Ask The Freelance Dude #21 – Idea Quest


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Dear Freelance Dude,

When brainstorming features, I often find it difficult to come up with themes that will be marketable to publications. It feels like focusing on current “hot topics” is simply chasing what’s already been said, but how do you go about finding fresh ideas?

Signed,
Steve G.

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Dear Steve,

In some cases, finding a unique angle or spin to put on a relevant hot topic can be a great way to capitalize on game industry buzz and help persuade an editor to run with your article pitch. That said, it’s true that constantly chasing the latest trends for article ideas can feel like a real brain drain after a while. The easiest way to generate quick feature ideas that still feel engaging is to dig into your own particular interests — gaming-related or otherwise — and see if any of those passions jump out as topics that might be spun into compelling article ideas. If you’re fired up about a particular idea or subject, that energy will show in your writing, and you’ll find it’s a lot more fun to research angles until you find the perfect fit.

Here’s an example. I’ve always been a huge music lover (and a huge nerd), so early on in my freelancing career I was heavily into pitching ideas that combined video games and music in some way. That very basic connection yielded a treasure trove of usable article ideas, and I’ve successfully pitched and written dozens of pieces on the topic. Not every subject will be a good fit for the publications you’re pitching, but dig deep and you’ll find something that jives. Once you uncover that vein of rich idea ore, chip away at it until you mine lots of possible stories to explore.

But what about that whole marketability thing? Just because you have an idea you’re stoked about doesn’t mean editors you’re pitching will share your enthusiasm. I find another good way to conjure up marketable feature ideas is to start with the publications you’re targeting. Take a good close look at the outlets you plan to pitch and see what kind of articles they’ve been running lately. While this can be tricky with general interest gaming outlets, there are some that clearly have distinct patterns in their coverage. Do they favor long-form pieces that really dig deep into a subject? Do they like short and snappy list pieces? How about humor? Personality profiles? Interviews? See what kinds of articles or subjects they tend to go for, then use that as the cornerstone for your brainstorming sessions.

Still stumped? Take the human interest approach. It works far more often than you might expect. Instead of simply looking for topics to cover, look for interesting people to profile that might relate to a usable feature topic. Hunt down people with interesting stories to tell or experiences to share, and tie those into subjects that resonate with the publication’s audience. People love to read about other people. Period. Those kinds of stories can really hook readers (and editors), so they’re worth trying out.

Best,
The Freelance Dude

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Follow @nmeunier on Twitter for more writing advice, game industry commentary, and freelance shenanigans. Also, keep an eye out for his upcoming book Up Up Down Down Left WRITE: The Freelance Guide to Video Game Journalism launching this August! You can also follow @gamejournoguide on Twitter to stay up-to-date on that.

Have a writing, freelancing, or game journalism related question you’d like answered? No problem! Hop on over here for details on how to submit it to The Freelance Dude!

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One thought on “Ask The Freelance Dude #21 – Idea Quest

  1. Pingback: IPW Method | Opinionated Opinions

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