Do you have one? I'm not talking about the little note book you carry in your back pocket for all your brilliant thoughts that strike when you're away from your desk. No, I'm referring to the one that you keep at your desk...taped to the wall, or stuck in your calendar so that it stares at you until you act on it.
I made a new one today. But this time I took it a step further than the last one I made. After I wrote down the idea for a newspaper article, and short notes for what to include in the piece, I added the market I thought it would fit in best. (Washington Post: Web Travel section). Next, I estimated how many words I thought it'd be so that when I sat down to write it, I could be more focused, (500 words). Then, I researched the section I wanted to send it to and checked to see if any similar articles had run recently...nope! Finally, before moving on, I wrote down two sentences for the query/cover letter. All of this took ony 15-20 minutes.
Idea Sheet + 5 easy steps to insure follow thru
Brilliant Story/Article Idea
1. summary of article
2. estimate word count
3. market/placement leads
5. query/cover letter
Try it, and see if the extra steps help you to complete your piece. I'll let you know if it works for me.