by Kevin Burns
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Bailey writes: “Always check your grammar and spelling. – Read emails, messages, SNS posts, pitches, articles, and whatever else you compose and send into the world 2-3 times before sending it. Errors make you look incompetent and unprofessional.” Steve Gillick agrees. He advises: ” Make sure you have a dictionary and a thesaurus handy. They are available on the internet. Every word you use has to be carefully thought out, and properly spelled, and spell-checked. (remember that spellcheck does not identify every spelling mistake). Likewise, each sentence you write needs to be grammatically correct. “
It seems like everyday, the online environment becomes more and more like the wild west. You are going to get criticized whether your articles are good or not. It seems to be the way of things now. Be true to yourself and know in your heart that you did all that you could to be accurate and truthful. Do not take online criticism seriously unless it is valid. If it is, try to learn from it, and do not repeat the same mistakes again.
Gillick suggests: “ Be creative. You may not be able to make a comfortable living writing travel, but it’s certainly an enjoyable, challenging and satisfying career. Everything you look at, everywhere you travel, becomes part of the career you have chosen and this helps you to be creative in your travel writings as well as in the topics you may want to pitch. I go back to birding, which I started to get interested in many years ago. I started to talk to tourist boards about promoting birding:
they mention it on their website but they rarely include it in media trips. I heard about a nature festival in Cuba and started chatting with the Director of the tourism board. Eventually I was invited to attend the festival and I wrote about it. On another occasion I went on a personal birding trip to see snowy owls in Eastern Ontario, Canada, an editor accepted an article on the subject as “something unique and creative.”
I always write an article at least three times. I often don`t have an outline and just let it flow. That often works and has gotten my articles published many times. However, it sometimes leads to problems and at those times, I wish I had written an outline before I started. I leave it for a day and check it the next day and edit. I do the same for the third and final draft. Usually three drafts is enough. But sometimes I go back a fourth time and edit it for minor things. With a blog, you can always easily edit your articles.
I think if you are trying to write a more creative piece, perhaps having an outline will limit you. Try both! With an outline and without. Then see how you feel. You may find that when going for a certain style, not having an outline will actually help you. But I realize this goes against most writing advice. I feel some writers would say: have an outline and be creative with your writing. An outline will free you to be creative. I guess I feel my unconscious (or muse as Bailey would say) is smarter than I am and letting whatever it wants to say bubble up and be said, is better than my mechanical outline. But that`s me and it probably does not work for everyone.
Steve Gillick advises that you should try to get as close as you can to an editor`s word limit but not go over it. He usually writes more in his first draft and then hones it down. He becomes his own editor and checks words, tries to combine two sentences into one, and decides if every paragraph is necessary. He usually writes the article in one sitting of 3-8 hours. Then he puts it away until the next day so that he can review it with fresh eyes. He says: “I almost always find errors—weird sentences I wrote or sections that really don`t contribute to the article.” Some articles have taken Gillick over a week to finish editing and double-check his facts.
People are people, wherever you go.
“Sensitivity. Travel writers should avoid any words or phrases that are racist, sexist or disrespectful. In the same vein, they should not write with North American eyes (judging other destinations, people, and societies from a North American perspective) but see each destination as unique. Someone recently saw the T-shirt from Guatemala that I was wearing and commented “there are a lot of poor people there but they don’t know any better so I guess they’re happy”. I was stunned to hear this. Each country has its own life reality and a good travel writer will celebrate this fact. When you travel you quickly learn that people are people wherever you go. We all have the same thoughts and dreams and needs for family, shelter, food, clean drinking water and security.” — Steve Gillick
Go to a café in your town. Order a coffee or tea. Sit there and observe. Take notes.Then write about what you saw. Try to make it as interesting as possible for readers. Give people who have never been to your town, a snapshot of your town. (200 words or more) No fudging!
Photos Be sure to take great photographs, in case the publication needs them to go along with your article. Some of the high-end cell phones may suffice, but a DSLR camera, mirrorless or not, will do the trick! Get good at photography! Knowing more than one skill can get you in the door and keep you there. Your own photos are the most authentic. Have your camera with you always. You are a travel writer, you are on duty at all times.
Go to Part 7 of How to be a Travel Writer