Friday Tips – Travel Writing

Grand Palace Bangkok
Grand Palace Bangkok

What is common to both good fiction and travel writing?  Read Benji Lanyado, Guardian writer and blogger’s valuable advice on  what should be every new writer’s mantra Show Don’t Tell.

‘My golden rule when writing a piece is to include as much visual description as possible. It’s easy to presume a lot, but your readers don’t know what you’ve seen. So explain it as vividly as possible. Don’t ever describe something as “characterful” or “beautiful” – this doesn’t mean anything to anybody but you. Describe things as if you were explaining them to a blind person. To say a building is “old” isn’t good enough; explain the colours, the peeling stucco, the elaborate, angular finishes on windowsills, the cleaning lady in a faded blue smock who was leaning out of a second-storey window with a cigarette dangling from her mouth. There is a thin line between elaborate, colourful, evocative writing and pretentious tosh, but it’s better to lean towards the pretentious tosh side of the spectrum than to be dull and presumptuous.
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How to be HAPPY

I watched the great documentary HAPPY the other evening.  It gave glimpses of real life stories from around the world and interviews with the leading scientists in happiness research.

It showed that no matter whether you are living in a slum in India, a mosquito infested swamp in Louisiana or having a major accident that knocks your life sideways –  happiness can be yours.

Research by scientists in this field have found that people with extrinsic values that is fame, money or beauty are found to be more anxious, depressed and narcissistic whereas those with  intrinsic values –  developing meaningful relationships, personal growth and community involvement have a profound sense of well-being and self-esteem.

The jam and cream on the cake of a quest for happiness is attributed to being in the zone, in the flow or present in the moment.  Writing does it for me.

HAPPY by Wadi Rum Films

Friday Tips for Writers

alphabet-15461_150I ain’t Scott Fitzgerald or JK  but I am a writer, albeit with ‘L’ plates.  I think if you scratch the surface of any writer they will tell you they are still learning with each new work. The old maxim remains true ‘it is never too late to learn.’ Stephen King wrote in his non-fiction book  On Writing – a must read for all new writers – If you want to be a writer you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

Read: Stephen King reads between 70 to 80 books a year and says  it’s not to study the craft; I read because I like to read…. Yet every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones

Write: Do you want to write? Then discipline yourself to write every day. In between writing the final para of Losing You and starting on the next novel squirreling away in my head, I set myself a 75-Day intuitive blogging challenge publishing it on a Facebook page. Each morning after a short meditation that set my intention to receive a topic, I wrote whatever first came into my mind. Most were obvious topical issues or my personal soap box rants but others, like ‘whirling dervishes,’ ‘fields of glory’ and ‘Petula Clarke’s number Colour My World’ came out of left field. If you are not sure what to write, not ready to write then try this intuitive writing exercise, it stretches you and teaches you a lot about your  relationship with writing.

Show Not Tell

Years ago at a week long live-in creative writing workshop given by the late Australian author Barbara Jefferis, I scribbled what I believed to be a dynamic short story. Proudly I handed it in and waited for the accolades. I was crushed when Barbara said it was simply an outline for a story and that  I needed to  ‘show’ rather than ‘tell.’  With my first non-fiction book, Finding Your Voice, a self-help guide to public speaking it did not matter.  ‘Telling’ was the perfect medium  and I had no trouble wagging my potential literary finger.   But fiction – ah there lies the rub or should I say tell.  In time perseverance rewarded me, having wrote ‘she sat gazing out of the window daydreaming,’ it clicked –  pesky telling again.  I deleted and experimented with the words again.  ‘By the open window, the light etched her profile, her eyes bright, seeing beyond the garden to far off places.’ Wow, why didn’t someone tell me about this before.  She did Mary it’s just it took you a few years to understand. It was good old Winnie Churchill who said ‘ Never ever give up , never ever, ever give up.’ He was right and so was Barbara Jefferis.