By Sally Ashworth
You’ve got to keep the ideas rolling to make it as a freelance writer — it’s a skill as crucial as great writing.
But we all hit times when inspiration feels elusive and our idea bank could use a top-up.
If you recognize that frustrating feeling, turn super-sleuth and try hunting for query gems in these unusual places. You might just strike gold!
The book section of Amazon is a rich seam just waiting to be tapped.
Punch in a few key words such as parenting or child development, choose the department you want to search in and then opt to have the results arranged in date order. Presto! A ready-made list of story ideas and expert authors to interview.
I had a pitch commissioned recently by an education magazine after finding an interesting book on a new, fun method of teaching science to children.
Listening in on peopleâ€™s conversations is a brilliant way of finding inspiration for your writing, and with Facebook you get to eavesdrop from the comfort of your sofa.
The other day one of my Facebook friends posted a status about how sheâ€™d just picked up 14 towels and six coffee cups off her teenage daughterâ€™s bedroom floor.
Her amusing whine obviously struck a chord, because more than 30 people left comments. So how about querying a light-hearted piece on living with your teensâ€™ bad habits?
Or check out what hot topics your friends are â€œliking.â€ If people are chatting about it online, chances are theyâ€™ll want to read your fantastic article about it, too!
Pick a subject, however obscure, and youâ€™ll find people chatting about it online.
And like Facebook, online forums are fabulous places to stop by and listen in.
Whether itâ€™s a forum for hobbyists or a particular professional field, most are free to browse without having to sign up or pay.
Whatâ€™s going on in the world of trout fishing? A quick Google search will turn up dozens of forums teeming with enthusiasts chatting about their hobby â€” giving you loads of free inspiration for new queries.
Desperate to break into your favorite parenting magazine? Every parenting topic you could ever think of is being debated online right now.Â So find a forum and get listening!
With hundreds of thousands of listings, sometimes itâ€™s hard to see the wood for the trees on eBay.
But a little targeted detective work can dig up some strong leads. Be creative.
How about checking out the â€œseller refurbishedâ€ furniture items for a piece on â€œupcyclingâ€ or looking at which games or electronic gadgets are attracting the most bids for a story on latest crazes?
I found out a doll Iâ€™d had since I was a kid was worth hundreds of dollars after a quick search on eBay â€” which led to a query on collecting antique toys.
Classified ad sections (either online or in print) are happy hunting grounds for story ideas.
An online ad site I looked at recently popped up with an index of things for sale, which included hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs! Really? Whoâ€™s buying them? Why? Are rescue centers seeing more of them as people realize they arenâ€™t as cuddly as kittens? You get the idea.
Magazinesâ€™ classified ads are also useful because they paint a really clear picture of the publicationâ€™s readership.Â For example, if there are lots of ads for luxury products, your pitch on surviving the credit crisis might find a better home elsewhere.
So next time you find your idea supply drying up, give one of these places a go. Theyâ€™re dripping with ideas just waiting to be turned into golden queries.
What is the strangest place you ever found a story idea? Tell us in the comments below.
Sally Ashworth is a freelance writer from the small but very cool English town of Hebden Bridge. Find her online portfolio at sallyashworth.co.uk.