As the weather warms, a good portion of the American population takes to the rivers, lakes, and streams in search of ‘the big one’. One great idea is that, if you’re a reasonably good fisher person, and a reasonably good writer person, you can combine the two into one very good moneymaking scheme. Namely, you can go fishing and then write about how you caught ‘The Big One’. Or, more often, perhaps, how ‘The Big One’ got away. To start with, this can help offset the cost of your trip. Then, when you get really good at this, get the trip paid for as well.
Personally, when I got into writing, I did the ‘write what you know’ thing. Namely, I looked around at things I was interested in, understood reasonably well, and had at hand. This is probably the best advice I have for new writers. Write about things you know about and like. If you don’t, the reader will be able to tell. Immediately.
For me, living in an isolated rural area, I did not find the Metropolitan Opera just down the street. What I did find was a lot of recreational activities. Hunting, fishing, motor sports, and all the rest. Also, growing up in this area, I did a lot of all the aforementioned. So, after taking some writing classes with the local college, my first queries were to magazines that featured things like hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities. (Go to any magazine rack. They are always filled with these types of magazines. Why? Because people like to read about this stuff as much as they like to do it.)
My first submission of this type was to a snowmobile magazine. I was already working for a different magazine. But, was still looking for more work. (A constant problem for a professional freelancer.) So, I sent a query to a well read regional snowmobile mag. Our town happened to be having a snowmobile show. And, as I was the closest thing to a ‘real writer’ in town, it fell to me to do publicity. So, I sent a query. And, wonder of wonders, they gave me a chance. A couple years later I went full time and I was able to quit the day job. (Didn’t actually have one, but it sounds good anyway.)
Now, as mentioned, I also love to fish. So, right after my first success, I sent a query to another outdoor magazine. This time, one specializing in hunting and fishing. They also bought my idea and story.
That was 20 years ago. Since that time, I have gone on countless snowmobile trips, fished a whole lot of lakes and rivers, and actually made a decent living doing this. (And even gotten to fish with real World Champion fishermen.) Also, that thing about all those free rooms and other goodies working writers get. Not completely fiction. I have actually stayed in very nice motels and resorts, and eaten a whole lot of tasty grub. On the house.
But, it’s not completely free. There is a price you have to pay. And, just like ‘paying guests’ if you don’t pay up, you probably won’t get many more trips. It’s like, when you take a free room or a free meal, those giving it are not just being nice. They are expecting something in return. A story. With them in it most often. That goes to a different set of ethics. Like, what do you write if the room has mice (There is no sound like a family of mice dancing around on a hard wood floor at 3:00 a.m.) and the food tastes like something a buzzard would scoff at. (For me. I just don’t write the story.) However, what I’m getting at is that you really can have a good time and get paid for it. Just like in all those ads.
Now, myself, I sell mostly to outdoor magazines. However, that is not the only place you can sell stories about fishing. Say, you take the kids along. Now, it becomes a ‘family vacation.’ A photo and story of how little Billy or Betty caught all these panfish off the dock from the summer cabin is a great angle for publications that are not traditional hunting and fishing type magazines. (Trade secret here: There are a lot more people that are marginal or beginner fishermen than are touring pros. And, they love to read stories about people just like them, who don’t ‘catch the big one’ every time out. Also, to a five year old, an 8-inch blue gill is a whopper. Capture that in a picture and you will have a sure sell.)
So, as you’re planning out your summer vacation, plan on not leaving your writing at home. Take it with you. Bring the camera. Take some fun family photos. Write down your experience. And, send off queries to any publication that even remotely may have an interest. Next thing you know, you’re looking at a paycheck. Then, a bit further down the road, next thing you know, you’re calling resorts and booking vacations on their dime. And, getting a paycheck at the end of it. Not bad at all.
Now, in addition to becoming a reasonably good writer and reasonably good whatever else, one more piece of advice is to join a writer’s group specializing in outdoor writing. Or, whatever else you find yourself writing about. Personally, as I live in Michigan, I joined Michigan Outdoor Writer’s Association as soon as they would have me. Going to their meetings gave me a lot of story ideas. But, more importantly, I got some excellent face to face time with editors and publishers. A few weeks later, when I called in that story idea, I was not just another voice on the phone (or e-mail contact). I was the person that sat across from them at dinner. Or, had fun with on some outing or another. You get the picture.
Overall, journalism has to be the best occupation ever created. Where else can you go out and have a great time and then get paid to share that experience with others? Beats the heck out of a real job, I always say.
This ‘Stephen King’ was born and raised in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He has written somewhere around 3,000 articles and had roughly twice that number of photos published in a wide variety of local, regional, and national newspapers and magazines. He has become most known for his articles on snowmobiling as well as his work for hunting and fishing magazines. Stephen has been a commercial fisherman, a lumberjack, a restaurant owner, and many other things. He currently lives on the shore of Lake Michigan in the Indian fishing village in which he was raised. Stephen is currently single (again) and lives with a family of miniature mutt dogs.