Getting paid to travel to far-flung locations – that’s the dream gig for many of us, right? But therein lies the problem: everyone wants to be a travel writer and as a consequence the competition for jobs and for commissions is so, so tight.
It means you’ve got to be good; you’ve got to know the secrets.
But hey, we’ve got some good news! These secrets are out there, all packaged up into one all encompassing guide to travel writing from outdoor brand Craghoppers.
The recently launched Travel Writer’s Field Guide is an inspiration reference book for anyone who loves to explore new places. Inside there’s advice about every element of travel writing, from pitching to editors to shaping a story. You’ll find the secrets to getting your own work published and how to avoid all those cliches, and there’s also advice on how to create travel stories using just your smartphone.
The team behind it includes Phoebe Smith of Wanderlust Magazine, Daniel Neilson who’s one of our regular contributors, as well as John Summerton of Sidetracked. Between them they’ve written over 10 books in the field, edited countless magazines and created everything from blogs and vlogs to podcasts.
We recently caught the three of them at the launch night in Stanfords of Covent Garden where they shared a few of their pearls of wisdom on travel writing and how to be good at it…
Nail the Pitch
“One of the most important aspects is pitching the story to editors,” said Daniel. “Research the publication, understand how each piece in the magazine is put together and pitch accordingly. To get a piece published, you need to at least get a good story and pitch it to the right place in the right magazine. Secondly, perseverance. I don’t mean hassling editors, but accepting a refusal (or more likely being ignored), and moving on with as much spirit, passion and humour as you can muster.”
Put in the Legwork
“The two Rs! First, read, read, read – you can’t be a good writer without being a great reader,” recommends Phoebe. “Learn from the writers you admire – how they make you laugh/cry/keep you intrigued – and, crucially, read the writers you don’t like – ask yourself why you don’t like the way they tell stories, what techniques do they employ that turn you off. Reading with an analytical eye can really help you develop as a writer yourself.
“Second research. To find stories you need a curious mind and must be prepared to put in the legwork to find them. Speak to locals, connect with experts, look up anniversaries, see what’s already been written and find something new. In short, make finding the hidden tales your mission – like a detective sniffing out the culprit. It’s absolutely key.”
Really consider the storytelling and structure of the story,” said John, editor and founder of Sidetracked. “When you return home from a trip, what’s the first thing you’d tell your friends in a pub or whilst sat around a campfire. Jump straight into that moment and then build the story around that. Think about your narrative arc (details within the book) and don’t try and be too clever. The idea is to keep the reader entertained through the entire article so keep it straight forward and with a natural flow.”
The Travel Writer’s Field Guide can be purchased directly from their website where there’s also a free podcast from the authors to download.