Once you get tuned into looking for ideas for stories and articles, you will find them everywhere. The trick is learning to identify which ones are most likely to sell. I seem to have an innate sense in this area, but I know for many others it has to be learned. Here I would like to share some of the underlying principles that work for me.
The key, obviously, is selecting a subject of high personal interest to your readers. We tend to want to write about what interests us, which is fine as long as the same things interest your readers and the editors. Every piece needs a definable potential audience and you need to have some sense of how large that audience is. For example it may by homemakers, businessmen, retired people, children or home-schoolers.
Actually you can take almost any topic and write an effective article as long as you determine how this piece affects people and write it with that slant. Even if you are reporting on a new street being built, the focus of the article is not what kind of blacktop they are using, but on how it will impact the people in the area. That basic principle applies to every article you write.
The underlying question, then, is “what do readers want?” They want to learn about all kinds of things—which you fulfill with how-to or service pieces. They want new experiences—even if those are the vicarious experiences of others. They want to read about themselves—if not what they personally have done, what others in their definable group are doing (housewife, businessman, or whatever). They want to keep up with the latest—developments, gossip, trends, etc. And they want to be prepared for the future—physically, economically, and spiritually.
Obviously you cannot meet all of these needs, but with every idea that interests you, ask how this can meet the needs or interests of your readers. Look for solid life applications. If you are not highly interested and enthusiastic about the topic, you are not likely to interest an editor, or ultimately your readers.
Writers need to keep up with what is happening in the world around them, in the secular as well as Christian, and be constantly on the look out for current universal themes that, given the right twist, will meet the needs of their readers.