Don't know quite how to go about writing a feature for our magazine? Here are a few tips
Structure your material into subsections
Before you write, make an outline and list of bullet points that you would like to cover - 5-8 main points are usually fine. But do have a structure, overall idea and sense of direction and stick to it. Keep digressions in check or put them in sidebars.
End your travelogue with an assessment or recommendation. For example, give it a thought who is this location or course best suited for. Would that be families with kids, the adventure-seeking technical diver or something in between? We all have our standards and different yardsticks. Bear this in mind.
Imagine your audience
When you write for a magazine you have an audience just as if you were a slideshow presenter or just talking to your neighbour. In this case, you can't see them face to face and they can't ask you questions. But they are looking for the same answers and entertainment. Capture their imagination and tell the story. Sometimes it helps to imagine that you are writing a letter to a certain friend. Make it relevant, make it personal.
Why, How, When, What?
Make sure that you answer all the obvious questions your audience may have. Why go there? What is so special about it? When is a good time? Who would be interested? Why should I bother? Should I bring the kids or my rebreather? What are the highlights? The obvious questions are those a slide show audience would inevitably ask you about after the show if you forgot to bring the subject up yourself during your presentation.
Written and oral language differs
Written and oral language is quite different. Avoid the temptation to directly transcribe your train of thoughts.
Blending in oral language in written text can be done skillfully and with great effect - if you are an aspiring novelist with talent. Otherwise, give your first draft a complete writeover and weed out the oral language.
Do not's to avoid
"Then I did this, then I did that. The next day..." Dairies and other chronological step-by-step accounts are not only uninspiring to read but also misses the crucial point of providing the reader with essential information in a structured and meaningful manner. Another no-no is to go into personal references and matters and reflections that are irrelevant to the subject. The audience some of which comes from different countries does not know you.
1,5 hours underwater, 15 hours above
Diving is the centrepiece of our vacation but we spend the vast majority of or the time out of the water. Include some bits on the local ambience, people and culture. It is very often the topside experiences that set the dive destinations apart rather than the clownfish, dolphins and turtles. What is there to see and do when out of the waters? See temples, go shopping? Any major historical landmarks would be a shame to miss?
The "Everything's beautiful"-trap.
"The water is tempting green, the sky is blue, the sand is white, the palms are green and the people are really nice."
Sure they are, but aren't most of this world's dive destinations wonderfully attractive? Avoid the standard cliches and describe what you really see.
Capture the flavour
All impressions count. Make us smell the tar of the ropes or the special coffee they serve here. Or did the flowering fields leave a lasting impression or the sunrise over the volcano? Tap into the memory bank and tell about your lasting impressions and sentiments.
If it sucks, it sucks so tell it. However in reality the picture is rarely entirely black or white. Quality and price are always interconnected in some way - most often you get what you pay for and this and common sense should be your yardstick. Safely should never be compromised, however.
Credits and advertorials
Brand names, company-specific recommendations and other blatant appraisals that come across as advertorial messages within the article will be mercilessly edited out. It makes a horrible read and the audience sees right through it anyway. Acknowledgements and thanking sponsors or hosts may be included in a short note at the end - at the editor's discretion. Advertorials are not acceptable in X-Ray Magazine as a matter of both editorial principles and legal considerations.
Most word processors come with a spell checker. Please use it, and check your punctuation. Get someone else to read your article over before turning it in.
Remember articles comes with pictures/illustrations, captions and fact files.