Blog by Toby Welch

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The Necessity of Being Specific in What You Write

When you want to write a magazine article or get a book published, the more specific the topic, the more likely you are to get the thumbs up from an editor.

If you don’t have a specific slant, an idea is usually too generic. It would be like sending an editor a pitch about reducing your household water consumption. There’s nothing wrong with the idea but the editor won’t be itching to hire you to write it as it’s been done and redone a million times. Anyone could come up with that; it is generic and too broad of a topic.

One writer pitched an editor she’d never worked with the following idea - Water Conservation, Australia Style. There’s a region in Australia that had survived years of the worst drought known to modern man. She suggested an article on what the people in Australia learned in order to drastically reduce their water consumption and what North Americans could learn from them. Now that is an ideal slant. The editor loved it and the writer got the job.

As Jennifer Carsen points out in her article What Makes a Good Magazine Query?, “Know your slant. It’s not enough to tell an editor that you want to write a story for them about weight loss. You need a specific slant, e.g., “9 Ways to Lose Weight While Napping” or “How I Lost 38 Lbs. Eating Nothing but Bananas.”

Consider the following ideas; which ones do you think an editor would be more willing to hire you to write:

How to be a Great Realtor OR Why Realtors Fail

Keep Track of Everything at Your Cottage OR Create a Cottage Manual

Should You Cut Commissions OR Slashing Commissions for Family Members

Advertising Your Services OR Should You Advertise Your Business on Your Vehicle?

Show Appreciation to Your Child’s Teacher OR Gifts for Teachers for the Holidays

How to Survive a Fire OR How to Survive a Hotel Fire

Keep Your Home Safe OR Avoid Mould Issues in Your Home

Everything You Need to Know About White Water Rafting OR White Water Rafting Safety

Stay Safe Online OR Don’t be a Victim of Cyberbullying

How to Sell your House OR Staging Your Garage When You Sell Your House

Trees at the Cottage VERSUS What to do With Dead Trees at the Cottage

In the list above, all of the second ideas (the more specific of the two) became published articles. The narrower the idea, the better your chances of hooking an editor’s interest. Had the writer pitched the first idea in each pair, chances are the editor would have taken a pass. Would you rather read an article about the history of chocolate or an article about Mars bars being the best selling chocolate bars in the world and how that came to be?
The next time you are thinking of an idea to pitch to an editor, remember to narrow down your idea. Good luck!