Friday, May 23, 2008
Travel Writing Tips From Paul Kilduff
Ruinair is a humorous travelogue around Europe - I have visited about 25 countries in Europe in the past 3 years and here are my tips for some pithy travel writing;
Don't write about the same old things to see and do in your destination. Instead find one theme or common thread. If I was writing about my home town of Dublin I would not go to Trinity College nor the Guinness Storehouse. Being me, I would only go see all the U2 sights in the city including a trip to Windmill Lane Studios, Bono's nice home in Killiney etc.
Don't try to make everything funny. Very often in vaguely humorous travel writing, less is more. Don't end every sentence with a bon mot nor every paragraph with a punchline. Try to leave the reader wanting more. Very often readers will find their own humour in different aspects of your writing and not everyone will share my own bizarre sense of humour.
Pray that something goes wrong. If everything goes to plan then it's not very interesting for a reader so hope for a missed flight, a wrong train connection, a lost wallet.
John Cleese once said that Fawlty Towers was only funny because everything went wrong all the time i.e. guests dying, loose rats, kitchen fires and a lack of Waldorf salads.
Use the tourist office. When I arrive in a city I make first for the official tourist office and I grab all the free literature I can. And I book an official city walking tour. It's amazing the amount of anecdotes and unique info you can glean over two hours from someone whose full time job is to know all about your destination. Ask them questions. Tip well too .....
Omit the boring stuff. No one wants to read about meals in restaurants, drinks in bars, rooms in hotels. People want to read about something new and different. I edit a lot. If in doubt I leave it out.
Don't write about the weather. First of all it's not very exciting and secondly it will jar at a later date. If you write about freezing winds in the Artic, chances are your reader will be on a beach on the Costa del Sol, or when you write about searing temperatures in Monaco, your reader will have received the book as a Christmas present.
Read extensively in the travel writing genre to see how others do it. I read Bill Bryson, Tim Moore, Pete McCarthy, Charlie Connelly, Tom Chesshyre and Tony Hawks.
Don't research destinations on the web before you go. This is not called travel writing. It's called cut and paste plagiarism and it does not lend itself to originality. Read one good guide book for a basic orientation of your destination. Check your facts out later on reputable web sites but only after you have been on your trip and written a first good draft.
Don't rush your writing. I make rough notes on loose A4 pages in pen when I travel (usually on the reverse side of my Ryanair flight itinerary which I dare not lose). I don't bring nor do I even own a dreaded laptop. When I return home I wait a week before I write anything on my home PC. If something in my notes no longer seems valid or relevant or funny then I don't use it. I keep only what I like seven days on. Maybe that's why some folks say that Ruinair works. Good luck.
About the writer-
Paul Kilduff was born in Dublin, Ireland. He began writing fiction in 1996 and finished his first novel in 1998. Square Mile was published in 1999, The Dealer in 2000, The Frontrunner in 2001 and The Headhunter in 2003, which were published by Hodder & Stoughton in London and by Muelenhoff in The Netherlands.
He decided to write a travel book a couple of years ago and was extremely fortunate shortly afterwards to be abandoned in Malaga airport for ten hours, where he had the germ of an idea for Ruinair - an epic tale of human endurance on Europe's low fares airlines. Ruinair was published in February 2008 by Gill & Macmillan Ireland and entered the Irish non fiction bestseller list at no 1 where it has spent eight weeks to date.