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Writing Travel Articles on Spec...  

Should you take a trip, write about it, then try to have it published?  

Most beginning writers make a fundamental error: they take off on a trip, have a wonderful time, then come home, write it up, and submit it for publication.

They're writing "on spec" (speculatively), hoping that some editor will buy their story just the way they've written it.

This is not how it works! Editors make up editorial schedules months, even years in advance. These schedules dictate what topics and destinations will be printed in each edition.

Also, editors have preferences for length, subject matter and "voice" (first person? third person? should the writer be "visible" in the piece, or virtually "invisible?")

The best way to go about it is to jot down some story ideas, then propose them to an editor in a query. The editor may respond to your message and write "We've just printed a story on Mexico, so we won't be able to use your idea until next year when Mexico is on the editorial schedule again." Or the editor may write, "I like your idea, but we don't do quite that sort of story here. Could you write it with a slightly different angle?" Or "We can't use a piece on Switzerland as a 3000-word feature, but we could use 750 words on how great Swiss trains are."

In short, plan well ahead, study the publications you plan to submit to, see what sorts of things they do; send a query message with several (a half-dozen) story ideas, mentioning proposed lengths, subject matter, delivery dates, and the availability of photos. When an editor contacts you, be open to suggestions for modifications. Work with the editor!

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Tom Brosnahan