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By Jennifer Stevens
American Writers & Artists Inc.
About the Author
Jennifer Stevens spent the balance of many years gallivanting through Latin America and the Caribbean -- to Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, Belize, and beyond writing about the best locales for overseas travel, retirement, and investment. She is the former editor of International Living, where she remains a contributing editor today. Prior to her stint as an IL staffer, she was a writer and editor at Trade & Culture magazine, a bi-monthly about international trade issues. And in an earlier incarnation, she taught English as a Peace Corps volunteer on an island in the Indian Ocean. Jennifer is the author of The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program, published by American Writers & Artists Inc. For more information about it and the live workshops she leads, visit: www.thetravelwriterslife.com
© Copyright 2007 by American Writers & Artists Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Published by: American Writers & Artists Inc. 245 NE 4th Ave, Ste. 102 Delray Beach, FL. 33483 For more information: www.thetravelwriterslife.com
Table of Contents
Foreword by Lori Allen Introduction - Why Travel Writing Must Be the Best Job in the World Chapter 1 – What You Need -- and Don’t Need -- to Be a Travel Writer Chapter 2 – How Do You Begin? Chapter 3 – Seven Steps to Success: How to Get Published and Land Perks Chapter 4 – Six Ways to Find Saleable Story Ideas Chapter 5 – Three Things the Strongest Article Ideas Have in Common Chapter 6 – The # 1 Secret to Writing Top-Notch Travel Articles: Trash the Travel Speak Chapter 7 – How to Write Query Letters that Will Sell Your Articles Chapter 8 – Seven Habits of Successful Travel Writers Chapter 9 - Your 10-Day Success Plan: What to Do This Week and Next to Accelerate Your Success and Get Something Published… Fast 3 5 10 14 18 21 25
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by Lori Allen Director, AWAI’s Travel Division
I'm not exaggerating when I say a seasoned travel writer’s passport pages are as wellturned as a child's favorite story book. I work with writers every day who travel the world... and get paid to do it. In fact, the "work" (if you want to call it that) never stops. I have one colleague who’ll spend next week in England's East Anglia region — the soft rolling countryside of poppysprinkled cornfields and ancient wool towns made famous in the paintings of John Constable. At the beginning of October she’ll be in Italy — Tuscany and Umbria. Then, later in the month, Mexico. And for Christmas, she’ll be discovering the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. I’m not trying to make you envious -- you could easily have a job like hers. In fact, her editor is crying out for correspondents to report on destinations throughout the world. And hers is not the only editor seeking fresh talent. Not by a long-shot. I work regularly with writers who have to turn work down — there simply aren't enough hours in the day to take up all the writing commissions that come their way. But understand, becoming a freelance travel writer doesn’t mean a full-time commitment. You don’t have to spend your time jumping from island to island and country to country in order to find the juiciest stories (unless, of course, you want to!). While some people enjoy road trips and jaunts by plane and fully immersing themselves in the travel writer’s life, there are plenty of successful travel writers who write only in their spare time. The choice is 100% yours. Whether you're hoping for a full-time gig or a part-time distraction, when you're first starting out as a travel writer, one of the easiest ways to get your first articles published is to write about where you live. It’s a great way to “use what you know” while getting your feet wet in the freelance travel writing world. And because you don't have to get on a plane
or spend thousands of dollars on a vacation, you can land your first by-line with minimum effort and expense. In the pages that follow, we're going to show you how to do just that. We'll show you exactly what you need to get started — the fundamentals of writing locally. Plus, eight steps to becoming a successful travel writer -- where to get your story ideas, how to edit your drafts, and more! Of course, once you’ve mastered the art of writing and publishing locally, you’ll be ready to graduate to The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program. In it, you'll expand your travel writing horizons, learning, step-by-step, how to construct seven different types of travel articles and how to sell them, too. In fact, you'll find all the insider secrets you need to become a globe-trotting, freelancing pro! But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself… So for now, I’m going to hand the reigns over to one of the greatest travel writers I know, freelance writer and editor, Jennifer Stevens. She’s going to take you through everything you need to get your travel writing career off the ground by writing about places near where you live. Wishing you good travels and great success,
Lori Allen Director, AWAI’s Travel Division www.thetravelwriterslife.com
Introduction Why Travel Writing Must Be the Best Job in the World
My friends -- many of whom work in offices and cubicles and courthouses and newsrooms and under-funded non-profits —wonder aloud whether travel writing really is a job or simply an excuse I use to get out of town. I would argue that it is indeed a job — albeit a supremely enjoyable one. Don't get me wrong, as a travel writer you will spend some hours with your bum in a chair and your hands on a keyboard. But in my book, of all the kinds of writing you can do — fiction writing, academic writing, marketing writing, technical writing, and so on — travel writing is the most fun… and the most rewarding in terms of the quality of life it helps provide. Here are a few reasons why…
An Excuse to Travel… and to Justify Your Travel
Perhaps you already took a long vacation this year. You might find it hard to explain to that voice in your head — the one that monitors your bank account — that you're going to take another. But if you can make enough money selling a story about your trip to cover its cost… or at least defray, say, the cost of the airfare… well, then, that is not such a bad arrangement. Take my freelancing friend Susan Doub: She and her husband spent a week on a boat in the waters off Belize, diving twice a day, sunning on the deck, eating meals prepared by the boat's gourmet chef, and enjoying the company of a handful of fellow scuba diving enthusiasts. Before she booked the trip, she approached the company that runs the program and was able — as a travel writer — to arrange a discounted rate for the allinclusive vacation. And then, when she returned home, she sold an article about it and made a few hundred dollars to help cover her costs. Once you have some track record as a travel writer — a few published stories to your name — you'll be able to do the same sort of thing. Plus you may be able to take deductions on your taxes for the "business expenses" associated with your travel and writing.
Hospitality, VIP Treatment and Complimentary Trips (Here's How the System Works)
Let me take a minute here to discuss why — and how — travel writers are able to take advantage of complimentary trips... meals... accommodation... tickets to shows... invitations to museum openings, and more.
You see, around the world, tourism generates $1.2 billion in spending per day, according to the World Tourism Organization. And competition for those tourist dollars is fierce — particularly now, post-9/11, when people are staying closer to home and are more hesitant to travel. It's no wonder, then, that hotels... tour organizers... cruise lines... airlines... even local governments are willing to spend big bucks on travel writers — in hopes that they'll have a positive experience and write about it favorably in a magazine, newspaper, newsletter or online. The more articles written about a place, the rationale goes, the more tourists will go there. More tourists mean more money... simple as that. To give you a sense of the scale of this industry, consider The Bahamas. The estimated annual budget for the Ministry of Tourism there is $69 million. In New York City, the official tourism marketing organization has a budget of $14.5 million. In those places — and elsewhere — a portion of those "tourism" funds is earmarked for wining and dining travel writers. (In the case of New York, that marketing organization's Web site actively caters to travel writers, offering to "arrange press passes for visitor destinations, coordinate press trips, and point you in the right direction to give you the information you need for your tourismrelated story.") As you begin to get articles published and your name becomes known in the business, you'll start to receive offers of hospitality. What's more, as I mentioned earlier, you'll be in a strong position to arrange your own, reduced-rate or complimentary stays and tailor what you do and see to an itinerary that suits your article ideas perfectly. Right now, for instance, I know of a small, luxury farmhouse in County Wexford, Ireland that's eager for media coverage and has put a call out to writers on assignment or with "approved credentials"... offering them a complimentary stay in the green, rolling hills of the Emerald Isle. There's a barge company in Europe that organizes luxury trips on the canals and small rivers of France, Scotland, Ireland, England and Germany. Passengers stay in airconditioned suites, enjoying spacious sundecks and elegant saloons. It's a week of pampering with a champagne welcome, wine with all the meals, an open bar and daily excursions. Qualified travel writers are offered free on-board accommodation. In the moist, green foothills of Washington State's Olympic Peninsula is a 20-acre haven close to Port Angeles. This secluded B&B overlooks a half-acre pond fed by a natural spring and ringed by flowers and reeds. The owners offer travel writers with the intent of writing about the property lodging and dining at no charge.
Traveling Becomes a Richer, More Interesting Experience
Travel writing is, after all, about more than just the freebies. It's also about seeing the world in a new way. Travel writing demands you pay greater attention to where you are than you might if you were just passing through as a tourist. You must train yourself to notice the smells, the sounds, the tastes, the cultural differences… what people are wearing and what they're talking about. Traveling this way gives you an excuse to chat with people, to ask the kinds of nosy, pointed questions you couldn't — or wouldn't — ask if you were simply traveling as a tourist. To me, it's this meeting people and this uncovering of the universal truths and fundamental differences about destinations the world over that gives life its greatest texture and interest.
Travel Writers Enjoy Tremendous Freedom and Flexibility
Whether you choose to launch a full-time career as a travel writer or you're planning on doing it on the side, it will prove an accommodatingly flexible "job." I, for example, am a full-time writer (though I write other things, too, not just travel articles). And I'm also a mother. Working from home, as I do, I've been able to watch my little guys grow up. I'm not so misguided as to believe I can put coherent words on paper while I'm babysitting, mind you — I find somebody else to corral the kids when I'm writing. But nevertheless, I'm around a lot more than many moms I know. I work when I want to. I take my Fridays off. I'll often write early in the mornings and late at night, but at least I'm doing so at home, where I can dump a load of laundry into the machine or take a break and run around the corner to the grocery store. And I work for myself, which gives me a measure of freedom I value greatly. (Plus I can turn a "field trip" to a local attraction, kids in tow, into an article -- and get paid for it!)
A Way to "Work" Overseas While You Live There
Travel writing can prove a perfect job for anybody living outside his or her native country but officially prohibited from working in that adopted home. A "trailing spouse" — one who packs up and joins the family's primary bread-winner overseas — is often at a loss for what to do once ensconced in that new place. Many times a work permit is out of the question. But, as Denise Cullen explains in her story below, travel writing can provide the perfect solution. Denise, now based in Australia, followed her fiancé to Malaysia for a couple of years and transformed her experience by writing about it:
"Though I’d long worked as a reporter for a local daily newspaper, I really got started in travel writing after my fiancé (now husband) was posted to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for two years with the English language teaching arm of The British Council. "It all started when I sent an unsolicited short review of Le Tour de Langkawi (the Malaysian equivalent of Le Tour de France) for the Hong-Kong based adventure travel publication, Action Asia. Not only did the magazine publish the article — they commissioned me to write a nine-page full-colour feature on Malaysia’s exotic east coast, which involved a self-drive tour from the northern tip (Kota Bharu) right down to Desaru in the south. "I discovered there was enormous demand for articles on this region and also began writing extensively for other publications, including the Singaporean-based Frequent Traveller magazine and the United Airlines’ in-flight magazine Hemispheres. "This meant I had a heavy workload, which sometimes conflicted with the demands of the part-time English teaching role I’d secured as my "bread and butter" — but I preferred that to the boredom and restlessness many expatriate wives in similar situations endured. Without wanting to sound disparaging, I didn’t want to spend two years doing little more than having morning teas and afternoon naps! "The advantages? Working as a travel writer allowed me to more fully engage with the country and its people than I ever would have been able to as a tourist or 'trailing spouse.' My fiancé and I travelled throughout Malaysia and other destinations in South East Asia at any opportunity — and grew to love it so much we were eventually married in a lily-strewn ceremony on Langkawi Island. (We later honeymooned at a little-known resort we’d uncovered during my Action Asia gig.) I learned enough of the local language, Bahasa Melayu, to be able to decipher menus and shop at the pasar malam (night markets). "I became a vociferous reader of local newspapers, for — though heavily censored by the government — they often contained astonishing slices of life. (For instance, reports of the latest incidents of citizens "running amok" were so common as to virtually warrant their own column.) I devoured works by local writers like Rehman Rashid, as well as English writers who were similarly entranced by the Far East, such as Somerset Maugham. Eventually, I realised I knew more about my adopted country’s history, geography, politics and personalities than I did of my own."
An Expressive Outlet for Your Thoughts, Interests and Opinions
You may dream about doing another kind of writing — of penning a novel or of writing a screenplay. Do it… but understand that kind of project requires a long-term investment in time and creative energy. Travel writing is a way to begin writing, a way to get into the habit of writing.
And it — like fiction-writing and other genres, too — requires your thoughtful analysis, your opinions, your creativity. And so by writing travel articles you're helping to make habit the same kinds of skills you'll employ in those other kinds of writing, too. But travel writing, unlike those other kinds of writing, is more immediately rewarding. You begin a project, you write your article, you sell your article, and there, in your hands, is a published piece of your work with your name on it. And that, as any published writer will tell you, is supremely satisfying. A friend of mine writes user-manuals for Microsoft. Another writes project proposals for a company that runs lotteries for states and countries. I have many friends who write marketing copy (and I, too, spend many hours a week doing this kind of writing). But I can tell you that in terms of gaining that feeling of satisfaction, of success, of a job well done… travel writing wins. And, as I've said, the perks like free travel, seeing the world in a richer way and working for yourself come with their own set of rewards…
In Fact, You Don't Actually Have to Travel at All
As a travel writer, you don't even have to travel. You might argue that this is not a benefit… but I think it is. Travel writing is something you can do from home... because your home is a destination for other people. Just as travel writing allows you to discover new places in a way you wouldn't as a tourist, it can also allow you to discover your own hometown and places nearby in a way you don't habitually do as a local. You go out in search of activities travelers would enjoy. You make a point of going to see that visiting exhibit at your local museum. And just as coming to understand faraway places makes your life that much richer, having that same insider's understanding of your own home environment makes your everyday life more interesting and more satisfying as well.
Chapter 1 What You Need — and Don’t Need — to Be a Travel Writer
By now, you know all about the romantic appeal of travel writing. You understand the benefits it offers — the VIP travel, the opportunity to meet new people, the chance to see the world in a whole new way... and the pleasure in doing all of that and getting paid for it, too. Perhaps there’s one question nagging at you, though: Do you really have what it takes to make a go of it in this business? If that’s your worry, you’re in good company. It’s what most readers ask at this point. My answer: I’m willing to bet you do. You see, over the years, I’ve enjoyed a fair margin of success as a travel writer and editor, and I’ve worked personally with hundreds of writers — lots of them new to the job. I’ve developed a pretty good idea — based on practical experience — about what it takes to “make it” in this field. Many of the most successful writers I’ve worked with never had any formal training as “writers” per se. They didn’t have degrees in journalism or in English, nor did they write in some other field in their day-to-day lives. They simply enjoyed a passion for travel, had a good eye for detail, and had learned how to deliver a story in just the way an editor would want it. A couple of years back, I surveyed the attendees at one of AWAI’s live travel writer workshops to find out what the participants did in their “other” lives, when they weren’t learning to be travel writers. Their backgrounds ran the gamut: travel agent... financial consultant... freelance photographer... television executive... stay-at-home mom... architect... accounting professor... retired elementary-school teacher... newspaper columnist... painter... retired surgeon... real estate developer... acupuncturist... even a college president... The list goes on. But my point is this: Just as they’ve become successful, so can you.
Requirement 1: You Need a Desire to Succeed
This desire — coupled with a willingness to do some work (though it’s hardly back-breaking labor) — is the main ingredient you need if you want to be a successful, moneymaking travel writer. What else?
Requirement 2: You Need an Interest in Seeing New Places and Meeting New People
To be a successful travel writer, you have to be curious about the world — both near and far — and the people who inhabit it. You have to dream of walking the back streets of Yokohama in search of the world’s best sashimi... or of playing darts with the local champion in some little pub in Limerick... maybe of riding a camel to see, first-hand, the tomb of Tutankhamen… And certainly now as you're starting out, you should be curious about what's around you at home. Strike up a conversation with the local merchants in your town's farmers market… or knock on the door at that new B&B in town and introducing yourself... You have to enjoy meeting new people — might be dignitaries, might be flower-sellers on the street — and speaking with them about their view of the world, what interests them, what they think of the place where they live. (I should say, by way of caveat: You don’t have to be the most outgoing person on earth to do this. You’d be surprised at how liberating that little reporter’s notebook can be.)
Requirement 3: You Have to Be Opinionated
Now, don’t take this the wrong way. Often “being opinionated” carries a negative connotation. Who wants to be around somebody who always has something to say about this or that? But in the context of travel writing — or just about any writing, for that matter — being “opinionated” is a strength. You need to make judgment calls about all sorts of things — which hotel is better, how one beach compares to another, why this place would make a good destination for a family of travelers or why it would not. And you can’t do that without opinions. Your job as a travel writer is, in large part, to persuade people to believe in your point of view. If you visit Madagascar and love it, you want that love to shine through in your writing. You want to persuade your readers that they’d love it as well. If, on the other hand, you visit some tourist trap that’s not worth going to, you want to use the power of your words to get that message across to your readers. To do that, you simply can’t operate without opinions. The fact is: When you write a travel article, you’re “selling” your ideas, convincing the reader that your opinions are valid and worth acting on. Now, you may resist this idea that travel writing is about “selling” anything. Perhaps you have no interest in being a “salesperson.” But before you close this text with a scowl, ask yourself a few questions: 11 Do you like to convince people that your point of view is right? (Doesn’t everybody?) Do you like to have your own way? (Of course you do.)
Have you ever convinced your spouse (or a friend) to go to a movie you wanted to see? (Surely you have.) Have you ever gotten anyone to do you a favor? (Don’t try to deny it.)
If you answered those questions as I suspect you did, then you’re both opinionated enough and enough of a salesperson to serve our purposes here.
Requirement 4: You Must Be Observant
So far, we’ve been talking about traits you almost certainly already have — your interest in meeting new people, seeing new places, traveling well... your desire to succeed and willingness to work for that success... and so on. Now we’re talking about a skill that you may have to learn to develop: You need to be observant. The good news for you is that this skill is easily learned and practiced. It’s really a matter of looking, listening, feeling, tasting, and smelling in a new way. And once you train yourself to be observant, you’ll find yourself doing these things as a matter of course, without even thinking about it. (In fact, in some instances, you’ll have to remind yourself to “turn off” your writer’s “eye”... to stop being so observant so you can more fully be a part of what’s going on around you.) I’ll talk about how to be more observant in chapter 7.
Requirement 5: You Need to Be Willing to Read and Do Research
If you want to persuade somebody to do something — even if it’s something as fun as visiting Cancun or going on a ski trip to the Swiss Alps — you need to know what you’re talking about. That’s because there’s nothing that makes you seem better informed or more persuasive than detailed knowledge. This means that as a travel writer you have to do some research before you leave home, while you’re on the road and possibly, too, when you come home. I’m not talking about painfully hard work — not the kind of research you might have done for a college paper. But beforehand, for instance, you need to be willing to spend some time online or at your local library learning a bit about this place you’re going to visit… even if it’s right there in the city you’ve been living in for years!
Requirement 6: You Must Make a Commitment to Put Words on Paper
The best way to become a writer is to write. That sounds like a cliché — but it’s true. It’s also true that many would-be travel writers never get out of the starting gate. They go on trips, they do research, and they may even get assignments. But they never actually get around to writing. In fact, a certain percentage
of the members enrolled in The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program never bother to do their assignments. These people never realize their full potential — either because they don’t have the commitment to write as much as they might, or because they don’t have the discipline it takes to write when they need to meet their deadlines. Writing... it can be challenging, certainly, but it’s hardly arduous labor. Coal mining, logging, doing construction... now that’s hard work. In truth, writing can be a wholly satisfying exercise. So sit down every day — even if only for 20 minutes — turn your computer on, put your hands on the keyboard and write something — anything. The blank page becomes less intimidating the more times you stare it down.
Chapter 2 How Do You Begin?
I suggest you begin by writing about someplace near you. When you write about things and places you know in your hometown — attractions, events, galleries, parks, hotels, restaurants, travel-related services — you can be sure that you're picking places worth writing about. (Sometimes it can be hard to tell when you're visiting a place for the first time.) That makes your hometown a smart place to start when you're gearing up to sell travel articles, because you don't have to second-guess yourself. After all, you're going to know your own backyard better than a visitor who merely spent a few hours poking around. Writing about what's around you can give you an edge when you're approaching publications because it allows you to position yourself as an expert of sorts. Editors appreciate that. And they like to print stories from locals who are "in the know." It can have its perks locally, too... Make sure you've introduced yourself to the public relations folks at your local tourist board, chamber of commerce, zoo, museum, and so on. And be sure your name is on their pressrelease lists (just ask them to add you to them -- they'll do so gladly). Establish yourself as a writer in town, and these folks will keep you in mind when they're getting ready to promote something new. You may even get invited to the opening. Nice perk. In fact, just this afternoon, the tourist board in my hometown sent me an invite to their big, annual dinner and silent auction — admission waived — just because I'm a resident writer. But beyond that, when you're a local writer, these folks will think of you as a resource. Editors at magazines regularly call tourist boards to ask, "Do you know a good local writer?" And you just might be the one whose name gets passed along. You can't underestimate the power of a recommendation like that. It happened to me just two weeks ago. An airline that hasn't flown here before is starting service to and from my local airport. The editor of that airline's in-flight magazine called my local tourist board to ask if anyone there knew a local writer. They did. Me. And I got the assignment. No work required. The same thing happens when you write for local publications. Editors call editors. Say you wrote a piece for your hometown paper. Not long after, an editor at a publication one state over decides he wants to cover your town. He doesn't have a staff writer to do it, so he gets on the phone with the editor who bought your story and says, "Hey, do you know a reliable freelancer who writes well?" That person could be you. Don't assume that you have to get on a plane to write a travel piece. Your best subject matter might be sitting five minutes from your front door.
Now, how to begin? It's easy. You begin exactly the same way you'd begin any writing project. 1. Find a subject. The best ideas are unique, specific, and targeted to a particular audience (more on this later). So don't set out today to write the definitive article about your hometown. Instead, think smaller. Is there a museum you might focus on? Or a nature center? Or a B&B? Or a festival? 2. Plan to write a short piece. By that, I mean a manageable article of 100-500 words. 3. Keep a particular audience in mind as you research and write. Keep asking yourself, "Who would be interested in this? And what would she want and need to know?" Let the answers to those questions decide what you put in — and what you leave out of — your story. 4. Plan to write more than one story about your visit. Gather lots of information. Find out if anything special is taking place during your visit or at another time. Any good fairs or festivals? You might not use the information for the piece you’re working on, but it may be useful for another article about it. 5. Do some research ahead of time about where to go and what to see. Of course, you don’t have to stick rigidly to your plan, but nothing beats good preparation. 6. Look beyond the obvious. Are there interesting snippets of history associated with your topic? Does a member of the staff have an unusual story to share? Looking beyond the “surface” will often make for the most interesting stories.
Get Started With the Easiest Type of Article to Write
Now, as I've already suggested, start small. It turns out, in fact, that it's often easier to sell shorter articles than it is longer ones. So not only is it less intimidating to tackle a piece of 100-500 words than it is one of 1,500 words or longer, but it's also likely to lead to a check more readily. These short pieces are often called "front of the book" articles. Lots of publications (both those devoted entirely to travel and those that publish only some travel content) are in the market for such things. Now, because you're working with limited space, it’s important to keep a narrow focus. You can’t easily write a quick note about well-discovered Rome. Instead, you’d want to narrow your topic considerably — as I've already suggested — to something like a new museum exhibit, a shop that sells unusual gifts, a great restaurant, a notable little hotel, a good travel deal, a new resource, and so on.
Next, draw your reader in with a “picture” of the subject. Take the reader there, with the most intimate details, right at the start. But understand, you’ve only got three or four sentences to do it. Then, get right to the "promise." Preferable within the first few sentences. You’ve got a reader in mind... you’ve drawn that reader in... now write one, concise sentence that tells him the benefit to his being there. What next? Follow up your “promise” with some “proof,” that what you contend is true. Use a quote or two, some facts, statistics, examples. And finally, come to the “push.” The “push,” is what you need to urge your reader to take action. It’s the practical details a reader will need to follow up on the information you present in your article. In other words: How much does it cost? Where is it? How do you get in touch? Etc. Here, for example, is a piece written by a writer who took our Ultimate Travel Writer's Workshop in Paris some years back and then sold the short piece she wrote during that program to International Living. I've marked the "picture," "promise," "proof," and "push" to give you a sense for how each of these elements plays a role: ******************** Chirps And Chimes In The Cite Paris, France [PICTURE] Emerge from the Cité Métro on any Sunday, and daylight won't be the only thing to greet you. The tolling of the bells from nearby Sainte-Chapelle and Notre-Dame complimented by a cacophony of bird song immediately surround you. You've just entered the Marché aux Oiseaux (caged bird market), the Sunday addition to one of the last remaining flower markets in Paris, the Marché aux Fleurs. [PROMISE and PROOF] Seven days a week, you can shop for flowers at these outdoor shops, but on Sundays the market expands to include an outdoor pet shop with ducks, geese, turkeys, doves, myna birds, parrots, parakeets, canaries, love birds, and chickens (an ice chest overflowing with fluffy baby chicks caught my attention!)...plus bunnies, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, rats, and goldfish in abundance, as well as huge burlap sacks of every type of animal feed you can imagine. You'll also find accessories for your pet, from balls for Fido to collars and halters for walking your pet guinea pig down the Champs-Élysées. [PUSH] The Marché aux Fleurs is open Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sundays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. it expands to include the Marché aux Oiseaux. Take the #4 metro line to Cité station; the street market is at the Métro exit. Within a minute's walk are the Palais de Justice and Sainte-Chapelle; Notre-Dame and the River Seine are
less than a five-minute walk away. Sue Wright For International Living ********************
Now, this example I've included here is not about Sue's hometown. However, as I've said, I think that writing about your hometown -- particularly as you're starting out -- puts you in a powerful position. Take advantage of it. I predict you'll find stories about places around you not just rewarding to write, but fun too. And when you’re ready to graduate to The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program, you'll find I go into a lot more detail there about how to put together a successful “front of the book” article. Plus you’ll get many more samples of successful ones as well as the details you’ll need to write many additional types of travel articles, too -- from reviews to round-ups to side-trip articles, and more.
Chapter 3 Seven Steps to Success: How to Get Published and Land Perks
I could devote pages and pages to how you "get published," and land perks -- to how, exactly, the process works (and I do in The Ultimate Travel Writer's Program). But here I want simply to lay out for you clearly the basics so you have a good snapshot you can refer to and some sense for what to expect as you venture out into the world of travel writing.
1. Set yourself up as a pro.
You don't want to come across as a rank amateur. So the first thing you should do is make sure you look like a pro. Get business cards with "freelance writer" or "travel writer" or "travel journalist" printed on them. And start gathering information the way the pros do. Begin by getting your name added to the press-release lists at your local and state tourist boards and anyplace in your town you think you might want to write about -- the zoo, museums, nature centers, etc. (Another way to position yourself as a pro is to join a professional travel writers' association. The International Travel Writers & Photographers Alliance -- ITWPA -- is one I recommend. You'll find more details here: www.itwpa.com.)
2. Start looking for story ideas everywhere you go.
Certainly, read the press releases you begin to get and start to use them as springboards to story ideas. But, in addition, start thinking of yourself as a travel writer whenever you're out and about. Start looking at the world through a writer's eyes. All of a sudden, taking your children or grandchildren to the musical fountain downtown where they can splash and play and cool off in the summer heat isn't just a family outing -- it becomes the subject of a travel article you could sell to the newspaper in a neighboring community.
3. Target a specific reader with your story idea.
Whatever your story idea, think carefully about whom it would interest. That's going to be key in your quest to get it published. Take that example I just gave about the fountain. Would you target a readership of seniors? Only if your angle is "a summer outing with your
grandchildren." Otherwise, I think I'd look for a publication whose readers have children. They'd certainly appreciate the tip. And once you have a potential reader in mind, then it's simply a matter of identifying what, exactly, that reader is reading. Maybe there's a parenting newspaper or magazine in your neighboring community. That might be a good place to first aim for a sale.
4. Familiarize yourself with the publication(s) you've targeted.
Once you've targeted a reader and identified one or more publications you suspect would make sense as places to publish your piece, learn some more about those publications. Read some back issues. Find the Writer's Guidelines and read them (these are usually posted at a publication's website). Look for a specific department that might be the most appropriate place for your article. (It might be that you find an immediate match. Or, it might be that, once you know more about a publication, you decide that it isn't the right place for your article after all.) You do this sleuthing ahead of time -- before you send your article anywhere -- because it dramatically improves the chances that your article will be published. The simple truth of the matter is: You could send your article to 100 publications, but if they're all inappropriate publications for your piece, no editor is going to buy it. On the other hand, by targeting places where the editors can boast the readership you're writing to and by following the instructions you find in the Writer's Guidelines for those publications, you immediately improve the chances that an editor will like, purchase, and publish your article. (By the way, you'll find hundreds of potential markets for all variety of articles in our archives of Featured Publications, which you'll find on our website -- free -- here: www.thetravelwriterslife.com.) Members of the ITWPA, incidentally, gain a foot in the door with the editors at Travel Post Monthly (www.travelpostmonthly.com), which is a travel publication that accepts submissions from new writers about destinations all over the world. That said, you needn't be an ITWPA member to land a by-line there.
5. Submit your article (or a query pitching your article idea) to the publications you've identified.
Following the Writer's Guidelines at the publication where you think your article is bestsuited, submit your article or -- if the editors prefer -- a "query" for your article. A query is a short letter that sells your article idea to an editor. (More on queries in Chapter 7.)
6. Gather some perks along the way.
Now, it may be that you have an idea for an article but that you're hoping to do a bit more research "on site" before you actually write it. That could mean anything from an additional visit to the museum you're planning to write about to an overnight stay at the B&B you'd like to profile. Whatever the situation, you're hoping to land a freebie. How? Well, it's most easily done if you have a "letter of assignment" from a publication. (That's something you can get from an editor once he's agreed to either read or, even better, buy your piece. You simply ask the editor for it.) Assuming you have one, you can then easily approach the museum or B&B and say, for example, "I'm working on a piece for x publication and was wondering if you might have a special press rate or if it would be possible to get a comp ticket to the new x exhibit." With a firm article assignment, such perks are relatively easy to grab. (After all, a business is happy to get press -- and if you can guarantee it some, they'll look upon you favorably.) But even if your editor has simply said, "Sure, I'll read your article." That can be enough. You must, however, be up-front with the person you're approaching for a perk. If you're writing "on spec," (that is to say, on speculation, without a firm commitment to publish) then say as much. If you look and act like a pro, your lack of a firm assignment often won't matter at all.
7. Follow through with phone calls and thank-you notes.
If you have received a perk of some sort, you must -- absolutely -- thank the person who provided it. It's polite. But it's also the key to getting more perks in the future. Sending the proper thank yous helps to position you as a pro. (And, too, if your article is published, you'll want to be sure to send along a copy of it to anybody who has helped you along the way.)
Chapter 4 Six Ways to Find Saleable Story Ideas
As I mentioned earlier, you can find fodder for stories all around you. If you’re ever stumped for a idea, just take a walk or go for a drive, and ask yourself, "Who would like this… and why?" When you answer that question, you've come up with a story idea. Here, more specifically, are some additional ways you can put yourself in the way of a story:
1. Read… Anything and Everything
Dozens upon dozens of ways exist to come up with ideas for your local stories. But one of the best ways to start brainstorming is to simply read… anything and everything you can get your hands on. More often than not, I find my story ideas not on press releases, but elsewhere. I read extensively… and so should you. Don't read just travel-related information. If you’d like to write about international destinations, then keep tabs on the politics and economics in the places that interest you so you know what’s going on there. If you plan to write about things close to where you live — whether it’s a B&B in the next town over, the farmer’s market that’s worth a visit or the county fair — then make sure you keep tabs on your local events. Read the newspaper, grab that free poetry publication at the coffee shop and study the ads… you never know where you’ll notice something that will catch your eye and give you an idea for a story. Read books, magazines, Internet articles, cereal boxes... everything you can get your hands on. Something you come across may trigger an idea for a story. You have to start thinking about the many different ways you can make information accessible to different audiences. Remember, every different audience you can think to write to equals a new writing opportunity — because that new audience demands a new story angle. For example, a few years back an Associated Press writer did a news story about Baltimore’s open-air film festival, held each summer in that city’s Little Italy neighborhood. The AARP magazine followed up with a profile on the elderly gentleman from whose window the movies were projected. The first story triggered the second.
2. Listen to the Radio… Eavesdrop on Conversations… Gossip
Another great way to find story ideas is with your ears. Listen to the radio news, to talk shows… even to conversations around you. What are people talking about, preoccupied with, angry over? Is there an angle you haven’t heard discussed? You might think about how a city-wide issue relates to your smaller neighborhood or how other communities might have resolved whatever issue is preoccupying yours. For example, when I lived in Baltimore, a controversial issue was whether or not to let bars within a designated 40-block area stay open past the regular 2:00 a.m. close time and shut their doors, instead, at 4:00 a.m. Now, this might at first glance appear to have nothing to do with travel writing. But it had me thinking. I wondered if the local paper there might be interested in a travel/entertainment story about the bars and clubs in nearby Washington, DC that already stayed open until 4:00 a.m.. I envisioned a timely piece, which would include details about where the bars are, how each differs, and what sort of crowd “hangs out” in each place. And if my local paper weren't interested, perhaps a Washington magazine would be, or maybe a monthly music magazine that profiles destinations… You see, by simply staying on top of local events in a community familiar to me, by listening to what people are talking about, I was able to come up with a saleable story idea. You can do the same thing.
3. Do Not Be Shy… Start Talking
Talk to anyone and everyone. You never know when a simple conversation will trigger a story idea. For example, I was talking with the owner of a small chocolate shop in a tiny town in France. I asked how business had been. He told me that he put a Web site up on the Internet that had recently boosted his business by 50 percent. It wasn’t that a sudden preponderance of French people ordered candy by mail… but instead, having seen his site, visitors from around the country stopped by when they were in the area touring. Are there stories there? You bet: a profile of this gentleman for France magazine, or even a piece on the delicacies of France. This guy made chocolates. In the next town over, the specialty is macaroons… I could focus a travel story on this region of France around each town’s special treats. Perhaps I could sell 22
it to a food magazine that publishes travel articles (as many of them do) or even to my local paper’s travel section. As it turns out, this is a little-visited region of the country and this somewhat odd-ball focus might well be of interest to an editor looking for a new way to cover a country that writers write about all the time.
4. Open Your Eyes, Ears, Nose, and Mind
Watch what’s going on around you. When you’re on the road to do research, take notes about what you see in a new place and about your impressions. Notice details like colors and temperature, the time it takes to get from one place to the next, the way locals react to tourists and to you. You’ll find these gems of information not only trigger article ideas but also come in very handy when you’re actually writing. For example, I’ve traveled fairly extensively in Mexico, and I’ve been astounded at the wonderful, affordable shopping at many of the markets. I always have my eye out for things I can use in decorating my home. It occurs to me that I might put together an article about the best places to buy home furnishings. In Oaxaca, Tlaquepaque, and Guadalajara, for example, you can find everything from handpainted bathroom sinks and tiles to copper door knobs and fine mirrors — at a fraction the cost of similar items in the States. I’ve got on my to-do list an article about the best places to track down various items (with sidebars about where to stay and what other things to do) that I might sell to a homerenovation magazine. Or maybe I could turn it into a holiday-related piece and write about the best places in Mexico to go Christmas shopping. Just as you should make note of what’s going on around you when you’re traveling, it’s wise to do the same even when you’re puttering about near home. Take note of a park that’s been cleaned up or a new shop or restaurant. If there’s a construction boom, find out what’s going up… you might get a jump on a profile of a new hot spot.
5. Keep Those Scissors Handy and Create Clip Files
I think of my clip files as my junk drawer of story ideas. I have my files divided, generally speaking, into four categories: Random Story Ideas Whenever an idea occurs to me — no matter how irrelevant to what I might be working on at the time — I jot it down on a piece of paper and toss it into a file folder I’ve labeled
“Story Ideas.” Into this same folder go the “clips” or stories by other writers that trigger ideas — usually I’ll put a yellow sticky paper on the top with my related idea on it. Event-Specific or Holiday Story Ideas Another useful clip file I keep is event and holiday specific. If I go to an annual festival I think I could write about for the following year, I pick up lots of brochures and maps and such, clip them together and drop them in this file. It helps, too, to scribble the holiday or time of year onto the info so it’s easy to find when you go hunting for it. Publications often want seasonal stories many months in advance. So if you’ve got an idea for a Christmas story… August is not too early to start querying publications about whether they’d be interested in publishing your piece. Examples of Writing You Admire I keep a third clip file of articles I’ve enjoyed reading — examples of strong writing by other people. When I start working on a type of story I haven’t written in a while or something that’s altogether new to me, I’ll flip through this “Favorites” file of mine and see if I don’t have an example of something similar that I thought was done well. Country Files I keep one last kind of clip file as well — in fact, it’s a series of folders. These are my country files. Each country I’ve written about — or would like to write about — has a folder. I clip out of magazines and newspapers anything I see that’s about these countries — sometimes I won’t even take the time to read the article and simply tear it out and drop it into the folder. That way, when I go to write about that place, I’ve got the beginnings of my research all ready to go. And, naturally, this works the same way when you're focused on your own region, You can just as easily keep files on what there is to see and do in and around your home.
6. Don't Miss our Weekly Writing Prompts
For more story starters and ideas to get your creative juices flowing, visit us online at www.thetravelwriterslife.com and be sure to sign up for our FREE e-letter, The Right Way to Travel. You’ll hear from us several times a week with insider tips and angles for writing saleable travel stories. And we include each week a practical writing prompt, too -something you can start and complete and have ready for an editor in no time.
Chapter 5 Three Things the Strongest Article Ideas Have in Common
Now that we’ve gone through the best ways for you to harvest your story ideas, the next step is to sift through them and improve upon them. The best story ideas are specific, unique and targeted to a particular audience. If you’re anything like me, what you’ll scribble on a scrap of paper and toss into your clip file will most often be just the core of an idea… something that struck you as a possibility for a piece, but not something you’ve really thought through. So when you sit down to decide on the actual story you’d like to write, you must make sure that your idea is:
Don’t send a letter to a publication asking if the editor is interested in a piece about Belize. Instead, ask if he or she would be interested in an article about the best jungle lodge or the top spots to invest in real estate.
If you’ve been reading a lot of travel stories, you’ll develop a sense after a few months for what’s run-of-the-mill and what’s new. Also, by keeping country files you’ll have some examples on hand of what other people have written about the place you’re going to write about, so you’ll know in what ways your piece will need to be different. I’ve found that one way to keep ideas unique is to think about what the stereotypical view of a place is and write to counter it. If most people know about the diving in the Bahamas, then you write about the hiking trails.
Targeted to a particular audience
When you target a particular audience with your story idea, it becomes a stronger idea. Here’s what I mean: If I were to write to the readers of Walking magazine about St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, my story would, most likely, be about the trails there — the best walks, the best guide, the best time of year to go, maybe the best “outdoors” hotels to stay in. That story is specific and it’s unique — at least to the readers of Walking magazine. While you might regularly find stories about St. John in travel publications, it’s not run-of-the-mill fare for Walking.
Chapter 6 The # 1 Secret to Writing Top-Notch Travel Articles: Trash the Travel Speak
One of the biggest problems novice travel writers have is nailing down interesting, standout details about the destination they're profiling. The "pictures" they paint to describe a place either aren't particularly interesting... or they're not really "pictures" at all. Sometimes I finish reading a description, and I still haven't the faintest idea what it's really like. For example: "The Village complex is an upscale, luxury development of world-class lodging, boutiques, shops, bars and restaurants with plenty of ancillary activities and entertainment." It's grammatically correct -- but it doesn't really say anything. I don't know what makes that place unique. As far as I'm concerned, it could be any "upscale, luxury development." What's more, my idea of an "upscale, luxury development" might not be anything like what the author is describing. The descriptions that editors like -- the ones they pay for -- are those that paint pictures so vivid, readers see and feel and taste right along with the writer. How do you make sure your descriptions do that? The short answer is: "Show don't tell" -- a maxim of good writing you'll come across in nearly any book devoted to the subject. But what, exactly, does it mean? How do you, in fact "show" and not "tell" in your own writing? Turns out, it's not that easy. Don't despair: In a moment, I'll let you in on a secret that will help immensely. First, though, let me back up...
What, Exactly, Is "Show Don't Tell?"
"Show don't tell" means that you shouldn't just announce directly what a place is like and how it makes visitors feel. Instead, you should describe it in such a rich way that your reader experiences it for himself... In other words, lead your reader to draw his own conclusions about a place. Don't lay them out for him.
For example: Say you're writing about a back-of-beyond hotel on some barely charted island in the Mozambique Channel. You could say it's remote. And you could say it's peaceful. But a more skillful writer would, instead, describe the place in such a way that the reader would find himself thinking, "Boy, this sounds like the most remote, peaceful place on Earth." So, how can you "show" your reader remote? Well, tell him about how you get there -- the four-hour ride into dense bush in the canvas-topped back of a 1979 Peugeot pick-up truck with three chickens, four shrouded women, and an infant for company. And how do you "show" peaceful? Perhaps describe the night -- how the only sounds you hear are the rustling of lemurs in the trees above, the squeaks of the fruit bats, the sloshing of the Indian Ocean as it slides between the jagged lava rocks that frame the sandy cove where this hotel sits. I know... it's one thing to read it, it’s another altogether to do it yourself. But take the following advice seriously, and you will improve every description you write:
Avoid "Filler" Words (Often Adjectives) That Don't Really Say Anything
Sometimes it's hard to find that stand-out detail that really characterizes a woman's dress. So you just say it's "fashionable." You ring the bell in a rural French town, and a shopkeeper comes down from his upstairs apartment to open his antique store. You wander through, even buy a little something -silver ice cube tongs. In your story, the shop is "quaint." Travel writing is full of words like "fashionable" and "quaint" that don't really say anything: pretty, lovely, charming, upscale, idyllic, cozy, colorful, fancy, beautiful... When you use words like those, you're just filling space. You're taking the easy way out -and editors know it. Sometimes, to be fair, those filler words do say something -- it’s just that what they say to you as a writer might not be at all what they say to your reader. As William Zinsser put it: "One man's romantic sunrise is another man's hangover." Consider this description, which relies on too many "filler" words: "We’re greeted on arrival by hot, tropical weather. A blessing. There’s the beautiful bay, Bahia de Zihuatanejo, that we saw in the pictures. Our palapa is at the edge of an idyllic jungle." 27
"Beautiful bay" -- one reader conjures up Cape Cod in his mind, another sees a Caribbean island. "Idyllic jungle" -- one reader thinks of a tamed landscape with lighted, stone walkways and strategically planted frangipani, another sees a dense expanse of vines and trees, seemingly impenetrable.
Choose, Instead, Specific Details -- Lead Your Reader to Draw His Own Conclusions from Them
Here, by contrast, is a description rich in specifics, which make it genuinely compelling. Ever since I first read this, I've had an itch to see Oslo in winter. And at least one editor liked it - this appeared in the New York Times: "There were little white candles flickering everywhere in Oslo – even in the breakfast room of the hotel, where we guests all lingered over our lavish Scandinavian smorgasbord. According to our preferences, we fortified ourselves with three kinds of herring, with softboiled eggs or shrimp salad, with mackerel in tomato sauce or muesli. We refilled our plates and sipped our tea and coffee, reluctant to go out into the winter cold. Little white candles in silver-stemmed goblets, in smoked-glass boxes, in pewter saucers were burning on every table in every café and restaurant, like a promise to hold onto the light right through the winter darkness." The writer doesn’t tell us that guests have a wide choice of breakfast foods. He doesn’t tell us it's cozy. He doesn't tell us Oslo in winter is surprisingly enticing. He provides us the specifics and lets us draw those conclusions from them. You want your descriptions to make the places your describing come alive for your reader. You want him to join you there. It takes energy and effort. But if you're careful to shun "filler" words in favor of specific details, you'll be way ahead of the pack. And editors will notice that, too. In The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program, I devote several chapters to the fundamentals of good writing. You'll learn guidelines, secrets, and techniques that apply not only to articles - but to the important art of marketing your writing, too. You can review the entire Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program risk-free by going here: www.thetravelwriterslife.com/sh/getstarted
Chapter 7 How to Write Query Letters that Will Sell Your Articles
Once you have an article idea (or perhaps, in fact, a finished article), you must peddle it. You do so through query letters. What exactly is a query letter? Simply stated, a query letter is a letter you send to an editor in which you propose writing an article about a specific subject. The cruel truth is that your career rides, to a large extent, on your ability to craft a good query. That’s because the query letter is, in most cases, your “job application.” Just like when you’re applying for a job... if you make a good first impression, you have a chance to land an assignment and maybe build a lasting and profitable relationship. Make a bad impression, and not only will you be denied the assignment, but you may also sour a relationship forever. Editors are busy people. They’re constantly fighting deadlines and don’t have the time to “discover” writers. You have to sell yourself. And you start that process with your query. The best query is a simple one-page letter that lets an editor know that your story idea is on target with his or her audience’s interests and his or her publication’s needs. (Don’t think you’re being clever by writing a long letter showing the editor what a good writer you are. That’s not the way to make a strong first impression.) Here are eight things you must do to write an effective query letter: 1. Write the letter on professional letterhead. Use white or ivory paper and address your letter to a specific person — not simply “editor.” If you do not have letterhead (and it is not absolutely necessary), use straight business letter format. Put your entire return address in the upper right-hand corner. Type your phone number with area code under the return address. The recipient’s address goes on the left side of the paper and includes the name of the editor, the name of the publication, and the address. Underneath, type the salutation: “Dear Mr. or Ms. So-and-So.” (Note: Many (maybe even most) publications prefer that you query by e-mail these days. You’ll have to check the Writer’s Guidelines to be sure. If you are querying by email, use a standard font, white background, and make sure you include your contact information below your name at the close. The advice below applies to both snail-mail queries and e-mailed queries)… 2. Start with a short introductory paragraph. Give your reader a sense for the article you'll write. And dive right in. Your first sentences are the most critical, and you don't want to waste them by saying something like, “I subscribe to your publication and believe my
article on ...”). Instead, craft the lead to your query like you would the lead to your article. You want it to grab the editor who's reading it and make her want to keep reading. 3. Include a proposed title for your piece and mention if you have any special qualifications that make you particularly well suited to write it. 4. Suggest a length for your article (obviously, it should fit within the guidelines outlined in the Writer's Guidelines). If you think your article fits best in a particular department of the publication, say as much. 5. Close by telling the editor you look forward to hearing from him/her and would be able to deliver the piece quickly upon assignment. 6. Check your spelling! It never bodes well when a writer has a typo in her query. It makes you look sloppy from the start. Proof read before you send. 7. If you have published clips, include clean copies behind your letter. Don’t forget to include your self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) with your letter and clips (so the editor can get back to you with a "yes please" or "no thank you.") 8. Enclose your letter, your clips and the SASE in a manuscript-sized envelope and address it to a contact person. Be sure to include your return address on the envelope. If you write great queries — and follow them up with well-written articles submitted on time — you’ll be successful as a freelance travel writer. That’s guaranteed. You'll find more details, samples, and templates to use for your own query letters in the full version of The Ultimate Travel Writer Program, which you can read about here: http://www.thetravelwriterslife.com/sh/getstarted (IF YOU'RE A NEW TRAVEL WRITER: If you don’t have published articles to send out as sample “clips,” don’t sweat it. You have to start somewhere. If your letter is clear and concise and your idea appeals to an editor, chances are you’ll get a “sure, send it to me and if I like it, I’ll publish it” in return. And then you’re off to the races...)
Chapter 8 Seven Habits of Successful Travel Writers
If you want to be a travel writer, you should read travel articles. Subscribe to at least three travel publications -- some might be free travel newsletters you get online, others print publications -- and set aside some time to read them. You want to start to get a feel not only for what you like and admire in an article, but also for the many different kinds of articles that exist. Also, train yourself to notice more. The best travel writers are observant travelers. You can be one, too. In fact, it’s critical. Because the more you notice -- the more specific, interesting details you pick up, that is -- the more rich material you have to include in your articles. And it’s those rich details that editors like. How do you do it? 1. Rely on more than just your eyes. Certainly, pay attention to what you see. But also take note of what you hear, what you smell, how things taste, how they feel. If there’s a low, stone wall surrounding a village cemetery, don’t just scribble in your notebook “low, stone wall.” Go up to it and check if the top is dusty. Exactly how low is it? What sounds do you hear as you lean on it? Is there cheerful chatter from the kids sent to leave flowers? Or is it utterly silent, save for the occasional bird call and the scratching of squirrels? 2. Count. How many steps must you climb to reach the top of that lighthouse? How many steeples do you see jutting up above the rooftops? How many tables does the café hold? How many tourists are standing in line? Specific numbers help provide the precise details strong articles always include. 3. Pick up papers -- maps, brochures, local newspapers and magazines, brochures, postcards, menus, business cards. I keep a one-gallon Ziploc bag in my suitcase when I travel, and at the end of each day, I toss into it whatever papers I’ve gathered. If I got a business card from somebody I spoke with, I make a note on the back, reminding myself who that person is. If I got a menu from a place where I enjoyed lunch, I scribble on it what I had and what I thought of it. I’ll flip through a local paper, scanning for odd-ball items and ideas about what I might do the next day, making note of local politics, finding out what controversies are raging. You
won’t likely use all this material in your article, but it’s all useful as you piece together a context for this place you’re visiting. 4. Talk with locals. No matter where you are -- in a bar, a café, a shop, a taxi -- strike up a conversation with a local. Ask directions. Ask for suggestions about what you might do or where you might eat. Inquire as to how things have changed in the past decade or more. Ask this person where he or she takes family and friends who visit. 5. Shop with locals. Poke your head into as many “tourist” shops as you like, but make sure you also spend some time where the locals shop. Go to a grocery store and pay attention to what’s on offer. Investigate an outdoor market or a hardware store. By paying attention to how the locals shop, what they buy, and how much things cost, you’ll uncover all sorts of interesting quirks you’d never find out if all you shopped for were tshirts, snow-globes, and fridge magnets. 6. Get into a local’s home. I’m not suggesting you climb in a window! Get yourself invited for tea or lunch or dinner... or just a quick tour. It’s amazing what you’ll learn once you step over a threshold into the private world tourists never see. You’ll instantly know more about people’s priorities, about how they order their lives... indeed, maybe a good bit about how that society is ordered. Here, again, notice how things look, feel, taste, and smell. (How do you get invited in, you ask? I promise: Strike up conversations, and you’ll be surprised at how hospitable people become.) 7. Travel more. The more you travel, the more places you see, the better able you’ll be to distinguish something that’s really unusual. You’ll develop a more well-rounded perspective. And you’ll gain something else there’s no other way to come by: judgment.
Chapter 9 Your 10-Day Success Plan: What to Do This Week and Next to Accelerate Your Success and Get Something Published… Fast
One of the most difficult tasks you face as an aspiring travel writer is getting your first byline. One "clip" under your belt, and you'll not only have more confidence in approaching editors in the future… but you'll have a calling card to show those editors. One by-line leads to another. And once you have a few, you really can consider yourself a professional travel writer. As such, you're in a strong position to benefit from all the perks travel writing can offer -- free trips, complimentary tickets, discounted hotel stays, and more. Here, then, is a day-by-day plan that will take you from novice to pro in just over a week.
From Novice to Pro in Just Over a Week
Day 1 Task # 1 -- Come up with an idea for a short article (100-500 words). Keep it close to home -- someplace or something local. Where do you take guests when they come to visit? Your local haunt -- restaurant, bar, café, movie house, a shop you frequent? Or it could be someplace new in town -- a new restaurant or a new B&B or a new attraction, perhaps. Or maybe the stand-by attractions are offering something new -- like a special program for kids on Saturdays or a new lecture series or a new exhibit. Day 2 Task # 1 -- Look for three publications where you might potentially sell your article. Remember, you'll find a great variety in our archived Featured Publications at www.thetravelwriterslife.com. One of those might be appropriate. Or maybe not. Nose around and look into publications close to your home as well. Also, look online. Read the Writer's Guidelines at each publication's website. And read through the website to see what sorts of articles they've published in the past. Task # 2 -- Depending on what your article idea is, you may want to call ahead to set up an appointment. For example, if you're planning to write about a new B&B in town, you may want to call the proprietors ahead of time and set up a time to come over, tour the place, and ask a few questions. If you're planning to take in a new museum exhibit, for example,
you may want to call the museum's PR department and ask for a media kit or exhibit brochure. Chat the PR person up -- she might comp you a ticket, you never know… Day 3 Task # 1 -- Visit the destination you want to write about and take notes. Consider what distinguishes this place from other, similar destinations… what makes it special, unique? What stands out most in your mind? Task # 2 -- Decide on an audience for your story. Who would benefit from the information, advice, and guidance you have to share? Write that down. Task # 3 -- Now that you have identified your target audience and you are more familiar with this place you're going to write about, come up with a strong title for your short article. It should clearly state your main idea. In other words, instead of the generic "Charming Cascade Pines B&B," try "A Gardener's Delight: Unending Flowers at Cascade Pines B&B" Day 4 Task # 1 -- Write your short article -- something between 100 and 500 words. Don't worry about every sentence being perfect. Just write. Get the information you want to include onto the page. Day 5 Task # 1 -- Read what you wrote yesterday. Edit. Do all the bits of information you've included support that main idea you outlined in your title? If not -- if some seem, on second reading, less relevant -- take them out. Task # 2 -- Read what you wrote again. Edit. Are all your sentences as short and concise as they can be? Have you used strong, active verbs? Have you provided your reader the howto details he needs to take action -- address or price or phone, etc.? Task # 3 -- Show your article to somebody else and ask him or her to read it. Does it deliver what your title promises? Does your reader have any suggestions for improvement? Day 6 Task # 1 -- Now that you have your article completed, go back to your short list of possible publications and see where your piece fits best. Read the Writer's Guidelines again. Task # 2 -- If you need to rework your article a bit so it fits better in a particular publication, do so. (In other words, say your piece runs to 370 words and you think it would fit perfectly in a particular department at a particular publication -- but the guidelines for articles submitted to that department say the articles there run to just 300 words -- well, take the time now to trim your article.)
Day 7 Task # 1 -- Write a cover letter/query to the appropriate editor at the publication where you'd most like to see your article appear. This can be just a paragraph or two. Task # 2 -- Review the publication's Writer's Guidelines to make sure you're following them to the letter. Day 8 Task # 1 -- Reread your article one last time. Make any additional edits you deem necessary. Task # 2 -- Send your article to the editor. Day 9 Task # 1 -- Pat yourself on the back. I said this was a 10-day Success Plan, but you managed it in eight. Day 10 Task # 1 -- Start planning your next article and then go back up to Day 1 and start over again. Keep this up, and within a handful of weeks, you'll have three articles on editors' desks and be well on your way to freelance success!
The Quickest Way to Take Advantage of This Fabulous Lifestyle
If you dream of living the romantic life of a travel writer… getting paid to explore the globe... enjoying the curious and magical respect writers enjoy… then The Ultimate Travel Writer's Program is, hands down, the best place to begin your adventure. It's where Brian N. started. And today not only has he had articles published overseas, but he also writes a weekly column for the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin in Queensland, Australia. Tom S. started there, too. Now he publishes his own online travel e-zine and has earned bylines in a whole host of travel publications. He recently took a safari in Botswana — a trip he's taking at a deep discount and about which he was paid to write. Wendy V. just wanted out of the corporate world all together. When her job as a health-care administrator was eliminated, she launched her new career as a travel writer with this program. "Recently, I had an article published in a magazine and have now sold three more to another," she writes. "Your program was fantastic and helpful."
Larry L. hadn't even graduated before he earned his first paycheck as a travel writer. "The information and examples included in your Travel Writers program were so good that I've landed an assignment with an international travel magazine even before completing all the course elements," he writes. "I largely credit the program material for putting me firmly on the path to success in travel writing." The stories go on and on… but you get the idea. I've given you some basic pointers here, a place to begin. But if you're serious about getting paid to see the world, if you have basic writing skills, and if you learn the simple secrets and techniques revealed in The Ultimate Travel Writer's Program… then you can be writing marketable stories, getting your own by-line, and taking advantage of travel perks… in no time at all. To find out more visit: www.thetravelwriterslife.com/sh/getstarted
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