Last Sunday (17th March 2019), I attended The Art of Travel Writing with Brisbane Writers Workshop, run by the always amazing author, editor and director, Lauren Daniels.
It was my first travel writing workshop as I usually focus on fiction writing, but this time I wanted to branch out and learn how to put some of my travel experiences into stories and blogs. I wanted to learn how to write in a way that captures the imagination and inspires others to get out there and see the world too.
The workshop was small in numbers but big on inspiration and travel excitement.
I have to put a disclaimer right up front about my travel and writing. I confess I am not much of a traveller and so I am limited in my topic options, but am I?
I did go to the UK last year for the first time (if you read my blog regularly then you already know this) and I had so many amazing experiences which I still need to write about.
So, what did I learn and what can I share with you?
Here’s a limited list of travel writing tips inspired the travel writing workshop with Lauren Daniels, Brisbane Writers Workshop:
- Go travelling and take notes – lots of notes. Take a note book, a voice recorder, shoot video and take photos. This will help bring back memories of the experiences you had while on your trip.
- You’re not limited in your travel writing. Remember, you can write about your own home town and share your world with others who may want to visit your area.
- Journalling is an important daily writing practice for anyone who wants to develop their writing voice. It is a place to go where you can be safe and say whatever you want without anyone casting judgement. Writing in a journal is about creating a practice (or habit) that gets your brain switched on and ready to dig deep for writing. It is also a fabulous opportunity for you to work on developing your writing voice which is important for all types of writing, from non-fiction to fiction.
- Write about your experiences – the fantastic times, the hideous dark, and daring times because people love reading about how you handle the unexpected as well as the sweet.
- Use imagery in your writing. I’ve written blogs here that haven’t delved into imagery as much as I could have. It’s a way of showing your reader where you are and giving them a taste of the place you are visiting without them actually being there. I’m going to keep working on putting vivid imagery and sense in to my travel stories.
- Strive to be accurate in writing about places you visit. Remember there are a lot of people who love travelling and many will be familiar with the environment. It pays to double check facts and get nuances of your destination right.
- You can structure your travel writing stories in different ways such as starting in the middle of an action scene where you set the tone of the stories to come. This travel piece can be from half way through your trip. Then you go back to the beginning of your trip and write from there up to this scene, then go beyond it. It’s one of a number of ways to structure your travel writing stories.
There were mountains of tips, tricks and ideas shared by Lauren Daniels and the participants. I was swept away with the travel ideas and itineraries of those who are planning round the world adventures myself.
We did writing exercises too. I had so much fun with one which was centred around the idea of: “I remember…” then start writing.
The prompt I chose was “Once, I got lost…”
I wrote this piece in long hand in my study journal and I wanted to share it here.
Once, in Oxford, I got lost.
Lunchtime had come around and my writing class had dispersed like ravens into the sky. The traffic hummed with cars, taxis and double-decker sight-seeing buses. Even in the overcast grey of the day, tourists sat on the top deck clicking with their camera phones.
A little lonely, I wandered down a side street admiring the old homes. I notices a security camera over a front door and thought nothing of it. But I should have thought more.
A right turn and down the lane a tiny church sat hunched over itself, surrounded by crooked grave stones with weather worn epitaphs.
It looked safe enough.
Tall trees loomed over the graves and I wandered down the winding path, snapping photos for my memory files.
The air around me stilled. Birds that had chirped stilled. Something unseen touched me, made me turn around.
Two men. Worn clothes. Shaggy beards.
They blocked the path and the entrance to the street.
I glanced right.
Where did the path go?
Was I trapped?
My heart tripped.
The men grew silent and drew closer.
No time to think. I clutched my phone, turned and rant to the back of the church, praying for a way out.
Relief flooded me. An open gate. My heart thundered in my ears. Fear pumped through my legs, giving me the super speed for my body to beat a path to the safety of the street.
I glanced back, heaving heavy breaths. They followed.
I swung right and ran for the main road.
I should have noted the security camera. I’d learned to value the signs.
When I wrote that piece, my heart tripped just as fast in my chest as it had the day that I’d been alone in that cemetery. It was my first trip to Oxford and I’d been having a great time, but I wanted some alone time. That day, I chose to wander on my own and even if they two men meant no harm, the experience still gave me a fright.
I made sure I stayed with people from the course from then on. I’d returned to my class with my heart pounding in my ears and my breath still heaving. My hands shook and I had to write a scene for my novel. It took all my focus to compartmentalise the experience I’d just had and do the writing exercise instead.
Oxford was still fantastic, but I was more aware of my surrounding than I had been before that event. I guess these experiences are part of the adventure of travelling.
Until next time, all the best with your writing, art and creative expression.