Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Learn how to be a Travel Writer

Travel Writing that Grabs Attention

As promised, we’re having a look at travel writing this week. It’s commonly regarded as a lucrative market that is difficult to break into. The secret is to start small, build a reputation and persevere.

Travel writing can be divided into two broad categories: information dispersal such as you would find in a guide book or brochures and entertaining first person accounts of a trip. There is plenty of scope for both kinds of writing and it is an advantage to become proficient in both styles. Today we’ll focus on first person accounts and next week, on information guides.

Many newspapers and magazines favor the first person approach as it is generally more interesting and if done well, will leave the reader longing to visit the destination. Here are some important things to consider when putting together an article of this type.

Choose a specific publication and look up their guidelines on the internet or request them by post. If none are available, read as many back issues as you can and take note of the style and length they seem to prefer.

If you’re just starting out or haven’t done much traveling, write about your home town. It may not seem interesting to you, but undoubtedly has some features that would be attractive to tourists. Pick up brochures from your local information centre and visit places of historical significance or natural beauty. Take notes and photographs and try out the entertainment that is on offer.

Bring the Experience to Life
Breathe life into your account by brief descriptions. Make the reader taste that curry, breathe that fragrance and touch that icy water with you. Describe the bells that rang out each evening and write about tangles of wildflowers in cream and lavender, clinging to gray mountainsides.

Travel writers are normally proficient enough at photography to sell their pictures along with their stories. Study brochures and articles to see what type of shots are preferred and practise taking similar ones. Pictures bring a story to life and often say more than a paragraph of description. I took the photograph at the top of the page while sitting on the shores of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand. It describes the peace and beauty better than my words could ever do. This photo with the all the gold was taken while I was walking through the gold souk in Dubai a couple of years ago.

What to Include
Introduce as many of these elements as possible when writing a general account:
· Food
· People/culture
· Dress
· History
· Climate
· Flora and fauna
· Things to see and do
· Shopping areas and accommodation

Look for the Unusual
I do a fair amount of travelling and always try and explore the suburban areas of a town or catch public transport to see a different side of a city. On a recent trip, my husband and I were driving around a tiny settlement and spotted a home that had a fence made entirely of wheels. Little snippets of local knowledge like this, all add to the allure of an area.

Where to Start
The most logical way is to write your experiences in such a way that each area leads onto the next in a natural flow. You are imparting knowledge while disguising it in an interesting personal account.

Travel writing can be great fun and even if you only write a few stories each year, it can bring in some extra cash and could possibly pay for your next trip.

Come back next week to find out about writing travel brochures and guides.

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Read some of her work at Suite 101 and Faithwriters.

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