Photo: GaudiLab/Shutterstock

Transform Your Travel Writing, Pt. 1: 59 Questions to Ask Before Sending Your Writing to an Editor

Travel Transform your travel writing
by David Miller Feb 18, 2014
Editor’s note: This is the first part of a 5-part series, Transform your travel writing.

1. What is the editor’s first name?

2. Who are her associate editors?

3. Which of these people are you emailing and why?

4. Is your pitch scannable / actionable in 15 seconds or less?

5. Is a single URL of your other work readily available?

6. How does your story or proposal support / advance the publication’s brand mission?

7. Is this support evident right in the title of the story?

8. Has this same topic / angle already been covered?

9. If so, does your work play off an already successful concept in a new way?

10. Are precise place-names, times, and dates used?

11. Is there precise, correct terminology in the descriptions (architectural terms, music, gastronomy, geology, weather)?

12. Are characters introduced in ways that create emotional resonance?

13. Are characters’ proper names provided?

14. Are relationships between characters and the narrator made clear?

15. Is it clear why the narrator is traveling through this place — is there a clear “purpose”?

16. Have you as the author in any way appropriated or confused your subjects’ struggles / challenges / stories as your own?

17. If investigating a certain issue (environmental, social), have you actually spoken to people affected by the issue?

18. If investigating a certain issue (environmental, social), have you actually spoken to people with a vested interest in companies / political parties / etc. connected to the issue?

19. Are you in any way “speaking for” a people or culture you’re not actually from?

20. What have you left out of your story and why?

21. Who are you actually writing the story for?

22. How can you make the emotions you portray in your story more accurately reflect the emotions you actually felt during the experience?

23. Are there material connections (financial arrangements, etc.) to elements in your story that you don’t reveal?

24. What would the reactions be of the characters and / or subject of your story, if they were to read it?

25. What does the landscape in your story sound like?

26. What are the natural indicators of the season, the time of year?

27. What phase was the moon in?

28. What constellations were present?

Join us on April 3rd for the “Transform Your Travel Writing” Twitter chat — #MatUTalks.

Transform your travel writing

29. What did the place (and other characters) smell like?

30. How fluent are you in the language spoken where your story took place, and how did operating in a second (or third, fourth, etc.) language influence what you interpreted from the events?

31. What memories or associations were triggered in your experience, and how are these woven into the narrative?

32. What is the tense and why have you chosen it?

33. What is the POV and why have you chosen it?

34. Does your story answer the 5Ws (who what where when why) about the subject and narrator within the first few paragraphs?

35. Do you use words and expressions that are completely unlike how you’d speak in real life?

36. Is the story about something that matters to you?

37. What local terminology did you learn for elements of the culture / land / people that are not translatable in English, and how have you presented them in the story?

38. Does your story contain dialogue?

39. Is the dialogue dynamic or “transactional” — in other words, does it contain an emotional exchange, reversal, argument, agreement, etc. — or is it static?

40. What is the subject of your story?

41. What is the subtext of your story?

42. Can you cut the first paragraph and start at the second?

43. Can you cut the last few paragraphs and find a stronger ending?

44. Are you forcing a conclusion on readers or allowing the space for different interpretations to emerge?

45. What role does texture play in your story?

46. What role does taste play in your story?

47. What was your motivation for writing the story?

48. What can you cut from the middle of the story and have it flow faster?

49. Could you rearrange the sequence of events so it’s not linear but some other chronology?

50. Did you include (or source) imagery for your story?

51. Are the images accompanied by captions?

52. Do the captions tell the editor more than what she or he can already grasp just by looking at the photos?

53. How did you approach people for information during your travels?

54. Were you invited back?

55. What were the political / cultural events / conversations taking place while you were traveling and how do these figure into the story?

56. What was the quality of the light where you were, and how is this represented in your story?

57. What was the hardest part of writing this story and why?

58. What questions are still unanswered after writing this story?

59. What are you promising the reader (beginning with the editor) in your title?

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