iUniverse presents tips on travel writing – Part II

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iUniverse is pleased to continue its tips on travel writing, with concrete, practical advice that will help your tales stand out.


A street food stall in Thailand

Delight is in the details. As stated in Part I, you will probably be writing from an angle or niche, to make yourself unique. As such, make sure to include plenty of details, not broad strokes. Those details are what bring life to your story! Readers may know nothing about the place you are visiting except for the generalities they’ve seen on TV or in film. Another “trap” that travel writers fall into is only describing what they see, rather than what they hear and smell. To say “Every step you take in Bangkok is accompanied by the scents of spices” would be an example of how to integrate more of the senses into your narrative.

Confirm facts and figures. Talking to locals is of course part of being in a foreign land, and an interesting conversation can add a very strong dimension to your article or book. Meeting with locals also adds an “on-the-ground” quality, i.e. a sort of proof that you were there and not on a package tour.

At the same time, bear in mind that locals’ data and stories are not always correct. The last thing you want is to report information that is out of date or simply wrong, as it will make readers see you as unreliable. Hence, make sure to double-check any facts you insert into the piece.


A member of the Kayan tribe of Burma

Everything in moderation. Details are great, but telling your readers how a local woman had the same haircut as your Aunt Sally is crossing the line into something that your readers cannot relate to. If you want to make comparisons, use your readers’ world as a reference. If you can’t imagine anyone enjoying a certain bit of information than yourself, then it is probably worth taking it out.

Main message. To keep your story unified, and not resembling a rambling journal, center your story on a theme or message. You want readers to derive a new understanding or point of view. Try to make your story coherent in reference to the theme – it will not be easy, as travel opens our eyes to so many new aspects of life.


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