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Monday, August 11, 2008

The Guardian summer holiday travel writing competition: a lesson in the harsh realities of travel writing

The Guardian's travel section is running a Summer Holiday Travel Writing Competition which for its runner-ups will also provide a very real (and for some, painful) introduction to the travel publishing industry and the role of the editor. Readers are asked to submit 500 words about their holiday and what made it special, providing as much detail as possible. The Guardian's travel editors will then choose the five best entries across five different categories, each of which will win their authors one of five holidays. And - lucky them! - they'll get their stories published in their entirety in the Guardian's travel section. No such dream prize for the runners-up, however... they'll have to make do with a hefty dose of reality. Each of their 500-word pieces will be edited down to 100 words by the travel editors. (Other entries will be uploaded to the readers' Been There tips section.) If you still want to be a travel writer after seeing your finely-crafted words whittled down to one fifth their original length, then you probably have what it takes to be a travel writer, so good on you. Go for it! If you find yourself in tears over how they've savaged your precious piece writing, then you'd better stick to short stories, poetry or simply postcards. As for the five winners... frame those pieces and enjoy them while you can. Because if you do go on to become a travel writer, rarely will your writing ever be published in its entirety again. Now, that's not always a bad thing either...

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