As a freelance writer, I consider many things when I’m looking for a new story to write. Making good decisions about the writing projects I choose helps me follow my curiosity and passions without forgetting that writing is my profession.
My writing is always heavily about place, so travel writing is natural for me. I also write about people, what they’re proud of and what they love, often when they’re at home.
Here are some other things I consider before I write a story for publication:
Is it beautiful to look at?
Every story has images, whether they’re in the reader’s mind, printed on the paper, or on screen. For publications (magazines, newspapers, websites) there are high expectations for the visual experience you’ll give to your readers. I may have another photographer along with me on an assignment, but often not. I choose stories that have an array of strong visuals, so a good shot is a given. I also hope that sources have great photos, too. For me, I lean toward beautiful, moving, or scenic images.
An example: Trading Churches for Barns: Northwest Couples Say ‘I Do’ to Farm Weddings. (425 Magazine, Jan/Feb, 2015). Wedding stories are as visual as they come, but they can be predictable. The visual beauty in this barn wedding article was the unique setting and the rustic details, fading light, and romantic imperfection captured by pro photographers Jon & Rach Photography.
Does it pencil out?
I consider the business aspects of writing before I pitch a story or plan a trip. The secret we learn quickly about freelance writing is that it can be a lot of your own money in the beginning. When I want to write about something new, I put my business woman hat on. Is it too much of my own time and money? Can I offset the costs by adding to my experience bank for future articles or books? For me as a mom of young kids, time away is a factor, too.
An example: Travel Like a Tourist: Exploring Woodinville Wine Country. (425 Magazine, July/Aug, 2013) I paid a sitter so I could be gone on this overnight press trip, but I have had this same location in three different stories so far. I also made new contacts that have been sources of inspiration and referrals for my work. Big pluses.
Does it add to my body of work?
I started writing professionally at age 15, when my first article was published in The Seattle Times – a feature about a Janet Jackson concert. I can’t imagine writing about the same thing all the time, but I do pay attention to the advice about finding a niche and a brand as a writer. My approach to choosing a new writing project is to consider how it adds to my body of work. I’m looking for positive stories that interest me personally. In following my own curiosity, I’m sticking close to my “brand,” even as that evolves. There aren’t too many new topics out there, but I try to write with an authentic voice and write the stories that only I can tell.
An example: The Tonic of Wilderness: Sol Duc Hot Springs is a great place to focus on nature. (The Everett Herald, April 11, 2015) The beauty of Olympic National Park is heavily covered by the travel press. When I visited with my kids, I was fascinated by the myths, legends, and fairy tale scenes in the rain forest. This personal story, about a family trip with a little bit of fear and magic, was a story that only I could tell.
Now, what about you? Are you a freelance writer looking for ideas? What do you think about before you start a new story? I’d love to hear how you do it.