Thursday, August 23, 2007

Finding a "Fresh" Angle

Question of the week: I was curious about some of the evergreen stories you've written because one of the "rules" of freelancing I've been told is that an article should have some kind of new angle to them, but these not all of yours are. So I was curious: is there a magic formula might be, absent a news hook.

Oh, if only! You know, I don't really have a brilliant answer for this, but I'll give it a shot. Yes, a lot of stories that I write and that magazines cover are indeed evergreen. And a lot of them are similar to others that you've read in the past or in other magazines. (Which is why newbie writers are so often convinced that a magazine "stole" their idea: in reality, it's just highly likely that someone else pitched a similar story or that the magazine was planning a similar story.) There's just no denying it.

What makes one pitch fresh and the other stale? Well, you already got the first aspect of it: news hooks. There's no better way to grab an editor's attention than by pointing out new studies or research that make the subject worthy of revisiting again.

But other than that, I really do believe that it comes down to packaging. Editors know that there are only so many topics and subjects out there, so I think that the best way to land an article is to come up with a creative way to package it. For example, I recently had a story run in Woman's Day called Just Do It. My editor had asked me for some new ideas, so I was brainstorming various things in my life that could be improved upon. (This is how I come up with a lot of my story ideas, btw.) I looked at my closet, and it made me want to cry, and I realized that I only had myself to blame for it: I'd been putting off organizing it for so long that it seemed almost unmanageable.

So, from here, I could have pitched a general, "Hey, let's do a story on organizing or let's do a story on procrastinating," but my editor would have said, "What's so interesting about that? What makes it any different than the gajillion other stories we've run like that?"

Instead, I came up with a creative way to cover the same-old subject. Thus, I broke the pitch (and the assigned story) down like this:

Why You Resist: Because it bores you to tears
Why We Insist: Because it will change your life, blah, blah, blah

Do you see how this one little twist made the subject matter so much more interesting? I really do think that's the key to landing evergreen stories, because, after all, news pegs can only take you so far.

But that's just my opinion. How do you guys land evergreens and what do you do to set yourself apart?

1 comment:

Trish Ryan said...

I saw that article (I think I read in on your website?) It was great. My closet thanks you (as do my jeans...I think one of the TASKS YOU HATE DOING was exercise, and my denim is under much less stress since I got back on the treadmill...)