And Fastest Way To Get A By-Line And A Check
|One of the best ways to break into
the travel-writing business (and to get repeat clips, too) is to write
short articles -- 250-600 words in length, typically.
Lots of publications are in the market
for such things -- short pieces about a great restaurant, a notable little
hotel, an excellent travel deal, a new resource, and so on.
Often these sorts of articles appear
in specific "departments" at publications or fall under what's called "front-of
the-book" pieces (you've seen them -- the "blurbs" magazines often run
in the first few pages of each issue).
Narrow Your Focus
Because space is limited, so must
be the size of the topic you choose. You can't easily write a quick note
about well-discovered Rome.
|Instead, you'd want to narrow your
topic considerably to something like a new museum exhibit or maybe a shop
that sells unusual gifts.
As the editors at Marco Polo Magazine
put it in that publication's guidelines: "Don't send us an article on Amsterdam;
send us a front-of-the-book feature about a new, particularly unique restaurant
in the Dutch metropolis."
Draw Your Reader in With a "Picture"
You're working with a limited number
of words, so you cannot afford to dally while you get to your point.
That is not to say you shouldn't
make an "emotional" appeal to your reader, do your best to draw him in
-- you most certainly should. Go ahead, paint a picture of this place you're
writing about. Take the reader there right at the start. Simply understand
-- you've got just three or four sentences to do it.
|For example, travel writer Jean
Flitcroft (who attended our workshop in Paris a couple of years ago) begins
a short article about a Scottish castle, published in International Living,
"Blazing log fires, oversized
four-poster beds, 2,000 acres to call your own, fine food and wine all
wrapped up in a hunk of Scottish granite and steeped in history for centuries
-- a perfect recipe for a magical weekend with a group of friends or family.
"There are many castles available
to rent for a house party throughout Scotland. In general, the farther
north and more rural you go, the more authentic they are. But to find one
within easy reach of Edinburgh that doesn't have tartan drapes, reproduction
suits of armor, and pine floorboards is more of a challenge. They may be
genuinely 16th-century outside, but some of the travesties of conservation
and restoration have to be seen to be believed."
|Get Right to the "Big Idea" You
Want Your Readers to Come Away Understanding
Very close to the front of your article
-- within the first four to six sentences -- you must come straight to
the point of your article.
You've got a reader in mind... you've
drawn that reader in... now write one, concise sentence that tells him
the benefit to his being there.
In her Scottish castle piece, Jean
does an excellent job of it. The sentence that follows her descriptive
"Built in 1780, Birkhill Castle is
the real thing -- the antithesis of tourist tackiness and just 50 minutes
north of Edinburgh and west of St. Andrews."
Provide Specific Support for Your
What next? Follow up with support
for your "Big Idea." Use a quote or two, some facts, statistics, examples.
|In the Scottish castle piece, which
has promised readers "the antithesis of tourist tackiness," we aren't disappointed.
The article goes on to say:
"Lord Dundee is an elected peer in
the House of Lords and is the Hereditary Royal Banner Bearer for Scotland.
The coronation banners hang proudly in the hall. Lady Dundee runs the 2,000-acre
arable farm and oversees the succession of houseguests. The house is stuffed
full of paintings and antiques, and the family history is worth indulging.
Lady Dundee will willingly bring the pictures of their ancestors to life
with details of tragic deaths, misunderstandings in love, and stories from
the battlefield. We were welcomed with a substantial afternoon tea and
lazed about until the views of the garden could be resisted no longer."
(There's more to the article, but
you get the idea...) She uses lots of specifics that directly illustrate
and support her "Big Idea" -- that this place is authentic, not touristy.
Make Sure You Give Your Readers
the Info They Need to Take Action
You want your reader to put your
article down, pick up the phone, and arrange to do what you just did. You
want him to take action. To that end, be sure to include the practical
details a reader will need to follow up on the information you've presented.
In Jean's article, for example, the
reader finds at the end:
"Taking over the whole castle
is expensive. Through Loyd and Townsend-Rose, it costs $370 per night per
person--all food and drink included. A much better option is to book B&B
direct with Lady Dundee. At $110/night per person and dinner at $50 it's
a reasonable way to get the authenticity and charm of a genuine Scottish
[Jen Stevens has spent the balance of
the last seven years gallivanting through Latin America and the Caribbean
-- to Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize and beyond reporting on and
writing about the best locales for overseas travel, retirement, and investment.
She is the former editor of International Living and Island Properties
Report, and she was a writer and editor for several years at Trade &
Culture magazine. Jen is the author of The
Ultimate Travel Writer's Course, published by the American Writers &