Tuesday, October 23, 2012

ONE WAY TO BECOME A BETTER TRAVEL WRITER


With so many exotic places in world now accessible and so many freelancers chasing stories in them, travel writers must stand above the crowd.

Writers of all kinds and levels know that to improve their craft they must read great authors. Freelance travel writers have to do the same. Read, read, read. But it is the works of the outstanding travel journalists and authors that we must read to unpack their consummate skills; reading mediocre stuff will not help us excel.

I find there is little to learn from reading the typical destination stuff that is a procession of sights to see, recommendations of restos to eat at, and suggestions for hotels. These articles are boring. I like discoveries, human interest, and the unusual. In short, a storyline with a different perspective.

Good travel writing is out there if you know where to look and is generally grounded by an unusual quest, a local character, history, or some learning from the traveler who's done it. It has story and a throughline that compel the reader to keep reading. Yes, it is likely to be creative nonfiction (CNF) where the writer has used some of the fiction techniques such as plot, tension and pacing, dialogue, setting, and characterization, for example.

Where to find good travel writing to read? I offer just a handful of ideas to get you started, there are many more.

Books:
Don George
  • Older books by pre-WWII travellers/explorers like Eric Newby
  • Don George's book, The Lonely Planet Guide to Travel Writing. This contains many superb examples of long articles by other writers with explanations of why they work so well.  George has written other books worth reading too.
Periodicals: e- and print:
  • National Geographic Traveller
  • Beautiful BC (can have some good examples)
  • National Geographic for great CNF
  • And select websites and ezines 
  • Gadling and BBC Travel (for shorter pieces)

English: Liam D'Arcy Brown (* 1970) is a Briti...
 Liam D'Arcy Brown,
a British sinologist
and travel writer.
(Photo: Wikipedia)

Freelancers:
  • Don George, for his own long essays here.
  • Daniel Wood, an award-winning, investigative journalist who writes travel for Beautiful BC, among other magazines.
  • Andrew Evans (@wheresAndrew) for shorter pieces, blog posts, and a skill with tweets that quite sucks the air out of me. Evans is National Geographic's Digital Nomad.


What are your favourites, ancient and modern? 

Writers? Periodicals? Websites? But especially travel books?
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