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Freelance Writers Need to Sharpen Ideas

sharpen ideasOnce you find an idea to write about, chances are you’ll need to hone it. Even experienced writers need to sharpen ideas so they become marketable.

Truly, it’s rare for an idea to arrive fully formed, including the market that will buy it once the piece is written. It happens, but you can’t count on it.

Start with the idea

One of the 10 ideas I listed in Ideas Are Everywhere was: One large cat. As I recall that one came about because my 20 pound tabby, Toulouse, wandered into my office just when I needed another idea.

While there are maybe a million things I could say or write about that large cat, or any other, the idea really doesn’t have any context. I haven’t even put up a picture of him to help things along.  (Be patient… or see below.)

Writing about a large cat could include my large cat, or yours, or the pictures I’ve seen of truly huge kitties on YouTube. It could also mean lions and tigers and bobcats, and wildcats – and wildcats can refer to an independent operator in the oil business. While any of these might be turned into a salable article, not much will happen until I pick one.

It will come as no surprise that I’m going to choose my big cat, Toulouse, to demonstrate what I mean.

How to Sharpen Ideas

Once you pick your idea you need to do three things:

  • Pick an audience
  • Pick a market
  • Develop your purpose statement

These can be done in any order. Let’s start with the audience.

The audience: Obviously I want to talk to other cat lovers – maybe even that portion of cat lovers that loves big cats. Another angle might be how to help a big cat loose weight – an article I’ll write if I every figure it out.

The market: Much to my surprise, the biggest cat magazine I’ve been aware of, Cat Fancy, has morphed into Catster. So, if I were doing this for real, I’d create a query for them. Or I might decide that Modern Cat was a better suspect. Because niche magazines often don’t pay well I might broaden my thinking – who else might publish an article about a fat cat? Well, maybe one of the women’s magazines, or maybe I could find a blog that pays a bit, or maybe I ought to start a cat blog since there seems to be a gap.

By the way, it could be that I’ll decide it’s not worth my time to write this article – and that’s fine. Honing an idea may mean you recognize the idea isn’t going anywhere.

Your purpose statement: If you do decide to write this one you need a 10 word purpose statement. I’d make mine something like this: The purpose of this article is to show how much fun fat cats can be. Or … help cat owners help their cats lose weight. Or… why you should consider adopting a fat rescue cat.

You’re ready to write or query

toulouseWhen you’ve polished or sharpened your idea you’re ready to write or to query. It’s easy to get lost if you’re not crystal clear on the idea you’re writing about.

And there he is, my fat cat, Toulouse, a rescue along with his partner, Dudley, a tuxedo cat.

He’s lolling on some paper bags I’d put out for them to play with. Part of that game for Toulouse is to stomp all over them and flatten them, providing him something the lovely rug underneath is missing.

How do you sharpen ideas?

purple asteriskYou can get my ebook, 3 Keys to Making Your Writing Pay when you subscribe to the newsletter – both at no cost to you.

Write well and often,


{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Writing is a business and like any other business there are seasons of plenty and seasons of famine. Of course life goes on whether the market is a boom or a bust, so there will always be writers selling their work to publishers. However, when times are slow a writer will need to do more research, sharpen ideas, and make sure his article pitches and book proposals address the current interests of a publisher which by the way will be listed on the publisher s web site.

  • Hi Anne ,

    Thanks for the tips to create helpful post for audience .
    Ravinder Dande recently posted..How to Create an Adsense Account ?My Profile

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