Writing Tips

How to brainstorm a REALLY good article idea (that you can sale for a good price)

What makes a good article idea? A really good one that editors would buy it without thinking twice? A great one that will give your name a boost in the field and later, can guarantee you any landing gig possible?

Well, there are many factors that make an editor have an interest in what you’re going to write for their magazine.

Does it suit the target audience? Is it interesting? Does it include any useful information or shocking news? Something like that, and many other things in between.

As a veteran editor and columnist, I’ll show you how to brainstorm a good, if not great, article idea that will bring you big bucks, and open doors to landing more writing gigs in the future.

How to brainstorm a good article idea & make it sale!

Disclaimer: This post may include affiliate links. When you click on this and purchase any physical products or services, I’ll earn some commission with no extra cost for you. Thank you for your understanding.

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1. Your idea must be solid and sale-able.

A good article idea, or any idea in general, must be of good and concrete material and supported ideas and examples. It should not and cannot fall apart just after some critiques, which it will receive once you send in your writing.

Usually, an article idea will be qualified and sold through three phrases:

  • First you’ll sell it to the editor of the magazine/newspaper. But still you cannot call it a day yet.
  • The editor will then have to present it during the editorial meeting (yes, they have such thing) among other ideas and pitches from others editors, contributors, columnists, and so on. Your editor has to make the board agree to have your idea in their next issue.
  • Once printed and sold, it has to make sure the mass readers will also like it, meaning they will buy the magazine/newspaper to read it. That’s also the final phase when you know whether you’ve created something good, something worth reading.

2. It should appeal to ONE person (and this person must be the right one)

The truth is, nobody can write anything that will satisfy or appeal to everybody, unless it’s a textbook.

There for, not only the magazine but also you as the writer must have a concrete target audience in mind, to whom your writing must appeal, thus guarantee a sale (both your idea and a printed copy).

As you already know, every magazine out there will have their competitors. Competitors will have more or less the same target audience, but of course they will have their own core audience that are totally different from the competitors’.

So, tip no. 2 to make sure you can brainstorm a good article idea is that to think like you’re writing for only one person, like your friend, let’s say a woman.

How old is she? Is she younger or older than you? What kind of a person is she? What are her hobbies, interest, and concerns? How about her style and taste? What kind of movies, books, or music does she like? Where does she live? Does she have family with/without kids? Does she like to travel? Does she remind you of somebody you know?

If you’re a veteran writer of a magazine, you must know all these things and have the answers for these questions in your mind every time you start to brainstorm an idea and write it later on.

However, if it’s the first time you write for a magazine, or even if it’s the first time you write for any magazine, then buy the magazine (better if you can buy some previous copies) and read them carefully.

The more you read, the clearer picture of the target audience you’ll get, thus the more concrete answers you will have.

Once you figure it out, stick with that “person” every single time you write.


3. The idea must be surprising/spark the readers’ interest

If you happen to be the exact target audience of the magazine (which is actually the ideal scenarios here), can you recognize yourself in the writings?

Every time when you brainstorm an idea, ask yourself these questions:

What are you wondering? What creates emotions in you? What makes you engaged in? What annoys you? What makes you happy? What makes you angry? What do you wish you could read about? And what articles have you read a hundred times before?

If you are not within the target audience group, use some imagination and put yourself in their shoes. It can be a little bit hard if you don’t have kids and would like to write some thing about parenting, right?

Or if you write for Harper’s Bazaar for example, the last thing you’d want to do is to write an article about how to use couch surfing and dorm to save money while traveling in Europe. Don’t you dare even?

So let’s say you’re within the target group of the magazine you’re about to write for. What will spark your interest in learning more about the topic?

What will make you stop by the shelf and realize you’ve never thought about it before, and would love to read more to know?

I once read an interesting example supporting my point: We all know smoking will cause cancer, bad breath and tons of other negative things. But people still smoke, both men and women, either as a habit or to just be cool.

However, a female heavy-smoker quitted smoking after years, not because she was afraid of cancer or bad breath (which she already knew long before she started), but as he boyfriend said when he kissed her after she had smoked, it felt like kissing a guy.

That was something she DIDN’T know because nobody said that on a cigarette pack.

And obviously it worked, at least for her.

4. Your idea must have a perspective!

A perspective makes all the differences.

Nowadays, it’s hard to find a topic that has never been covered before. Nothing is new anymore, unless the latest news but that’s not what you’re going to do here. You’re a magazine writer, not a reporter.

The pros of writing about some well-known topic is that, it’s guaranteed. Just like a comfort-zone, you know. So why not make in an advantage and ADD YOUR PERSPECTIVE when you brainstorm the article idea, your different way of seeing the topic, understanding, and rewrite in a totally new light?

Every body can write about the same topic, but not every one will have the same perspective as yours. Take it as a huge advantage and make your article rock!


Of all the tips above, this last piece of advice is the one I swear by – have a perspective.
The next time you start to brainstorm any article idea, keep it in your mind and you’ll thank me later!
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