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Let the place do the talking

It is tremendously difficult to write about a place you know as if you are a travel writer. I have tried it and it is almost impossible: there are too many layers of knowledge and association and – possibly mixed – feeling between you and your subject. To practice, therefore, you need to go somewhere new. It does not have to be far: in fact a very good exercise is to stay on the train to the stop you have never used before, or walk to a part of town you don’t know, or drive to and stop in a village you have only ever passed through. Now you need to engage someone in conversation. I got a whole briefing and mini guide to the town of Pant just by asking ‘What’s it like here?’ of the person behind the till in the petrol station. Shop keepers, the elderly, dog-walkers, anyone who is not in a rush may give you stories, tips and prompts. Sometimes I am very up-front: ‘I’m a travel writer and I’m looking for stories!’ works. But often people don’t want to know much about you – they are too busy telling you about them and their place, which is perfect. When you write your piece up, try to keep yourself out of it as much as possible. Let the people and the place do the talking.

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Tips for Travel Writing

First, you need to find a subject that lights you up. If beach resorts are not your thing,…

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Veiling the Narrative

Stories are one of the ways we have to make sense of the world.  I’m interested not just…

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Read As If Your Life Depended On It

In What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics the great American poet Adrienne Rich says “You…

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Developing a character

Imagine that there is a young character in your mind, waiting to step forward and tell you their…

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Developing and explaining new ideas

1. You don’t have to be entirely original. There are plenty of very good, best-selling stories out there…

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Don’t let them talk you out of it

Spend a little time identifying who the people are who might tell you not to write your memoir….

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Controlling your fear

Thomas Keneally says that, ‘Writing is an exercise in controlling your fear. Above all the fear that you…

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Find your story in a setting

This is a research exercise really – one that will help you find a story out of setting….

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Drawing your childhood memories

We all have child’s eye views – many in fact. Some might say we’re already a step ahead…

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Creating ‘Child Eye’s View’ when writing for young people

Young people don’t just come under the heading of one audience. There are so many different ages and…

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Mark’s top 3 tips – Critical, forensic and persistent

Watch exclusive this exclusive video from author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark…

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