Being able to write consistently impressive articles requires you to come up with impressive story ideas. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing fact or fiction – a good tale will always be your foundation.
If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you probably have a method for coming up with story ideas. No matter what approach you prefer, you can always add more strategies to your toolbox. The more strategies you have on hand, the more likely you will produce impressive content on a steady basis.
1. Don’t throw away ideas you’ve scrapped
It sounds counterintuitive to hang onto all your ideas. To some extent, it might be. However, some of your ideas might be useful at a later date or for a different client.
It’s okay to toss out awful ideas that make you question your sanity, but keep the ones that could conceivably evolve into something better. Those ideas could end up providing the foundation for a brilliant story after a little more work.
How to keep track of your brilliant ideas
How do you save your ideas? Do you brainstorm in MS Word? Document line items in Excel?
Word processing and spreadsheet applications can be useful for documenting ideas, but they’re not designed for brainstorming or note-taking. If you need an efficient way to keep track of your ideas, try using Box Notes.
Working with an editor, you can share your notes and get the other person’s feedback in real time. You can also get access to your notes from your desktop file browser from any device that has an Internet connection.
2. Use swipe files
Swipe files are the go-to resource for writers, from copywriters and content writers, to journalists and authors of book-length projects. If you haven’t been using swipe files, you’re in for a treat.
A swipe file is a collection of existing written material that writers use as a template for new and different content. All the best copywriters use swipe files for headlines and advertisements, but they’re useful for any kind of writing.
When you have a good story idea but it’s not fully developed, a swipe file can help you identify a strong angle. You can’t just copy someone else’s prose, however.
Although you can legally copy titles since they can’t be copyrighted, you should always tailor your titles to your particular audience. Use swiped copy as a template for original content, not in direct imitations.
Not sure where to find copy? Swiped.co is one of the most popular swipe file repositories on the Internet. It’s not overloaded with content, but it does offer writing by well-known A-list copywriters like John Carlton, Harlan Kilstein, and the legendary Gary Halbert.
3. Read (or scan) blogs constantly
They say that reading will make you a better writer, and that’s the case even when you read content on the Internet. Set aside some time each day to browse around and read other people’s content.
Identify talented and creative writers and browse their work. If you have time, read full articles instead of just scanning. Try to absorb these masters’ writing style and sense of humor, and let it soak in over time.
Reading articles written by people who come up with unique story ideas and angles will help you learn to do the same.
4. Brainstorm creative headlines
Sometimes all it takes to create a brilliant article idea is a strong title. Start brainstorming title ideas and see what you can come up with that relates to your general idea. Use headline formulas to create intriguing titles.
For example, say you want to write an article that might help writers to handle situations where they can’t meet a deadline. Come up with a fun title like A-list copywriter John Carlton’s piece entitled How To Weasel Out Of A Deadline (When You Seriously Must).
It’s a serious subject, but the title will give you some room to be creative with your copy.
Don’t fear running out of ideas
At some point, you’re going to run out of ideas on your own. That’s what makes it worthwhile to seek inspiration from outside sources.
The more you read, the more inspiration you’ll generate. Reading other people’s content on a regular basis will help you come up with further original ideas for articles.
Don’t be afraid to run out of ideas. If you do, it will only be temporary. The Internet is full of creative and inspirational content you can use to rekindle your creative flame.