Anyone who’s ever run a blog, travel themed or not, knows that it takes a lot of time and work to make it a place where readers want to return again and again.
Promotion on social media, managing your comments, networking, photo editing… It’s demanding just to simply get the word out there.
So when it comes to sitting down and writing your next blog post, you may feel uninspired and not sure where to start – and travel topics are often multi-layered and extra challenging.
I was in the same boat, so I decided to do something about it – and developed these five tactics to better travel writing. No more staring at the wall for me! *win*
Try some of them out (or all of them, why not?) – you can do it today! – and I can’t wait to hear from you and hear your thoughts!
Take lots of notes
This one is kind of obvious and should come paired with common sense. Yet a lot of travel storytellers – including me – forget about it, or are just having too much fun on their trips to be bothered.
But I’m telling you: take LOADS of notes on your trips. It doesn’t need to be anything super articulate; just jot down a few points about things you’ve experienced and food you’ve tried. Write down how something about this new place made you feel.
I have a tendency to forget some pieces of information that would significantly help later when I’m writing. Even just opening the Notes app on my phone to take note of, for example, a street name, helps tremendously.
Another useful thing you can do is to enable the location settings on your phone. Your phone is then able to save metadata in your photos that will later allow you to locate every single thing you took a photo of!
Just generally taking lots of photos has been a lifesaver in the past when I forget to pay enough attention to writing down my itineraries. Date and time on each photo literally help map EVERYTHING out!
Separate your writing from your editing process
It took me a very long time to realize this: spitting your words on an empty screen and immediately trying to make them perfect and ready for publishing leads to A LOT of frustration and unproductive writing.
When you do that, you mix two very separate and unique processes. The more you differentiate them, the better.
Instead of trying to win at my first attempt, this is what I do now:
- When I get an idea for a blog post, I write down a working title and several (quite vague) bullet points that cover the main points of my topic. These, after being rewritten, later play the role of subheadings!
- I usually spend a few days thinking and brainstorming this topic, and if necessary, I do my research and fact checking.
- ONLY THEN I start writing, and I just write. I don’t go back to rethink a certain point, I don’t try to source images and links, and I don’t dwell on a half-sentence to figure out how to complete it. I leave a note to myself that I need to come back to this, and I move on.
- This results in what Ann Hadley calls The Ugly First Draft (TUFL). It’s scary at first, and you may think that this will worsen your writing. It’s the exact opposite: you just threw all the mess out of your head, and now it’s time to make something amazing out of it.
- I usually like to sleep on my TUFL and come back to editing it the day after. Sometimes I’ll do it right after, but there is something deliberating in just putting it all on ‘paper’ and walking away from it for a day.
- Then I come back to my piece of writing and turn it into awesomeness. It is in this part of the process where I’ll do all the fixing, rewriting, looking for another word, linking, and all the other sweet editing bits.
This process has allowed me to write faster, with more clarity, and with an incredible piece of mind because dwelling over each word now happens in a dedicated process.
Try it. Seriously, just take whichever idea for a travel blog post you came up with recently, and write it following these steps. Let me know how it went!
Hire your new best editor: Grammarly
I’m still not sure how did I ever come across Grammarly, I just know I’m madly grateful I did.
In short: Grammarly is your new proofreader. Let’s for a second forget we’re talking about travel writing, because I’ve activated it practically everywhere I write anything.
This includes any writing within Chrome browser (including your emails, WordPress and nearly any other text field) and MS Office, meaning that, when typing my emails, I’ll never write ‘He’s went for a coffee run’ to a colleague in work because that dumb mistake will turn completely red.
And I do make dumb mistakes occasionally when my brain decides to go on a tropical beach while I’m powering through my 9th hour of work that day.
I’ve started using Grammarly for free sometime last year. Being a non-native English speaker and writer, I need a nudge when I use a redundant word, put it in the wrong form, use a comma where I don’t need it, or when I simply misspell something.
(I recently did an audit of all my blog posts, and the number of times I’ve spelled ‘accommodation’ wrong is a bit embarrassing.)
Also, Grammarly notices when I’m using incorrect verb forms, when I skip a comma, misuse a colon or forget to use an article. All on the free version!
I decided it’s time for the premium version when I noticed the number of advanced issues I tend to make (Grammarly shows you this number on the free version, but won’t display the actual issues).
So repetitive and overused words, wordiness, too much passive voice and unclear prepositions and modifiers are not my problem anymore!
And while the premium version may be something you don’t need just yet (or ever), I definitely recommend trying out the free one. You’ll get hooked, and improve your writing right away!
Your writing skill needs constant sharpening
Another silly thing I used to do is believe that by being a good writer, my work on improving it is done, and I’m as good as I’ll ever be.
Ironically, during my handball years, I always said you can’t be a talented handball player and simply rely on it without hard work. Same goes for running.
But I somehow thought that my writing talent and passion are enough.
No way I’m alone in this. Am I?
So then I got it: I need to work on it as if it was a set of muscles. Every. Single. Day.
How do I do that? In two seemingly simple, yet incredibly important ways:
I write every day
It drives me insane to think that I used to say I’m a writer, but I only wrote once or twice a week, or, to be more precise, ‘when I felt like writing’. If I was an Olympic runner, would I only run once a week? Hell no. Because then I wouldn’t be an Olympic runner.
Now, don’t be fooled into thinking I write 4000-word essays every day (I wish, though). Every little writing counts, and I aim to write for at least 15 to 30 minutes daily.
PRO TIP: A fantastic resource for writing every day is a free eBook by Pernille Norregaard called The Divine Guide to Creating a Daily Writing Practice. Even if you don’t own a Kindle eReader, you can still read it using the free Kindle reading app!
Know that this isn’t necessarily writing I’ll use in my blog posts; it’s simply a habit of putting my thoughts on ‘paper’, unfiltered. It helps to have a specific topic or blog post in mind, but it’s not a prerequisite, and simply throwing out those few hundred words out of your brain is SO deliberating.
And you may find yourself wanting to still write after the 15 or 30 minutes are over, and that’s when all the fun begins.
I read every day
Some people hate reading, and would rather watch a video or listen to a podcast (or do none of those things, which is also fair).
However, I don’t think it’s easily (or at all) achievable to nail your thoughts and form them the way you wish unless you read often. It’s like trying to be a stellar movie producer, but you couldn’t be bothered to watch an actual movie (like, ever).
My reading efforts go between reading blog posts on interesting topics (which, in my case, varies from travel to startups to marketing to 100-kilometer running), books on writing, and business/entrepreneurship/self-development books.
This yields two main points: I read to expand my vocabulary and expressions by learning about interesting ideas and events, and I read specific how-to-be-a-better-writer books and publications.
The former I’ve been doing since I can remember, but I’m only doing the latter after making a conscious decision to improve my writing.
I know of people who laugh at me for reading books on writing (quote: ‘That’s kind of a funny concept, isn’t it?’), but let me tell you – you can only get better at something by doing two critical things about it: practice it daily, and learn about it from those who crush it daily.
If you’re looking for a point to start from, here are my two favorites that have a special place on my bookshelf:
- Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer – It’s actually 55, and they are invaluable tactics and aspects when approaching your writing. Divided into ‘nuts and bolts’, special effects, blueprints and habits, this book has helped me look at my writing from a whole new perspective. I also had a few lightbulb moments and nearly fell off my chair.
— Marijana Kostelac (@MarijanaKay) February 17, 2017
- Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content – Ann is probably the most amusing marketing writer I’ve come across. She cleverly teaches about content creation in the digital world and covers all facets of it, from blogs and websites to social media and marketing copy. She’ll make you write really well, and make you laugh in the process.
Think of your ultimate goal
Even though I suggested a somewhat opposite strategy a minute ago, I encourage you to think about something else now.
Yes, I want you to write daily, and I genuinely believe you should do it whether you feel like it or not and whether you know what to write about or not.
But in the big picture, know who you ultimately want to write for, and what do you want them to read and go ‘Oh my, NOW I get it!’.
Define the person you know will be at the opposite end of every piece of content you create, eagerly waiting for your posts. Come up with a name for this person, their surrounding, their problems and the reasons they need EXACTLY what you’re writing.
For example, I recently wrote a blog post about choosing Airbnb instead of a hotel. I knew that the person who will most appreciate it is a traveler who wants an authentic travel experience, and she wants to stay healthy, happy, unstressed and connected to the local community.
And for this exact reason, my post resonated with travelers on the lookout for such experience, which definitely wouldn’t have happened if I just listed some vague statements about people renting on Airbnb.
You can use this right away when starting to brainstorm your new post, but you can also go back to your previous pieces of writing and tweak them to make them specific for that ideal reader of yours.
That’s it! Have you tried any of these already? Do you want to add any to the list? Let me know!
*Some of the links I shared in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through these links I get a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use myself and firmly believe in.