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Travel Writing From Home

by Jordan Clary

Travel writing might conjure up images of exotic resorts, luxury cruises or riding across sand dunes on a camel, and while, travel writing can, indeed, open up some of amazing experiences, it’s not necessary to travel far or even travel at all to write and sell articles. You can start with your own city, neighborhood or even backyard to find ideas for travel stories.

Every place is a destination for someone and you are the best expert on your area. Learn to look at your own town with new eyes. What might a visitor like to do? What are the local products? Are there any specialized niches you can fit into?

Most of the ‘rules’ for travel writing are the same as for anything else. A well-written, compelling story will always have a chance of finding a home. Readers want to smell, taste and feel a place through your eyes.

But there are a few things specific to travel writing, and one of the main ones, is learn how to use a camera. Unless you’re lucky enough to only get gigs with big glossies like Condė Nast Traveler, and most of us aren’t, you’ll want to learn how to take decent photos to sell with your articles. It’s too bad, in a way, because the two are different skills, and some photographers feel slighted by all the amateur photographers selling pics with their pieces, but that’s the reality of the market. Most places will want photos and article as a package deal.

And, who knows, maybe you’ll find you have a knack for photography. Since words have always been my medium, I was actually opposed to learning to use a camera. I felt it separated me from the experience and if I concentrated on writing a description, it would be so much richer. But to my surprise, photography doesn’t separate me. It helps me see things from a different perspective. I’m much more aware of light and shadows than I ever was before learning to take photos.

Seeking to place your articles in well-known travel magazines is probably not the best approach. Those markets are saturated with submissions and highly competitive. However, many magazines, including trade magazines, would be open to a travel article if it was within their scope.

As an example, take your own backyard. Look around. What types of plants grow? Do you know what the native plants in your area are? Many botanical societies have their own publications, and while most of them concentrate on the plants in their own locale, a carefully crafted travel piece introducing a new area from a botanical point of view might be welcome.

For several years, until it went out of print, I freelanced for Colored Stone, a trade magazine dedicated to colored gemstones. I was living in China at the time and broke into it first with a query letter, and then with an article about China’s South Sea pearls. I developed a niche writing travel articles about gemstones, including ruby mines in Vietnam, blue zircon in Cambodia, and smokey quartz in Mongolia. The pay wasn’t bad, although it pretty much just covered my traveling expenses, but they were among the most fun and interesting pieces I’ve ever done.

A thorough look at your community will surely lead you to ideas for trade magazines. Is there a railroad museum in your town? There are many magazines dedicated to model trains. Even magazines that don’t lend themselves immediately to travel ideas based on their trade might welcome an article. In this case, you’ll want to point out the advantages of travel to relax and de-stress. Doctors, businesspeople, lawyers, teachers all like to take trips.

So if you are interested in breaking into travel writing, start with what’s familiar, and you’ll soon find yourself with enough ideas to keep you busy for a lifetime.

Jordan Clary is a freelance writer living in northern California. You can find out more about her at her website and by checking out her blog, Cloud and Mountain.

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Brianna Soloski on Becoming a Freelancer

Today’s guest is another Musaling, this time an editor and freelancer to bring you a totally new perspective. Please give Brianna Soloski a warm welcome.

* * * *

When I was little, I wanted to be a teacher or an author. I went to school for education, but ended up not going into that field. I was working at a preschool, but was laid off in 2008. I floundered for two years after that, moving a few times, not working, unsure what I wanted to do. Summer 2010 found me in Seattle working at a summer camp. It also led to a long chat with my cousin about what I really wanted to do with my life. She suggested I go back to writing, since I’d always enjoyed it and been relatively good at it. I turned that over in my head for a few weeks. When I got home, I began volunteering at the Jewish Community Center in Las Vegas. I also got wind of a local city lifestyle
magazine that was just starting up. I called the editor and asked if there were any volunteer/internship positions available. I got a volunteer gig putting together the print calendar – a tedious, time-consuming job nobody else wanted to do. As time went on, I got more responsibility. About a year and a half ago, the editor who had hired me quit and I moved into the (now paid) position of editorial assistant. I still do the calendar, but I also write and edit for the magazine.

From there, writing just became a natural habit. I participated in National Novel Writing Month in 2010 and had that novel published in October 2012. In 2012, I made the decision to freelance full-time. I run a freelance editing business that is thriving. I work for an award-winning magazine. I have as much time to write as I need. I can come and go as I please. I still work at the Jewish Community Center part-time, but I’m hoping to have enough business to phase that out by the summer.

How I came to Musa Publishing was kind of accidental. I had recently read Twin Sense by Lydia Sharp (amazing!) and sought out the website to see what other books they had to offer. There were a few freebies so I picked those up. I signed up for their newsletter. Just for kicks, I clicked on the employment page, just to see if anything was available. There was a head line editor position open, so I applied, even though I wasn’t sure I was completely qualified for the job. Turns out, I wasn’t, but I was offered a line editor position, which I accepted.

I’ve edited four books for them now and I absolutely love it. Line editing is the process of going through a work line by line to check for errors. I do not edit for content (although I do offer content editing through my personal business). The opportunity to read great books is wonderful. The experience is invaluable and will help me as I move through my career and take on other jobs.

The thing about Musa that really shines is their professionalism. In a little more than a year, they’ve published a remarkable number of books. Every title I’ve read from them has been excellent – well written, well edited, etc. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to an author looking for a home for their book. In fact, it’s highly likely I will submit my current work in progress to them for possible publication.

Bio: Brianna Soloski is an avid reader and writer. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities from Sierra Nevada College. She also obtained her teaching credentials from the college. Although she’s not currently teaching, she enjoys spending time with her friends’ kids. In her spare time, she loves to travel and would love to book
a world cruise – imagine the memoir that could come from an adventure like that! Girl Seeks Place is available for purchase on Amazon. She can be found blogging at http://www.girlseeksplace.wordpress.com. She can also be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Brianna-Soloski-Writer.

Plotting in Three Parts


Today I’d like to introduce Anne Marie, author of La Dame a La Licorne, brought to you by Musa Publishing. This will be her ninth year participating in Nanowrimo. Lucky for those of you scrambling for ideas and trying to figure out how you’re going to outline a novel before November first, Anne’s got some ideas of her own about outlining which I hope you’ll enjoy.

For the past eight years I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month (aka: NaNoWriMo or NaNo). Every year I’ve tried a different approach to writing. I wanted to prove to myself that there isn’t one way to tell a story, and the methods outside my comfort zone might actually work better. Besides, what’s comfortable about writing 50,000 words in one month? Answer: everything when you’ve got the NaNo community with you each step of the way.

There are at least three types of writers: Outliner, Beader, and Pantser. I’ll detail each method, and what to do before and during November. I hope it helps you reach the finish line on November 30th (or earlier).

The Outliner:

You’re the type of writer that wants to know exactly how you get from the beginning to the ending. You write pages and pages of detailed character sketches, setting description, research notes, twists and turns, and how each scene will play out.

Before NaNo, make sure you don’t write down any dialogue or actually description you’re going to use. It’s tempting to dive in before October. If you get stuck, put your outline away for a week. Return to it with a fresh mind and see if you can improve it during the last week before November 1st.

During NaNo it’s helpful to check your outline and make sure you’re on track word-wise. There is no set word count for a scene; however, if you have twenty-five scenes that run two thousand words, and you write a scene a day, you’ll finish with days to spare. Since the daily word goal actually is 1,667, you might want to write a scene with that word count in mind. For a thriller writer, your scenes may be shorter to keep the pace fast. That’s fine! Just know, roughly, how many scenes it will take to reach that daily goal.

The Beader:

Much like the Outliner, you have a pretty good idea how your story starts, important scenes in the middle, and how it ends. What you don’t yet know are the linking scenes between big events.

Before NaNo, the big scenes are what excited you to begin with. Concentrate on how to link the explosion on page 1 with the alien invasion on page 15. Read books in your genre. Talk to your friends. Ask them how they would logically get from explosions to aliens. Day-dream.

During NaNo, your daily payoff will be to write those explosions and invasions. Which means, you should start each day writing the linking scenes. Your reward will be writing those scenes you’ve been thinking about since October. And rewards never hurt. If you don’t make your daily goal with a linking scene and a big scene, write half of the next linking scene. Generally, you’re going to be writing more linking scenes than explosions.

The Pantser:

You throw caution and preparation to the wind. You might have a vague idea about the topic you want to write about, you might not. You might know a character’s name, but then again, you probably don’t.

Before NaNo, it might be helpful to brainstorm some big general ideas that won’t tie your free spirit down. Where do you want to start? Where do you want to end? It’s always helpful to have an ending in mind, so that you know where to steer your NaNo ship.

During NaNo, every day is going to be a new adventure. Sit down and follow your characters. Throw everything in their way. They want to go to the mall today? Make it rain. Give them a flat tire. When you get stuck, stop and think about how you’d get out of the situation they’re in. Make it worse.

Whether you’re an Outliner, Beader, or Panster, NaNo teaches you how to embrace your style in thirty days. Remember, this isn’t a polished piece. If things aren’t flowing the way you want them to, don’t delete. Put a note in the document. Trace your steps back to the last point the story was working. Continue writing from there. When you go back to edit, you can delete all the non-working words. When I know I’ve gone on a dead-end tangent, I make all the text red.

Good luck! I hope to see your purple “Winners” bar on November 30th. To follow along with my progress, you can find me here.

Bio: Anne attended the University of Colorado for a BA in English Literature, where she fell in love with folklore and myths from around the world. She adores languages, great white sharks, and the impossible. Her work usually includes one of those three things. She currently lives in Aurora, Colorado with Brody the beagle. Once a week, she posts a short story at Cimmerian Tales (http://cimmeriantales.wordpress.com). You can follow her on Twitter @annemariewrites.

Karina Fabian on Surviving the Submission Process

Today I’d like to welcome Karina Fabian, author of several ebooks across different genres. I’ve interviewed her here before and today she’s joining us with a guest post to discuss the submission process and celebrate her latest novel, Live and Let Fly, to be released on April 20th. I hope you enjoy.

I’d like to thank Dianna for hosting me on the Live and Let Fly book tour. I’m especially excited about this one because it was a long time coming, and when she asked me to write about the submission process, I’m not sure she knew what she was getting into!

Live and Let Fly features a snarky dragon detective, Vern, and his partner, the magic-slinging nun, Sister Grace. I’ve told many of their adventures in short stories and novels, but this is their biggest case to date, as they will have to travel far from where they have friends or magic to help them in order to stop a Norse demigod from starting Armageddon in our world.

I started writing DragonEye stories when I wanted to be in an anthology, Firestorm of Dragons. I created Vern for the anthology and adored him and the noir style of his voice. So I started looking for other stories for him. The premise is that he solves problems where magic is slipping into our world or technology into Faerie for nefarious purposes. I selected an Irish myth about pixies turning into bugs to fight a war. The idea sounds stupid in English, so I found someone to translate it into Gaelic. She just happened to run a magazine and asked me to write a serial story for it. I wrote the short story, “Amateurs” and for her a serial called “World Gathering.”

I took “Amateurs” to the MuseOnline writers’ conference. (It’s free, and worth years of writing courses!) A new publisher was offering to critique works, and she enjoyed “Amateurs” and Vern so much, she asked if I had a novel. I didn’t, but I did have this serial story I could expand.

A year later, Magic, Mensa and Mayhem came out, got great reviews and won the INDIE Award for best Fantasy. I suggested I write another and she agreed. Sadly, her life situation changed as Live and Let Fly was getting ready to come out, and she returned it to me. However, if it had not been for Dindy Robinson and Swimming Kangaroo, there would have been no Vern novels. I treasure our time together.

So, I started sending it around, the standard way: find the publisher; read the guidelines; submit; wait. Find another publisher, repeat process. I did this for a few years, while I continued to write DragonEye stories and started a newsletter, A Dragon’s Eye View. However, I didn’t get many bites.

In the meantime, Lea Schizas, who founded the MuseOnline conference, and I became good friends, and she started her own publishing company, MuseItUp. She is a big “Vern fan,” and told me that when I was ready, she’d be glad to consider my books. In April of last year, I decided I was more interested in getting Live and Let Fly published and moving on to other DragonEye books than I was in seeking that gold ring of a Big Six publishing contract or agent. I was also impressed with how MuseItUp has grown and all the work they are doing to cultivate faithful readers. I felt Vern and Sister Grace would find a good publishing home there, so I sent her the manuscript.

So this book did not take a traditional publishing route, but there are lessons to be learned.

1. Network. If I hadn’t met and befriended these lovely ladies at writers’ conferences, this book might not have even been written.

2. Write the freebie now and again. I didn’t get paid for the serial story “World Gathering” (which is now on my blog, btw, http://dragoneyepi.net). I did it for fun. However, it led to a book contract and some faithful fans.

3. Take chances, but know when to go the sure route. I still have a dream of being published with Tor or Baen or one of the other “big six” publishers. However, I appreciate the support MuseItUp is giving me for the DragonEye series, and I’ve learned a lot from working with its editors. I’m proud of the book, excited to see it in print, and know it will bring more fans for future books.

No one has the same submission process. It takes work and imagination—and perseverance. Good luck to all of you in the middle of the process.

Karina Fabian is a multi-published author with several ebooks in different genres available to the world. You can read my interview with her here or check out her website here. To purchase a copy of Live and Let Fly, click here.

Guest Post: Martin Bolton on Co-Writing a Novel


Today I’d like to welcome Martin Bolton, my second guest poster here at Dianna’s Writing Den. I hope you’ll find this post as interesting as I did.

On Co-Writing a Novel

When my good friend, David Pilling, and I decided to write a novel together we had no idea where to start. We had both written plenty of stuff individually, but how do you coordinate a dual effort?

Before we could think of the actual story, we had to decide how we would both contribute to a book without it being disjointed and difficult to read. After a few decent ales and a good chat, we came up with the idea of a story with two main protagonists who are born on opposite sides of a world, have never met, but are inexorably drawn to each other, for reasons we were yet to think of!

The plan seemed perfect because it meant we had two main characters, each with a life, enemies, friends, culture, religion, who didn’t meet until the end of the book. I would write about one character and David would write about the other. And so The Best Weapon flickered into life.

Our plan of action turned out to be the first step towards a story line and, over a few more ales, we thrashed out a rough outline of the synopsis. Then, feeling rather excited and eager to get started, we both went home to start work on our first chapter. A few days later we were reading each other’s first efforts. It was good to see the characters we had ranted about in the pub come to.

The great thing about co-writing is that you have instant feedback on everything you write, but to take full advantage of this you absolutely have to be completely honest with each other. It is really important that you point something out which you don’t think works and are equally happy to take criticism. If you’re working with the right person, it’ll work well.

We are both influenced by the same authors, Bernard Cornwall, Robert E Howard, Joe Abercrombie and Rafael Sabatini to name a few, and our writing styles are similar. We found that what we had written fitted together fairly seamlessly and those few close friends and family who read the first couple of chapters couldn’t tell who had written what or where I stopped and he started. We took that as a good sign.

Over the following six months, we would meet around twice a week and talk about the story. We would discuss ideas for plot-changes and developments, often getting quite heated in our debates. These discussions were really important. Being able to bounce ideas off one another meant that we could develop them into some thing which we felt was really exciting.

On a personal note, I have learned a lot from working with someone who has a bit more writing experience and a much better education (he spent a lot of time correcting me spelling!) and now I have more confidence to write on my own.

If I had any advice for anyone thinking of co-writing a book, it would be to be completely honest with each other from the start. Don’t be afraid to criticise or suggest improvements about your co-writer’s work, it is all about the two of you coming up with the best story you can by using the best of both your skills. Most of all, you should really enjoy writing together because the more you enjoy writing it, the more someone else will enjoy reading it…

Martin Bolton was born in Cornwall in 1979 and now lives and works in Bristol.

Previously he concentrated on his artwork and writing small pieces of nonsense for the

amusement of his friends, before deciding to do some serious creative writing. His first published

work, a full length novel co-written with David Pilling, is The Best Weapon, is due to be released

by Musa Publishing on 02 March 2012..

His work is inspired by authors such as Joe Abercrombie, Robert E Howard, Bernard

Cornwell and Iain M. Banks.