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As a new outdoor writer, it can be tough to see beyond your own pen. This is why we have editors: to fix the mistakes and help us learn from our errors. That said, it’s always nice to have confidence in your work when you submit it for print. Below are six common blunders that editors see from beginner outdoor writers. Take a look before handing in your next assignment.
We get it: the TMB was the most beautiful hike you’ve ever experienced. But that doesn’t mean you need to go crazy with the adjectives. Use stronger, more descriptive verbs (like “trudge” or “tip-toe” instead of “walk”), and hone in on the few words that truthfully and accurately describe your experience. Once you find the right ones, get rid of the rest.
Missing the Style
Most magazines have set departments and formats for each of those departments. For example, they may print stories in certain subject categories (like tips) in the third person, and reserve the first-person perspective only for certain essays or op-eds. Do your research before submitting copy by finding back issues of the magazine. Your editors will be impressed with your due diligence.
Concise writing is the best way to share your story, but it’s often the first thing that new writers leave by the wayside. When writing, really consider your word choice to make sure you’ve opted for the clearest means of communicating your point. And if your editor assigns you 500 words, don’t submit 1,000.
Forgetting the Hook
Many new writers are so excited about their most recent adventure (we summited Rainier!) that they forget to identify a unique hook to their story. Thousands of people have stood atop that mountain, and many have likely written about it. What makes your story different?
Telling Rather Than Showing
One of the most common comments editors leave is “Show, don’t tell.” It’s easier to tell readers how to feel, but a story is more engaging when you use descriptive writing to illustrate the scene in an evocative way instead.
Relying on Clichés
The outdoor industry has its fair share of buzz words and more than a few editors keep handy lists full of common expressions that will automatically be nixed from copy. Don’t become a statistic. If you used a popular cliché in your writing, do yourself a favor and hit that delete key.
Heather Balogh Rochfort is a freelance writer, author, and BACKPACKER contributing editor.
For more tips on improving your writing—and turning it into a career—check out our six-week course, How to Be an Outdoor Writer. Take it at your own pace, and access the content forever.