Friday, July 8, 2005

Advice for Prospective Travel Writers

Travel Writer with Machine Gun

Here's the basics for anyone who wishes to be a succesful travel writer.

Good travel writing is done by good writers who travel. It is not enough to have swum through piranha-infested waters to the source of the Amazon. You must be able to write well to convey that experience. When you have learned the craft of writing, you can make a stroll through your own suburban neighborhood seem interesting, even exciting. Good travel writing needs much the same ingredients as any good story -- narrative, drive, characters, dialogue, atmosphere, revelation. Make it personal. Let the reader know how the place and the experience are affecting you.

"Good travel writing is just good writing. It must have literary merit. The most important journey you will make as a travel writer is the journey of a good sentence. Without that, you close encounter with the piranhas is wasted.

"Bad travel writing is done by travelers, often good travelers, who mistakenly believe they can write. There seems to be an awful lot of them about. Their prose is littered with clich├ęs, their sense of narrative timing is inept and their characters, whether themselves or people they encounter, are clumsily portrayed. Too many travel writers seem to believe that the journey 'makes' the story. It doesn't. In the end, anyone can travel to Timbuktu, but only a few people will write about the journey well."

--Stanley Stewart, in Don George's Travel Writing (2005)

Rolf Potts, Stanley Stewart, Don George

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