Thursday, April 10, 2008

Travel Writing Tips

Here are some basic tips on how to write a half decent travel article. These are suggestions, not out-and-out rules. The best travel writers are flexible in their styles and change them to suit the story, but you are not yet the best [if you are reading this], so bear these ideas in mind until you have a few publications under your belt. Feel free to ignore some, if not all, these tips.
  • Read plenty of travel stories in magazines and newspapers, preferably by famous writers, and analyse
    what you like about them, and what you dislike. Apply the likes.AA Gill, Steve Keenan and Matt Rudd [often appearing in Britain's 'The Times' newspaper travel section] are among the best travel article writers, while PJ O'Rourke and Bill Bryson are the travel book equivalent. Be amused and learn from these stars.

  • Plan the article as a series of paragraphs.

  • Write a lot, leave it a while, read it again, then BRUTALLY edit it. Using a PC is brilliant as you can save a full length article while chopping the hell out of a shorter version - which will almost certainly be a lot better.

    For a start, cut out most adjectives and adverbs, repetitions, inflated imagery, weak descriptions, and the obvious until you are left with only 30% -50% of your original. In fact, try setting yourself a target of cutting 70% of the dead wood out of your tangled little forest and you'll be amazed how much healthier it looks afterwards.
    Try to find a friend or relative who is willing and able to offer constructive criticism or tips on your practice articles.

  • If you want to be published in most media, with the exception of Blogs, you'll have to get your grammar and spelling right, so if it's a bit rough, brush up on it. And learn the difference between i.e. and e.g!

  • Start your writing career with a REALLY interesting or unusual travel subject, or some kind of action. That way you only have to focus on getting your story-telling right, rather than having to perk up a dull subject too.

  • Try to ensure that the first paragraph has a serious 'hook', dynamic fact or point of interest in it to grab the reader's attention. The first paragraph should also clearly indicate the subject of the article. Follow that with a middle, then an end!

  • The last paragraph should neatly summarise the article's theme, tying up loose ends in an amusing or interesting fashion.

  • Keep paragraphs, and sentences for that matter, reasonably short so the reader is not intimidated by a huge chunk of text.

  • Travel articles generally appear more professional NOT using the first person. i.e. I went to Bhutan and I had a great time. Also avoid overuse of exclamation marks!!

  • Don't state the obvious, be different, use words imaginatively, even poetically. There are half a million non-technical words available to you in the English language. [And another half million technical words.

  • Dialogues with bright or exotic people can be an effective way to occasionally break up text and enliven things.

  • Ensure that your travel topic is clear from the start, and continues that way, with one paragraph leading on logically to the next, and the next, etc., with a concept link between each one. All paragraphs roughly the same size and in sequence is a good guideline.

  • Humour or drama are good selling points, and bad times, while unpleasant in real life, make great stories.

  • Selling a travel article cold to a magazine or newspaper is incredibly difficult. It helps a lot if you can offer high quality images to support the story, so the last tip is to practise your photography too.
Good luck and keep at it, it's a long, dusty road full of linguistic potholes, insane grammatical gravel trucks and brutal, drive-by editors,

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