You don’t have to defy death to write adventure stories. Here are a few suggestions to get you in – I mean out – the door and on your way.
1. How does the publication you’re pitching to define “adventure”? Always study both the writer’s guidelines and the publication itself to make sure you’re pitching the right angles. Do they want every hair-rising detail, or are they more interested in who’s involved and why? Should your adventure story illustrate a specific message or concept?
2. As in other markets, it’s easiest for new writers to break into the short front- or end- of book departments. Not every story has to be a life or death struggle. Introduce yourself by writing how-to and do-it-yourself pieces, short interviews and profiles, news bites, and informative sidebars about all things adventure. Then parlay research done and connections made into a unique, compelling, and publication-appropriate feature pitch. Make sure that your pitch has a point – something to make it stand out from the hundreds of “I went hiking and I want to write about it” pitches the editor gets every week.
3. If you want to write intelligently about adventures, you need to learn the jargon. How much of that jargon actually makes its way into an article depends on your target audience. If you’re writing for a sport-specific magazine you should assume that your readers are familiar with their sport’s technical terms and slang. If you’re writing for a more general audience, briefly define sport-specific terms as they’re introduced so that your readers can follow along without having to consult a dictionary.
4. Immerse yourself in the adventure to the extent you’re capable and willing. If you’re going to write an article about dog mushing then go dog mushing, or at the very least take a ride in a dog sled. This is the best way to develop angles to pitch, write, and interview, and often the only way to connect with your interview, profile, or story subjects. Oh, and as far as finding interview subjects – and story ideas? There’s nothing like a little firsthand experience, or at least a willingness to try new things, to open doors and pave the way.
Typically uses “The Final Mile” essays and features from freelancers. Pay generally ranges from $.30 – $.45/word.
Online Guidelines: http://www.adventurecycling.org/mag/submissions.cfm
Features run approximately 1500-3500 words, with a variety of shorter departments. “We work with both professionals and first-time writers, as long as they have an authentic and compelling story to tell.” Payment varies.
Online Guidelines: http://www.climbing.com/contribute/contributewrite/
Field & Stream:
This is for the hunting and fishing set. Publishes some adventure stories. Payment starts at $100 and goes as high as “several thousand dollars” in some cases.
Online Guidelines: http://fieldandstream.com/faq.jsp
Live Life Travel:
Looking for “first-hand accounts of adventurous, independent travel.” Features and departments run from 400 to 2,000 words and pay from $10-$35. Editor requests that you only send full manuscripts (as noted in the online guidelines).
Online Guidelines: http://www.livelifetravel.com/writers_guidelines.html
National Geographic Adventure:
Features run from 4,000 to 8,000 words and feature “in-depth, descriptive pieces on celebrities of adventure, gripping accounts of groundbreaking expeditions and scientific exploration, and intriguing, unknown historical tales.”
Online Guidelines: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/about_writers.html
Looks for, among other things, “sports and adventure travel pieces” and “profiles of engaging outdoor characters”. Features run from 1,500 to 5,000 words, plus a variety of shorter departments.
Online Guidelines: http://outside.away.com/system/guidelines.html
Pays from $.10-$.25/word, sometimes more, depending on whether the article is assigned/unsolicited and whether you are an established writer.
Online Guidelines: (currently down) http://www.paddlermagazine.com/contact/writerguide.shtml
Rock and Ice:
Features generally run 1,200 to 1,400 words, plus shorter departments. Submit a one-page query letter. No trip reports.
Online Guidelines: http://www.rockandice.com/contributorinfo.php
Sea Kayaker Magazine:
“We prefer contributions from experienced kayakers with some writing experience.” See guidelines for a detailed description of departments.
Online Guidelines: http://www.seakayakermag.com/contribute/writers_guidelines.htm
This is a news magazine for skydivers. Usually pays $1/column inch.
Online Guidelines: http://www.skydivingmagazine.com/writing.htm
Lisa M. Maloney is a regular contributor to the Anchorage Press where she’s written about hiking, rock and ice climbing, dog mushing and other outdoor adventures. She also writes the Writer’s Resource and Information Blog at http://writerinfo.blogspot.com.