I’ve been an editor, forever, and along the way sold 1,700+ freelance articles of my own to other editors. Two things you must know that will help you get bought regularly.
One, don’t start your article with a question, either in the lead or the title.
The editor will change the title anyway, so just put the key words or point at the top–unless the item is humorous, in which case you must write a title as funny as the prose.
Why don’t you start the piece with a question? Because most of the editors have a newspaper background, and there it’s considered a “cheap lead” and thus taboo. So you usually get rejected before the work is even seriously considered.
That’s not to say that the article isn’t the answer to a question. In your mind or on a working sheet of paper you can write all of that down. Just reorganize it so the lead grabs the reader’s attention and gets into the text immediately.
Which sort of leads to the second tip. You almost always need a “transitional paragraph” after the lead. It’s usually the second or third paragraph, and its purpose is to tell the reader where the article is going and how it will get there.
If the lead promises an unforgettable walk through downtown Novato, California, the transitional paragraph might say, “Find San Francisco, cross the Golden Gate Bridge heading north, and take the freeway 25 miles. If you see the Buck Institute on a mountain on the left and the swampy airport on the right, you’ve gone too far.”
Or if you snagged the reader in the lead with something harrowing about today’s open heart surgery, and the piece has three points to make, your transitional paragraph might say, “Survivors today live an average of __ years after the surgery and repair, but there are three things they must do before they start rearranging their diets and buying walking boots.”
Just study articles in print and the transitional pagraphs will leap out at you. At times the organizational instructions are more cleverly hidden, but you can hardly ever go wrong grabbing the editor’s eyes with a hook lead, then telling where the rest of those words are going.
Good luck! (This reduces the luck factor.)
P.S. I talk about dangerous stuff like this in my free monthly newsletter.