A reoccurring theme in my writing workshops among participants is that what they have to say, or want to say, isn’t interesting to other people. How many times have I heard this sort of comment (usually slightly plaintive):
‘I don’t think anyone will care about my story’ or
‘What I’m saying has been done before’ or
‘I feel like a cliché.’
Firstly, you’re in good company. I’ve said exactly the same to friends and to myself. I now understand the attraction of fiction. If exciting things don’t happen to you, make it up. Invent. Imagine.
But here I want to stick to non-fiction, whether it’s travel or memoir or life-writing.
Firstly, questioning what you write is important. If you have written 10,000 words about one morning on a river boat in Bangkok, which is essentially navel-gazing; or you’ve written a story which runs along the lines of… ‘And then I got up and had a shower, ate cereal for breakfast, emailed my friends back home etc.’ Well, you’re probably right. This won’t be scintillating.
Too much inner rumination can be tedious. All of those abject naturalisms (that’s the posh term for describing minute details of real-life action) will slow a story down.
But that isn’t to say you haven’t got an interesting story to tell.
Secondly, our tendency is to self-doubt. I was at a school assembly the other day and the school head gave a rather stern lecture on how children shouldn’t boast. He said that it was okay for children to speak up for themselves, but they must know when to stop. While he had a valid point, I think wallflower syndrome can become so internalised that we second-guess everything we write. This is paralysing.
So, how to believe in your own story?
If you’re writing about a journey, try to have a balance between show and tell, action and reflection, dramatic scenes and back-story. How you structure your work will transform a linear narrative into one that is multi-dimensional. If you feel you didn’t do enough ‘thrilling’ things on your holiday, include research to give weight to your words. Alternatively, use interviews with people you meet and dialogue to bring in other voices.
Think about the ‘emotional beats’ of your story: those high points, moments of drama or revelation. Structure your work around them.
Find a good writing buddy and be prepared to re-write parts.
But most of all, remember that you’re unique and so is your story. No-one else would have experienced the sunset just like you did, or the Eiffel Tower like you and your family. Trust in that—and don’t worry if you occasionally boast!
Leave a Comment
Posts by Tag
- travel writing technique (2)
- ethical travel (2)
- northern territory (1)
- travel blogging (1)
- literary travel blogs (2)
- writing (3)
- research (1)
- travel memoir (2)
- LA Times
- New York Times:
- London Review of Books
- Granta Magazine
- The Guardian
- Sydney Morning Herald
- The Book Show, ABC Radio National
- Gotham Writers Workshop, New York
- Fiction Addiction
- Soul Food Cafe
- Literary Feast reading group
- Phoenix Rising Books
- John May
- Suzanne Leal
- Charlotte Wood
- Michael Amendolia
- Barbara Ann Weibel
- Julia Thomas
- Jane Walker
- Nicki Kempston
- 25 Travel Book of the Moment
- 30 Hot Tip: How to Keep in your Story
- 14 Travel Saturday - The Responsible Traveller
- 18 Last Seen... In Bamurru Plains, Northern Territory
- 02 Last Seen... With Shackleton's Helmet
- 09 Travel Book of the Moment
- 13 Quote of the Week
- 16 Last Seen... Finding Allies
- 16 Writing Ally of the Moment
- 30 Last Seen... In the Clickstream
- 30 Literary Travel Writing Sites of the Week
- 03 Travel Content Site of the Week
- 10 Last Seen... Among the detail
- 17 Writing book of the moment
- 21 On tonight! Watch out for Jennifer Byrne Presents: On The Road
- 08 Last Seen... Finding Objectivity
- 08 Coming up! Hunt for Red Lily talk next Tuesday 12 October
- 20 Last Seen... Curving the Arc
- 20 Places left in new travel writing workshop in Melbourne 28 October
- 07 Last Seen... Listening to Isabel Allende
- 14 Last Seen... With my Writing Buddy
- 20 Last Seen… Ditching the Research
- 29 Last Seen... Creating Characters
- 05 Last Seen... Keeping Quiet
- 11 Last Seen... Staying Focused
- 19 Last Seen... Having a Blurt
- 26 Last Seen... Writing Between Jobs
- 02 Last Seen... Exploring Genius
- 09 Last Seen... Journaling
- 16 Last Seen… Feeling Confident
- 30 Last Seen... Knowing your Audience
- 07 Last Seen... Finding a Voice
- 22 Last Seen... Creating Scenes
- 29 Last Seen... Choosing the Direction
- 19 Last Seen.... How to get Back to Writing after the Holidays
- 25 Last Seen... Renewing our New Year's Writing Resolutions
- 02 Last Seen.... Trusting Your Own Voice
- 09 Last Seen.... Learning to Love my Kindle
- 16 Last Seen.... To Blog or Not to Blog
- 23 Last Seen.... How to Hook your Reader from Page One
- 29 Last Seen.... Reading Travel Memoirs
- 07 Last Seen.... Squeezing the Lemon
- 16 Last Seen.... Learning About Self-Publishing
- 23 Last Seen.... Celebrating the E-book of Last Seen in Lhasa
- 28 Last Seen... Figuring out Effective Writing Strategies
- 10 Last Seen.... Celebrating the Launch of Growing Old Outrageously
- 16 Last Seen.... Mastering the Art of Dialogue
- 24 Last Seen.... Pursuing the Non-linear Narrative
- 31 Last Seen.... Weaving together a Story
- 04 Wordstruck - Three Stages of Editing
- 10 Wordstruck - How objects breathe life into your story
- 18 Wordstruck - Do you write to be read?
- 25 Wordstruck - Making the leap from non-fiction to fiction
- 04 Wordstruck - Why you need Writing Allies
- 08 Wordstruck - 6 ways to start a new writing project
- 16 Wordstruck - What happens when you hit a wall with your writing?
- 25 Wordstruck - how to write about other cultures
- 01 Wordstruck - Give yourself permission to write rubbish
- 08 Wordstruck - How to say more by saying less?
- 16 Wordstruck - Longform stories in print & online
- 22 Wordstruck - How to hook your reader from the first line
- 29 Wordstruck - Why you always need a notebook
- 05 Wordstruck - Meeting the Bookwallahs
- 13 Wordstruck - What it takes to research a book
- 19 Wordstruck - What stops you writing?
- 27 Wordstruck - How to write about place
- 04 Wordstruck - Take a risk with your writing
- 17 Wordstruck - How to banish the procrastinator
- 24 Wordstruck - How writing can reduce your stress
- 07 Wordstruck - Writing to inspire yourself
- 14 Wordstruck - Dealing with rejection
- 28 Wordstruck - Embrace the chaos of writing
- 11 Wordstruck - Why fear stops us writing
- 18 Wordstruck - There's no right way to write
- 25 Wordstruck - How to get your reader to care