Are You a Scaredy-Cat Writer?
Are You a Scaredy-Cat Writer? Four Steps to Conquer Your Fears and Set Yourself up for Success this Week
If you have yet to find success as a travel writer, odds are, it’s not because the three articles a week you’re sending out are all ill-suited for the publications to which you’re sending them.
No, I’m willing to bet you’re not yet finding success because, in fact, you aren’t writing articles.
Now, now, no need to get defensive.
The truth is: I know a lot of smart, observant, enthusiastic travelers out there who long to be travel writers but who find themselves paralyzed by fear — fear their articles won’t be good enough… fear they’ll say the wrong thing to an editor…
Does this sound like you?
If so, let me reassure you: Those fears are nonsense. As Woody Allen said: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
If you read The Right Way to Travel, if you own the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program, or if you’ve been to one of our workshops, then let me assure you: You already know WAY more than the average wanna-be travel writer does. In fact, you know more than a lot of working, professional travel writers do.
And you should feel confident that if you follow the advice we deliver every week in these e-letters — and in even more detail in our home-study and live programs — you already know the secrets to avoiding the rookie mistakes that can trip up new writers.
(Think you don’t? Read through our archives and remind yourself: http://www.thetravelwriterslife.com/)
My point here? If you want to be a travel writer… then write. And once you’ve written something, send it to an editor.
It’s the only way you’re ever going to transform that dream of being a travel writer into reality.
Time and again in our workshops, I’ve bid farewell to the attendees as they’ve left for home with salable articles in hand. But only a small fraction of those people actually type up a two-paragraph cover note to an editor, attach their finished article, and hit “send.”
The ones who do find success quickly. It’s not that their articles are so brilliant as to be irresistible. It’s just that editors are in the market for pieces that their readers will like. Deliver what an editor wants, and that editor will publish it and pay you for it.
But you have to put yourself — your words — out there for an editor to consider.
*** Four Steps to Success This Week
Here are four easy steps you can take to make that happen this week… a prescription for writing, polishing, and submitting a salable article in the next seven days —
** 1 ) Start small, 100-600 words. It’s easiest to break into publications through their “front-of-the-book” departments. Editors are always looking for small, “filler” blurbs about a new travel service, a recommended hotel, an up-and-coming neighborhood, a festival, and so on. Think of these as quick recommendations, the kind of thing you’d tell a friend.
If you’re paralyzed in your writing because you can’t figure out what to put where in your 3,000-word account of your trip to New Zealand… stop writing that article.
Instead, start writing a short one. Recommend the lodge where you stayed. Or the tour company you traveled with. Or a shop where you bought wonderful possum-wool socks. (How? I lay it all out for you in detail right here: The Easiest and Fastest Way to Get a By-Line and a Check)
** 2 ) Pick a subject in your hometown. If you don’t have a recommendation to make prompted by a trip you took, then turn your attention to a place in your own backyard.
Focusing your attention locally makes sense for several reasons. First, you can walk out your front door today and find a subject to write about — no airfare necessary.
Second, as a local you can be sure you’ll pick a place worthy of coverage.
Sometimes when travel writers pass through a destination, they take the path of least resistance and recommend, say, the restaurant three doors down from the hotel where they’re staying. They won’t necessarily know about the local hang-out five blocks up where the food is better, the ambiance is truly quirky, and the prices are half what tourists are paying nearby. As a local, however, you’re uniquely qualified to make just those sorts of recommendations. And you should.
(For more information about how to capitalize on your “local” knowledge, read on here: How Hometown Stories Lead to By-Lines and Perks)
** 3 ) Have a reader review your work. Even if you’re an established writer with a knack for putting together splendidly readable stories, it’s always smart to have somebody read through your article before you send it to an editor.
That person should be reading for typos and missed words, certainly. But really, what you want is a critical “content” reader who can also tell you if she thinks an element is lacking in your story. (Maybe your description of the restaurant you recommend doesn’t paint as distinct a picture as it could. Or maybe you’ve forgotten to include pricing. Or maybe your lead needs to do a better job of laying out your “big idea” about this place. Or maybe you open up with a strong idea, but then don’t use enough examples to convincingly prove it’s true.)
Point is: Tell your reviewer who your intended audience is. Ask her to read for typos and such. But also ask her to tell you what she likes most about your piece, what sentence struck her as most interesting. (If that sentence is way down in your article, consider moving it up. In all likelihood, it belongs in your lead.) Ask her if there’s any “content” lacking and where you might improve your piece.
**4 ) Send your article to an editor. If you’ve followed steps 1-3, then you’ve set yourself up for success. Now you need only get your article into an editor’s hands.
Not sure where to send it? Check our archives for publications looking for travel content – Where to Sell your Stories.
Bottom line: Don’t let your fear of failure stop you from pursuing your travel writing dreams. You don’t need a by-line on a 3,000-word article in a newsstand glossy to get your career as a travel writer underway. Start small. Start local. And start with a strong article somebody has proofed for you. (After all, you don’t want to undermine your chances of success by sending an editor an article with typos or less-than-convincing copy.)
And then, follow Woody Allen’s lead and just “show up!” Send your article to a publication. It’s the only way to find success.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]