Travel writing is the literary version of a cocktail party—you get to mix light work with immense pleasure. For many writers, going places, having a good time, and getting paid to write about it is a dream.
Be it an all-expenses-paid trip or one that offers little by way of compensation, the psychological rewards of getting the story out there, with your byline on it, is likely worth every cent you spent for the journey that, chances are, you wanted—or were planning—to take anyway.
There is no wrong way to tell a travel story. Because it is about a personal experience in a universally accessible setting, travel writing is partly subjective. But there are ways to make the narrative more interesting to ensure that the story that has been painstakingly put together gets the audience it aims to capture.
These are just some:
· Focus. Writing about a trip can be daunting when a number of details stand out and it becomes difficult to choose which ones to include and which to leave out.
Rather than include everything in one messy piece, consider breaking down the article into two or three shorter, more focused pieces. The intention is to take readers on a journey that is as mapped out and clutter-free as possible.
It helps to remember that not everything you found interesting during the trip would pique the readers’ curiosity. If the piece can do away without a mention of the lilt in the waiter’s voice as he changed your spoon, or it has nothing to do with the topic, there is no reason to include it in the story.
· Look for a hook. Anyone who’s tried writing about a popular tourist destination or a spot that is similar to so many others has faced the challenge of saying something new or different about the place. This is where the writer can play up the subjective part of the trip—no two people experience the same thing in the same way, so go through your own experiences and tell your story in a way that only you can.
Freshness is a virtue for travel writing, so avoid clichés and write in your own words. The inflection could spell the difference between a boring piece and a fascinating one.
· Fact check. There is no bigger turn off in a piece of writing than factual errors. Getting facts straight is important for travel pieces that contain information such as hotel names, contact numbers, or street names. If you need the restaurant manager’s details, get a card; menus contain the name of the food or drink you want to talk about; and museums, parks and zoos either have information written all over the premises or guides who can give you the scientific name of that red bird from Africa.
When all else fails, hit the Internet. That castle you visited whose name you can’t remember is bound to have a page that contains everything you need to know for your article.
· Follow writing rules. Take out that dusty Strunk & White from the shelf and revisit the basic tenets of writing. Remember these?
o Omit needless words.
o Use the active voice and avoid passive words.
o Choose verbs over adjectives.
o Avoid big words when simple ones would work just as well.
Whether it’s travel or journalistic writing, the general rules are the same, so the earlier you master them, the faster you expand your writing repertoire.