The No B.S. blog about Travel, Writing and Life

Get Your Travel Writing Published Now: Be Interesting

Thoughts about Better Travel Writing

Earlier in the year, I wrote a series of posts about avoiding travel writing rejection. My reasons for doing this were two-fold. First was my sincere desire to help other writers get published more often. I believe that we always need more people travel writing, and writing well. The second reason is more personal. As the editor of a large travel site that publishes travel stories, I receive many submissions that could use a lot of help. While, the first series of posts helped. There is still a ways to go. The following is a cartoonish example of the type of writing In The Know Traveler receives:

“I went to this okay place on the advice of a friend. It was just okay. I do not have own a thesaurus, but I can attest that my nameless friend is correct. It was just okay. Then we went to dinner at this restaurant, near the okay place, and it was so-so. I ate lots of food, which was not bad and the service was not memorable because I am not describing it. I was with my boyfriend Larry. He does not do much but he was with me at dinner and thought I should include him in this story. Actually, I am not doing or thinking much here either, so there are no valuable insights about the okay place or the so-so restaurant. Everything is just okay. Welcome to my trip.”

While I go over the top with my example of nothing happening in a travel story, you might be surprised at what shows up in my inbox from writers that are not interested by their own stories. As a rule of thumb, I ask myself, why am I travel writing this story? If you had a so-so time, why do you think a reader needs to be aware of uninteresting places.

Interesting Travel Writing

There are a ton of bloggers want to guide you to “be remarkable” but few say anything about the subject or how to improve your travel writing. Here is my secret, I do not write travel articles. I pretend that the reader is my friend. When I tell a story to my friends, there is nothing too embarrassing to talk about. My best friends get all the dirt. In fact, they revel in the ridiculousness of the moment with me. So I try to give the reader the details. I want to read every horrifying, disgusting, salacious, incriminating, outrageous detail available. It is here, with all the details out in the open, that I can offer the reader a chance to identify with my experience through my travel writing.

Travel Writing on the America’s Cup

I recently went sailing on one of the “America’s Cup” boats. Because I am not a winner in the water, I ate a sack of Dramamine and threw caution to the wind. Yes, there was some seasick anyway. There were dry heaves and introspective moments that attempted to quell the feelings of wretch that crept up my spine and sat on my tonsils and kicked at the that weird hanging thing in the back of my throat. I held ice cubes to the back of my neck and wished I had made up a huge excuse for not getting on the boat in the first place.

Still, my nausea did not stop the captain from asking me to steer the ship. I allowed him to pull me toward the wheel, which helped me focus on the horizon. While I steered, the crew began spinning those bicycle-like spinning hand cranks in unison that helped raise the sails and ignite the meager wind. I never barfed. The fifty-million dollar boat never caught a breeze and never sailed more than a couple of knots of speed (about as fast as an old lady walking the plank). I gripped the wheel tightly for fear of loosing my balance and my lunch. And for one small moment between the quesy and un-easy, the chilly wind filled my lungs and I felt what it must be like to love boating. Just because I am in a far off place, does not make the place or me being in it all that interesting. I have to make you understand through my travel writing.

14 Comments

  1. Interesting, sometimes I’m about to write a post and then I realize – wow that is a really boring story. I hope I catch all the bad ones but I’m sure a few boring ones slip through.
    ayngelina recently posted..Have you met Rogelio

  2. Hey Ayngelina,

    I miss them too. Writing well is a time consuming art

    I think the main problem with blogging is that it takes time to craft a good piece of writing, or to even find the story sometimes. So, I think many bloggers, myself included, have to pump out more content to keep their blogs regularly updated and fresh than time allows.
    Devin the Travel Writer recently posted..The 5-Star- 2-Star Conundrum- part two

  3. This is great advice, Devin. I never really thought about it this way. I’m sure I’ve put out some boring info in the past, that I shouldn’t have. 🙂
    Christy @ Ordinary Traveler recently posted..Photo of the Week- Kecak Fire Dance – Bali

  4. Hi Christy,

    Again, writing is difficult to do well, very difficult. Most of my favorite writers, many of them writers of the classics, have put out duds. I think the important part is when submitting and giving yourself the best odds of getting your writing sold.
    Devin the Travel Writer recently posted..Get Published Now- Be Interesting

  5. I enjoy reading travel articles and travel blogs. What usually determines if I will continue reading is the first paragraph. That first paragraph has to draw me in and, ideally, make me feel like I’m along with the travel writer or blogger on the adventure.

    I also enjoy a good metaphor – we “never sailed more than a couple of knots of speed – about as fast as an old lady walking the plank.”

  6. It sounds obvious but it’s actually a very good point which some other bloggers would do well to note. Well demonstrated too Devin.
    Jools Stone recently posted..Comment on Lund’s Sleeper Train to Nowhere by Jools Stone

  7. That’s great advice, I’ll be bearing it in mind as we write up our adventures. Thanks Devin, off to read the linked article now…

  8. Very good advice. I now try to keep a week or two ahead in my posts, so then when it’s time to actually publish a new one, I get a chance to re-read it the evening before. Since I most likely haven’t laid eyes on it in a week or so, it gives me the chance to look at it with fresh eyes. Sometimes I say to myself, “Wow, this really sucks and is not interesting at all.” Of course sometimes I still think it’s great but others obviously don’t feel the same. It’s hard to be a staunch critic of your own writing sometimes. I often make my wife give it a read, too, and she’s not afraid to tell me that it sucks. She just does it in a nicer manner.
    Adam recently posted..Picture of the Week-Torres del Paine National Park

  9. Good advice Devin. Another important factor is reading the submission guidelines. A surprising number of writers don’t.
    And read some of the already published stories to see if yours will fit. If you’ve never really done any travel writing it’s a good idea to take a course. Styles change and if you want to make it into the print market you need to write well. I notice lately the on-line travel bloggers are publishing quite a bit and that style is quite different from the journalism style that most print magazines accept. Some of the bloggers are great writers, others are not so skilled. And it’s a shame to see the quality of travel writing get sloppy just because some people don’t mind ‘giving’ away their stories. There’s some great writers out there who really work at their craft and deserve publication.

  10. Thanks Devin, I think your idea of write like you’re talking to a good friends sums this up perfectly! Will give it a try…

  11. If you’d puked the story would have been perfect! 😀

    But in all seriousness, yeah, very good point, Devin. You’ve got really care about the reader to make your words come to life.

    Ever look back at some of your old stuff? Like when you first started travel writing? That can be… uncomfortable for me sometimes, but when I did it, I noticed that knowing what to leave out and knowing how to frame a story were two main things that I’d learned along the way.

    And they make all the difference. I just finished my 156th article on Byteful Travel today, and to be honest, it’s only been within the last year that I finally feel like I’m finding my writing voice. You have to write a lot of crud before you get good…

    Now I’m having too much fun to ever seen an end in sight. 😀
    Andreas recently posted..The Radical Act of Kindness that Floored Me when I visited a Seattle Farmer’s Market

  12. You are so right. It is always important to entertain the reader. If you have nothing interesting to say, how can you expect the reader to be entertained? If you can make the reader feel some emotion about your trip that means you have likely done a great job.

    • It\’s a pleasure to find such rationality in an answer. Weoclme to the debate.

  13. I realize that my writing is good, but on my blog I forget to entice the reader, as I would a friend, to visit the place and instead stay at a more factual level (miles, difficulty, directions, etc) which it is too dry. I appreciate your instruction.

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