Online Class: Generating Story Ideas That Are Original and Compelling In A World Of Crap Content

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Online Class: Generating Story Ideas That Are Original and Compelling In A World Of Crap Content


About one in three students in my “How To Earn A Living…” asked me “How do you always come up with ideas for stuff to write about?” I was like, “Dude, that’s going to take more than the 15 minutes we have but here’s a bite-sized crash course!” The truth is that coming up with regular original story ideas is one of the greatest challenges as a freelance writer without a particular beat that demands particular coverage of topics assigned or constantly incoming. There are only so many lukewarm takes one can publish without starting to feel like a hack. This class will focus on generating ideas for writing in the areas of Arts & Culture, Opinion & Commentary, and Identity/Experience Essays (sometimes called personal essays.)

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This class is designed to give students the reading materials, reading practices, personal and intellectual habits and practices, and self-discipline required to come up with a large number of high-quality story ideas consistently without resorting to gimmicks and content mill drudgery.

It will take place over the course of two two-hour sessions, with each session focused on a particular set of writing types that are in demand in digital media: Identity/Experience Essays (usually called “Personal Essays”) and then Arts/Culture and Opinion/Commentary stories. All students will be given a course packet with additional resources and detailed instructions on how to formulate story ideas using a variety of exercises that force writers to self-reflect, hone in on their best ideas, and mine their intellects, interests, and expertise for compelling story ideas they can successfully pitch.

This class will not cover where to pitch these stories specifically nor will it cover how to formulate the pitches for them. For that information, I recommend one of my “How To Earn A Living With (Several Types) Of Writing” courses which cover pitching in detail and offer pitch templates. 

Class will take place over a Skype Conversation, held two evenings in a row, starting at 8pm EST and going until 10:00pm. 

Class 1, Tuesday August 8: Exploring Identities To Produce Experience-Based Personal Essays

People love to shit on personal essays because they think the people writing them are strip-mining their very souls to come up with the content. Most personal essays don’t require you to do anything of the sort. They do not rely on confession, but on experience and expertise in a given area, usually because of particular identities, ranging from race, gender, and sexual orientation to sports affiliation, family size growing up, region where you live and work, and who your favorite member of One Direction is/was. The first half of this class will focus on how to excavate your set of of identities and experiences to realize that you actually have a lot more to write than you might necessarily think. 

The second half of the class is focused on various formulas and story types that rely on personal opinion, narrative, and experience  to bring them to life in ways that are relevant to a broad audience and that don't compromise your integrity or privacy. This class will largely inform the second session because so much of the material that goes into original art, culture, and commentary stories is informed by these identities and experiences. 

Class 2, Wednesday August 9: Formulas and Tactics For Writing Arts & Culture and Opinion/Commentary Stories

Want to write about books? Movies? Music? Art that goes in museums and galleries mostly? Maybe you’ve written about these topics successfully in the past but come up short of ideas when you want to pitch something new, you want to write something about THIS ONE THING but don’t have an angle or the access you feel you need. This session covers a variety of writing types within the world of arts and culture and how to generate ideas in each of them, sometimes through simple word-association exercises, sometimes through more serious internal investigation.

So, you have a hot take, do you? NO YOU DON’T THAT’S WHY YOU’RE TAKING THIS CLASS. You know that you can write substantive critical commentary on the news, tech, celebrities, a new study that came out proving ravens are going to take over the Earth but often get lost in search of an original angle that doesn’t rely on gimmicks or blaming millennials for it all. This class covers best practices in being part of the cultural conversation where these stories live, various formats and angles that you can plug into without making your headline look like a Hot Take Mad Lib (Avocado Toast Is Ruining The Housing Market In Space!)