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Mastering Ideas

Many writers have the same problem I do. There are always too many great ideas for articles and stories than there is time to write them. So what can a person do when the idea factory occupying the floor upstairs just won’t shut down production?

Managing Order

Without order to calm the creative waters, an idea isn’t worth the time it takes to forget it. For instance, I might have a question that I want answered about how a Ginzu knife can keep its edge without ever being sharpened. Fine question, you say.

I might not be enamored with it, but it’s something to tantalize the mind for those who work in the culinary industry. Why? Because they use fine knives in their work and a knife’s continual sharpness matters to them.

The first thing I will do is drop it into a growing idea file on the computer. It comes under the “Food-Related Possibilities” heading. I make a notation about the type of research needed and the possible sources available and leave it alone.

If I’m not at home when I have that flash of idea brilliance, I jot the idea down into a notebook I carry with me at all times.

When To Do Research

Research is a continual thing for me. I peruse the news feeds on a regular basis, looking for items that reach out and slap me. I always find at least one item. It could be something as simple as finding a piece from the AP news bureau about the recent capture of an alligator in the Chicago River. It was the latest incidence this past summer of a growing problem with pets reptiles being dumped into the wild by weary owners.

That doesn’t sound like much of a piece on the face of it, but I could do a short children’s article on proper pet considerations, or one on the responsibility inherent in exotic pet care, or one on the dangers to both people and animals when such former pets are roaming around in an environment that is foreign to them and they have only instinct to go on.

The possibilities for such articles are scattered and varied by market and slant. The question I ask myself when I find such a piece is: Do I track down at least three more sources now, or stash this one and look again later when I have more time?

When I make that decision, I do stash the article in another growing file folder on the computer. These files are then downloaded onto a Flashdrive for use later. I have numerous folders in storage and anytime I’m without a ready source of non-fiction, I can pull one out and see what I can do quickly to have a piece ready for use.

Covering the Bases

When I copy over articles to read later for article use, I also copy the list of sources. These I can find, read, and discard or use as I see fit. Those new articles also have sources and so on down the line. It’s mind-boggling how deep into a subject you can get just following one source backwards.

I pull those pieces which following the subject slant that I’m going to use and begin picking out the points of interest, facts to be noted, and relevant tidbits that will help my piece capture and hold a reader’s attention. Hopefully, I will assemble those points in such a way that also educate and fascinate. That is my goal as much as any, after all.

Taking the Time

Taking the time to organize those pieces that are timeless help me prioritize those items which are more immediate. If I’m going to use an idea centered on the growing concern about the Greenland ice shelf calving off bergs the size of Texas, that’s of immediate interest. It’s also an idea which has several slants that can be used simultaneously according to market.

A. Climate change piece for adult mags

B. Climate change piece for any of the children’s mags-several written for age level.

C. Shipping dangers in the North Atlantic beginning early season

D. Speculation piece on likelihood of Greenland losing it’s ice cover like Arctic

Scientific speculation can take a writer to all sorts of corners in the journalistic community. And if those ideas don’t spark great enough interest in me, I can always take the information and use it for the basis of a children’s/adult short story. I try never to waste a good piece of information.

Timely use of information is a mainstay for a writer. Some magazines look for the oddball articles that have immediate relevance for readers. Others want to keep their readers informed about situations which could affect the greatest number of readers in the near future and the long term.

What Now

Begin making a list of articles you want to write. Prioritize them by immediacy. For each entry, note the slant you want to take with the information, the sources you have/need, and potential markets for the finished piece. The last thing to ready is a tentative schedule timeline for submission of queries/finished article to markets.

Now that you’ve got everything ready, sit at your computer and produce that manuscript. Talk to yourself if you feel the need. Whatever you do, don’t talk yourself out of completing it and shipping it out. After all, how can anyone know what you find interesting, if you don’t share your ideas with them?

See you all soon. A bientot,




Categories: Writing and Poetry
  1. August 30, 2010 at 6:43 am

    “I try never to waste a good piece of information.” Now THAT is a great quote that I think should be passed along from generation to generation.

    Good information in this article, Clauds. Thank you for this helpful piece.

    • claudsy
      August 30, 2010 at 10:33 am

      Thank you. I’m glad it was helpful. I put together this philosophy if you will because I was forgetting really good ideas. You know the kind–OOO, OOO, that was a great thought. I’ll write see what I can find on that when I get back to the office.

      And when I got back and went to work on it, I couldn’t exactly remember what it was. I knew I’d had one–and it was brilliant–but now it’s gone. Too many distractions between then and now. I was determined not to do that anymore.

      Then, voila! I thought of this for me. It works for me. I just thought it might also work for others. I hope it does.


  2. August 31, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    hi there hows it going

    • claudsy
      September 3, 2010 at 12:54 pm

      Actually, Km, it’s going very well. Thank you. Hope all is well with you.


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