Unique angles sell your travel writing

Before you get to the right angle, you might find yourself stuck in a dangerous corner/ picture by Kit Yeng Chan

The email you have been waiting for a long time has finally landed in your inbox. Fat, juicy, inviting bold caps lure your eyes in. It’s no matter of life or death, but if you are serious in your battle to become a published writer, these news can make or break you.

That editor has finally ANSWERED you. Oh yes. Your heartbeat has switched to reverberating mode, so much that you feel it in your temples. You are bulging with anticipation: then you point the mouse, you open it because you can’t stand this anymore. Make.It.Or.Break.It.

At the beginning, provided you get one, 90% of the times the answer is no.
“Thanks for your pitch, but it’s not for us” your throat gets dry, and you feel a weird itchiness under the eyes. It can totally spoil the rest of your day. For certain, pitching editors is best done developing a thick skin, like a hippopotamus, and a sense of humour. Otherwise, it’s probably best you give up this craft altogether.

Primadonnas who think their ideas and prose are like the Untouchables should maybe try acting, or other artistic avenues. Travel writing, or better, ANY kind of good writing, is a craft that can be only learned if one is willing to swallow his pride, and get well ready to start sweeping the floor like a janitor. No pain no gain, like at the bloody gym.

The key in the pitch is the ANGLE.
The right idea. Which is right because is catchy, direct and really original. Now, if you want to blog for yourself, originality is recommended, but not paramount. Because you have no filters, no gatekeepers. But if you want to impress any editor, oh boy, you really must be able to fly over the competition, and have something fresh to say.

Who am I to say so? Well, I am someone who got so many rejections he probably could have started doing something else, but to the contrary, has kept trying and learning from his own mistakes. I learned how to look around myself during my travels, to really consider the three dimensions of the world, and even that fourth which hangs overhead, and not everybody can tap in, let alone see. Call it a coincidence or the results of hard work, but after one year of really working my a$$ off fine-tuning the angles of my stories, I bump into a group of Malay Nazi skinheads, and my mind goes boom.

I start toying with the idea of a crazy subcultural novel that mixes the best of travel writing with gritty urban pulp, and I decide to use my experience in Malaysia as a background. The characters literally flow out of my mind as I type down the first three chapters, and I keep writing until a first draft is finished in few months of early morning work, when nobody’s still too awake to distract me. I’m certainly proud, but also worried about what to do with the manuscript.

How many more rejections can I take before I plunge into the abyss of depression?    

Amazingly, the publisher I contacted is enthusiastic about my Nazi Goreng, and wants to publish it. Wham bam, after a long wait, book’s out and it quickly becomes a bestseller in Malaysia. In 5 months, it goes for second print. Trust me here: I might have been lucky, but I didn’t spend a single dollar in agents, promotion or whatever else.

How did you do it?

Simple: go back and read the beginning of this post. It was the angle. A unique, tailored, compelling, gripping and particular angle that nobody used yet.

Too hard to find?

Well, I’m very sorry but that’s the only way to do it. And be advised, at last: getting published doesn’t make you rich. It just puts you one step ahead of the competition. The necessity of a great angle is still there. I learned to cultivate it as an organic vegetable garden, and now, assignments start to become easier to get.

Your best suggestion to find that special angle?

Deadpan simple: be yourself. The world’s always the same, and it’s up to you making your unique set of eyes worth publishing. Now, go back to write, you already lost enough time.

MARCO FERRARESE is a metalpunk guitarist who travelled extensively and lived in Italy, the United States, China, Australia and Malaysia. Since 2009 he’s been based in Southeast Asia as a writer, hardcore punk musician and researcher. He travelled from Mongolia to Australia in 2009, and hitchhiked from Singapore to Milano through Silk Road routes and the Middle East in 2012. He blogs at monkeyrockworld.com. Marco’s first Asian pulp novel Nazi Goreng  was published in November 2013 on Monsoon Books. Follow him @monkeyrockworld

Posted by | Comments Off on Unique angles sell your travel writing  | April 27, 2014
Category: Travel Writing, Vagabonding Advice

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