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On-the-ground reports from the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop in Denver

Since you couldn’t be with us in Colorado for our workshop, I asked David Morgan – a freelance writer and photographer – to fill you in on what we’ve learned. You’ll find his report here below.

–Lori Appling
Director, Great Escape Publishing

Another day of the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop has ended, bringing us more details and insight into how to succeed as travel writers, even if we’ve never written much more than a postcard before.

It’s not often that the “old hands” of professional travel writing will spill the hard-earned secrets to their success, especially to people they don’t even know. Conventional wisdom tells us that travel writing is highly competitive, and whatever secrets you may have that give you an edge should be guarded.

And yet, here in Denver, seasoned writers have openly and without reservation shared one tool and technique after the next… tricks they learned the hard way through trial and error.

Put these techniques to work in your own writing today, and you can take months and even years off the so-called “learning curve.” That would mean more travel in your near future. To better destinations. And even at a discount… if not “on the house.”

You could even turn these new travel experiences into paychecks and a by-line.

But how could you do all this if you’re not here in Denver with us at the 2006 Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop?

For starters, please keep reading. I’m going to report a writing tip that I learned earlier today that may very well revolutionize the way you write.

And even better, I’m going to tell you how you can get every travel writing secret that’s been shared here delivered online for you to absorb at your own convenience.

First of all, in case you missed yesterday’s dispatch from our workshop in Denver, my name is David Morgan. I’m writing “live” from the conference to share with you tidbits of travel-writing wisdom that you can put to work immediately.

Even though I write for a living and also have been known to get a travel article or photograph published on occasion, I can’t get over how much I’ve learned here just by mixing and mingling with this panel of travel experts… a travel humor columnist… a European travel editor… a Lonely Planet photographer… a freelance photojournalist who shoots for National Geographic… and that’s just for starters. I wish you could have been here to experience this for yourself. But since you couldn’t….

Here’s your second free writing tip of the 2006 Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop in Denver: How “I” can kill your travel writing dreams.

(For your first free writing tip, check your in-box for yesterday’s email dispatch.)

Now, when I say that “I” can kill your travel-writing dreams, I don’t mean me personally. I’d love for you to live out your dreams of being a travel writer or whatever else it is you want from life.

No, I’m talking about the overuse of the pronoun “I” in your travel articles.

Kyle Wagner, travel editor of Colorado’s own Denver Post, shared that she receives far too many article manuscripts that center on the writer instead of the destination. She recommended that you delete the word “I” from your travel articles wherever possible.

Here’s the example she used: “I watched the turtle cross the dirt road.” (Of course I did. I was there, and I’m the one writing about it.)

Try this instead: “The turtle crossed the dirt road.” Even better, “The turtle scratched its way across the bare patch of dust that villagers dared call a highway.”

When you take the word “I” out of your article, you open the way for more vivid story-telling. You are still a part of the story, for you are the “witness,” if you will, interpreting the scene for your reader. But you’re also allowing something else to happen…

Generally speaking, your reader will be more interested in the location of your travel article and how you describe that place than they are in you yourself. Nothing personal. It’s just the way it is.

Think about it: Would you rather read a description that brings a vivid image to your mind’s eye of some exotic place (and you begin to imagine that you are the one experiencing that place)…or would you rather read the checklist of what some guy you don’t know did on his family vacation?

That’s often the difference between good travel writing and mediocre (or unreadable) travel writing.

There are exceptions of course. An exceptionally skilled writer can pull off a serious travel narrative or “travelogue,” using his or her own character as the focal point of the article, and the travel destination becomes almost secondary to the story.

This is difficult to do successfully, and writers new to the travel market would do well to wait until they’re more established before attempting to sell such an article.

Stan Sinberg, our travel humorist, was quick to object, pointing out that using the “I” perspective can add tremendously to humor pieces. An example he used was an imaginary article titled, “25 Places I Can’t Go Anymore.” Most all of us have places we’d be too embarrassed to show our face again, and I’d certainly rather get a laugh from reading about yours than to tell you about mine

And humor articles, by the way, sell well. However, when it comes to more mainstream consumer-oriented travel articles, you’d do well to delete your “I”s and put vivid descriptions in their place.

I’ll share more with you tomorrow.

Until then,

David Morgan
Freelance writer and photographer

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]