Ideas for new stories: they’re everywhere and nowhere. Sometimes, depending on the day, week, or month, I’m brimming with ideas. But at other times, I’m an idea-free zone. My dilemma, and the quest of many freelancers and creatives: how to find ideas for your story pitch.
How to find ideas for your story pitch
As a freelance writer or journalist, it’s part of the job description to generate new ideas. Whether it’s journalism or content writing or even creative writing, ideas are integral to your ability to thrive as a freelancer. Apart from doing the work and the other important part of getting paid, coming up with new stories or new angles for stories is a crucial part of the gig. So it begs the obvious question … how on earth do you keep coming up with ideas?
Media Sources for Story Pitch Ideas
BuzzSumo is popular with bloggers and other creative to tap into the social media zeitgeist and find out what’s popular on a certain topic or keyword.
Reddit can be a bit of a rabbit hole, but there’s loads here to spark your ideas.
YouTube can give you some visual clues for new ways of looking at something.
Feedly is a way to search for and subscribe to blogs on a huge array of topics.
Go the library where it won’t cost you anything to peruse a range of magazines looking for some kind of inspiration. Grab ones that you don’t normally read as it can spark new ways of thinking about an old topic. If you can’t get to the library, join an e-library and read magazines on a device.
Finding Ideas in News Release Sites
News releases can be a potent sources of news sources, especially if you cover a certain beat. You can get media releases on your area of interest sent directly to your inbox, but be warned, there can be a downside too. Its easy to find your inbox filling up with news releases and it can quickly get overwhelming, not to mention time consuming, reading, sorting, deleting them all every day. So approach with caution when signing up for these media releases websites and don’t be afraid to cull them if you not finding them a helpful sources of inspiration.
Response Source has a press release wire and a journo inquiry service if you’re looking for specific information.
PR Newswire is another source for releases to your inbox.
Cision Wire is another sources for automated news releases.
BusinessWire as another one.
Google News isn’t strictly media releases but you can find out what’s topical and take it from there.
Finding Ideas in Academia
The Conversation is a good source of academic articles on a wide range of topics. It can help find an angle on a particular issue and even an expert source for an article.
JStor Open Content has academic publications that are open to all and can help trawling for ideas or finding research to bolster your story pitch.
Google Scholar will help with locating academic articles.
Academic Journals has peer-review journals that are open to all.
Questia has a host of social science and related journals.
Directory of Open Access Journals is another online directory of peer-reviewed journals.
arXiv list computing and science-relation journal articles.
Microsoft Academic is a search portal for academic research, but it’s unique because it uses ‘semantic’ search, not strictly keyword matching, to understand what you’re looking for and to find appropriate research.
This list is obviously by no means exhaustive, but it should help head you in the right direction if you’re looking for ideas from research or academia. Depending on the topic, you’ll obviously need to find other sites with links to research in that field.
Where else to find ideas?
Journalism sites like Poynter have helpful articles on generating ideas from observations in real life to checking ads. There’s also the very basic process of talking to people and just being curious to stay open to the possibility of ideas wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is a data-lover’s paradise.
Research outlets like RoyMorgan can be a good source of ideas and stats.
Recording Your Ideas
Ideas beget ideas, I’ve found. It’s like the old brainstorming or butcher’s paper exercise. Once you start finding that you have come up with the first few lightbulb moments, it builds on itself and more keep coming. Unless you’re in a team, it can sometimes be challenging to do this on your own.
Grab some bits of paper and start jotting down things that come to mind and go from there. Keep a note pad by the bed for those 2am ideas and always have an ideas file on your phone to quickly jot down something that comes to mind without needing a pen and paper or internet access for Evernote, for example.
Have a file with lots of ideas and make sure you put any new ideas into this file and consult when you’re looking for new ideas for stories. If you write about a range of topics, consider having an ideas file for each subject area so there’s some degree of organisation in it all.
Evernote can be a a good place to store clippings from online articles for future research and brainstorming.
Pinterest can be a helpful place if you like to store visual ideas.
Trello is another place to record ideas and turn them into project boards if you need that kind of thing.
Getting Organised with Your Ideas
If you’re a bit of a productivity guru, or you’d like to be, there’s no shortage of blogs, articles and helpful websites on how to get organised and get things done. You can also find out how others are getting their ideas and getting on with freelancing from this list of sites to find helpful freelance advice.
Find Ideas For Your Story Pitch: Final Thoughts
That’s about it, for now. I’ll add to this as I come across new and useful places for sparking ideas. I know there’s no shortage of information out there, too much at times. Anyway right now I’ve got work to do on finding ideas and generating new story pitches.