Every travel agent should know the basics of travel writing. Your newsletter, your blog, PR pieces and articles for the local newspaper are all excellent marketing venues and require some writing skills. Writing about travel, to be sure, is not the same as being a travel writer. But a few tips from the people who know travel writing the best will improve your own technique and make your articles and stories more interesting to readers.
The travel agent hoping to write about travel should do some extensive reading about travel. Instead of reading just for information, read for style. Try to discern from every article exactly how the writer is crafting the story. Experienced writers in the major consumer magazines are an absolute wealth of instruction and you could do worse early on than imitating their style and basic technique.
The single biggest mistake I see new travel writers make is to essentially string together a list of “points of interest” in a stream of consciousness tour around a destination. The reader is taken by the ear and led from place to place, often without being told exactly why the journey has any merit. Instead, find a point of view, a twist or turn on the story that involves your personal perceptions, an interesting person or event, and build your story around that single concept. Involve the people and places as they serve to illustrate and fortify your story’s central perception. Write about bagels in Manhattan or trolley car conductors in San Francisco. Reveal the destination through the particular.
Avoid using the rather tired language of clichés endemic to beginning travel writers. Words like “romantic” or “charming”, “gorgeous” and “beautiful” have been retired and are no longer available to you. Sorry. Instead of adverbs and adjectives, use metaphor and simile. “Hills like white elephants” says so much more than “the beautiful hills behind the romantic cottage”. Put the reader in the story by showing them an image rather than telling them with a adjective or adverb.
There are a number of excellent resources you can use to learn travel writing and to improve your basic skill set. Transitions Abroad is one of my personal favorite sites for good writing and even writing instruction. Travel Writers Exchange provides a forum for writers and publishers alike. I also frequent Travelwriters.com where travel writers gather to commiserate amongst themselves, exchange tips and generally attempt to discourage anyone contemplating travel writing as a career. Lately, however, Travelwriters.com has been pretty quite as more new media forums like Travel Blog Exchange have taken over the attention of writers.
Writing about travel is an excellent way to present your travel practice to your community. Spend the time necessary to improve your technique. Your travel business and marketing efforts will be greatly enhanced by the addition of your new found skills.
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