Friday, 1 July 2011

Traveller's Tales

Fancy being a Travel Writer? Do you want to get invited to VIP events, or use the Press and VIP areas at exhibitions, shows, etc?

The guest post today comes from well established travel writer, Lyn Funnell. Lyn has kindly shared with us some of her tips and advice for those wishing to follow in her footsteps.

As Lyn says: Yes, it is fun to be greeted with coffee and breakfast when you arrive, or to watch something going on from a rooftop bar, while drinking wine and eating lunch.

I never know what email is going to pop into my inbox next. It adds excitement to my life! I may suddenly get an invitation to a restaurant launch, or to Rimini or Cuba, or who knows where?

What do you have to do to join this exclusive club of writers?

You have to write. And you need referrals. No, that’s not as dumb as it sounds. You’d be surprised at the arrogance of some people, who know what I do for a living and think, ‘I could do that!’ Then they approach newspapers and magazines and ask if they can write for them!

Duh, there’s something missing here, eg. some writing!

How do you start? The best way is to start writing for your local newspaper. They’re all struggling financially, so you won’t get paid. But they appreciate a local contact.

Pick a subject. You have to work this out for yourself. Now I’m going to go against what I just said. There’s a growing number of magazines, especially online, being launched in this country who expect their contributors to work for nothing. Stop and think now. Are they working for nothing? Of course not! They are getting contributions from second-rate writers who have often been turned down by the Biggies. It lowers the quality of their publications. And it is making it harder for professional writers.

But then again, if you sense a good contact, go for it. But only once or twice.

I’ll back-track now. As I said, start by writing for your local paper. But don’t belittle yourself.

Another problem with the bad small mags is they often edit your work. And the staff are not professional writers. They can make your article look amateur.

The worst thing that happened to me was an edited plural with an ‘s. My pet hate. I wrote to them and said that I was now forced to change my name and emigrate!

Make sure that you control your own work. Don’t grovel. It’s your reputation that’s on the line.

What should you write about? Travel, of course! Forget anywhere abroad at the moment, unless you have a holiday booked.

Write about your own town, or an interesting place nearby. There are a lot of British-orientated magazines always looking for colourful articles. Remember that Britain is a big place!

Always, always carry a notebook and a million pens with you! Write on the hoof. Scribble away as you walk, or ride on a coach, plane or train.

Invest in a good camera. They’ve dropped right down in price and the quality of an average-priced camera is good enough for magazines. Photos, photos, and photos!

Be organised. Carrry a light-weight bag slipped over your shoulder so that your hands are free. Wear your camera. Have your notebook within reach.

Be bold. Is there a historical building in your town, used as a factory? Pop in there and ask questions. Most people are helpful.

Find that unusual angle.

Join the International Travel Writers’ Alliance. Tell Ashley Gibbins that I highly recommended him. Membership is free.

Don’t underestimate yourself. But don’t overestimate yourself! When you look back in a few years at your first attempts, that you though were sheer brilliance and couldn’t understand why they were turned down, you’ll probably cringe with embarrassment!

Don’t give up. Keep learning and improving. Read, read, read. You’ll learn so much from other writers. My favourite travel writer is HV Morton. He died 32 years ago this week. He wrote a lot of books, and they’re still masterpieces today. I laugh aloud and I wish I could write like him.

But I will one day. I just keep trying and improving myself.

Lyn Funnell is an author, speaker, writer, journalist, travel writer (specialising in culture, food and crafts) and a radio presenter. She is a member of Southeast Authors, the International Travel Writers' Alliance, the London Press Club, the Society of Women Writers & Journalists, Women in Journalism, Gorkanapress, the London Comedy Club and the British Fantasy Society. Her articles have been published in newspapers and magazines, both in the UK and abroad. I have a regular weekly column in our local newspaper. So far this year her press trips have taken her to Reims, Rimini and Cuba.

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