New to the world of travel writing? While it’s true that experienced travel writers get flown around the globe on someone else’s buck, you need to first gain a foothold in this competitive field.
Sue White is a prolific features and travel writer. When she is not globe-trotting, she is writing for high profile publications in Australia. Here are her top three travel writing tips:
Tip #1: Find your angle.
When an editor is deciding whether or not to buy your story, they’re considering many factors. But one of the most important is the angle. What is the unique, interesting or topical hook (or angle) that will draw readers into your story? As an aspiring travel writer, it’s easy to think, “I’ve just been to Phuket and had a great time, surely that would make a great story to share.” Well, maybe. Yes, your Phuket journey might make a lovely group email for your friends; but if you want to be paid to write, your editor will need to know WHY Phuket is a place readers should visit in the coming months.
Is it because a once run-down part of town has now been revived? Is it because there’s a trend of more holidaymakers using Phuket as a jumping off point to explore Thailand’s islands on daytrips? If you can’t articulate the angle, it’s unlikely an editor will want to run your story, so always, ALWAYS, find an angle.
Tip #2: Be persistent, but patient.
Travel writing is a competitive niche in the world of writing. It’s not hard to figure out why: everyone goes on holidays, and if you are also a writer, it can seem an obvious leap from, “That was a great week away” to “Maybe there’s a story here.” But because so many people are thinking the same thing, travel editors often receive more pitches than editors in other niches.
If you want to cut through, you need to be persistent (match good ideas to the right publication, and then follow up), and also patient. Success in travel writing often comes in dribs and drabs, rather than a quick burst. Sure, you can quit your day job in the meantime (I did!), but be prepared to do other types of writing on the side while you break in. I wrote general features for a while before I broke into the world of travel, and prior to that, did some corporate writing to pay the bills. It was worth the wait; now I get paid to travel across the globe and write about it.
Tip #3: What are you passionate about?
When you travel, what do you like to do? If it’s sitting on beaches outside luxury hotels, there’s no point pitching your ideas to adventure travel magazines, as the readers of these publications won’t be interested in this style of travel. Thinking honestly about what you like to do when you are away really helps when targeting your ideas and coming up with strong angles.
I like outdoor activities, markets, and finding out what the locals do in their spare time, so when I’m thinking about stories I could pitch on an upcoming destination, I often start with that. After all, I’m also going to have to do all the things in my story, so there’s no point pitching travel ideas on things that I don’t want to spend time doing.
It’s also good to consider your hobbies. I’m really into yoga (in fact, I also used to teach and train yoga teachers), and when I’m away for work or pleasure, I’ll often drop in to a local yoga class as a way of getting to know the local yoga scene. It’s no wonder I ended up writing travel features for Australian Yoga Journal: I know far more about yoga than the average traveller. What do you know more about than most people? Running? Vintage shopping? Climbing mountains? Scuba diving? Chances are there will be a niche publication specialising in this area, and you may be able to get paid to write some travel stories on your favourite pastime. Now what could be better than that?