Weekly travel writing tip 4: Develop your own style |

Weekly travel writing tip 4: Develop your own style

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25 January 2010

Why your readers like what you write depends on several aspects. Maybe you provide information that can't be found anywhere else, maybe you have different theories than others - like different impressions of the bible - or maybe your information is not unique at all, but you write it down in a different way than others. People like reading your writings because of your content and your style.

The content part is quite self-explanatory, if you write an article about a new type of car, it will be read by people who are interested in cars in general or in that type of car in particular. But which exact content you use, depends on your style. Let us take the car story as an example, you could write it in a way that it's readable for a general public, discussing items like size, speed, possible colors, pro's and con's and comparisons to similar cars from another brand. These are the articles you will find in the weekend edition of your newspaper. On the other hand you could write a real technical story, talking about cylinders, fuel systems, catalytic converters, suspension or stability control - I don't have a single clue of what I'm talking about, I looked on the internet for fancy words - which would probably be published in some car magazine. Maybe you can only describe the pro's and let your article end up it the Driver's magazine of that specific company.

To find out which style of content you should go for, you need to have a good look at your target audience and at yourself.
Who do you want to reach?
Are you going for the masses or for the experts?
What do you know about the subject?
A non-professional trying to write a professional article can be very annoying and it's not because you know a lot of details about a part of your subject that you should write a very detailed article. For example, you know everything about Bach, Beethoven and Mozart, don't try to write a professional article about classical music. Either write a professional article about those composers or a general one about classical music - supposing you know at least a little bit of it.
When the person who started to read your "history of classical music" article finds out that you only gave a good description of three composers, and just named a couple of others, he'll stop reading and will likely never return to you for information. On the other hand if someone reads your "Short biography of Johann Sebastian Bach", he or she will be amazed about your knowledge and read some other stuff you've written.

Next to your style of content, you should develop a style of writing. First of all you need to figure out if you want to write stories or guides.
A guide contains descriptions of places, sights, hotels, restaurants and other similar stuff. This is pure non-fiction and its only purpose is to inform the reader. The text should be short and easy readable and should contain all the necessary information. Within minutes the reader should be able to decide which bus to take or which hotel to book a room in. Guidebook writing is a style on itself and there's not much room for using a different writing style.

If you want to write stories, you need to be able to create a story - Duh!. You need to create something that's entertaining and here the writing style is very important. If ten persons would spend a whole day together and write a story about it, there will never be ten similar stories, on the contrary there will be ten totally different stories with some resemblances. And as a result, the audience will be divided too. Suppose all ten persons have the same writer skills, then they will all get a part of the audience.
You need to have a look at yourself to determine your ideal writing style. Are you an optimist, a pessimist - bad times always make great stories, a funny guy, a researcher, a journalist, a biologist, a cynic - for example The Grumpy Traveller, a snob - I have never read a story about a snob gone backpacking, but in my head it sounds hilarious! - or a poet? Or maybe something completely different? Each of these characteristics form a different angle from which the story is written.
Like Nietzsche once said, every story has already been written, but not by you - these are not the exact words, but I forgot where I've read them and I can't find the actual quote on Internet.

Of course you can pick multiple styles as they more or less go together, you could for example be the optimistic journalist, the poetic researcher or the snobby cynic biologist. Just try to find out what fits best to your personally, and most important, stick to it! Once you've started, you cannot change your style because you have an audience to lose. if you would buy the new book of your favourite journalist and suddenly everything is described poetically, you will probably never by a book from him or her again.

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