Travels inspired by the Wombles

Friday, 18 November 2011

More travel writing tips passed on

Last time I promised to pass on some more comments made by well-known travel writer Andrew Eames at a book masterclass, so here goes...
  • All types of travel writing have in common a strong sense of place and a central narrator
  • The theme is crucial – it enables you and the reader to find something out
  • You can use backstory at points when there isn’t enough content about aspects of your journey
  • Ups and downs are important – they add interest
  • The five key elements – narrative, people, research, descriptive text, reflection/thoughts/views
  • Can you include some suspense somehow? Try to tease the reader into continuing to read
No doubt much of this is obvious when you think about it (as Einstein is supposed to have said, all good ideas are obvious in retrospect). But it's very useful to get reminded of all this stuff, especially by an established writer.

I found the comment about backstory interesting.  It's always a challenge to include some historical background in a travel narrative, without it coming across as the reading equivalent of cod liver oil.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Structure, structure, structure

As part of the planning for future books(!) I went to a book writing masterclass the other day. The course leader has a neat line in gentle, positive, constructive but incisive comment.
The course gives you the chance to pitch your idea for a travel book and to receive feedback to help you create a book proposal for agents and publishers. I thought it might be interesting for my reader if I shared some of the content from the masterclass (which comes recommended).
One of the crucial aspects of a book is structure. We learnt that the average length for a travel book is somewhere between 90,000-120,000 words and that, writing every day, it might take an average (very roughly) of 5-6 months to complete a first draft. Given the length of the publishing cycle, being over-topical might be a hindrance.
You can keep the reader's interest by writing out of chronological sequence and/or by having more than one strand to the narrative (which typically might be the actual journey and some type of inner/emotional journey). Ideally the different strands will be held together by a central theme and will come together at the end of the book.
The guest tutor was travel author Andrew Eames and, in the next blog entry, I'll say a little about his insights into themes, back stories, plot elements and the travel book market.