Sunday, September 21, 2008

Generating Ideas for Online Article Writing

When you have a topic to write about, constructing a great article can seem simple. However, generating those ideas causes frustration for many talented writers. There are days when I run into writers block and can't come up with any interesting ideas. Sometimes the problem is that there are too many topics to write about, so it becomes difficult to choose. When I find myself stuck for ideas, I turn to the many tips and exercises that help me find my muse once again.

Read constantly. The newspaper, magazines, blogs, and popular websites are a gold mine for ideas. When you read a new article, ask yourself questions. What else do you want to know about the topic? Did the author leave anything important out? Are there any related topics that could be interesting to write about?

Make a list of all the hobbies and interests that you have. For example, I love animals and have a pet cat. If I wanted to write about cats, I could write about foods, treats, training, socialization, breeds, and so on. I could write a serious, researched article about feline illnesses, or a humor column about how my cat learned how to open the Ziploc bag containing her treats.

Don't forget to consider past work experience when creating your brainstorming list. You may have hated that job you held during college, but it could turn into an interesting anecdote or article. What did you love and hate about past jobs? What information would you like to share with others about the field? Do you have any tips for success in those areas?

Keep your eyes and ears open in the community. Local events and exhibits can be covered for websites specializing in your community, or they can be used as anecdotes for broader pieces. Is something special going on? Don't miss the opportunity to come up with new articles.

Stash a small notebook in your purse, briefcase, or car. Ideas used to hit me at times when I couldn't write them down. When I got home, I didn't remember what they were! So I began keeping a pen and notebook with me whenever possible. Now I rarely miss out on a great topic or opening line.

Helium has been a wonderful source of inspiration, because there are so many topics available to write about. Pick up your brainstorming list and choose something that you are interested in. You can take a look at the category and any subcategories on Helium and browse through the subject headers.

I also find inspiration on Helium when I rate other articles. Sometimes topics pop up that I had not come across before, or the articles themselves give me ideas for tangential articles. Don't speed through this part of the process - you never know when you may find a new idea.

The key to generating article ideas is simply asking yourself questions. Find a starting point, whether it be the paper, your brainstorming list, or Helium, and ask yourself, "What else needs to be written?" This should lead you to plenty of new article topics.

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