by Kevin Burns
Read the article here, or take the course at Udemy!
When is your writing at its best? What are you writing about when it is?
Great travel writing brings the place alive for your audience. Include anecdotes and of course factual information and try to take your reader there. Some writers do this through dialogue. Many often start their travel article with an anecdote that draws the reader into the piece. Try to find a writer that you relate to and study how she does this. As mentioned, no one wants to read about what you ate for lunch! Unless your lunch itself is part of a funny interesting story.
“Many writers start their piece with a strong – but brief – anecdote that introduces the general feeling, tone and point of the trip and story. Something that grabs the reader’s attention and makes them want to read on. Don’t start with the journey to the airport – start with something interesting, not what happened first.” -Gemma Bowes, The Guardian, 23 Sep 2011
When going on a longer trip, it is best to have a story in mind before you go. But be willing to change it once there if you find better tales to write about. Do some research on the place you will visit.
Always write three or more drafts, even if you think you are a good writer now. You will catch mistakes each time you check, and you will improve each draft. Don`t get lazy or sloppy. The pros self-edit many times. You should too! Do not hand in an article before it is ready. Your reputation is at stake. Leave a few days between writing each draft if possible, so that you can see it anew. Then show it to a trusted friend and ask her to edit it. Can she find anything that you have missed? Once you have an editor, even better, but you want your article to be as polished as possible before you submit it to your editor.
Gillick agrees that you should always have someone proofread your articles, or if this is not possible, then double-check your article before submitting it for publication. Even a professional like Gillick is surprised by the mistakes that somehow creep into his articles. I think we all are. Always keep a dictionary and a thesaurus on hand. Every word must be correct. Your grammar must be correct. Spellcheck does not check every word, so you must. Grammarly or some other grammar checking software might be a software program you could consider if grammar is a challenge. But do not solely rely on it. Bailey checks everything that she sends out 2-3 times. “Errors make you look incompetent and unprofessional,” she says.
How to improve your writing? “Consider long-form Instagram posts. -These mini-essays are a great foray into brevity and pairing images with words.” Suggests Bailey. I agree and I will add that any writing that you can do will help you to improve. Keep writing every day!
Steve Gillick recommends that you need practice and should seek feedback from many people. I think most travel writers would agree that starting your own blog is a great idea. Gillick talks about what a thrill it is to have others read his writing and to even comment on it.
The first time I got my article into the Vancouver Sun! I was so proud. The second time, I was proud and paid!
As a Travel writer, you need to be sensitive to other cultures and perhaps, alternate views of history. Avoid phrases that are racist or sexist or otherwise disrespectful. Try to see each destination as unique.
If you are European or North American, do not write like one. Do not judge others from a North American or European perspective. People are people. We all have a need for family; hopes, dreams, beer! and basic needs like fresh drinking water and adequate food and security. Everything you write should be true. Do your own fact checking, even if your publication has a dedicated fact checker. You need to write the truth. We all need to combat fake news. A good travel writer checks her facts thoroughly. As well, a good travel piece has structure: a beginning, a middle and an end. You can use humor, but you need to be careful, and you need to make sure not to offend the culture you are writing about, so that requires knowledge of the culture. Dave Barry is a master of poking fun at himself, and at the culture, but not going too far. As other writers will allude to, your description should be accurate. Good travel stories are full of detail. Avoid clichés! If you don`t know what these are, study and find out. You do not want to sound like every other writer.
For examples on great writing with structure, read some great short stories – stories that get a lot of detailed perceptions into a short piece. Finally, when you conclude your travel article, try to circle back to the beginning of your story. It draws a nice conclusion and does not leave your reader hanging.
“Always check quotes with people. – If you interview someone, share their quote with them before you send in the final piece. This avoids problems after it is published. Even if it is a “small” story, you should do this. It is common courtesy. Errors make you look incompetent and unprofessional.” Writes Joan D. Bailey
She goes on to say that you also need to check your facts. When was that temple built? Are you sure? You need to “…double-check everything including names, locations, times, and websites,” as even making a small mistake makes you look unprofessional or worse.
Go to Part 4 of How to be a Travel Writer