Republicanism, sportophobia (Mistake #62)

Too many of us are going to be, at this time of year, distracted by Christmas – presents, parties – and then later by New Year – resolutions, more parties – but what you really need to be thinking about over the coming weeks is article ideas for 2012.

And what 2012 is going to be all about is the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (June) and the Olympic Games (July/August).

These are huge dates – both in their own right, but also as far as magazine and newspaper publishing goes. There will be very few publications who will be totally ignoring them, and that means thousands of summer editions which will be at least partly devoted to the two events. A number will I’m sure carry jubilee or Olympic ‘specials’ or supplements.

You know where I’m going with this: supplements and special editions means lots and lots of articles, and that means lots and lots of writers will be needed to write those lots and lots of articles.

You could – and perhaps should – be among them.

Why ‘should’? Because writing about something major is satisfying. I wrote about Wimbledon once, and the launch of a new hi-tech medical machine, and I reviewed several key exhibitions: not so especially glamorous or notable in hindsight, but they felt so to me at the time, and when you’re covering something of importance it can give you more of a sense of achievement. Wherever you stand on the Royals or on sport – and I’m not keen on the former and only periodically so on the latter – you can’t argue that the events of next summer aren’t something important to many. Being a part of them by writing and publishing on them would be excellent for your writing CV.

You may be thinking it’s too soon, even for a monthly. Wrong. Monthlies tend to work around four months in advance of cover date, but for major dates (eg Christmas), it’s often a bit sooner. (Anyone who’s worked on women’s or lifestyle magazines, as I have, will know the curious feeling of writing about Christmas puddings in the height of summer.) Make no mistake: editors are thinking about their Jubilee and Olympic editions now.

The problem as far as you (the individual) is concerned, is that you others (every other writer reading) and those others over there (every other writer not reading) will also be thinking about sending such ideas out at this time, so there will be competition. A lot of it.

Do not let this put you off. But what it means is you must come up with strong, sophisticated and original ideas. A proposal offering an article looking back over the Queen’s 60-year reign is not going to sell. An article looking at the history of the Olympics will make an editor yawn.

An article contrasting and comparing the current jubilee plans with those put in place for Victoria’s in 1897 may be more like it. An article looking at how styles of medals have evolved since the Olympics were last in London? That might have something going for it.

The more niche, the more specific, the more tailored to your target publication – the better. I think the best way to turn on your idea-juice tap is to start with the magazine.

Any magazine will do. Get your Writers and Artists Yearbook and start at the beginning. What, you may wonder, would Accountancy Magazine want with an article on the Olympics? Well, you don’t know until you ask. You’ll not be surprised to learn that the best person to ask is an accountant. How will his or her life change because of the Olympics? Will he or she have more work? If business is going to boom in the London during Olympic month, might that be a challenge, in some other way? If you have such a discussion with an accountant, an idea could be thrown up. Another approach might be to ask whether the IOC is hiring accountants – and taking it from there.

Dogs Monthly? Maybe a piece on sniffer dogs and how they’ll be in huge demand next summer for security purposes? How are they all being trained? How were dogs used in previous jubilee celebrations and Olympics?

Look, you get the picture. You need to brainstorm. You need to ask questions. Construct an angle for every conceivable magazine and see whether there’s something in it.

There’s a huge opportunity looming, is the message I guess I’m trying to convey. If you want to be a part of it, get your thinking caps on, and start researching and writing. Good luck!

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