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Part 2: How to be a Travel Writer

Photo by Ben Mack on

by Kevin Burns

Read the article, or take the course at Udemy!

Melinda Joe has a blog called Tokyo Drinking Glass: where she reviews different sakes, wines and other alcoholic drinks and food. She started in Japan but has gone on to work all over the world.

Joe reveals:

“…the first thing I would advise newbie writers to do is to familiarize themselves with publications that feature travel content. That would mean large companies that produce guides, such as Lonely Planet…or travel-specific magazines such as Conde Nast Traveler and Afar, or inflight magazines such as Silk by Singapore Airlines. However, many outlets have regular travel sections, so cast your net wider by looking into major newspapers and lifestyle magazines,…”

Gillick advises that you should write about what you love to write about. Indeed, a love of a topic can supersede being an expert on everything. Gillick suggests that you may want to take on many different assignments. However, at some point you may find that you naturally are drawn to certain topics and situations. Gillick enjoys bird watching. So some of his recent writing is assignments that involve that hobby. Feel free to decline assignments that just do not suit you. If it does not suit you, it may be reflected in your writing and you do not want that.

(typed block)

Gillick suggests:

“At first you may want to take on all assignments, so you learn about the complexity and diversity of the travel industry. Then you may wish to hone down the list to topics you love writing about. And when you pitch an article, no one wants to hear that you will write about `the destination` as each destination has its own personality: history, culture, food, drink, attractions, nature, activities, lifestyle and the people who call that destination `home.”

Bailey always carries a small notebook and pen. She realizes that it seems “old school” but it allows you to leave notes for yourself on doors, to make a quick sketch and to write down the correct spelling of a name or place. You can also quickly share contact information if one or both of you have forgotten business cards. It allows you to quickly jot down quotes, the smells, sounds or tastes. She asserts, “you`re a writer. Develop the ability to observe. Those notes will be a treasure trove when you sit down to write.”

I will add, that if your muse strikes at 2AM then you need to follow it and get up and write because that idea will be gone by morning. Trust me! If you cannot get up and write a lot when your muse comes, at least write enough that you will not forget your idea. You need to get it down on paper.

As well, you must travel! That seems obvious enough. But travel can mean local travel, and local publications need travel articles.

Even if it is only to the next town, travel and see the town fair, and write about it. The irony being, that although we think of travel as going to exotic locales, many publications want pieces on places close to where you live now. Visit the local museum and write about your thoughts and impressions. Some visit country markets, others visit parks. Your travel writing career can start right where you live. If you can afford it, travel further afoot and write about it. People want to know your thoughts and feelings about the places you visit. They do not want to know what you ate for lunch. But if you ate an interesting meal, really get into the smells, tastes and even textures you experienced. Let your readers be there with you.

Joe advises: “Maybe a good place to start is with local destinations that you can pitch to your local newspaper. Your story ideas don’t have to be about grand trips; you could start by looking around your city for cool, hidden gems and unexpected angles. Is there a place that has a fascinating but little known history? An expert with an unusual take on underground culture? Places that are off-the-beaten track but still accessible?”

On Style: As your trip took place in the past, it is probably best to write in the past tense. However, experiment! See what style suits you. Some writers write in the present tense. In any case, whatever tense you write in, your goal is to take your reader to the place with you, by doing your best to recreate the sounds, the smells and the views that you could partake in.

Bailey suggests: “Learn to observe details and write them down. – Even if you can’t do it that very second you see or experience something, make a point of doing it soon after or that evening. Don’t wait. Do it in the car, during a break, when you go to the bathroom. You won’t remember later, and those details will set your work apart from others.”

Once you have written some articles you are proud of, start submitting them to wherever you can think of. Often it is a matter of timing and luck as to if and when you get an article approved for publication. When I had my articles published in Canada`s third largest newspaper, it was a matter of timing. Japan was in the news, and they needed an article like mine. If you happen to be an expat, that is another feather in your cap for travel writing. You can give the people back home the in-depth lowdown on your new country. I have found, that when I write from the heart, when I am very passionate about it, my best writing comes. Some writers would advise that you should pitch first and that is good advice. However, if you want to develop some connections, submitting without a pitch can help with that I feel. An editor who needs something on your topic may well read it. As mentioned, that is how I got into the Vancouver Sun! But you should probably pitch most of the time.

Bailey attends events, talks to people to see what’s going on and finds stories. She says the added bonus is that it’s fun. She feels that one should write for free for a little while, as this will help you to start your portfolio, and help you to make connections.

Go to Part 3 of How to be a Travel Writer

About kintaro63 (218 Articles)
Writer and teacher in Japan

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