Secrets of Writing a Guidebook, Revealed
Those of us who write guidebooks for a living like to make a big deal about how it’s totally a real job and we’re not just getting paid to bum around checking out cool stuff on some fat company’s dime. It’s work, you guys! We are working. Writing Walking Portland was hard work.
Real talk, though: guidebook writing is not rocket surgery. Mostly it’s a lot of wandering around with a notebook and a cellphone, looking like a dork because you spend way more than a normal amount of time on a sidewalk in front of a storefront, not really going anywhere, seeming completely lost.
(Or running on fumes in search of a trailhead at the end of a road that appears on no maps, unless it’s that one you passed a few miles back and ignored because there’s no way anyone could possibly drive anything but a tank down that road….)
It’s not hard. But it is slow work, and it doesn’t pay much, so in order for it to be worth doing, you have to make it fun. This is easier to do if you happen to get a thrill from discovering and writing down things like:
- Bus schedules
- Train schedules
- Ferry routes
- average menu prices
- Opening hours
- Size/number of potholes in access road
- …For how many miles?
- Ticket prices, entry fees
- Number of cougar attacks last year
- Currency exchange rates
- Phone numbers
- What is that flower?
- Do ticks around here carry Lyme disease?
- Asking for a friend
- Rules about border crossings
- Immunization and customs requirements
- GPS coordinates in three formats
- Backcountry permit requirements
- Hotel room prices that vary by day of week/mood of receptionist
- Rental car policies especially re: damage caused by potholes
Bonus points if you enjoy squeezing all this information into a small imaginary box with a strict wordcount.
Then again, you also get to go on scenic hikes, ride weird bus routes, hang out in bars, and sometimes eat delicious food (or at least take photos of it). Every day is different.