Saturday, September 6, 2008

So you want to be a travel writer: Part 2

After the feedback I received from my recent post, So you want to be a travel writer?, I thought I'd share a few more of the insights I imparted on my class.

So, you've ticked all the boxes on my 'what it takes to be a travel writer list' and think you're ready to start pitching..... Er – not quite.

While today with the rise of the internet and the travel e-zine there are a lot more opportunities for writers wanting to break into travel writing, there's also a lot more competition. What's more, many of the writers you'll be pitching against will be so eager to see their name in print, they'll happily give their work away for free. So how do you make it as a professional travel writer without selling your soul for a byline? Here are a few tips:

Write what you know: As I mentioned previously, you don't need to travel overseas to be a travel writer. Take a closer look at the town where you live now; it's full of interesting stories just waiting to be told. Does your town have any unusual landmarks, remarkable museums or attractions? What about festivals? Is there a festival or event particular to your region? While you might not find the local history museum or flower festival terribly exciting, someone, somewhere in the world will. What's more, editors are always looking for an 'insider's perspective' to give a destination some local flavour. So who better to write about your hometown than you?

Make the most of your knowledge and skills: Do you have a favourite hobby? Do you have a degree in art history or environmental science? Or are you interested in food and wine or yoga and tai chi? If so, then why not combine your passion with travel writing? By using your knowledge and experience on a particular subject, no matter whether it is horse riding or basket weaving, you'll bring more depth and interest to your travel articles.

Research, research, research: Before you even think of contacting an editor, you need to do your homework. Editors are very busy people, and if you contact them with a half baked idea that doesn't suit their target market you might ruin your chances forever. Read some back issues of the publication to get a feel for what their style is. How long are the articles? Are they dry or humorous? Are they written in first person? What destinations have they already covered? Who are their readers? Are they hip young 20 somethings, middle-aged professionals, couples with children or retirees over the age of 60?

Look for an interesting or unusual angle: It's important to think outside of the square when trying to come up with an idea for a travel article. Most editors are not interested in bland, run-of-the-mill articles such as 'Sydney's Beaches' or 'Discover the Red Centre' that just give you the details of what's there and what to do – Yawn! But if you were to pitch an article about a first-time surfer learning how to hang ten at the ripe old age of 37 on a Sydney beach, or a prima donna princess tackling the Australian Outback stilettos and all, you’ll be more likely to grab an editor's attention.

Find your voice: I know I mentioned this previously, but it is a point well worth reiterating – the best way to make your articles shine is to find your voice. Don't try to intimidate another writer's style, an editor will see right through you immediately. A great way to find your voice is to write about your own personal experiences. By nurturing and developing your voice, the articles that you write will soon begin to stand out.

For more information on how to get started as a freelance travel writer check out David Whitley's new blog 1001 Travel Writer Tips. He's only just started it up, but by the time he makes it to 1001 you'll be well on your way.

Happy writing!


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Kim Wildman said...

Hi Pontia. I'm very glad you've found my advice useful. Good luck with your writing!

va-jenna said...

Hi Kim. I have just started a travel writing course with the Matador Network and it's overwhelming how many resources there are for travel writers starting out. I found your breakdown very helpful and straightforward, so thanks!