Breaking into Travel Writing
Breaking into Travel Writing
by L. Peat O'Neil

The best tip I can give you: learn to write short.

Whether you plan to write for newspaper travel sections or glossy magazines with gorgeous photos, editors prize travel writers who turn in tightly written copy. No matter how well you think you write, you will sell more work if you write short, especially in the travel market.

Why bother, you might be wondering? Well, one way freelance travel writers break into the $2-a-word glossy travel and shelter magazine market is through the front-of-the-book sections. In those sections-- which are made up of a variety of short clever items, photos, product reviews -- a "story" is really a fast-paced blurb or a mini-interview, but the writer gets a tag or by-line and usually, a significant check for little effort.

Magazine editors try out freelancers on these midget league pieces because they'll lose small if the writer tanks the assignment. Worst case scenario, the editor can write it herself. Best case scenario for a freelancer is the editor likes how you handle the short item and listens to your ideas for a full-length story. Next assignment: a longer piece, maybe with travel expenses. Be aware that many of those little pieces are written by the magazine's staff. For insight on whether the items are freelance written, compare tag lines with the names on the masthead.

Those little items can be lucrative. Once you internalize the structure of a 250 to 500 word piece, you can knock them off quickly at proportionately better pay than a longer researched story. Pitch the idea as you would any other, after finding out which editor assigns for the "front of the book" department. If you're good, editors will be calling you and asking if you could dash off 600 words, pretty please, by Tuesday. If you plan to produce material for websites, you'll have to write the story in less than 700 words.

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