Wednesday, 24 October 2012

How to Write Articles for On-line Publishing 3: Ideas

How to Write an Article for On-line Publishing 3: Ideas

Welcome to the third part of my series of articles on how to write content for publishing on-line. In the first section we covered the basics of how to lay out an on-line article. In the second section, the main topic was the developing of skills and technique. In this third article the topic covered is the one that should be the easiest, but which actually proves to be most difficult for many first-time writers — ideas.

Writing Articles for On-line Publication: Finding Ideas.

Ideas are the foundation of all articles. They are the concept or topic around which the article is researched and then written. There comes a time in every writer's life when ideas evade them. Sometimes it's lack of focus, sometimes it's tiredness or being jaundiced. But for new writers, most especially, it's most commonly not being practiced in the art of writing. Ideas for what to write are all around us and the more we look and listen the more ideas will be found there.

Ideas are easy and there are few topics you can't write about. The problem is that so much content is being produced these days, few topics have not already been covered on the internet. What you bring to that topic is your unique perspective and style. You can make the subject entertaining and worth reading about, or give it a slant that makes it read uniquely.

The truth is that only people who put their own personality into their writing and make it unique and individual stand out from the general crowd.

Can you Create Brand New Content?

The answer to this is always yes... the better researched an article is, the more likely you are to find something that others missed (especially as sources are often just skimmed for internet articles). Never just go to one source (Wikipedia being the classic example). Though many articles in Wikipedia are well researched and come from multiple authors, the majority are the work of one person. They may have a personal agenda, there may be an aspect of the subject they do not know. Whatever the reason, most Wikipedia articles are incomplete.

When researching an article choose at least a dozen different sources of information and read them thoroughly. That way you can synthesize everything you have written and come up with an article that is totally your own and totally original. The subject may have been covered hundreds if not thousands of times before, buy your view on it will be completely unique. And it will be valuable because of that.

The more sources your read, the more rounded your article will be and the more authoritative it will sound. Reading a large number of sources and synthesizing them also means that you are not re-hashing what's already out there, you are filtering the information through your own brain and producing a completely new view of the subject.

This way you own the topic or story and make it completely your own.

Writing Articles for On-line Publication — Ideas — Use your Life

Your own life is always the best source of ideas. You have lived it and it will have the ring of truth about it. Even if you are writing about something else, if you can inject something from your own life and experiences it will give that note of veracity that you cannot get elsewhere.

I grew up on a farm and I obtained work writing for a pet and livestock website both writing descriptions of the animals and writing reviews of the animals. The descriptions might have been a little dry and academic, but I wrote the reviews based on my own experiences... these were peppered with anecdotes and real experiences.

I also recently wrote an article about a new drug found in black mamba venom. Now, the article came from the field of academia, but it was written for a general audience and as I had worked with black mambas in the past I was able to add my own experiences about how scary these snakes are and their behaviour. This has become one of my most viewed articles.

Both my wife and I love chillies and I grow strange and uncommon chillies in the house. I wrote an article about chilli growing, how you look after the plants, how you fertilize the flowers and how you keep the hot peppers protected through the winter.

Those are just some of my experiences. I also write about wild food on my recipes blog and once a week I like to go out foraging. Then I write about my experiences, with a picture if possible and a recipe that I made from what I foraged. The experiences go directly into the blog and I get a very easy article out of it.

And, as you can see, I have just illustrated this article with my own experience. Something that makes this article unique and which you will not get anywhere else. This article is now unique and it really wasn't hard to do.

Writing Articles for On-line Publication — Ideas — Read, Read, Read

The importance of reading for all authors cannot be over-stressed. You do your research by reading, you find out what others are writing about and you hone your style. Reading lets you know what others are writing about and what topics are hot right now. 

Reading is also what makes you an expert in a field. If you write about science, photography, cookery, cars, gaming... whatever your interest is... then you should subscribe to at least a couple of magazines in that field. This is not to copy the content (that is plagiarizm), but to find out what topics are hot and to get the scoop on new developments in the field. This is how experts become experts.

By reading you also find out the upcoming trends or upcoming events in a given field. Be that fashion, trade shows, technology events, etc. 

Reading also gives a vital boost to those who’re less versed in the rules of the English language and correct punctuation. These are vital elements of writing knowledge which are often lacking in many internet articles.

Writing Articles for On-line Publication — Ideas — TV and Radio

As a writer, you no longer have the luxury of watching the TV or listening to the Radio simply for enjoyment. Whatever you see or hear might lead to an idea for an article. Maybe a local news story leads to a thought about a new story. You could develop a crime report into a story about unsolved crimes in your region. Maybe a report on a new technology provides an idea on a story about how new technologies are developed.

Perhaps a feature on a daytime show gives you ideas about an unusual hobby people have. 

Just remember that once your article is published it can have a lifetime of many years. Do not make the mistake of following the current Internet trend for making fun of the dead, the dying or the sick. Once your articles are published they go out into the world where anyone, and indeed, everyone can view them. Your handling of a story, no matter how despised the subject or individual covered, reflects on you — the creator — not them. Remember to make use of your humanity and pay respect to the people about whom you write.

Keep your eyes open for subjects being researched, and news and reviews about the weird and wonderful. Ask yourself what spin you can put on stories in the news. What ideas do they give you? Maybe that piece on global warming and weather weirding can give you an idea about a story in your area or even a global survey of extreme weather effects?

Writing Articles for On-line Publication — Ideas — Make your Day Job Work for You

Just like your life, your work and your hobbies are a goldmine of writing ideas. Maybe you can use something from your current or your previous work. Perhaps your are a wonderful cook or a green-thumbed gardener. 

IF you are studying for a qualification, can you give advice to others on how to study?

Are you a mother, or a stay-at-home dad? Write about your experiences, others would love to hear about your insights.

Based on your experience you will have literally hundreds of article ideas (in fact the articles will already be written in your own head) based on your personal experiences.

For example, I started my website, Celtnet based on writing about Celtic Gods, and interest of mine. This led me to writing about ancient and historic recipes. The recipe section of the site grew until it became the website for African recipes

Over four years I grew an interest into a hobby and a hobby into a way of making a living. All because I started writing articles that interested me. The writing snwoballed and I ended up with a large website.

Basically I became an expert in my hobby and my hobby became my day job. My website is now the go-to place for African Recipes, British Recipes and Wild Food recipes. Which is not something I expected when I started out.

And there is another secret. As a writer, you do not have to write for other people to make money. You can also write for yourself.


How to Write an Article

  • Put a little of yourself in everything you write.
  • Use multiple sources for researching your articles.
  • Real life will provide you with your best and most original ideas
  • Prolific reading gives you ideas for writing and improves your writing
  • Use stories in the media to come up with new ideas
  • Use the experiences of your day job to inform others
  • Use your hobby as a source of articles.

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