11 travel writing tips
Do you feel inspired to write about an interesting journey or holiday you have been on? Are you a new or inexperienced writer? If so, here are 11 travel writing tips to help you get started.
1 Writing style
Write in style that is natural, simple and straightforward and write in the first person (generally in the past tense but use present tense if your narrative demands it). If you find it hard to write naturally, imagine you are writing a letter to a friend or telling your story to some friends over a cup of coffee.
2 Make it personal
Be honest and tell your readers what you liked or disliked about a place, what excited or inspired you and so on. Don’t dwell on personal mishaps or disasters unless you can work one or two up into good and amusing anecdotes. Instead tell your readers something about a place or an experience that would also make them want to go.
3 Writing tips
Don’t put your readers off by writing long rambling sentences and paragraphs. Express your ideas and experiences clearly and concisely. Take your readers on your journey but don’t feel you have to tell it chronologically. Simply pick out the best bits and write about them in any order you want.
4 Grab the attention of your readers
A good title and a strong opening paragraph will draw your readers in. A good title is short, clear, concise, relevant, original and memorable. It could even be a title that provokes an emotional response from your readers or makes them curious.
In your opening paragraph don’t simply start at the beginning. Your journey to the airport probably won’t be of much interest to your readers unless something unexpected happened. Instead start your story with an interesting anecdote, an amusing quote from someone you met, a great description of somewhere you visited – anything that makes people want to carry on reading.
5 Help your readers to visualise your experiences
You are not going to capture the imagination of your readers if you just go through the list of places you visited and the people you met. Describe to your readers what you experienced and how you felt. For example, instead of simply writing ‘I met an interesting person” describe what that person looked like, how they spoke, what they were wearing, if there was anything quirky or unusual about them, how you communicated with them if they spoke a different language etc.. Create an image of that person that your readers can visualise. Similarly, don’t just say a view was stunning, beautiful, amazing, awesome, incredible. Why was is stunning, what was it like to be there, what did you feel?
Try to avoid overused and hackneyed phrases. Here are some examples which I am sure you have come across: vibrant/bustling/colourful market, friendly locals, something for everyone, a city/country/land of contrasts, steeped in history, majestic mountains, azure sea, panoramic views, crystal clear water, nestling among, best-kept secret, sun-dappled, exotic, must-see sights, don’t miss, hidden gem, stunning view/vista, veritable smorgasbord, iconic – you get the idea!
Did you overhear any interesting or unusual conversations or did you meet anyone that had something amusing or interesting to say. A bit of dialogue or some quotes from people you met can really add a personal touch to your story.
8 Leave stuff out
Don’t be tempted to include every small detail about your trip. Be ruthless and cut out the bits that will make people yawn and stop reading.
9 Do a bit of research
You can add some extra interest to you story by researching some additional facts (historical or whatever) about the place you visited. However, make sure that any facts you include are correct. For example, if you picked up some interesting bits of information from people you met, or in books or on the internet etc. do double-check them. Although you are writing about your personal experiences you should avoid including misleading or incorrect information.
10 Include the quirky or unusual
Don’t let your story read like a travel brochure. Pick out something unusual, quirky, out of the ordinary, off-the-wall, eccentric, bizarre, curious. For example, did you meet someone who told you about a place to visit off the usual tourist trail? Did you experience a rare or one-off event?
11 Add some images
Many genres of writing benefit from images, but travel writing demands it. As a keen traveller you almost certainly have an abundance of photos to choose from, but if you don’t then look for something appropriate online (make sure that you have permission to use any images you find online). There are some websites where you can source free images (i.e. free from copyright restrictions) and some where you pay a monthly subscription (or pay on demand) to get permission to use the images.
StockSnap.io and pixabay both provide images released under the Creative Commons CCO license which means that you can download, copy, modify, distribute and use them royalty free for anything you like. If you find an image that is not royalty free, check carefully what permission you need before using it. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the rights to use an image.