- Written by Dan
How to Become a Travel Writer
By Hostelling International / Fiona Scott
Take Your Dream on the Road!
Continuing our series from our favourite travel writers and bloggers, Fiona Scott, a.k.a "Babe with a Backpack" shares tips on how to become a travel writer and develop your writing style.
Usually when people find out that I'm a travel writer, they make a big fuss. They "oooh" and "aaah" and ask if I bring my laptop to the beach. They go on and on about what a dream job it must be, to have everything paid for as I'm guided around the globe, and sometimes they ask me for writing tips and how to become a writer.
What most people don't think about are the hours in transit, the hours searching for WiFi to meet an editorial deadline, and the bank account balance that has a few digits within it—but never enough to opt for First Class. Yes, it is a dream job as my experiences from country to country are irreplaceable, but it's a hard slog of a job.
I didn't study to be a travel writer, nor did I seek the profession. But as an active traveller with a love for writing, it all seemed to fall into place, and I dedicated my time to making my mark within an industry teeming with new writers every day.
So where do you start? How to become a writer is actually blaringly obvious, but a lot of wannabe writers do seem to forget the basics. Here are a collection of writing tips that I have developed over time. Hopefully these writing tips can help you explore your writing style and develop how to become a writer for yourself.
You've Got to Write Content!
Talking the talk and romancing the places you've seen and experienced is irrelevant if you don't have any written material. One of my favourite writing tips is to keep a notebook with you to take notes, this often can create enough content to fuel an article. When note-taking ask yourself the same questions in every new environment you write about. Think about details that create a picture, details that inspire readers to experience more of your story.
Describing your senses is an automatic catch for most readers as they can recreate your surroundings in their mind. What does it smell like? Salty ocean air, rich woody forests or smoggy congested streets? What colours do you instantly see around you? Stormy skies above, a cherry-red store awning or a sea of honking yellow taxis? Is it incredibly loud, or eerily quiet? Is the seat sticky to touch—does the sand leave a dusty residue on your hands?
Forming a daily routine of detailed writing is the best step to creating a portfolio. And it leads you to the next step in becoming a travel writer.
Polish Your Writing Style and Find Your Niche
When you open up the travel section of a newspaper these days, the variation in articles is incredibly diverse. For myself, I found the niche of being a single female traveller on a tight budget most appropriate. And guess what? I'm a single female traveller on a tight budget! Sticking with what you know will authenticate your words.
Finding your own writing style will also separate you from the cookie cutter writers out there who simply supply information. It's still important to provide the basic facts about travel, as logistics are a main component in building any itinerary. But doing this with a smile in your writing will have readers seeking your material specifically. With the generic travel information infused into your article, editors are happy that their reader demographics are kept wide open.
All of your dedication to daily writing and finding your niche now puts one foot in the door of branding yourself as a writer.
Develop Your Profile
With the current stage of technology and the vast pool of potential travel writers across the globe, it is critical to advertise your skills and abilities to the world. Before taking a chance on a new writer, editors will do a quick search of who you are, and what you've done in the writing world. If your blog is kept up to date with varied reviews, opinions and stories it shows a level of dedication that appeals to editors. If there is nothing there to impress them at a glance, your submissions could simply be added to the slush pile of written content that didn't make it to the next level of acceptance. Blogging is an immediate profile boost that can fit within any budget. It gives you an opportunity to practice your writing, perfect your writing, and get feedback on your writing.
The networking platform that grows from developing your profile, can also introduce you to your competitors. Having a better understanding of content variation is critical as you get closer to approaching editors.
Learn About Your Market
Speak to any editor and there's nothing that annoys them more than timewasters. Those writers that submit pieces that have already been featured in the magazine, or cover subject matter not relevant to their readership. Even worse, is submitting anything contrary to the submission guidelines that most websites and publications post to help filter out the timewasters. So stick to the word count, study the writing style of other contributing writers, and research your market.
Creating content that will inspire readers to make real travel plans can turn an average writer into a trendsetter—and editors love this. Featuring future festivals and events that haven't received a lot of attention but have characteristics suitable for travellers to experience a new culture, can create a stir. As the original author of such a hot tip, you then, become an expert in the field, and even more awareness is created; more magazines are sold or a website goes viral. By scouring all levels of publications and chasing myths or rumours, writers can pick up on trends in the environment, in food delicacies or an upcoming fashion. The resources are endless; the skill to focus on the right one defines a well-rounded travel writer.
Pitching Your Ideas
New writers often approach the industry backwards; by writing the article first, there is no negotiable area. The pitch needs to summarize the piece, highlighting the tagline. If the editor cannot see easy options past a poor pitch, they are not likely to coach you along. Pitches need to be short and sweet, and there is certainly no harm in pitching several different angles from the same trip. Most full-time travel writers need to get a minimum of five articles per trip to make a journey worthwhile—but all pieces will have a different focus based on who they are written for.
Persist and Follow Up
Last but not least is the tip that every writer needs to hear and repeat daily. Approaching any new career or industry never happens overnight. If you don't give up your day job, and see the form of creating new travel articles as your own pleasure, you'll keep smiling past the rejection letters and lack of responses. Be sure to dedicate a couple of hours every day to simply writing and building your writing network. Put together a calendar of submission and contest deadlines in addition to editorial deadlines, and you can keep motivating yourself by working under pressure.
By staying on top of deadlines and establishing good relationships with others in the industry, you are sure to be known as an established travel writer. For myself, I have often found the balance of promoting myself in multiple careers a bit of a tight-rope—but at the end of the day, it's been a joy to see the world and spread the word!
Fiona Scott has been in and out of the freelance travel writing world for the last ten years.
As globe-trotting has remained the constant passion in her life, the pay-cheques she has received for writing are viewed as a bonus to put towards the next trip. Fiona's blog "Babe with a Backpack" has gained international recognition and triggered guest appearances as a travel expert for single women.