Title? Check. First Sentence? Check.

travel writing checklist

Years ago, while driving around Norway, my colleague (also a journalist) suddenly announced quite smugly…

…“Well…I’ve come up with a title and a first sentence, so my story is done. Now I can relax and enjoy Scandinavia.”

At the time, I didn’t quite get what she meant, but over the years, I’ve come to understand. Once you have a title and a first sentence, your story is basically done.

It’s true. In the title and the first sentence, you commit to your idea, to your angle. After that, it’s just a matter of writing it through.

Writing is like running…once you start, just keep moving.

What does that mean exactly? It’s simply just putting in the time to go from beginning to end. Key here is not to stop.

I tend to think of it like running. Once you start, work up your heart rate and get it established, then keep it there. Just keep moving. Don’t stop. Don’t take a moment to fix a lace. Don’t pause for a water break. Just run…keep it going.

This is how I write most of my stories. As I cruise along, I inevitably come to spots that need facts such as dates and names. Those I look up later, marking the missing information with a TK. There will be time to fact-check and edit, even move chunks of copy around. The main thing is to get it out of my head and onto my computer.

Once I have that first draft done, I’m empowered to take the next step, which is to go through and edit as needed.

Once you go through this process a bunch of times, you too will see how having a title and a first sentence is really all you need. The rest will move on its own, unless you do something to stop it.

~Susan

What’s your writing style? Share your experience!

About Susan Farewell 27 Articles

Susan Farewell is the editor-in-chief of FarewellTravels.com, a travel information and planning site drawing on the experiences and insights of passionate travelers all over the world. It features animations, videos, photography, artwork and of course, words, to showcase travel destinations, experiences and products.

A former travel editor and staff writer at The Condé Nast Publications in New York City, Susan is a widely known digital, print and broadcast travel journalist. Her work has appeared in numerous publications (and sibling websites) including  Condé Nast Traveler, Vogue, Gourmet, Cooking Light, Travel and Leisure, Outside, Metropolitan Home, McCall’s, Child and Bride’s. She also writes for newspapers such as The New York Times and The New York Post, newsletters (BottomLine Personal) and numerous in-flight and regional magazines as well as various websites.

In addition to writing, Farewell has also developed countless products both in digital and traditional media from travel guides to online magazines.

She is the  author of several books including "How To Make A Living As A Travel Writer", "Hidden New England" and "Quick Escapes from New York City" (the latter two have had multiple editions). She has also co-authored many books.

Susan is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, the New York Travel Writers, the North American Snowsports Journalists and the Eastern Ski Writers Association.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this Susan, that’s exactly how I write too! Once I have my title and lede figured out, the rest just seems to flow and I just let it…..then, like you, I go back and do my fact-checking and heavy editing once it’s all written down.

    Occasionally, if I have a lot of points to cover, I may draft a separate outline that I’ll refer to when I’m writing, but most often I stick to a single topic and just stay focused.

  2. One problem I’ve occasionally encountered is falling in love with a lede. We have to watch out for this. That’s when you come up with the killer lede and keep reading it over and over again and can’t get past it.

  3. Totally agree with everything you’ve said here Susan. Getting that one compelling first paragraph sets the tone for the entire piece. I also find useful laying out the main points you wish you make in the piece (i.e. a framework) and then expanding out on each to create the final piece.

  4. I have to agree that usually once you have the title and the first sentence or two its almost done…other than the writing part! But I have found like you mentioned that I have to just write until I’m done no stopping just all at once and check it later. Just like running I think once you stop you’ve just killed the momentum.

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