Getting travel writing published isn’t easy. You may have a story to tell, but it takes more than just a great idea for a publication to accept your submission. You not only need to be a proficient writer, you have to find a unique story idea, avoid mistakes in your writing, and diligently follow the submission guidelines.
Increase the chances of getting your travel writing published (and decrease your chances of a rejection letter) by avoiding these common travel writer mistakes.
Ignoring Writer’s Guidelines
Image via Flickr by Bianca Moraes
Always read a publication’s guidelines before submitting. This seems obvious, but when overlooked, it can be the difference between acceptance and rejection. Publishers are busy, and they can quickly reduce their workload by putting submissions that don’t fit their guidelines straight into the rejection pile.
A publication’s writer’s guidelines tell you who to send your writing to, how to send it, and how to format it. When you don’t follow these steps, you can expect a rejection letter, no matter how compelling your story.
Writer’s guidelines give you tips on what a publication is looking for, the preferred writing style, and acceptable article length. This will help you decide if you have an idea that is a good fit for a publication.
In the writer’s guidelines, you may also discover what types of writing the publication is not interested in. This saves you time and effort (and rejection) if you have an idea that doesn’t match the publication’s needs.
Spend the time researching to find a publication that matches your style and planned content. When you find one that fits, read the writer’s guidelines carefully before pitching a story, and follow them exactly when you submit your story.
Not Finding a Niche
Publications are always looking for new stories and ideas. To come up with a unique idea and increase the chances of getting published, change your focus to fit different niches. A story can cover a destination from many points of view –such as a foodie, a shopper, an art-lover, or as a history buff.
Avoid pitching articles with general knowledge or general overviews. A specific take on a destination or experience is going to pique an editor’s attention. An article like “A Vegan’s Guide to London, England” is more focused than “Finding the Best Restaurants in London, England”.
When you have a story in mind that will appeal to only a narrow audience, research specialty publications to find a good fit. Match your angle to a niche, and you’ll have more successful submissions.
Not Querying First
Publications often request that writers query or pitch before submitting a finished article (this is usually mentioned in the writer’s guidelines). Writing your story before sending a query might sound like a great idea to save time. Unfortunately, you could be setting yourself up for disappointment.
When you write a travel article before sending a query and it’s rejected, you’ve wasted time. Time you could have used to query other publications that might have accepted your writing.
Even if you’re excited to go ahead and write a particular story, always send a query. A proper query saves time and your submissions will have a higher acceptance rate.
Writing Only About Extremes
Using superlatives in your writing, like “best” or “worst” gets attention, but it’s often unnecessary. Readers do want to know about the “best” hotel in Playa del Carmen, but that doesn’t mean that no other hotel is worth writing about.
A destination or experience that made a strong impression on you is a worthwhile experience to share. Targeting your writing to extremes like the “biggest”, “highest”, or “least explored” is interesting. But you have all types of experiences when you’re traveling, and widening your scope helps your writing appeal to a wider range of readers.
It’s also good practice to avoid superlatives in your writing to keep it truthful. For example, it’s difficult to determine where the “most fertile land” is in Myanmar, and multiple sources could have different answers. You could be putting yourself in a position where you’re not being completely truthful with your readers.
Using Boring Adjectives
Pay attention to the adjectives in your writing. General adjectives like “good”, “nice”, or “amazing” don’t mean much to a reader. Writing about the “great” view from Basecamp Everest or the “awesome” feeling you get from scuba diving with whale sharks won’t help a reader connect with your writing. To draw readers into your experience, find specific ways to describe your feelings.
For example, rather that writing about a “breath-taking” Balinese dance performance, ask yourself why it took your breath away. Was it the colorful costumes? The precision of the dancers’ hand movements? The lively music? Describing deeper feelings brings your writing to life.
Try replacing adjectives with a description of your physical feelings – like your heart beating faster or tingling in your stomach. A “delicious” soup isn’t nearly as engaging as a soup that “makes your tongue burn, then leaves a smoky taste in your mouth.”
Describing Too Much
Another common mistake travel writers make is trying to describe too much. You don’t need to write about every detail for your writing to be great. Write about fewer – not more – details to make your writing clear and focused.
To focus your writing, decide which details will help a reader understand your experience. Describing the important parts of your experience in detail (rather than everything) brings a reader into the heart of your story. For example, rather than describing every boat at the floating market, choose a few that made an impression on you and describe those. When you spread a reader’s attention with too many descriptions, trying to describe every detail, your story loses impact.
When writing descriptions, be aware of using too many adjectives. Writing about the “tall, formidable, dark, mountains in Jasper National Park” get tiresome to read. Choose which adjective is most important and remove the rest.
Increase your chances of becoming a published travel writer by avoiding the common mistakes when writing, querying, and submitting. Good writing takes practice and before you have your first successful submission, you may experience some rejections. But once you’ve been rejected a few times, it makes acceptance that much sweeter.