One common assumption people make is that travel writing is a synonym for writing a travel memoir. It isn’t—they’re two different forms focusing on different audiences.
To the bloggers, travel writers, and guides, travel memoirs aren’t guides to places or tips to saving money on backpack traveling. Writing a travel memoir is an art all on its own.
Unlike a travel itinerary, the first thing to notice about a memoir is that it’s of one’s own story.
Focus on Your Story
In contrast to thrifty travel guides, travel memoirs focus more on the traveler’s perspectives, thoughts, and the transformation of life through the journey. You can begin a memoir writing about a country, culture, its people, some offbeat uniqueness of someplace, but it all comes back to one’s perspectives.
A travel memoir focuses more on what led the writer to end up on that mountain peak, ultimately rooting deep into the writer’s life, rather than the price and tools of hiking up that mountain.
Write with the Flow
The most successful travel memoirs are ones where writers never planned on writing it from the beginning. After all, they’re accumulations of thoughts, perspectives, and places traveled to over long periods of time.
Unlike online travel content, memoirs aren’t planned. They express the writer’s life at different points of life. With it being a work of non-fiction, the storyline doesn’t have to go in chronological order either. But this literary form needs its time to take shape.
It needs a smooth flow to keep its readers fascinated, to get better chances with your editor and publisher. So write when you’re at your best with writing. It isn’t a job, let the words of your journey flow from you.
Travel through Lives, Not just Places
Being a traveler isn’t a break from the hustle-and-bustle and staying in resorts, it’s understanding people that work in the background of places you visit, the culture, and the locality.
It’s experiencing what makes these people’s lives stand apart from the conventional. Things that fascinate the world.
While that chapter on planning an itinerary for an unmapped village in a forest is informative and exciting, the paragraph you added of how a little local boy handed you a delicious fruit as a gift gives more life to the place you visit.
Travel memoirs that make it to publishing are mostly by writers who’ve immersed themselves into living in the shoes of people around the globe. Memoirs aren’t about one-day trips, great vacation places, or even the number of places visited by the writer. It’s the connection with its people and the spot’s life. Make it down to earth as much as possible.
[Related: Need help with your book? Receive a free book coaching sample.]
Keep it Artistic
This is a big problem when it comes to writing memoirs, especially for blog writers. The internet encourages its content to be written in simple English so that everyone can understand. It, in turn, kills the creativity of a writer and pushes down their artistic uniqueness of putting words together.
I recently started writing a travel memoir. Being a blogger myself, I had to put effort to not sound like a typical content writer and bring back my authenticity and style. That’s what makes travel memoirs stand apart from the rest of the writing in the travel industry—it encourages literature.
It’s a delicate craft of literature, not a brochure, so feel free to let your mind speak and keep your words flowing. It isn’t about writing for the audience here. It’s writing for yourself. There’s no line drawn for the complexity of sentences, tough vocabulary, or the number of metaphors you use.
So give your writing some air and let it run wild!
Shape your story and engage your reader
What appears interesting and means a lot to you in your story might not have the same effect on a reader. The non-fiction descriptions of how you sat by the sunset waves can be beautiful, but it’s difficult to engage an outsider to keep reading and awing over your writing for the whole book.
It’s important to make shifts from your journey to your thoughts, to places and people, and your personal life as well. After your first draft, you’ll need to make edits and craft in a way to keep the readers engaged.
Hire an experienced editor or ask someone to read your story and ask for its feedback. As a first-time memoir writer, it’ll take some time and experimenting to see what works best to keep a reader glued to the chair, but it’s worth the while, especially when it comes to publishing.
When your story isn’t in chronological order, then also consider shifting parts of your story around. For example, when one chapter focuses wholly on narration of untrodden places, make the next chapter about something that the reader can relate to.
I’ve come some way into writing my first travel memoir. With the pandemic, there’s more writing and less traveling now. Speaking of which, there are no limits to how deep you dive into your writing. The deeper the story, the better. Ultimately, it’s your story.
This guest post was contributed by Manas Patil. He adores reading literary works, writing short stories, and finished writing his first novella not long ago. With a fondness for travel, he also runs a blog focusing on the niches: Travel and Writing. Learn more at madmansjourney.com.