By: Sarah Stone
Time for some more travel writing exercises! In this round, we’ll talk about four ways to improve any story you want to write.
Find a Way to Connect with Your Readers
A great travel blog must be something your readers can relate to. Leave the “What I did on my summer vacation” reports back in elementary school. They’re not memorable and no one will read past the start.
In Kim’s interview with Alexis Grant last month, Alexis mentioned the worst travel story is that which does not connect with the reader:
“A BIG mistake I see travel bloggers make is they tell what they did today and yesterday and the day before that…without making it relevant to the reader. Yes, it’s interesting just because you’re visiting a cool place we’ve never been to, but you can make other connections or share life lessons learned that make those stories relevant to your audience. Tips and advice always do well, too.”
Think of ways you’ve experienced travel according to your five senses. What did you find the most memorable to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell?
Tell Something Personal
This builds on the last bit of advice. People love reading about other people—it’s why gossip is juicy and enraging. Connecting your story on a sensory level is a great start, but it’s not quite enough. You also must appeal to your audience on an emotional level—through happiness, sadness, excitement, melancholy, or so on.
Using one of the senses from the last exercise—smell, for instance—write some notes on why that particular memory popped out to you. Smell is strongly connected to memory; think about why that scent, above all others, is the one you chose to write about in Exercise 1. Did it evoke nostalgia? Joy? Longing?
Inject Your Personality into Your Travel Blog
Most aspiring writers I’ve worked with find it difficult to move past their high school English class style. “I” is never to be used. Sentences should never begin with “and.” We should all write an introduction, three supporting points, and a conclusion.
In those same classes, we’ve read short stories, poems, plays, and novels by writers who are remembered for their individual voices, wit, and wisdom. By using the foundation provided by your instructor to write a simple paper—one that gets you out of your own head without using “I” so often, remembering general rules of grammar, and following a logical path to support your argument from beginning to end—you’re off to a great start.
Now inject some of your personality into it. If it packs more of a punch to start a sentence with “or,” and if it makes more sense to tell your story from a first-person perspective, then do it! It’s your story—if you want to talk about your rainforest hike, then tell it the way you want to.
Think about your top five favorite writers. They don’t have to be literature giants, but they should be writers that you’ve enjoyed reading, whether it was just one work of theirs or several. Think about why you liked them, and ask yourself if there’s a common thread—for me, all of my favorites use simple language, and they’re honest and hilarious. Using your top five writers as a jumping-off point, think about what part of yourself they appeal to, and how you might like to augment that through your storytelling.
Write Something You’d Want to Read
I had an intern who’d been asked to read a few editorials, then write a response to them for publication. The first draft he turned in was…terrible. The topic interested him and he’d made some good points, but it read like he absolutely hated the assignment and just wanted to get it over with.
When I asked him to trash it and start over, the only advice I had was, “If you were to click on a link with this title, write the article you’d want to see after the jump.”
The next draft was his final one—it was ready to publish with very few edits. Once he stopped writing for the assignment and started writing for his audience (himself included), his article sounded less like he abhorred the topic and more like he had something to say.
Look at a travel story you’ve already written, whether it was a full story or an outline for one, and read it with fresh eyes. Ask yourself, “If this were published in a magazine, or a short story collection, or a travel blog, what would it have to say to keep my interest?”
Make a few edits or trash the whole thing if that’s what’s needed. Walk away for a little while, then look at it again and make some more edits if you need ’em. Keep doing it until you’ve written a story that you’re proud of—and that you know your readers will love as well!