My Top 10 Travel Writing Tips
Before the economy took a hit a few years ago, I did a fair bit of travel writing, visiting countries across the globe. I picked up a few tidbits that helped me become a better travel writer:
- Look for the uncovered. Everyone has done stories about the Coliseum in Rome but how about writing about the goat farmers who supply their goats milk to the shops in Rome that serve cappuccinos to the tourists.
- Stories that include people are usually a hit. Everyone has a story.
- The best stories are written from experience as you can add details about smells, sounds, and such. Instead of looking at the Coliseum through your hotel room window, pay the fee to enter the Amphitheatre, touch the rocks, mingle with the people, and soak up the ambiance before you begin writing.
- Have a point to the story you are writing. Just telling a story isn’t good enough, it needs to have a point or it’ll come off as a chronological journal entry. Offer something of value to the reader.
- While explaining the setting is good, going overboard isn’t. Like frosting on a cake, the right amount is perfect but too much makes it unpalatable. The same is true for descriptions in travel writing.
- Fact check everything with reputable sources. I once mentioned a city as being within an hour’s driving distance of the place I was discussing. The magazine’s fact checker busted me by saying it was closer to eight hours. I’d obviously screwed that up and should have caught it before submitting the piece. That magazine editor’s confidence in me was knocked down a few notches. Get the facts right, every time.
- Use punchy verbs. That said, this is true for all writing – hard-hitting verbs have more impact than boring ones – but especially so in travel writing, where you want to draw the reader into the story.
- Dialogue should only be used if it adds something measurable to the piece. But the quote must be accurate. Avoid opening with a quote unless you are 100% certain that the quote is the most effective way to start the piece.
- Your opening must immediately grab the reader and pull him into your story.
- Avoid talking solely about yourself in the story. Things that happened to you or things you found intriguing may hold little value to readers. Ultimately people read articles or books because they offer something of value to them.
Happy travel writing!