This is the final installment of my Travels in Europe series.
I spent five months roaming around the continent, taking prolific notes and mental snapshots of my experiences, which included pruning fig trees in Andalucia, searching for ancestors in southern Italy and witnessing Easter Week in Poland. The memories and moments are plentiful, as are new friends and fresh perspectives from this corner of the world.
The next step is to see if any of my stories hold meaning for a wider audience, and if I’m up to the challenges and hard work required to discover this. I know I’m a decent writer, but will I be able to create anything truly worthwhile that others might benefit from reading? The extended travel is over (for now) but the writing journey has just begun.
This past December, I met up with Jen Leo in Portland for a mentoring session. We discussed the pros and cons of guidebook writing, and reviewed strategies for crafting good query letters. Although I was not planning to work much while traveling, it was excellent to have this conversation before I set out for Europe. The most valuable advice Jen shared with me was an easy three-step process for beginning travel writers to follow. Here are her tips and how I’m putting them into play:
Step #1: Practice, Practice, Practice!
Commit to a regular block of time when you will write each day. And stick to it. Be disciplined and diligent.
[Steps I’ve Taken: I’m writing every day, but I still haven’t carved out a steady routine.]
Step #2: Read, Read, Read!
If you’re reading enough, then surely you’ve already read that the only way to improve your writing is to read and then read some more! (got that?)
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[Steps I’ve Taken: Within days of returning from Europe I devoured The Best American Travel Writing 2000. The stories and essays inspired me to get serious about figuring out what I could share from my own travel experiences. Next up I read Don George’s Travel Writing, which I purposely bought before I left on my trip so it would be waiting for me upon my return.]
Step #3: Take Classes
Writers have different opinions on whether or not classes are necessary, but I find that the structure and routine they offer are invaluable to me at this stage of my writing life. Jen suggested a multi-level approach to formal instruction:
*First, take a basic travel writing class, like the one-day workshops we often mention on Written Road.
[Steps I’ve Taken: Several years ago I took an introductory class with L. Peat O’Neil, author of Travel Writing, See the World, Sell the Story]
*Second, within three months of coming back from any trip from which you wish to generate stories, take some kind of ongoing writing class. A 6-8 week course is ideal.
[Steps I’ve Taken: I enrolled in Amanda Castleman’s ten week Travel Writing Class on Writers.com and have just completed week three. When I finish the course I’ll share my experiences here, so look for posts about this in mid-November.]
*Third, when the time is right and your ready to make the investment, the Book Passage Travel Writers Conference is well worth it.
[Steps I’ve Taken: I’m planning to reward myself with a trip to this once I’ve polished my writing and produced some bylines I’m proud of.]
*Finally, join a writers group or ongoing workshop so you have a constant support network of writers, editors and readers.
[Steps I’ve Taken: The online writing class counts for now, since it includes active student participation and feedback. Eventually I’d like to join a weekly or monthly group in the NYC area — know of any good ones?]
No matter where you are in the process, Written Road will continue to be a part of the constant support network that most writers can benefit from. I’m one of them, and I’d like to thank Written Roadies for following along and sharing comments throughout my month-long series. This trip was a dream come true and I’m thankful that I was able to share certain aspects of it with this awesome audience. Hopefully more stories will be forthcoming, and when they are published, I’ll be sure self-glorify about it here 🙂
Happy trails and tales!