Travel writing tips from the experts

Our team of travel writers and editors share their pearls of writing wisdom so you can swot up ahead of entering our annual Travel Writing Competition.

By National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Published 9 Apr 2019, 00:04 BST, Updated 14 Jul 2021, 12:38 BST
Travel writing

Travel writing.

Photograph by Istock Photo

Any travel writer will tell you that starting out is no easy feat. Where do you begin? How do you decide what to include and what to leave out in your story? How do you strike a balance between narrator and spectator? Here, the expert team at National Geographic Traveller (UK) share their top tips when it comes to putting pen to paper.

1. Maria Pieri, editorial director

"What's your story? Do you believe it's something only you can tell? Find a story that resonates with you and that you believe in. That's half the battle. There's an art in using that passion — that killer story only you can tell — to enable you to create a narrative that will (hopefully) engage and entertain the reader or editor."

2. Pat Riddell, editor

"Stay focused. What you leave out is often more important than what you leave in. The art of self-editing isn't something to be ignored. Keeping a story tightly focused is far better than including everything you see and do on your travels. So be ruthless with your words — write, rewrite and rewrite again."
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3. Stephanie Cavagnaro, former deputy editor

"Talk to locals. Giving voice to characters you meet can often bring a location to life. Guides are especially useful to quote facts or history that you may not have the credibility to explain yourself. Ask as many questions as possible, and seek out people who suit your angle — if you're writing about tango in Buenos Aires, for example, interview a dancer."
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4. Sarah Barrell, associate editor

"Imagine yourself as film director. Begin your story with a sharp close-up on something notably interesting — a baker kneading bread in the window or a sunbathing lion stretching out his paws, for example — then pan out to the wider landscape of your piece. If you come back to this beginning, in some way, it can help shape that tricky conclusion at the end."
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5. Glen Mutel, executive editor

"Read your work aloud. Whenever you think you've finished writing, read your work back to yourself, but out loud. It's a great way of picking out flaws in your writing that you might otherwise have missed. Repetition, clumsy phrasing, cliche, overlong sentences, over writing — all these things tend to reveal themselves when you actually read your work aloud."
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6. Emma Thomson, freelance travel writer

"When it comes to writing my story, I need to nail the intro first before the rest of the piece flows. I think a good tip is to jot down all the 'stand out' moments off the top of your head. It's a great way of filtering out the more mundane, less interesting parts of your trip so you're left with the golden nuggets that can be strung together to make a great story."
Follow @emmasthomson

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