On Successful Travel Writing

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From time to time people ask me how to get travel stories published and I confess that this is a bit of a crapshoot. Sometimes it’s timing – I once pitched an editor a story for a destination he had been scheduled to visit. His trip had gotten canceled due to a family situation and he assigned me the piece. That was a lucky break and can’t be planned. Other times it’s my prior relationship with an editor that gets me an assignment. On rare occasions, it’s because I wrote an amazing pitch.

Aside from the obvious step of searching a publication’s website for mentions of the place you are planning to pitch, you really need to look off the beaten path. I sold a story on a destination in Bosnia – more on that soon – based on the fact it was off the tourist circuit and had a good hook. Hooks can be anything from an anniversary of something to a designation such as a European City of Culture to a major landmark’s opening or reopening. Travel editors are always looking for that reason why someone will go somewhere and a major event often is the impetus.

But what is successful writing? Getting a pitch accepted is a start but it comes down to the story. You need to dig under the surface and tell something new, even if about an old place. This week, my story on Venice was published in AM NY. Before my trip, I thought about how to make Venice fresh and interesting to readers who had probably seen plenty on the city. Instead of doing a round-up of sights, I seized on the idea that you are bound to get lost while wandering from place to place and thought, why not get lost on purpose? Sure, you must see the sights and all that, but when you let yourself get lost, then you can discover the true Venice.

That worked for Venice in part because I had been there a few times before and had seen all the important attractions. The result is a fun story that I hope you enjoy.

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On September 23, 2014
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