Thursday, March 31, 2011

How to Write a Guidebook?

Recently, I have done about three guidebooks on finance and business as the knowledge products of our USAID project. The first two was easier to prepare since it were patterned from a developed guidebooks only for different end-user. But the last one was painstakingly developed because everything is fresh and the only pattern available was the actual experience. So much so that the field experiences were so difficult to translate into a standard manuscript. Anyway, everything is done, printed and soon will be in use.

I always ask myself this question, "How to write a guidebook?" I assumed that the available answers in the are directly related to what I actually meant, that is, the writing of a technical guidebook. What appeared on my screen however is about writing a good guidebook on travels. Well, this interests me because I am fond of traveling around the country. Thanks to my nature of work. And I dream of traveling around the world, which I already started with Southeast Asian countries.

And so it formed in me another question, "Why not write a guidebook on those interesting yet unknown places I have been to?" or "Why not write a guidebook of my travels on very tight budget in and out of the country?" So I copied the article from and have it posted here.

1 Write what you know, not what you've read about. It's possible to compose a guidebook without having been to a destination, but your work will be missing what separates a decent read from a great one: heart. Your South American trek to Sugar Loaf Mountain will say far more about what another traveler can expect if it's taken from the notes in your journal than from a library book or an Internet site.
The beat generation was full of great travel narratives, and Jack Kerouac was the master of powerful, moving, passionate language that unfolded stories like few people have ever managed. While “On the Road” is the most often pointed to travel narrative by Kerouac, “The Dharma Bums” is a better book. Full of passion, interesting characters and stories, and the kind of passionate language and powerful prose that made the beat generation writers popular, this Kerouac book is extraordinary and deserving of its number one spot.

2 Choose a focus. Decide whether you want to tackle the entire country of Australia or just create a guide to the outback. If you've traveled extensively in a country, it can be tempting to cover the entire territory. Focus the book on a distinct hook; for example, "The Adventurous Woman's Guide to Australia," and you can use all of the information you've gathered to write a one-of-a-kind guidebook within that framework.
Probably one of the best travel writing collections released in recent memory, this collection creates a varied tapestry of travel writing that will keep the reader flipping from one writer to another.

3 Find out what's already been written about the destination you have chosen for your guidebook. The chances that your work will stand out from the crowd will rely a great deal on how unique the information you've gathered has been presented. Any number of writers can put together a great guidebook on Ireland. Put a spin on the topic by following the travels of Irish rebels over the past century and you'll grab the attention of those who couldn't care less about another detailed listing of Dublin pubs.
Paul takes readers the length of Africa via overcrowded rattletrap bus, dugout canoe, cattle truck, armed convoy, ferry, and train in a journey that is hard to forget. There are moments of beauty, but there are also many moments of misery and danger. This is a narration of Africa that goes beyond the skin deep to dare to look at the deeper core of what is often referred to as “The Dark Continent.”

4 Identify your audience. "The Adventurous Woman's Guide to Australia" has an implicit target. If your guidebook doesn't have one, you can stay true to your mission if you understand to whom you are writing. Find a magazine photo of a person who best represents the audience you want your guidebook to appeal to and then tape it to your monitor. Write directly to that person and you'll stay true to your goal of reaching your audience.
Travel book, journalistic book, nature book, adventure book—whatever you call it, this is one heck of a read, and the debate this book causes is deep and passionate.

5 Choose one of 10 styles travel writers frequently use to formulate their guidebooks. These are: advice ("Costa Rica on $5 a Day"), here and now ("Carnival in Rio"), round-up (Reviews of the same place by 10 different people), how-to (survive in Japan if you're on a budget), what-to-do (while you're visiting Ottawa), a history of (the Orient Express), humor (Trapped in a brothel in Nevada when a dust storm broke out), destination (The only guide you'll ever need while you're in Lichtenstein), gimmick (Tour the places Henry VIII's wives lived) and personal experience (How I survived a drive to Disneyland with four kids in the back seat).
This is one I actually found in the “Christian” Non-Fiction section, which can be unfair. There’s no question Miller is a Christian, but he’s a writer first and foremost, he’s not preachy, and his questioning of his own faith, of reasons for existence, of who and what he is or is becoming is reminiscent of the fantastic soul searching that came from the travel writing of the Beat generation. Miller’s account of his trip is great, going through the moments of beauty, the necessity of good road trip music, and admitting his moments of embarrassment and fear as freely as any other part of his journey.

6 Draft and edit your guidebook until you are satisfied with the work. Ask a friend with editing skills to review the work and check for the spelling, syntax and grammatical errors that so often escape writers when they are too close to the project. You may wish to hire a professional editor. Find editors on the Internet or call the English department of your local college to see if they can help you find an editor close to home.

The most important tools needed as suggested by the author are travel experience, which I have plenty of, and target audience, which I should think of. I wish I can write my first within the year.

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