One of the toughest aspects of getting started as a magazine journalist is coming up with original ideas that you feel confident enough to write about. Your job could be an excellent starting point.
Use your job for article ideas
One of the perks of using your day job as a source of ideas for a magazine article is the wealth of information you have access to.
From office politics and office gossip (women’s magazines and management magazines) to insider knowledge of the marketplace (for trade magazines, business magazines and niche interest magazines), every day at work could spark a host of article ideas.
Find an angle from your idea
You have found a possible idea. The next thing to do is look at it from a number of different angles. This is a great way to step outside your job, and play with the information you know in detail, from someone else’s point of view. Some jumping off points are:
- An angle you could use
- A second angle
- A variation on the second angle
- A funny angle
- A serious angle
- A men’s angle
- A women’s angle
- A children’s angle.
Match your angle with a magazine
Look around for magazines that are possible targets for your story. Try matching your angles to these magazines.
You need to analyse a target magazine in terms of content, style, format, tone, target market and demographic. Note the advertisements in a magazine. Check the magazine’s website for a description of the readership. This is prepared for potential advertisers, but is a great help to writers as well.
Garden and walk while you ruminate on your article angle
Take some gardening leave. Put some muscle into those long over-looked weeds. Long walks work too. You can also ask yourself a question about your angle and then sleep on it. Remember to keep a notebook and pen at hand. Write down the ideas that occur, however way out they seem at the time.
Test your angle
Once an angle is fully formed send a summary to one or two people. Ideally, choose people who:
- are likely readers of the target magazine,
- have no particular interest in your job, and
- aren’t afraid of giving you honest feedback.
If your readers think your article angle stinks, don’t give up. Do some more gardening, walking or sleeping. Their response could be just what you need to kick-start a whole new angle for your idea. If you still like your first angle, identify a different magazine to target.
Use your insider knowledge
Once you have your angle and target magazine sorted, it’s easy. You know your topic and who to interview because you’ve got insider knowledge. And you can write a bio that mentions your specialist expertise in this area.
Check with your boss
Make sure you don’t promote your workplace or criticise it in your article. Focus on the issues, not the source of the information. Be sure to get permission from your employer before sending it off to the editor.
About the Author
Debra Bradley has first-hand experience of using her work as a planning adviser at Nelson City Council to generate ideas for magazine articles. She began her career as a journalist before moving into planning. She also writes fiction. Her latest novel The Water Race centres around a battle over a water spring in Golden Bay. She has lived in and around Nelson, New Zealand since 1995.
Debra recently completed the Magazine Journalism Course at NZ Writers’ College.