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By Freelance Writer and Copywriter John Forde in Paris, France

There’s a little apartment in New York, on the corner of Bleecker and Perry. For three years, I lived there. For nearly three years more, my wife and I visited there when we could. We let friends take care of it in the interim. But now that’s over. We recently moved out, gave our keys back to the landlord, and ended an era. Departure was bittersweet. But not without insight. As the moving trucks rolled off to the Lincoln Tunnel, I started thinking. See, I feel about New York like a sherpa feels about Everest… like a surgeon feels about the golf course… like a beagle feels about fire hydrants… in short, I love the place. Part of what I love are the lessons it teaches. About life. About work. About the opposite sex. About yourself. And about writing. I shared a few of these ideas with some copywriting friends recently. But Lori was quick to point out they work just as well for anyone who writes travel articles. See if you agree… NYC Lesson #1: ENERGY IS CONTAGIOUS In Manhattan, you can sit in a room with your eyes closed — you’d STILL feel the energy that pulses through that city. It’s not only enough to make you feel like you CAN do anything, it’s enough to make you feel like you’d BETTER do something. And fast! In travel writing, it’s not so different. A bored writer can only produce boring writing. Before you sit down to write, find your passion about the place you’re writing about. Work it into a frenzy before you attempt a syllable. It’s essential to your end result. NYC Lesson #2: STYLE ISN’T EVERYTHING Style is everywhere in New York. But some of the best-loved places aren’t especially stylish at all. Some, in fact, are actually the simplest — even the dirtiest and dumpiest. In travel writing, the same can be true. A great travel article isn’t necessarily dripping with adjectives and pretty prose. In fact, it’s rarely that way. Why? Because it’s the meat of the message that counts, not just the presentation. Sometimes a too-fancy presentation even works against you. Because the core idea of your article gets lost completely. NYC Lesson #3: QUALITY IS ESSENTIAL FOR SURVIVAL When I first left full-time life in New York a little over two and a half years ago, there were about two dozen bars and restaurants within a few minutes walk from my front door. Some had been there for decades. Others were less than a year old. On my return to close up the apartment, I took a walk around. A shocking number of those old places had closed. Others were still going strong. Granted New York went through some tough times after 9/11. But those that survived, by no coincidence, were those that were the best at what they did. Good travel editors always aim to publish quality recommendations in their travel articles. Dependable, good advice that’s well researched and well-targeted to the publication’s readers. Ignore this and you’ll have a hard time selling a word. Research that’s done halfway, travel advice that’s half baked, isn’t worth doing at all. Even a short article needs to be thorough and carefully crafted. The better the pieces you sell, the stronger your clips. And the more likely you are to get published by editors again and again. NYC Lesson #4: PEOPLE’S TIME IS PRECIOUS On my last day, in my last hour, of being a Manhattan resident, I threw my last bag over my shoulder and hoofed it from the Village to Penn Station. It’s a 20 minute walk up 8th Avenue. You can’t make a stroll like that in New York without swimming against a people-tide. Closer to the station, clever billboards cover the sides of buildings. I noticed few people rarely gave them a glance. Why? Because they were in a hurry. You’ve got to imagine your reader where they are. You have to imagine prospective editors there too. Often, both are in transit from one idea to the next. It isn’t enough for your travel article to be clever or “interesting.” It has to stop the audience in its tracks. How? Not by being cute, clever, or obtuse, that’s for sure. Be fast, be direct, make big promises. You’ll almost always look smarter and get better results. NYC Lesson #5: BARSTOOL SPEAKING IS BEST My walk from Bleeker and Perry to 31st Street took me past the Corner Bistro, famed for great chargrilled burgers. This is a simple place. No menus, just a sign on the wall. For a burger with everything, $6 off the grill. And $2 for a pint of McSorley’s Ale. Who could resist? I stoppped in. I played “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” on the jukebox and that got the bartender and a couple regular patrons reminiscing. I just listened to them talking. No big words, no high-falutin’ ideas. Just regular talk. Natural and simple, the way most people communicate with those they know and trust. That’s the way good travel writing often sounds too. Not because people are dumb and don’t understand big words. But because good messages stand on their own, without affectation. And here’s the strange thing: The more brainy you try to sound, tests show, the LESS intelligent listeners actually rate you later on. Shocking but true. Style, of course, depends on most on where you’re trying to get published. But try never to sacrifice directness and clarity in your articles, especially not for the sake of style. NYC Lesson #6: A GOOD VALUE ISN’T ALWAYS CHEAP It’s no secret New York is expensive. My apartment down in the West Village was $1375 a month when I moved in. It was $1525 per month by the time I handed the keys back to the landlady. To buy an equivalent apartment – an L-shaped studio – would now cost about $400,000. And people pay that price and more all the time. Happily. Travel writing is, of course, not always about getting good deals. Some readers will go for the articles about bargain destinations. But others want to hear about luxury. And they’ll pay any price to get it. Which audience are you writing to? It’s a deciding factor in the kinds of articles you choose to write, the places you choose to write about, and the style you use to write about them. NYC Lesson #7: THERE’S PRIDE IN A GOOD DECISION Ask me to talk to you about New York and I’ll bore you with praise. To a fault, I’ll withhold there’s no place like it on earth. Even when confronted by its shortcomings. Living there even made me feel better about myself, for whatever reason. For a travel article reader, just be aware there’s also a touch of pride on the line. A reader who decides to read your article wants to feel smart for deciding to read it. A good piece puts him “in the know” and he’ll want to show that knowledge off at cocktail parties. He’ll want to feel even smarter when he decides to actually take your advice. This is why travel articles that offer unique ideas, travel with a twist, or “non-tourist” travel have such an appeal. The more unique your angle, the smarter your reader feels. Okay, I’d better stop myself. I can go on… and on… and on… and on… about that city. And with these analogies. One day, my wife and I will find a way to live there again. Perhaps after some rich reader of this article feels so indebted to yours truly, that he or she buys us a nice little two-bedroom flat over on the West Side. Soho would be nice. Or the West Village. But we’d settle for Central Park West in a pinch. Until then, Paris will do. [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.]

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