This third installment zooms in on some of the tutor’s finer detail around travel writing technique – again these are the tutor’s tips, and not necessarily golden rules – take what you will from it.
You can tell this was a pretty intense course – it’s a lot, but I just hate having all these notes in notebooks sitting around when maybe someone might benefit from them – maybe!!
General Travel Writing Tips
- As a travel writer you need to shift from ‘holiday head’ to travel writer mode. Time to get a bit more technical
- Present tense takes you there, it’s more engaging and sometimes more effective than past tense
- Think and write like a painter
- Keep your research hat on – research before the trip, both the smaller and bigger picture
- Note famous points and key attractions as well as niche details related to your area of expertise/special interest Seasonal things are also worth a mention
- Editors love ‘anniversaries’, especially for print – it give instant reason to ‘why’ E.g. 50th or 100th year of…..
- Revamp existing travel blog posts and create more from the generic
- With any story – it’s a nice touch to end where you began the story
- Always keep asking ‘why’ and tell the reader why
- Location, setting, in the moment, being there
- Integrating past with present – this helps the reader believe you are ‘there’ experiencing the place or the thing – you don’t want this to be just a stand alone sentence/paragraph. Try to weave it through the entire piece. e.g.
“Mona Lisa would probably have been surprised by the number of camera phones pointing at her”
- Reflect all five senses
- Timing, viewpoint, perspective, intent
- Find one little detail – zoom in
- Integrate ‘being there’ with the facts
- Create the ability to travel through your piece – how does each sentence connect with the next one….flow
- Add an expert quote
- Include facts with sources
When reporting on things from a travel perspective, remember to add some sort of critique or opinion toward the end of the article – but you don’t need to use “I” if it’s out of sync with the rest of the article. Keep the tense the same.
This is a potential story on a topic – one topic could have countless potential angles – pick yours. Be open to new angles whilst on location too, something original might come up – e.g. did you know Switzerland also has a leaning tower, not just Pisa – and there are actually 12 leaning towers in the world. 😯
Try and get a few angles per trip.
Sometimes one angle can cover multiple locations.
Line up your site visits and interviews beforehand to make life easier, less pressure and makes your trip more successful.
Telling the story
This can be difficult – finding your style, and rhythm as a writer. Are you a long or short sentences type, does it depend. What’s your prefered tone? This can take a while so just keep writing, don’t keep deleting too much – keep at it.
Think about the tone of the publication you’re pitching to, or choose the right tone for the platform.
- You’re first sentence to make people want to read more
- Catch the reader’s attention beyond the title
- Use powerful nouns and verbs rather than relying too heavily on adjectives
Add richness and depth to your story
By talking to local people on location – get quotes and even interviews if possible.
Add a personal experience.
If reviewing hotels: plug their philosophy, name drop some of their signature drinks
Engage your audience
- Use different styles of content – lists/listicles get a lot of traffic
- Be controversial
- Get personal
- Trigger emotions, make the reader feel something – positive or negative
- Online – keep paragraphs short, break it up with photographs
- Length – if you’re on a commission you’ll be working to an agreed word limit. Otherwise, make it as concise as possible, especially online
- Ask questions, get a discussion going
Avoid sounding like a novice – evoke a sense of space
A novice will simply describe what they are doing and seeing and where they are going.
You need to look up down, left right and yonder. Be surrounded in your writing. Talk about what’s happening up over there, and down over there, round the corner, over the fence etc…..set the scene, zoom in, draw out some detail, reflect your five senses.
Activities to help exercise the travel writing muscle
- In particular, read other travel pieces – note the different styles and tones in line with the audience and publisher – magazines, newspapers travel supplements, journals…
- Take an article and write your own version for a different location – mirroring the style, tone etc
- Take a chapter in a book – going into detail about a place or scene – mirror the writing style with your own version
Every creative copies the style and rhythm of someone who inspires them (apparently) but it’s still your work.
Think about a place you have gone to from your home – it could be your workplace, a shop, the dentist…whatever. Think about the room you ended up in. Write a piece entitled “How I Got into this Room Today” – try and make it emotive, interesting and engaging using all your writing techniques, try and bring a unique angle to it.
Take time out
Allow time and distance between writing and editing – don’t try to do both at the same time. You’ll edit better that way.
Conclude your piece
There are different ways to do this including:
- Come full circle and close on the opening topic
- Alternatively, blow the doors open and leave the reader thinking about a bigger issue or topic
Other things to note
Add a Contributors’ section at the end of an article – with photos/description of each person featured/organisations involved.
Add a factbox at the end of a peice, where necessary (details of how to get to/transport options, opening times etc) other detail might be better in the body of the text.
I think that’s all the main points for part 3 – notes from a travel writing course I signed up to a few years back. I hope someone found something useful in them – if so, job done!
When I find the notebook, I’ll probably share notes from another similar course, if there’s anything different in them.
All images are from free clipart.