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4 Ways to Get an Editor’s Attention When You Pitch

4 Ways to Get an Editor’s Attention When You Pitch

To get an editor's attention, you need to start with a super pitch...You wouldn’t show up at a job interview dressed in torn sweatpants and an unwashed, ratty old T-shirt, clutching a half-eaten meatball sub in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other, would you?

Of course not.

As far as editors are concerned, though, if you send a story pitch that’s packed with misspellings, goes on and on about your life since age three, and fails to adequately capture your story’s focus and suitability for the publication, you might as well also include a picture of yourself in those sweatpants—because their reaction will be pretty much the same.

A story pitch—also known as a query—is usually the first time an editor meets you (and we all know we get only one chance to make a good first impression). It’s also your first and best opportunity to help the editor get a feel for your writing skills, to offer a glimpse into the exciting destinations that you plan to visit or already have visited, and to establish your ability to convey those experiences to a reader in an authoritative and credible way.

Is there anything that you can do to elevate your pitch above the pack and get an editor’s attention? Absolutely, yes. Here are four ways to ensure that an editor will sit up and take notice when your email hits their inbox:

1. Start with a strong subject line
The subject line is the first thing an editor sees, and so it can be helpful to think about the way we all evaluate whether we’ll open our emails: by the subject line. I don’t know about you, but I open emails from beloved friends and family and those that are going to lead me to paid work first, and I immediately delete the ones that promise a get-rich-quick scheme or are trying to sell me things.

How do I know which is which? Yep, you guessed it. That’s why it’s crucial that your subject line lets the editor know that your email contains a story query, along with where the story is set and its focus. This can be as simple as Freelance pitch: Tango lessons in Buenos Aires, or Query: 10 top family-friendly U.S. ski areas. In fact, the simpler, the better, as long as you include the destination and the primary point of the story.

2. Keep it short and sweet
Most editors I know are stretched pretty thin, so if you send a lengthy email, you increase the chances that the editor will take one look and either hit delete immediately, or relegate it to the bottom of the pile to be reviewed when they have more time (in other words, sometime never).

I’m a big proponent of the three-paragraph pitch, because it’s long enough to allow you to give a good synopsis of the story, as well as indicate whether you can offer things like photos or previously published stories.

3. Tailor the pitch to the publication
Before you pitch an editor, you should peruse the publication’s archives to get a sense of the types of stories it publishes, as well as the destinations most frequently covered, and the demographics targeted (i.e., multi-generational travelers, retirees, students taking a gap year, solo travelers, etc.).

That way, when you come up with your story focus, you can include things that will appeal directly to the readers of a given publication, who usually have come to expect a certain kind of story to appear in its pages. For example: Let’s say you’re writing a story about taking kids to an all-inclusive beach resort, and you want to pitch it to a magazine like Parenting. In your pitch, you definitely want to mention that your story is particularly ideal for Parenting because it focuses on helping parents enjoy a vacation while still getting quality time for the kids.

4. Write your pitch as if it were for publication
What I mean by this is that many writers tend to get sloppy with the pitch, which is a mistake.
Editors are looking to see that you follow sound sentence structure; that you checked for spelling and grammatical errors, and that you have a good grasp of paragraph transitions and flow. If you skimp on these things, it will be a sign to the editor that your story likely will have the same issues.

In other words, the pitch is everything. So toss those sweatpants and dress it in its very best if you dream of freelance travel-writing success.

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Use Your Interests to Position Yourself as a Niche Travel Expert

Use Your Interests to Position Yourself as a Niche Travel Expert

To get an editor's attention, position yourself as a niche travel expertDo what you love, and the money will follow. How many times have we heard this time-worn adage? It’s true that many have successfully followed their dreams of becoming a freelance travel writer, but did you know that you can make that happen even faster and more easily if you combine your personal passions with your love of travel?

It’s true: Because travel publications are in the business of entertaining their readers while helping them find appealing destinations, editors look to their writers to be the scouts for everything around these experiences. That means your story is even more attractive if it’s written from the perspective of an expert or a serious enthusiast—as in, someone with a more-than-basic understanding and depth of knowledge about the subject matter.

I’m often asked what my favorite things to write about are, and for about two decades, it was food (not surprising for a restaurant critic). I thoroughly enjoyed seeking out new places to dine and new exotic foods to try, and I loved directing readers toward the best of those. Over the years, though, I began pursuing more outdoors adventures, and I took up mountain biking and river rafting. These days, that’s what I really enjoy writing about, and I have found that I’m happiest when I’m including these favorite activities in my articles.

The best part is that, once you get a couple of these stories under your belt, you’ll become sought after for stories as a subject matter expert, such as my recent pieces in local publication Westword on my favorite mountain bike trails, and this piece that New York’s Thrillist asked for on outdoorsy day trips from Denver.

Here’s another great thing about travel writing: You can position yourself as an avid golfer one day, and then as someone who visits all of the baseball stadiums across the country or is intimately familiar with the gem show circuit another. The key is to explain your background or expertise in the stories you’re writing, and to expand on that in the pitch, so that editors know where you’re coming from when you offer insider information.

Here are three ways to position yourself as a niche travel expert and tap into the publications in need of your stories:

1. Offer practical tips
How-to stories are all the rage, because people want to know the steps they need to take to make an experience happen, and this kind of story also usually lends itself to compelling graphics that get readers’ attention. The way to structure this approach is to go back to the basics, the things you wish you had known when you were just starting out. So, for instance, if you’re writing about snorkeling, you could include a list of the best gear to have on hand, or places newbies can head for a gentler first time out.

Who’s likely to publish it: Magazines specifically geared toward the activities you’re addressing are always looking to help their beginner readers get started, and if you just Google the subject, you’ll find plenty for just about any activity under the sun. So, for instance, I recently started learning how to surf, and I’m pitching to publications like Surfing Life, Surfing World, Surfer, and Surfing to share my thoughts on what the over-50 crowd needs to know to jump into this young person’s water sport.

2. Offer lists of favorites
Lists are, of course, the top-selling type of story, because they’re easy to assemble and readers love them. Editors are eager to offer a variety of destinations related to an activity—such as Top European Cities for Art Museums or Ten Cheapest Music Festivals Around the World—because it pulls in the largest number of readers around a particular topic.

Who’s likely to publish it: Online outlets always need lists, because they want clicks, clicks, clicks. Pretty much every publication, though, offers some kind of regularly recurring lists for their readership, and so it’s a good idea to peruse the ones that focus on your subject and see if they feature the list format anywhere.

3. Offer expert insights
In addition to sharing your obsessions or hobbies, don’t forget to tap into your background or career to bolster your stories. I often use the example of a writer I worked with who had been a marine biologist all his life and went on to successfully sell stories about scuba diving for specific types of sea creatures. But I’ve also seen writers who have other areas of expertise find that their subjects are so niche that they become the go-to picks to cover those fields—such as dog therapists who write about where to travel with Fido, or interior decorators who write about the best-designed hotel rooms.

Who’s likely to publish it: The same publications that would be looking for the other types of stories above will also be interested in this kind of piece, but also consider newspaper Travel sections, which often need a more expert-based foundation to their offerings.

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4 Tips For Capturing The Right Images For Your Travel Story

4 Tips For Capturing The Right Images For Your Travel Story

Over the years, I’ve found that the key to capturing the right images and having enough photos after a trip to satisfy an editor is to follow these four easy steps:

1. Come up with as many ideas as you can beforehand

I’ve discovered that my cache of images is so much more complete and satisfying when I have a sense of what I’m going to need ahead of time. So, for instance, on a trip to Vietnam last New Year’s, I knew that my story idea on the attitudes of Vietnamese people toward Americans would require plenty of intimate images, like this one of a Hmong woman trading hoop earrings with my friend Tomas as her daughter looks on skeptically.

Tips for capturing the right images for your travel story

Much like my interest in these cultural interactions, you want to consider what appeals to you personally about the destination. Activities that match your interests—art, outdoor adventures, cats—are more likely to keep your attention and thus will be easier to remember to shoot as you go along. And because you have some enthusiasm for the subject matter, it’s also likely to make for a good photo story.

2. Research what the publication will likely run

Whether you’ve already sold your photo essay before your trip or have a publication in mind to query afterward, do your research. Spend some time looking at what the publication does online and in print. Believe it or not, sometimes there’s a difference in what they run. Many publications that run large landscapes in print shy away from them online, preferring instead to go with detail shots or themed slideshows.

If there is a print version, I try to get ahold of a hard copy so that I can study the aesthetic. For instance, newspapers tend to look for more general interest photos, and prefer to have people in them.

The majority of lights in this shot are from motorbikes and scooters, but this isn’t the kind of photo a motorcycle lifestyle magazine would print. Instead, it would work well for a newspaper publishing a story on celebrating the holidays in Ho Chi Minh City.

Tips for capturing the right images for your travel story

3. Take important shots from a variety of angles

Not only does it make sense to shoot a variety of photos of any given subject to ensure that the best one is in there somewhere, it also comes in handy when you go to sell stories to multiple outlets. Most publications require first rights to photos and stories, so having a variety means that you can divide them up without worrying that you’ll violate your contract.

I took at least 10 photos of this Mekong Delta “coffee guy” in various poses, because I know I’m going to include him in more than one story.

Tips for capturing the right images for your travel story

When I start shooting something, I remind myself that I may need more than one of the same subject, so I shift slightly, get down lower, or wait for the people in the frame to move.

4. Zoom in, zoom out

Because so many travel-related publications are looking for sweeping panoramas and landscapes that can be blown up as well as targeted detail shots to sandwich into blank spots on the page, it’s prudent to get both of those composition styles for as many of your subjects.

I’ve run into so many photographers who have a tale to tell of not getting what a publication needed months later, when it was too late.

Ultimately, as the photographer for a story, your job is to help the publications present the best package possible. So, the better prepared you are, the more likely you’ll be successful in selling it.

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5 Easy Steps To Getting An Editor’s Attention

5 Easy Steps To Getting An Editor’s Attention

Tips for getting an editor's attention and finally landing that byline...Where should I send my story?

It’s one of the top questions I’m asked at travel writing workshops, during writing retreats, and in feedback sessions with beginning freelance writers.

But it’s the wrong question to ask.

Instead, I encourage writers to start asking this question, of themselves:

Where do I want to see my story published?

Envisioning that there’s a perfect publication for a story you’ve written is a bit like thinking that there’s one perfect pair of shoes for you to wear: You’re going to waste a lot of time racing from shoe store to shoe store and perusing online seeking that perfect pair, all the while ignoring all of the wonderfully comfortable and appealing shoes along the way.

Instead of writing a story first and then imagining that there’s an ideal place for it, consider following these five steps to increase your chances of getting an editor’s attention…

Pick five publications in which you’d like to see your story

This step reminds me of the advice my daughters received in their last couple of years of high school, when they were considering what colleges to apply to and were told to choose a variety based on likelihood of acceptance.

So, within these five, pick at least two or three realistic options, such as local and regional publications and online outlets known for accepting first-time submissions. Maybe these don’t pay well, or they’re not as highly revered as other options, but they are “get your foot in the door” publications that will be more likely to print your story, or at the very least, offer some kind of feedback.

Then, look for one or two “dream” publications. Go crazy and don’t rule anything out. As preposterous as it may feel to send a story to The New York Times or Travel + Leisure, you never know—and, of course, you won’t know unless you try. At the very least, you will become more proficient at self-editing and pitching to an editor.

Find the guidelines for each of those five

Some publications don’t offer guidelines, or they make it harder to find them. It can be as simple as looking them up online, or you may need to email an editor to request them. In either case, this is a critical step, because then you will be armed with the best information for ensuring that your story meets a publication’s needs.

The thing is, even if a publication doesn’t offer guidelines, it’s not hard to figure out what they’re looking for by looking at the publication itself. If there is a print version, go for that, because the formats will be more readily apparent.

Write the story for one of the publications

Choose one of those “safe bets” and write your story based entirely on its guidelines or format. If the publication runs only lists (such as “Ten Best Restaurants” or “Three Kid-Friendly Beaches”), then write your story as a list. If the publication runs nothing but short narratives, then write a short narrative.

In other words, don’t waste your time writing the story the way you want it to look for a publication that doesn’t run them that way. This will give you some practice with tailoring a story to a publication, and the best part is, you’ll have a completed story.

Tailor the story to the other four

Now, take that original article and then look at how it can be altered to fit the guidelines for the other four publications you chose.

Did you originally write it as a list, and one of the other ones requires it to be in narrative form? Rewrite the beginning to sound more like the introduction to a tale, rather than a setup for a series of shorts. Or, vice-versa. Did you originally write it as 500 words, but a publication allows only 300 words? It’s time to start slicing and dicing to make it shorter.

Pitch the story to the appropriate editor for each publication

Once you have the various versions completed, you can start sending them to the editors, each time addressing how the story is tailor-made for that publication. Mention the guidelines or the format and how it not only fits, but also offers the kind of information the publication’s readership expects.

The good news is, once you have five versions of the story, chances are pretty good that you’ll be able to find 10 or 20—or even 100—more publications that you can continue to shape the story for, thereby significantly boosting the odds of snagging that byline.

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How To Write A Listicle – 3 Tips To Get Started

How To Write A Listicle – 3 Tips To Get Started

How to write a listicle -- every travel writer needs to know...One of the least-romantic (yet most-published) articles out there is the listicle.

“’6 Amazing Ski Tours Around the World” – Outside Magazine
“100 Best Albums of All Time” — Rolling Stone
“100 American towns founded before the Revolution” — USA Today

Listicles are basically a list of people, places, and things held together by an introduction and loosely passed off as a travel article.

Just about every publication wants them.

As much as those of us who love to write narrative stories are dismayed to see that most publications rely on these and other formats, the listicle is here to stay. And it could be your easiest “in” to travel writing.

So here’s how to write a listicle:

Embrace the trend.

Writing a listicle is significantly easier and takes far less time than writing a long, winding travel narrative. Once you get the format down, it can be a quick way to sell a story and get that clip, so that you can then work with the editor on the style you’d prefer to write.

Recognize that the listicle is really about SEO.

Short for search engine optimization, SEO is what determines where a story turns up in a search on Google or other search engines. So, for instance, if your story on Disney attractions has good SEO, then it will be on the first page in a search for “Disney attractions.”

Lists are famously among the most easily-searched and thus SEO-friendly stories out there.

And because readers love them—they’re easily digested, usually offer solid information, and tend to be light and fun—they’re frequently looked at online, which serves to exponentially increase their SEO.

Few publications are print-only these days, so the listicle tends to appear in both the print and web versions, thereby driving traffic (and thus ad money) to the publication.

Keep writing narratives, too.

My general rule of thumb is that for every listicle I do, I try to craft a related narrative-style piece, as well. That way, I capitalize on a trip by offering a variety of stories to send out, and I am often far more delighted with the latter.

And, truth be told, a happy writer usually makes for a better writer.

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5 Tips To Find The Right Publication For Your Travel Story

5 Tips To Find The Right Publication For Your Travel Story

5 tips to help you find the right publication for your storyWhere should I send my story?

It’s one of the top questions I’m asked at travel-writing workshops, during writing retreats, and in feedback sessions with beginning freelance writers.

But it’s the wrong question to ask. Instead, I encourage writers to start asking this question of themselves:

Where do I want to see my story published?

Envisioning that there’s a perfect publication for a story you’ve written is a bit like thinking that there’s one perfect pair of shoes for you to wear: You’re going to waste a lot of time racing from shoe store to shoe store and perusing online seeking that perfect pair, all the while ignoring all of the wonderfully comfortable and appealing shoes along the way.

Instead of writing a story first and then imagining that there’s an ideal place for it, consider following these five steps to help you find the right publication and increase your chances of getting an editor’s attention:

1. Pick five publications in which you’d like to see your story.

Within those five, pick at least two or three realistic options, such as local and regional publications, and online outlets known for accepting first-time submissions. Maybe these don’t pay well, or they’re not as highly revered as other options, but they are “get your foot in the door” publications that will be more likely to print your story, or at the very least, offer some kind of feedback.

Then, look for one or two “dream” publications. Go crazy and don’t rule anything out. As preposterous as it may feel to send a story to The New York Times or Travel + Leisure, you never know—and, of course, you won’t know unless you try. At the very least, you will become more proficient at self-editing and pitching to an editor.

2. Find the guidelines for each of those five publications.

Some publications don’t offer guidelines, or they make it harder to find them. It can be as simple as looking them up online, or you may need to email an editor to request them. In either case, this is a critical step, because then you will be armed with the best information for ensuring that your story meets a publication’s needs.

The thing is, even if a publication doesn’t offer guidelines, it’s not hard to figure out what they’re looking for by looking at the publication itself. If there is a print version, go for that, because the formats will be more readily apparent.

3. Write a story for one of the publications.

Choose one of those “safe bets” and write your story based entirely on its guidelines or format. If the publication runs only lists (such as “Ten Best Restaurants” or “Three Kid-Friendly Beaches”), then write your story as a list. If the publication runs nothing but short narratives, then write a short narrative.

In other words, don’t waste your time writing the story the way you want it to look for a publication that doesn’t run them that way. This will give you some practice with tailoring a story to a publication, and the best part is, you’ll have a completed story.

4. Tailor the story to the other four.

Now, take that original article and then look at how it can be altered to fit the guidelines for the other four publications you chose.

Did you originally write it as a list, and one of the others requires it to be in narrative form? Rewrite the beginning to sound more like the introduction to a tale, rather than a setup for a series of shorts. Or, vice-versa. Did you originally write it as 500 words, but a publication allows only 300 words? It’s time to start slicing and dicing to make it shorter.

5. Pitch the story to the appropriate editor for each publication.

Once you have the various versions completed, you can start sending them to the editors–each time addressing how the story is tailor-made for that publication. Mention the guidelines or the format and how it not only fits but also offers the kind of information the publication’s readership expects.

The good news is, once you have five versions of the story, chances are pretty good that you’ll be able to find 10 or 20—or even a hundred—more publications that you can continue to shape the story for, thereby significantly boosting the odds of snagging that byline.

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Why Editors Love It When You Write Local Travel Stories

Why Editors Love It When You Write Local Travel Stories

Why editors are always in search of writers who can write local travel stories...My bags are packed for Morocco, and I have a plane ticket to Spain and Portugal, too. I’m headed to seven countries over the next three months, after spending several months last year living in Vietnam and traveling to Thailand and Cambodia.

But despite all of this fabulous potential material for plenty of international stories, the email I got today from an editor at Thrillist was looking for my expertise on Colorado—my residence for most of the last 26 years.

I’ve spent a lot of that time exploring the plethora of outdoors opportunities, and the editor—who is in New York—wanted to know if I could do two stories, both focused on hiking and other adventures that can be had in the mountains of the Centennial State. My answer: Of course!

As a former travel editor myself, I completely understand the appeal of finding someone who can write authoritatively about his or her hometown. Not surprisingly, most writers want to visit exotic locales and focus on the exciting experiences that can be had there—and who can blame them? But I can tell you that your expertise on the place where you spend most of your time is invaluable, and there are editors out there looking for stories from you on the best restaurants, the best biking trails, the best walking tour of downtown.

Here’s why:

Local writers know their stuff

Sure, we pros can fly into a place and get it wired pretty quickly, figuring out how to get around and what to do, but local writers have a depth that’s hard to match.

You know when a place closes and when it’s being remodeled. You know when streets are shut down and require a detour. You know the top spots and the attractions that are overrated. You know which dive bars are worth checking out, and what hikes lead to the most magnificent views.

This is all insider information that editors live for—the stuff that they can’t track down themselves and they rely on writers like you to provide it.

Local writers sport unparalleled passion for the subject

You know how we all get when we’re talking about the things we love in our hometowns. The enthusiasm can be infectious, and it fills your writing with that energy.

And when you discover something new, woohoo! There’s a palpable excitement about finding fun in your hometown that you never knew existed, and the resulting writing can be electric. You can’t help but have that come through—which makes for significantly more interesting and dynamic stories.

Local writers have access to other locals

When a story requires an expert opinion or insider tips, who better to connect readers with local experts than another local?

Chances are good that even if you don’t know exactly whom the ideal person is to talk to for a story, you’ll be able to more quickly find that person than someone who doesn’t live there. Just like you, other locals have an awareness and comprehension of things like history, context, and connections, as well as valuable institutional knowledge about the area.

All of that adds up to priceless information that gives your story credibility and authority—and makes you the best person for the job of writing about where you live.

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Great News For New Writers: Editors Love To Work With You

Great News For New Writers: Editors Love To Work With You

After over a decade as a teacher and mentor for Great Escape Publishing, I still get super excited when I walk into a workshop or start a fresh round of feedback for our writers.

It’s not just because the folks who find us tend to be more purposeful—although that’s a big part of it. So many of us were raised to follow a certain set of rules, and as we make our way through the decades, we tend to come to the realization that there’s really no rulebook. There’s just what we want out of life and what we are willing to do to make it happen—and the heck with what other people think or say.

Also, there’s something beautiful and appealing about discovering your passions and pursuing them to the fullest that makes for more robust and interesting writing, and that always jazzes me and injects my own work with renewed enthusiasm. The interactions I have come to expect from our workshop attendees and program participants are among the most rewarding of my own career.

Here are three more reasons why I truly enjoy working with the new writers at Great Escape:

1. New writers are more motivated
As with any career, the longer you’ve been at it, the more the shine has worn off, right? Not so with those just starting out. Novice writers are hungry—they’re ready to do the work, and they tend to go at it hard and accept feedback more easily than those who have been getting their work published for a while.

In addition, because so many of the beginning writers who join our programs are launching this as a second—and sometimes even third or fourth!—career, they understand the effort it can take to master something unfamiliar, and they’re more willing to push through the tough times to reach their goals. It can be so inspiring to be a part of the process.

2. New writers don’t have as many bad habits
Any editor who has worked with veteran reporters knows that they are often set in their ways. They’ve been misspelling the same words for decades, and they craft their sentences and set up their story structures in similar ways, over and over. They sometimes seem to almost mindlessly be producing the content, without really thinking through what it means or whether it could be better.

Not so with newbies. Sure, it’s true that a story from someone who hasn’t produced it for public eyes previously can be filled with grammatical errors and need assistance in things like transitions, sentence structure, and other writing conventions, but for the most part, learners want to do just that: learn.

New writers also are more likely to retain feedback, because they are eager to become proficient, and—as I said above—they’re more motivated. It makes for a more satisfying relationship between editor and writer, and it usually results in more dynamic and compelling stories.

3. New writers often come from interesting backgrounds
The fresh perspective from those who arrive at the freelance travel writing realm from such varied life experiences can be so reinvigorating. I really enjoy hearing about a place from someone who has a different—and often unique—worldview, because the outlook on available activities, dining, lodging, and modes of travel can be fascinating and provocative.

The exploration and acceptance of our differences and our similarities is what makes the world go ’round, and it absolutely feeds and enhances the travel experience. I don’t think there’s a better way to help bring us together than to guide and nurture new writers as they make their way toward becoming skilled experts.

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Why Writing Local Content Is The Best Way To Break Into Travel Writing

Why Writing Local Content Is The Best Way To Break Into Travel Writing

One of the greatest joys in my work as an editor over the years has been finding top-notch travel writers with whom I later developed long-term relationships. My quest to find local travel writers in Colorado to hire as permanent columnists for The Denver Post began with my simply looking around online for people who were covering the state. I wanted writers and photographers who came off as experts in the unique features of our area, and I knew that their expertise would be invaluable to my readers.

Eventually I found four writers, all of whom also had become proficient at photography, and I hired them to write one column a month each for the paper’s travel section—a gig that continues for all of them to this day. They came from varied backgrounds: an elite athlete who relished backcountry adventures; a “retired” gentleman who sought out more easygoing trips that still promised some exercise, including skiing and hiking; a teacher and dad who speaks fluent Spanish and longed to showcase the effects of South and Central America on the Southwestern and Western parts of the U.S; and a mom of four who had made her name as a “Vacation Gal,” specializing in multi-generational and girlfriend travel.

They had one critical thing in common, though—because they’d all started out focusing on where they lived as the subject of their blogs and the smattering of travel stories they had written for online publications, they were able to showcase their talents without spending much money or expending much time and energy.

Here’s why writing local content can be the fast track to publication for you, too:

Local content is the fastest, cheapest way to publication
The best part about covering your hometown is that you don’t have to pay to go anywhere—you can walk out your front door and find all the fun after just a quick bus ride or short drive. There’s no need to have your passport updated or get additional immunizations, and no one has to get you to the airport, or water your plants or feed your dog while you’re gone.

Also, when you write and photograph your hometown, you’re right there and in the perfect position to get an updated photo or make a phone call to find out hours. If you forget to take notes about a key aspect of the place, it’s not going to take a translator or require awakening in the middle of the night to contact a city 10 time zones away to follow up.

Finally, editors understand and appreciate the value of local writers and are more likely to respond when you pitch them. Once you have a couple of stories published, they’re usually eager to continue working with you, and they tend to recommend you to other editors, too.

Local content features your best recommendations
This is why you come off as such an expert when you write about your own area: Because you have an in-depth understanding of the ins and outs of the experiences available where you live and work, you can direct folks toward the top activities, the finest meals, and the easiest way to experience it all.

This kind of insider outlook is invaluable, because editors are always on the lookout for tips that ring true—you have been able to compare various experiences, and that gives you the authority to share your thoughts.

Local content allows you to be confident
When you write about what you know well, your credibility is obvious. You’re able to present information in an in-the-know way, with tips and tricks that can come only from an intimate knowledge of a place.

In addition, when you focus on the familiar, you can easily call upon your experiences to describe meals, trails, museums, you name it—all of those things that you’re already recommending to your friends at parties and on Facebook.

In this case, though, you’re getting paid to share your thoughts, and as with the writers I hired, that can lead to long-term relationships with editors, and ultimately the sweet travel perks that are offered only to established writers and photographers.

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How to Improve Your Writing: Follow Our Easy and Effective Tips

How to Improve Your Writing: Follow Our Easy and Effective Tips

Crafting a story for publication is a lot like cooking a meal for friends: The best outcome involves a strategic combination of following instructions, trusting your gut enough to wing it here and there, and employing a considerable amount in equal parts of patience and perseverance.

In the same way that you approach whipping up grilled salmon with steamed rice pilaf and sautéed lemon asparagus for a dinner party, you can find plenty of inspiration by studying the masters—but a quicker and easier route is to practice specific writing skills that ultimately will improve your writing and make your content more nourishing.

Here are our top tips for doing just that—a detailed and comprehensive recipe for success:

Stop telling yourself you lack talent
The science of self-talk is well-documented—however, it’s easier said than done to avoid talking yourself out of the things that you truly desire to do. Instead of tearing yourself apart, though, try reminding your brain that this is what you want, and that you’re good at it and you deserve to be a successful writer. Good things will follow.

Don’t be afraid to say what you mean in what you write
We all have a self-editor in our heads that pokes at us while we try to tell our tale. “You can’t write that!” it says, or “You’ll offend someone if you say it that way!” Ignore that voice, for at least three drafts. If it’s still nagging at you on the fourth, then acknowledge that the voice might have something to say, and address its concerns. But until then, say what you mean and see how it goes.

Do adequate research on your topic—or even more than adequate
There’s no excuse for not providing background and accurate facts in your stories. Research is easier than ever in this Age of the Internet, but remember that not everything out there is true. Find several sources, and if possible, connect with experts on the ground and in fields related to what you’re sharing—get them to corroborate your information whenever possible. For example, if you’re writing a story about surfing for the first time in Florida, be sure to talk to people who have been doing it for years to get context and perspective on things like the waves, the risks and the requisite gear.

Brush up on the basic principles of writing, grammar and spelling
As with research, grammar is a no-brainer these days. You can use a site such as Grammarly.com to run through your stories to identify problems, and you also can simply search topics such as “lie or lay?” or “its and it’s.” In addition, most document applications have some form of spellcheck, and they also underline or otherwise flag incorrect spelling and grammar. Don’t ignore those signs. If you’re not sure what fixes are required, find someone who is and ask them for help. Which leads us to…

Find a partner, and ask them to read your writing and provide feedback
This should be someone you trust to the fullest extent, because you’re going to ask them to be brutally honest—not just about grammar, but also about whether your story makes sense, provides all of the pertinent information, and reads well. It’s even better if you can find someone who also writes, so that you can trade and become comfortable critiquing each other’s work like a rue editor. The most important thing is to find an editor who demonstrates patience, so that you will be able to be receptive.

Write like it’s your job and practice regularly
It’s not enough to announce to people at a party that you want to be a writer—you have to actually do the writing. Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, but perfection isn’t the goal here: Getting it done as well as you can is the goal. Set aside time once a day, once a week, or whatever works for you, but if you really want to pull it off, you must get into the habit of writing repeatedly and routinely.

Make your story less like a snack and more like a full meal
Snacks can be just what we need, but we’re far more satisfied with a full meal. Readers feel the same way—we’ve all read stories that feel like the verbal version of cotton candy, all fluff and no substance. Dig deeper. Help your readers feel as though they’re there right with you. Offer a little something extra, whether that’s a more elaborate and well-thought-out description, or background that you discovered after interviewing locals and seeking out obscure trivia. Strive to help your readers gain a full understanding and appreciation for the experience you’re relating.

Read more so you develop an eye for what effective writing looks like
Good readers make for good writers—it’s well documented that the more you read, the better your writing will become, because it will connect synapses in your brain and help the words come more easily. In addition, it pays to go the extra mile by taking the time to analyze writing you admire and imitate writers you admire. That doesn’t mean copying them word for word, of course (that’s plagiarism). Instead, when you’re in the throes of trying to string sentences together and you hit a writer’s block, take a few minutes to peruse the work of someone you admire. This is a well-known trick that many writers use, because it has the effect of releasing the block and getting those creative juices flowing again.

Join a writers’ workshop, meetup, or take a night class
Find your tribe, your people, your fellow writers, and join them in learning more about the craft of writing. It will strengthen your skills, and it also will help you gain more confidence. Not to mention that the more writers you network with, the more insight you’ll glean into the world of writing and publications, and the more potential avenues will present themselves for pitching your stories or connecting with editors.

Outline your writing early in the process
Create a mesmerizing flow by outlining or reverse-outlining your content—play with the order and the flow to see what works best. It’s not enough to simply sit down and start throwing words on a page. Savvy writers take the time beforehand to organize their thoughts and come up with a plan for executing the tale. You don’t have to set up the outline like you did back in English 101, but some kind of list of themes, topics or tidbits you want to be sure to include will go a long way toward a coherent and cohesive narrative.

Edit your writing, again and again
Accept that first drafts are often bad, and revise, revise, revise. Make yourself a checklist of things to cover when you go back through, things like “eliminate unnecessary words from your writing,” and “become more conversational by including questions in your writing.”

Study how to choose the most flavorful words. Learn how to avoid bland phrases that make your writing tasteless and yucky. Compose smooth transitions so readers glide from sentence to sentence, and from paragraph to paragraph. Experiment with your voice by changing punctuation and adding a dynamic rhythm. Practice writing soundbites that linger in your reader’s minds. Cook up fresh metaphors to make abstract concepts concrete and entertaining.

Continue to learn how to write good sentences — a sparkling sentence is the basic ingredient of good writing. Read your work out loud to hear what your eye might be missing.

Review your earlier work to see how you’ve grown
If you’re like most of us writers, you’ll cringe when you look at your first attempts—but you’ll also be gratified when you see how much you have improved. It’s also great incentive to keep at it, because you’ll be amazed at how much better you get and how quickly. That will only continue.

Play with mini-stories to engage your readers
Not every story has to be an epic 2,000-word odyssey—most publications are looking for shorter pieces to showcase in the front of the book (literally the beginning pages of a magazine or the second page in a newspaper Travel section) or as sidebars to larger destination packages (what publications call more than one story combined with several smaller stories on a similar or related topic). Also, writing fewer words is actually one of the best ways to improve, because it forces you to consider each word individually and make sure it’s working hard for you.

Practice each mini-skill one by one
Now that you have read through these tips, go back and work at each one individually. Become comfortable with it before you move on to the next one. By the time you’ve reached the end, you’ll be significantly more proficient and more at ease with the process.

And finally, in the same way that you’ll be very hungry if you don’t cook something sooner or later, don’t delay writing. Get it done now so that you can soon savor the delicious rewards of seeing your well-executed stories in all their published glory.

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