Hopefully, with my last
rant inspirational post about Why Travel Blogs Suck, you’ve gotten serious about playing with the big kids and delved into being more awesome. Hooray!
Your friendly neighborhood fairy goblin is here to remind you of one teeny, tiny, little problem. Just because you’re a blogger, doesn’t mean people are going to instantly cling to every word and thirst for more. If the world looked like that, I would be making six figures, but I digress. To write great blog content, your words need to have impact on your reader. You need to gain trust and make your creations so enticing, they’ll hunger for it like a pack of ravenous tourists after a night of binge drinking. Stay tuned as I guide you along how to write great content for your travel blog.
If you’re interested in following my Blarch Festa, check out the complete list.
March 3: Why Travel Blogs Suck
March 17: How to take Badass Travel Photography
Find Your Audience
Do you want success or be a minuscule presence in a microscopic corner of the internet forever? If the light side of the Force is your desire, by all means continue young padiwon.
The number one way to ensure boiling someone’s potatoes is to opt for an online travel diary. Sure, it’s all fun and games at first, but you wanna know the ugly truth? People get jealous or bored and stop reading your blog (except for your mom).
To go hard and up the ante, it’s time to buck the fuck up, porkchop and ask these questions:
- What problem am I trying to solve?
- Who is reading my travel blog?
- Who is my competition?
- What does my reader gain by investing in me?
To answer lucky question number one, you’re trying to establish yourself as a travel know all in world, Europe, North America, South America, etc. Decide why your writing deserves a prominent space on the net. For example, my writing deserves a space on the internet because I’ve been an expat in Japan and now am one in Korea. I’m in two popular Asian countries with awesome destinations and I know my way around like a local would. Aka my advice is invaluable.
And onto lucky question numero dos!
Alas, Google Analytics can easily solve this problem. By looking at your audience’s age range, sex and country you can define who is reading your blog and cater to their needs. Suppose your primary audience is from America and X blog post is doing well, try to write similar content they will enjoy and eat up.
As for numero tres…
Take an afternoon to browse and read amazing travel bloggers and observe how they make it work. Look at their writing style, their voice, and what kind of audience they attract.
The last and most important question is one your reader will ask immediately, “What do you have to offer me?” This is the part where you try to find balance between what your audience cares about and what you love to write about, which brings me to my next point…
Plan Your Shit
Think about it, did Rome get anywhere without a plan? Even mundane Saturday errands take planning. If you’re good enough to get by without a plan, by all means, step aside honey boo boo, but if not, stay tuned. Your ideas are sacred and need a place to live before your short term memory does away with them. Don’t wait to record them on your phone or notepad immediately or it will escape you forever. So what should you write when an idea strikes?
- Write what inspired you, be it a Facebook article or Twitter post.
- Where you were when said inspiration hit so maybe that place/person/thing can be your muse later.
- Record all key messages for your future post.
Crucial Point: Whatever you do, DON’T EDIT OR OVERTHINK. Spelling, grammar, punctuation? You can save frantic headless chicken antics when you write the actual blog post, but when you’re inspired, let it all out.
You’ve word vomited all your ideas out onto the paper, but you’re far from done. Put on your mad scientist goggles because it’s time to research. This is essential with any piece of writing. Remember Wikipedia knows nothing and neither does John Snow. Writing is both a skill sharpening and learning experience.
A wise professor once told me, “Write about what you want to know more about.” Use your curiosity about your interests and passions to fuel an amazing post. Part of the reason school sucks is because it doesn’t cater to our innate desires. Don’t write about something you dislike because it’s easily revealed in your writing.
Discover Your Voice
If you’re not funny, don’t force it, or if you want to be funny, study bloggers that are. Reading is key to honing your writing. Read great travel bloggers and great literature. This excludes crap like Twilight and 50 Shades of Gray, but this is clearly biased. The more styles you’re familiar with, the easier to discover what comes naturally. If you don’t know who you are, how will your audience know? I highly recommend taking the 16 Personalities Test to understand yourself.
But you’re probably thinking: “I work so hard on my blog posts. I’ve looked it over a million times, polished my sentences, and made sure every word was perfect! I’ve done a stupendous job.” Let me ask you, does your writing sound like you?
I’m going to beat this into your head a bazillion times so if you take nothing from me, take this: Writing is a skill. Like a tool in the shed, it needs to be used and polished otherwise it will rust and turn to shit.
I’ll give you a personal anecdote and example by sharing my earlier writing as Gina Bear in Japan. Feel free to side eye because I’m judging it harder.
“In Japan, it isn’t illegal to drink on the street or be passed out. I’m digging the part where I crack open booze on the street and not get arrested. We sang karaoke all night long because it was “free time.” As if karaoking all night wasn’t enough, my new-found Oki JET friends and I decided celebratory morning mimosas in front of the convenience store would be a great life choice before stumbling into breakfast smelling like the night before.”
Notice how it just rambles on and you’re left saying, “So what?” You’re not gaining anything besides reading about a girl, running toasted around Tokyo during JET Tokyo Orientation, who then stumbled into breakfast with clothes smelling of cigarettes and bad decisions from the previous night. Unless you know me, you’ll think it’s funny, but if you don’t know me, you’re going to get annoyed. How could this post have been made better (besides not writing it)? I could have talked about how to spend an enticing night out in Tokyo Japanese style and added in my own experience for a touch of voice.
(P.s. Don’t bother looking for this one because I deleted it a long time ago. Nice try. ;))
Now, let’s examine a Eight Things You Need to Know About Mountain Batur Sunrise Trekking:
“If you want a selfie with one [a monkey] on your head then go for it, but they are terrible little creatures. Be aware monkeys bite and can get aggressive. They will steal your food, your water, or anything else loose and dangling. One was so bold as to stalk me just to steal my hand sanitizer. Cheeky little shit.”
How is this post different from my earlier one? Well, for one, my voice is clearly there. I’m giving advice on what to expect while climbing Mountain Batur in Bali. By informing the audience about my experience, they’ll know about monkey mischief if you get close. When writing, make sure you keep these things in mind:
- Be concise and present your thoughts clearly. Don’t blabber.
- Appeal to your reader by answering their burning questions and desires.
- Paint clear pictures by using emotion and sensory triggers.
- Have rhythm and leave the monotone behind.
I’m not gonna lie, my #1 blog post, Dating in Korea 101: Where to meet Korean fellas, how to get them to make the first move and more is banking off a problem womankind has had since the dawn of time—dating the male species. Korea’s number one export is entertainment. Kpop and Kdramas are dominating the globe bringing forth the desire to date Koreans. I found a problem and I’m solving it which appeals to my audience. I established myself as an expert in what I’m talking about since I had a Korean boyfriend and I ran in crowds where significant others were Korean men.
Are there posts talking about the same content? Yes, but I stand out with an intriguing title. Boom.
Let’s look at my friend Soraya’s title, 9 Worthwhile & Enchanting Excitements in Cameron Highlands. There’s hundreds of posts about the Cameron Highlands but how does she differ from the rest? She makes the title compelling. I’d rather read Soraya’s post rather than Sally’s post titled, Things I Loved About the Cameron Highlands. *Cue IDGARA from Patch Adams*
Which brings me back to one of my earlier points. No one cares about what Sally loved in the Cameron Highlands. Readers want to know what’s available and pick things they’ll like.
You know how I said you have five seconds to dazzle the pants off your audience? That’s the #truth. We live in a time where delivery is faster than going out. If you want to charm your potential audience, keep these things in mind:
- Create a short first sentence.
- Say something witty or unusual.
- Keep the introduction brief.
- Use the some form of ‘you’ to appease your audience.
- Explain why your article is important.
- Refer to a problem your readers might have and don’t tell stories.
Simple enough, right? You want to be short enough to be entertaining but not too long and make sure your voice is clear. Take Glo’s example from How I’m Finally Mastering A Foreign Language, And How You Can Too:
“There is absolutely nothing sexier than speaking a second language. To me, it’s the closest thing we’ll ever get to having a super power.
People who speak more than one language are able to connect with more people, have more professional opportunities, and develop a newfound confidence that only comes when you’ve mastered a language other than your native tongue.”
Observe how Glo immediately appeases her audience by telling them why her article on learning a second language is important and how her advice will benefit them. Her first sentence is kept short followed by something witty. #winning
Let’s take another example from Alyssa on 10 Best Stops on Sri Lanka’s Scenic Train Route:
“If you’re thinking of doing Sri Lanka’s scenic train route, you’ve definitely come to the right place! To sum Sri Lanka up in a coconut shell, it’s pretty much the most perfect little island country to take a scenic train route around. Train tickets only cost a couple dollars, if that, and it doesn’t even matter if you have your own seat, because hanging out of the doorways is way more fun!”
Any travel blogger in Asia has most likely heard about the epic train ride from Kolombo to Kandy to Ella. Alyssa opens up with something witty and captures your attention. If cost is an issue, she’s got that down and looks at the bright side of sitting in the doorway. She speaks directly to you and is looking to solve your train debacle.
Take this last example from Linda on The Best Travel Hairstyles for Girls on the Road:
“Let’s be real. It’s not easy to look flawless when traveling. Once, I was traveling in humid Laos and perfectly straightened my hair. Cue the horror music because 2 minutes later I looked in the mirror and found myself looking like a fuzzy mess. You know those cute little Pomeranians with bows in their hair? Yeah, I looked like that and the opposite of cute. So I set out on a quest to defy this hair madness once and for all. Those Pomeranian days are over – learn how to look flawless while globe trotting with the best travel hairstyles!”
Linda’s first sentence immediately grabs attention because it sounds like she’s about to be super honest with me. She talks about a personal anecdote, makes a joke, and addresses a problem many female travelers have when tackling their luscious locks. Within the first paragraph you feel like Linda’s best friend.
What do these ladies have in common? They’re all addressing their audience’s problems and offering ways to solve them by using their voices and advice.
Spelling & Writing Tips
As head honcho of our brands, we’re responsible for ensuring we don’t share crap and believe me, there’s a shit ton. See what I did there? (Insert crying laughing emoji.) Before we go further examine these two tips carefully:
- Always use the ABC spell checker in your toolbar like your life depends on it.
- Read your post out loud to check for awkwardness and flow.
- Show don’t tell.
- Keep the same tone throughout your piece. (If you’ve chosen sarcasm, you better be sarcastic to the end.)
Phew. Now that’s out of the way let’s go into some other mistakes you can easily avoid in your writing.
Abstain from filler words like that, like, so, but, and then. Don’t use the same word more than once in a sentence. There are always exceptions, but your writing will flow better if you follow this simple step. Challenge yourself by finding words to replace common ones. Read your sentence and delete a word. If the sentence stands without it, omit it completely.
Avoid redundant expressions at all costs. Take this example:
As soon as they broke up, she reverted back to her usual cheery self.
This is an example of how the same word is used twice. Revert means to return to a previous state. Since she’s already going back to the way things were, there’s no need for the adverb, back. The following sentence would be better like so:
As soon as they broke up, she reverted to her usual cheery self.
Any English major actually takes joy in yammering about spelling, grammar and writing tips, but here are some Gina Bear approved trusty writing resources if you’re serious about becoming awesome. (I believe English majors are super twisted inside to actually enjoy grammar books.)
- Chicago Manual of Style (I’m not biased or anything…)
- Grammatically Correct
- Merriam Webster
- Purdue Owl
Be Honest & Yourself
There was a time I was terrified to show people who I really was on the internet. There’s billions of people on this planet. Who knew what keyboard warrior would be waiting to tear me a new one? You know what I learned after YouTube and a few years of blogging? People who take time to compose nasty and rude comments are jealous and have nothing better to do with their day.
Remember, people who criticize cannot harm those who create without their permission.
And you wanna know something else? Fuck all the haters sippin on that Haterade.
If you’re creating content to help others and have an honest opinion someone wants to attack, then it’s as easy as deleting and blocking. It took them however long to write said nasty comment and ten seconds to delete and block. Who has the last laugh now? They just wasted their time and you took care of the problem indefinitely. Keep in mind readers are allowed opposing opinions, as long as they present them in a respectful way. Don’t get butt hurt because someone doesn’t agree with you. Just check out the comments on Cheating in Japan.
When you travel, there will be doors slamming in your face. Yes, you might fall off your scooter in the Lao countryside and almost break an arm. It’s okay to write about that negative experience as long as you find humor, a way to connect to your audience, and offer advice.
What should you do if you encounter said bad situation?
- Write down what’s up and how the problem can be solved.
- Avoid being a Negative Nancy.
Life is a journey and it takes time to find yourself and what makes you unique. It’s also okay to mimic styles of the greats because it helps define your style. All amazing authors have done it and you can too. It can take some people months and others years to find their voice and themselves on a public platform. If you practice and put in the dedication, it will come to you.
Don’t Write the Same Shit as Everyone Else
Does anyone remember that awful article, 23 Things You Should Do at 23 Instead of Getting Married? Yeah, I hated that post for so many reasons, but the aftermath of that was even more horrifying with everyone and their mother writing about the same thing (myself included).
Just. Don’t. Do it.
How are you going to stand out in the sea of craziness when everyone is writing their own take on it? How are you going to showcase your voice? Unless you have something new to offer, you either agree or disagree. There’s no in between.
It may be in your voice and style but are you special? Nope, because you didn’t think of it first which makes you unoriginal.
Write a Kick Ass Conclusion
This is the part where you round everything up and bring it back to center. Well, damn, Gina Bear, what do we put in a conclusion?
- Your main point should be clear and rephrased.
- You accomplished your goal by solving said problem.
- You’ve established yourself as an authority on the topic you wrote about.
Make sure your main point is put in a way that isn’t a replica of what you were writing at the beginning. Every time you write, always play the “so what?” game. Why should anyone care and what are they getting out of this article? Your conclusion is where you go full circle and show your reader your points and how they fit with your examples.
If you started your introduction with humor, sarcasm or an interesting fact, it better go out the same way you pranced in or so help me, this fairy goblin is going rearrange your lawn gnomes or kitchen. Dun, dun, dun…
Now that we’re coming full circle, let’s go back to Glo and language learning.
“I consider myself about 60% fluent in the Spanish language, both in speaking and listening (this number goes up and down in relation to my sangria intake, but I digress)… There’s no magic to it—you simply must take the time to talk to a native speaker if you’re truly serious about learning that second language.”
In her conclusion, she’s leaving it the way she came in—with a sense of humor. She sums up all her points and establishes herself as an authority because of her fluency level.
Looking at Linda’s conclusion from her best travel hairstyles piece she leaves her conclusion very simple, sweet with a tinge of humor. After giving multiple hairstyles to choose from Linda writes:
“And if everything fails… maybe this is the perfect opportunity to go channel your inner Britney or Natalie.”
The trick is to find a way to restate everything without sounding redundant. Be sure not to bring in new information and have fun. Think of your conclusion the same way you would end a conversation with a good friend.
Speaking of channeling our inner Britney, don’t let your writing, organization, wowless factor spiral you into a hot mess. She turned herself around, now get to work, bitch.
A piece of writing is never finished, only abandoned. With writing, you can only do so much before you decide to give up. Great blogs thrive on the fact they’ve accomplished what they set out to do by filling the cravings of their audience. Think of travel writing like a fantastic hamburger. You know, like the kind requiring a giant toothpick to stay together. A fresh introduction is as invaluable as perfectly toasted buns. Build your audience’s appetite with action packed titles and your voice before they sink their teeth into the meat that satisfies their hunger. Make them want to keep coming back for more.
Next week, we’ll be covering how to take bad ass travel photography and everything you need to know about how I take mine. Sound like fun? I sure think so! As always, don’t forget to subscribe to my email list and never miss a post from my Blarch Festa!