Monday, November 21, 2011

What Should I Write About?

I love magazines and subscribe to several. If you have a subscription that lasts long enough, you can almost predict what topics will be covered at certain times of the year.

October will have “Fun Halloween Recipes” and “How to Stay Sane During the Holidays.”

November will have “Best Gifts for Anyone for Under $25,” and “Don’t Blow Your Diet During the Holidays.”

January’s articles will tell you how to lose the weight you gained during the holidays in time for bathing suit season.

April magazines help you find the right bathing suit for the lumpy body you failed to get under control.

And so it goes.

Even if you favor fiction, writing non-fiction magazine pieces can be a good way to keep up your writing skills. Kids magazines constantly need new material.

Child-readers are a renewable resource. There will always be new six-year-olds learning about the life-cycles of butterflies. New fourth graders will learn about their state symbols. Pre-teens will want to know how to connect with their peers. Magazines geared to particular age groups must provide new ways of repeating information.

So what do you write about? First, head over to your local library or bookstore and check out the magazines that are currently available for kids. Or, check out the Children’s Magazine Guide:

Read through issues to get a sense of their style, readability levels, target age group, etc. Pay attention to the types of articles that have appeared before. If a magazine featured a story on the Bengal Tiger, for example, they might be interested in a story about ocelots. If they already did a story about ocelots, maybe they’d like a story on a jungle cat rescue facility, or a particular jungle cat that’s being brought back from extinction because of the work of a particular zoo.

What are kids learning about? You can find out by reading about state-wide or national curriculums such as:

Don’t limit yourself to stories about your chosen topics. Think puzzles, games, crafts, recipes, and so on. I sold a puzzle about the skeleton to one of the kid’s health magazines. Write Sister Kathy wrote a fall rebus story for Highlights and has sold a piece on making an easy bird feeder amongst other crafts.

Pay attention to theme lists. Some magazines—such as the Cobblestone Group—feature one theme throughout that month’s issue. A theme does not limit your creativity. Say the theme is women pilots. Amelia Earhart certainly comes to mind but what about a story about the first woman fighter pilot such as Colonel Martha McSally? What about a story that details the parts of a plane? What kind of food could an early pilot take along on a long flight? Can you duplicate a recipe for easy-to-carry food? Create a board game about a certain flight? Make up a puzzle about women pilots? These last few ideas may not seem like writing but they are. You are creating readable sentences, directions that can be followed by your target audience, and more importantly, stretching your own mind.

And, while you’re writing that magazine piece, you just might get an idea for a story about a woman pilot who lands on a desert island and befriends a wild ocelot.


Barbara said...

Great tips, Mur, and even better thinking-out-of-the-box ideas!

Barbara said...
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I'm Jet . . . said...

An important topic!