Travel Writing without the Travel
edited: Friday, August 02, 2002
By Beth Fowler
Posted: Saturday, February 24, 2001
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Want to sell travel articles, but you don't travel far? No problem. Read this article, follow the advice and you'll get published in travel magazines!
Would you like to write travel articles, but haven't taken a
Mediterranean Cruise or an African safari? No problem. Thanks to
two truths about travel writing, you can write and sell travel
articles without packing an overnight bag.
The first truth is Everyplace is some place worth writing about.
The second truth
is Not all travel articles are about a place anyhow.
With an outsider's eyes, scrutinize the area where you live. Many
potential topics will present themselves that could be crafted
into spotlight, destination or advice travel articles.
Spotlight articles focus tightly on a specific object, event or
activity. Articles about cats living in Williamsburg's historical
homes or about folk art displayed in trailer courts focus on
objects. Travel articles about the county fair or the toy train
show feature an event. And travel articles about the campsites in
your neck of the woods focus on an activity. All of those
examples of articles spotlight interesting topics with locations
providing distinctive backdrops.
Destination articles encompass more general information than
spotlight articles and are not necessarily tied into a timely
event. Destination pieces, the most popular type of travel
article, are written to make readers want to visit a place, or at
least vicariously feel they've been there.
Most spotlight and destination travel articles contain at least
five if not all of these seven components:
1. Goal or Motive - Where are we headed and why?
2. Motion - How are we getting there? Is there an emotional
3. Encounter with a person, animal, object - Whom do we meet?
4. Facts/Data - What are the times, dates, prices?
5. Dialogue/Quotation - Who said what?
6. History/Geography - What's significant and unique about the
7. Descriptions - What does the place smell, sound, feel, taste,
and look like?
Advice articles, the third type of travel article, are ideal for
stay-at-home travel writers. Advice articles aren't about a
place, but about a practical aspect of travel regardless of
destination. Editors have bought my advice articles about how to
handle money on trips, how to pack, how to stay healthy, how to
take good photographs, and how to keep kids entertained in the
backseat. Other authors have sold travel articles about hotel
laundry service called "All Washed Up" and about how to secure
the home while traveling abroad called "Safe & Sound."
Plenty of editors are eager to buy well-written travel articles.
Writer's Market lists fifty-some magazines under "travel" and you
can look under "regional" magazines for publications featuring
articles about places within a defined geo-political area.
"Pennsylvania Magazine" has published two of my travel articles
about historically significant places within an hours' drive of
my house. Log onto the 'net and peruse www.travelwriters.com for
rates, guidelines and contact information for hundreds of travel
publications. Visit http://writers-guidelines.com and
http://mav.net/guidelines to access travel magazines' guidelines.
Type "travel magazine guidelines" into several search engines to
scoop up enough markets to write a lifetime's worth of travel
articles. To learn more about marketing travel articles, read L.
Peat O'Neil's Travel Writing and Louise Purwin Zobel's The Travel
Magazines and newspapers not mentioned in travel indices also
publish travel articles. Women's, photographers' and pet owners'
magazines publish travel pieces. Food and drink, art, automotive,
motorcycle, hobby, and history magazines buy travel articles. An
article about Seattle's Chinatown district written for an in-
flight magazine can be revised for "Seattle Weekly."
Guidebooks are another avenue to pursue. Travel writers can
submit entries and updates about their area to existing travel
books such as Fodor's and Lonely Planet's series. Depending on
the publisher's policy and the length of the writer's
contribution, payment can range from zilch to a free newsletter
to a fee.
Writer's wanting to take on larger projects can write new
guidebooks on a narrow topic that allows them to return home for
dinner every evening. How about a local guidebook on tourist
places with facilities for people with disabilities, or romantic
honeymoon destinations in Your State, or kid-friendly hotels in
Your City, or the best gardens in Your County, or historic
tombstones in Your Town.
Avoid these pitfalls when crafting travel-without-the-travel
1. Relying on Cliches. If I read one more article describing
such-and-such as a place of "contrasts," I'll scream. (Ditto for
the words beckon and quaint.) Rather than telling readers a city
is full of contrasts, authors can punch up their writing by
showing readers dissimilar aspects of a place and letting readers
draw their own conclusions.
2. Meandering. "My three sons and I woke up in our cabin at seven
a.m. to a cool, misty morning. We heard the hostess cooking our
country breakfast in the kitchen. Soon we were ready to hit the
trail now that our stomachs were full... " Blah, blah, blah. This
dear diary style might work for Bill Bryson or Dave Barry who
insert humor or drama into everyday activities and weed out
boring bits. Readers want to know what to expect if they visit
the cabin, not intimate details about the writer's experience.
Travel writing is not an account of everything that happened; it
is not a memoir. Travel writing entertains, has structure and
tells readers what they need to know and not a bit more.
3. Relying on Hearsay. Twice I've almost committed this travel
writer's sin. In one instance, I was going to recommend an art
gallery housed in a man's private residence. Fortunately, I tried
to visit the gallery to decide if I wanted to include it in my
piece. I'm glad I didn't take the guidebook's word for it. The
gallery was kaput. The second instance was similar, except this
time the museum described in the guidebook still existed . . . in
a city 70 miles away. Galleries close. Admission prices rise.
Castles crumble. Verify, verify, verify.
4. Golly! Gee! Wowing! "The variety of antique stores in
Baltimore is mind-boggling." How many stores are there? What do
they sell? Adjectives like tall, fantastic, fabulous, wonderful
are fuzzy. Instead, use concrete words. Be specific.
5. Being rude. Poking fun, peering down our noses, airing our
prejudices is bad manners and bad ethics. Writers risk exposing
themselves to legal retaliation if, for instance, they publish
inaccurate, damaging statements. Furthermore, grousing and
arrogance put readers and editors off. One travel writer
recommends writing as if we're telling a friend about our
experiences. I recommend writing as if the people mentioned are
your friends and neighbors, which in fact they are for writers of
travel articles without the travel.
Editors are perpetually on the lookout for well-written travel
articles that spotlight events and interesting destinations and
that give practical tips for travelers of every stripe, whether
the travelers come from as far away as the other side of the
globe or from as near as the other side of your backyard fence.
Who is more qualified than you to write about your area? Right,
no one. Get writing.
(c) Copyright 2000, Beth Fowler
Beth Fowler's humorous travel book, Half Baked in Taiwan, is
available at http://www.Xlibris.com.
Web Site: Writing for Dollars
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|Reviewed by Frances Spiegel
|Beth - this is excellent advice. btw I was referred here through your e-book "83 ways to Make Money Writing"