Image by K. Sawyer Photography via Flickr
I hope you’ve all been enjoying the guest posts in this series written by Clair Schwan. I know I have. He offers a wealth of great ideas, and I am always excited to try each one out when I finish reading the latest edition. If you haven’t yet read his first two installments, be sure to do so. You’ve missed out!
In this third installment of the series, I’m going to discuss how to use the third technique that I introduced in my introductory article on curing the affliction of writer’s block. The third technique that I recommend is to start with a “hit list” and then re-hit the list to multiply it.
Let’s see how it’s done.
This approach is similar to the drill down technique discussed in the first article in this series, but this time we’re going to mix up the subjects and try to get similar good results.
To do this, pretend that you need to write 30 articles for a general interest magazine that will accept just about anything under the sun, as long as you can write well about it. As an example, you might have the following six titles on your list.
- How to lose weight without dieting
- Training your dog to perform tricks – it’s easy when you know how
- Learning a foreign language using the immersion method
- Driving on snow and ice: 10 things you should know
- Personal relationships – things your family never taught you
- How to grow vegetables from seed
Of course, you’ll have 30 titles in your list, so you’ll have much more to work with, but for the purposes of example, I’ll only speak to these six.
In each of these titles, you can discern a genre. Once you identify it, you can apply it to the others on the list. If you look at item #1, it’s a “without” type post, so let’s see if we can apply that genre to the other five to generate new ideas for article titles.
- Training your dog without frustration
- Learning a foreign language without a tutor
- Driving on snow and ice without fear and trepidation
- Personal relationships without the drama
- Growing vegetables from seed without soil
Let’s do something similar with item # 4 and see if we might apply this “number of things” genre to the other five articles on the list.
- Losing weight – the four most effective methods
- Training your dog – six tricks that every dog should know
- Learning a foreign language – the four most important languages to know
- Five things guys should never do when dating.
- The eight most popular vegetables to grow.
Notice that in the relationship title, I switched the theme from relationships to dating. It just naturally popped into my mind, so now I’ve introduced another theme to write about. That becomes another theme that I can re-hit with the eight genres to create additional articles.
So, what do we wind up with when we do this with our list of 30 titles? Let’s suppose that we have eight genres in our list of 30 articles. You’ll recognize the first two as we’ve already discussed them. The complete list might be:
- Something without something else
- Number of things
- How to
- Most popular
- Things you never learned in school
- Secrets revealed (I personally dislike this genre, but it’s popular and it gets attention)
- Things to avoid
- Places to visit
Now comes the hard part – it’s called math. If we started with 30 articles and we could only discern eight different genres among all 30 article themes, then that means for each of the eight genres, there are 30 applications for it; one in the original title, and 29 additional applications (assuming that you can take each genre and dream up how it might apply to the other titles on the list). So, that gives us 240 articles to write about from a list of 30.
When I rewrote the “relationship” title to make it “dating,” I was introducing another theme. If we could simply introduce one more theme for each of our original article titles (which would be a breeze), then we’ve provided another 30 themes to which we can apply the eight genres, thus adding another 240 article titles to make our total come to 480 articles.
Okay, so what started out as a simple assignment to think of 30 article titles has quickly expanded into a list of 240 different articles, simply because we created a hit list and then re-hit the list with the unique genres we discovered. By finding an additional theme in each of the article titles, and then reapplying the genres, we doubled that number to 480.
Even if you applied this technique in a much less structured way, you’d probably still end up at least tripling the number of articles on your original list. And you can’t think of anything to write about? I don’t believe it.
Clair Schwan is the managing editor of Self Reliance Works.com where he and his team of writers meet the challenge of regularly writing about nearly everything under the sun that is oriented towards self-reliance, including the many forms of human communication.
Related Article: Guest Post: Writer’s Block: Curing the Affliction – Technique #2