Hello Anonymous! I like your pen name!
Hmm…I have to think about this. When I first started I would spend weeks slaving over one piece and then send the whole gosh darn thing in. This is really good because if I only pitch an idea, I usually don’t follow through with it (ask The Hairpin, Splitsider, the FW, OverthinkingIt, HuffPo….blah blah blah…). So, if something’s done, it’s done. It was also bad because I stressed out too much and as a result, my writing was more overwrought than it needed to be.
I would suggest that if you’re submitting for the first time somewhere to write the whole thing. It’ll give your editors an entire piece to work with, and when you get your inevitable first round of rejections (welcome to writing!), you’ll have a first draft of a piece to rewrite and submit elsewhere. I can’t tell you how many of my pieces were initially meant for another publication, but there are a fair few.
Now, I’m lucky that a few cool editors just give me a space to write whatever I want when I want to write it (Hello Giggles, Huffington Post). Those breaks came from submitting entire articles or on the quality of entire already published articles.
I guess my final answer is you can totally pitch ideas—I’ve done it and it can work!—but, writing the whole article gives you something more tangible to offer and to work with. Plus, you’re actually writing. For me, the point of writing for all these publications is more to gain experience as a writer than anything else. I don’t think I’ll hit my real power as a writer until I’m in my late 30’s or early 40’s (at the earliest) and the only way to get there is to write now.
So, write the whole thing. Just fucking write.