Gone Outdoors

How to Write a Survival Guide

by Ethan Pendleton

To put together a survival guide that is helpful and informative, you will need to follow some basic guidelines, and format the information in a way that is convenient for readers. After all, if you're trying to figure out how to start a cooking fire when you're hungry, you will want the steps to be as clear as possible.

Choose a subject and angle for your guide. Be specific about the geography or time of year. For example, instead of writing about how to survive "a cold night," you could write about how to survive "a January night while camping in the Adirondack Mountains."

Separate your survival guide into sections, each addressing a need that your readers may have. For example, to survive in the forest for a week, you need to have shelter, food and water. Devote a section of your guide to acquiring each of these needs. Ron Kurtus at School for Champions has good advice about writing a manual: Organize the sections logically, according to what the reader will need. For example, you might want to describe how to set a fire before you talk about the process of trapping small game for food.

Illustrate your survival guide with drawings. For example, when describing how to build a campfire, it might help to have a drawing that depicts that information. Even if you aren't an artist, drawing sketches just takes a little practice.

Include checklists or other kinds of quick guides that sums up what your larger sections tell readers. They can read the entire section on how to build a lean-to, for example. Then, when they are at their campsite, they can refresh their memory with the quick guide that you've included.

Verify that the tips in your survival guide are accurate. The last thing you want is for your readers to be in the wilderness with faulty instructions.

Items you will need
  • Word processing software
  • Drawing supplies

About the Author

I'm currently in the Creative Writing program at Ohio State (Go Bucks!) and I also teach writing classes in the English Department. Before returning to academia, I was a copywriter/copyeditor for a firm that provides product copy to a number of Fortune 500 companies. My articles, fiction and more have been published in a wide range of markets. 1.5 sentences of my work for a travel guide were reprinted in The New Yorker. (This isn't a huge deal, but it was a nice surprise.)