the list of worries, for most people, than family and love.

4. Readers need help with their daily work. They want to do their work more quickly, easily, and productively.

5. Readers want to be well compensated for their work and be financially secure.

6. Readers want to be inspired by something bigger than themselves. They want to read stories of hope and courage. Such stories nourish their spirit.

In other words, readers want to be happy, healthy, loved, financially secure, and spiritually challenged. Editors are eager to get ideas that address any of these issues in a unique way.

Because of readers’ needs, most magazines therefore emphasize how-to stories:

(1) how to do something or

(2) how to be something.

Other types of articles that fill such readers’ needs include everything from personal experience pieces, travel articles, informational stories, and short pieces. As long as a reader’s need is being met, then the possibilities for article types, topics, and ideas are truly endless.

As you consider your plans for writing in this new year, consider the types of magazines you want to write for and then think about their readers.

What specific needs do those readers have?

What types of articles can help fulfill those needs

and..finally…

What specific articles could YOU write?

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