Before you start the planning, researching, or drafting for your writing project, and WAY before you get into revisions, you need to come up with an idea. The idea is the true starting point for any writing project. There are many ways to come up with ideas, and you need to be able to evaluate how well they will work for you. Bad writing ideas can result in bad websites, brochures, articles, newsletters, or other documents; but, the real reason you need to be able to spot them is that they can make the writing process much more difficult than it has to be. If you proceed with a bad writing idea, you will have not just a bad piece, but a bad day. Here are some suggestions for how to spot a bad writing idea from a mile away:
It is not a good fit for your brand.
Writing ideas can come from any number of sources, such as your own experience, feedback from clients or customers, the news, your family life or hobbies, and social media. You get a lot of input on a daily basis, and some of it might seem to translate well into great ideas for blog posts, articles, websites, and other promotional pieces. But you need to ask yourself if they are just ideas you are interested in, or ideas that will truly help promote your products or services and strengthen your brand.
For example, say you run a staid bookstore that specializes in classic literature. Your store’s brand is intellectual and upscale. You also have an interest in Lady Gaga, and want to write an article that compares the way she experiments with her image to experimenting with new books. STOP! Lady Gaga, as interesting as she may be, is also the OPPOSITE of your brand: a flamboyant pop culture icon. Try to find a more reserved celebrity to help you make your comparison.
An outline doesn’t come easily.
It seems like a great idea, but once you put your fingers to the keyboard to start fleshing out your thoughts, you can’t think of anything to say. This could be due to writer’s block, distractions, indigestion, or the fact that you really don’t have a very good idea. Go back to the drawing board and think of a new one.
It doesn’t support your main point.
Your story about attending a World Series game may be interesting and entertaining, and it may even appeal to your audience, but can you really make a connection between this topic and your latest widget upgrade? Save this idea for your personal blog or the sports bar.
You need a new identity to make it work.
Let’s rethink the example above. You COULD stretch your World Series story to help promote your latest widget. But, what else would you need to do to make it effective? Rename your widget to the Home Run Hoodgit? Host a World Series sale? Call yourself the Hoodgit Hitter? Unless you are prepared to develop a whole campaign, or new identity, be careful not to latch onto writing ideas that require additional promotional activities to back them up.
Others don’t like it.
You are REALLY enthusiastic about your idea, and you run it by your cube neighbor, and he says, “Meh.” You present it your boss, and she says, “Mmmmmm-Hmmmmm.” You mention it to your graphic designer, and he says, “Well, we COULD do something with that.” Are you getting the hint? If people you trust don’t think it’s a great idea, it could be that they just “don’t get it,” or…it could be that it’s not a great idea. See if you can come up with something else.
What’s the last bad writing idea you came up with? There’s no judgment here (we all come up with a bad one every now and then), so please share in the comments!
About the Author: Karen Marcus, M.A. is a Northern Colorado copywriter who has been helping clients in a wide range of industries to put their best word forward for 13 years.
Need assistance coming up with good writing ideas? Karen can help! Click here for contact info.