(LP at the Amber Fort, Jaipur)
Thanks to a productive day at last weekend’s BC Association of Travel Writer’s 2016 Symposium, I am feeling primed to continue planning and researching an article about walking options in the UK for a senior’s publication.
It’s been a while since any of my travel writing was published, but there’s nothing like hanging out with about 70 pros to be bitten afresh by the bug.
There was lots to adsorb during the day – industry insider information, contacts and connections to be renewed, and craft tips to revisit and absorb.
While little of what Keynote Speaker Lucas Aykroyd shared in his presentation was news, it was a great reminder of what it takes to get anywhere in the challenging world of travel writing…. and he delivered the presentation in an entertaining style, wearing a hockey sweater – hockey being just one of this versatile internationally-published writer’s specialities.
Here are Lucas’s tips, with my own ten cents-worth of commentary added.
Write what you care about
This might mean deciding where your passions are, and seeking out topics that relate to them… whether it’s parrots or hiking or children or fountains or street markets or walking or motorcycles or … Or it could mean digging deep into the subject to find something about it that resonates with you most strongly.
Itchen Navigation (Eastleigh to Winchester) Pic. L. Peterson
Write what’s topical
Make connections with what else is happening in the world now, and any upcoming milestones and events connected in any way with what you’re writing about and your destination. This a) helps sell the piece and b) allows the reader to connect what you’re writing about with the wider world.
Lucas did not mention the word ‘voice’ in his presentation. But as a fiction-writer I know how important a fresh, original voice is to a piece of writing. Also, think about how you will approach a topic, and look for a new angle or perspective on the topic, place or event. After all, there are very few places in the world that have not already been written about. The travel writer’s job is to offer the reader something new and different.
I think of this as keeping your antenna attuned to what’s happening, what’s trending, and occasionally adjusting plans to reflect or connect with what else is going on. It might even mean switching gears at the last minute to take advantage of something new and exciting that crops up during your visit.
Put yourself out there
This means using all the channels of social media, networking and personal interaction that you are comfortable with to create a presence or platform for you and your work. You might however need to be judicious about just how much info you put out there… You never know who’s looking.
Young workers at a brick factory, Rajasthan. Pic. L. Peterson
Inject a personal touch
If you can make some connection between what you are writing about and your own experience, your piece will resonate more strongly with the reader. Use humour, engaging storytelling techniques, and think of how you can connect the emotion in the piece to facts and hard information.
Be prepared to recycle
This does not necessarily mean finding new homes for old work. But much of the research, contacts and sometimes parts of the narrative that got jettisoned along the way can be used at other times in other ways for other projects. It’s all fodder.
Focus on craft
I would love every word, sentence, and paragraph of mine to sing. I’d like to be able to convey information in a way that engages, entertains and illuminates. I want every picture to amplify whatever I’m writing about. This takes work. Constant learning, relearning – and sometimes starting all over.
‘Chinatown Lonely’. Pic. L. Peterson