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The Writing Life
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by Rachel Newcombe
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Not all travel is holiday- or pleasure-oriented. People travel for all sorts of reasons: business trips, work related conferences, working holidays, visiting family and relations, as well as for a well-earned holiday. Travel magazines in the UK reflect these various needs.
Over the years, travel writing has gained in popularity, and there is a lot of competition amongst writers. Although it is useful to have experience writing for travel magazines in your own country, however, it is not essential. Neither is it necessary to spend a fortune on excursions just to be able to write about different places; seasoned travel writers don't spend their entire time on holiday! It is much more sensible to use the knowledge you already have and write about places you are familiar with before branching out into writing about other locations. If you're writing about somewhere you know well, or where you live, try and step back and see it through the eyes of someone who's seeing it for the first time. It is all too easy to become accustomed to the places we are familiar with on a daily basis, and miss or take for granted interesting details. Remember that your readers will want to know all the information you can provide, especially if they've never encountered the place before.
Finding an Angle
Almost every place in the world has already been covered by other travel writers, but don't be put off -- you just need to find a new and original angle! It is always possible to find new angles. Travel magazine readers like to read about the true essence of a place -- its cultural focus, the community who resides there, local customs, historical facts, the typical sights, sounds and smells encountered -- as well as what it can offer them should they wish to travel there. All of these aspects should be incorporated into articles and can aid in the search for a new angle.
Be specific and detailed rather than generalized. If your research determines that other articles on your area have tended to focus on the region in general, offer a more specific slant. Rather than using popular mainstream local attractions, focus on smaller places such as unusual shops, places where the locals gather, or notable buildings; consider how they make the area what it is, what unique services they offer, what it feels like to actually be there. Most places have one or more resident local characters, maybe some a little on the eccentric side, who can provide interesting tales regarding the vicinity or stories of historic events or times past. Glean all you can from such characters as they can often add interesting twists or even a whole new focus to articles! Being a local can definitely work to your advantage as you will no doubt know of areas that traditional holidaymakers are not usually directed to.
Types of Articles
Articles typically required by UK travel magazines tend to fall into one of two categories: personal experience and journalistic- style accounts.
Many markets, such as Traveller magazine, love articles that give an insight into personal experiences. Don't be fooled into thinking that you need to have visited an unconventional or off-the-beaten track location or had some amazing new experience. Small, seemingly normal and deadbeat places can provide all the material needed if you seek new angles. There are always ways of making your experiences sound interesting or entertaining. Humour, for example, can be used effectively to evoke different moods and add a light- hearted element. Writing such a piece provides a great opportunity to let your individualistic voice shine.
Other markets, such as those aimed at consumers, tend to favour journalistic-style accounts. Articles such as these are usually packed with factual information and all the necessary details travellers are likely to require. Occasionally such articles may include details of personal experiences, but not to quite the same degree as publications requiring personal accounts.
Sidebars and Photos
One of the most important aspects of a successful travel article, regardless of the market or country it is aimed for, is the use of sidebars. Travel sidebars should be packed with all the relevant factual information related to the area in question, especially any details that people may require if traveling there. For example, details such as the currency, typical prices, accommodation suggestions, travel and public transport information, and the availability of maps and guidebooks should all be offered in sidebars.
Another important factor that will influence the selling ability of your article is the availability of accompanying photos or colour transparencies. In most cases it is necessary to include clear, high quality, illustrative colour transparencies as, without doubt, readers are going to want to see these wonderful places they are reading about!
There are also other markets that don't focus entirely on travel that may be interested in your work. Lots of other UK general interest publications contain a travel article and, although many are written by regular contributors, they still offer occasional opportunities for freelancers. Also, other magazines may consider a travel piece if it relates in some way to their content. For example, a parenting magazine may be interested in a feature that explores the ease of traveling abroad with young children; an article on holidays where pets are allowed may be of interest to a pet magazine; and a publication geared towards those of retirement age may use a piece dealing with holidays specifically for older people.
Above all, the UK travel magazine market provides an arena in which it is more than acceptable to be different. Be unique, be original, and you're very likely to be successful!
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.
Rachel Newcombe is an award-winning UK-based writer, editor and researcher. She contributes news, features and reviews to a wide range of publications, including BUPA, Allergy magazine, Discovery Health, Child Education magazine, Channel 4, UKTV, Families First for Health, Moira Allen's TimeTravel-Britain.com, and Berkshire's County Child. She's currently editor of a women's health website and involved in the launch of a new lifestyle magazine. She can be found on the web at: http://www.rachelnewcombe.com/.