Travel writing seems like a dream: you can travel to any possible location–your dream destination–and write about it! But it is also hard work and requires strategy, like any other job. If you are looking to take the next step in your travels and write about your journey, here are a few tips.
1. Travel! I know this sounds like simple advice but the best way to get into travel writing is to actually travel. Pick your dream trip and your topics of interest (this is key) and go on a quest in search of those topics. You’ll be surprised what you’ll find and who you will meet. When you travel your own way, your story becomes more interesting because it’s genuine.
2. Read. To be the best writer you can be, you must read. Whether it’s a guidebook about your destination/topic or fiction related to your destination, you’ll become more enriched in your trip by reading everything you can about it. Reading all types of genres also enriches your vocabulary. Read great travel writing if this is your chosen genre. By reading magazines or books like The Best American Travel Writing, you will get a sense of what a good story is and this could help you with your style or give you ideas.
3. Have a quest. When you pick a particular focus, this will help shape your story. Looking for a story in your destination and taking a vacation are two very different trips and unfortunately, often get confused with each other.
4. Try to pitch your story to a publication before your trip. Having a secure outlet or publication will help you with deadlines and also help you if you’re trying to find interview subjects for your story. Pitching your story will also help you focus on what your story is.
5. Observe. Take a step back and observe every detail when you’re on the ground. Whether it’s the cuff links on the waiter’s sleeves, the sound of someone’s voice, or the smells in the air, tapping into your senses will really help bring your story to life.
6. Ask Yourself “What am I learning?” As veteran travel writer, Don George, says this question is another way of asking yourself “what is the story?”
7. The Four Pillars of Engagement. As Don George mentions, these are the points of the story where you check in with your subject, with yourself, with your audience, and with your writing. What is your subject? Who are you writing for? Who do you want to see this piece? Why is this story personal to you? Is your story touching on these points? Is your story precise? Is your story meaningful? Does the story flow?
8. Keep a notebook and write during your trip. When to write will vary for everyone but writing down the details as they are happening or soon after they happen will help you remember the vivid details that will make your story pop. When you are in the moment, jot down those notes. Having a notebook with you or an app like Evernote will help you with this. Use your smartphone to record conversations as well, so you can go back and transcribe them later. Try to make the time during the trip to write down what you have learned and try to write your story right after your trip so it is fresh in your memory.
9. Step away from your story. After you have finished writing, take a day or a few days to let your story breathe. When you go back to it, you may have a different perspective and you may also catch details that you want to remove or add to.
10. Kill your darlings. The editing process is an essential process of making sure your story comes together in the best possible way. The first draft will never be perfect and though there may have been a great anecdote or detail, if it doesn’t fit in with the overall theme or big picture of the story, as difficult as it may be, it must go. Get someone to read over your story and edit it and then go back and edit it again if you have the time. This will make your story stronger and the best possible version of itself.
Travel writing is about research, observation, and telling a great story. Hopefully, these tips for travel writing will help you in getting your stories –travel or non-travel related–published.