Friday, July 19, 2019

How to Use Travel to Enrich Your Writing

Summer is prime travel time, which is awesome, no question. But every writer knows travel can cause interrupted schedules and missed writing time. What's more, the interruptions can affect you before, during, and after the trip! Fortunately, travel can greatly enrich your writing. So arm yourself with these tips, pack your bags, and get ready for some fab fun and inspiration all rolled together!

Spark ideas and ask questions

Learn all you reasonably can about your intended destination ahead of time. Not only will this make your travel experience richer, but it will trigger writing ideas for you. Brainstorm what types of stories or novels you could set in the place your are visiting. What sort of characters might be interesting within this culture? How would characters from a different culture integrate with the one you are planning to visit?

Currently I am preparing for a medical mission to India with my husband. In my preliminary research, I've discovered conflicting opinions about what women tourists should wear. This conflict could easily be woven into a story with humorous or frightening results, depending on what I'm writing.

Organize your research

My favorite method for organizing research for future novels is Scrivener. You can easily import web pages and your own photos (keep them small so you don't bog down). 

The program is set up so you create your own multi-tier research files, which are quickly and easily accessible while you are writing in a separate pane. You can even drag the research files from one scrivener document to another so you can find it quickly for another story set in the same location.

Evernote is another great resource for organizing research and has the added bonus of being accessible by phone or laptop.

Use resources related to your destination

Read novels, memoirs, or travel guides related to your travel destination. The novels could be set in the place you are visiting or written by people from that region. An added bonus - reading these books will help you be aware of what stories are out there so you do not plan to write something that is already saturating the market.

Listen to podcasts. Watch movies. Download apps. I recently downloaded the Google Arts & Culture app so I could learn about Indian architecture, art, museums, and culture ahead of our trip. Whatever resources you explore will open your eyes to details you might otherwise overlook. As you immerse yourself in these resources, the culture you are preparing to write about becomes more like second nature to you.

Keep a travel journal

Ok, I know this is tough. Believe me. You've been out seeing sights. You've walked about a thousand miles and you're exhausted. I used to try to journal about each day every night when I returned to my room. Usually that worked about two days before my exhaustion (or desire to go have more fun!) won out. So here's a couple better strategies that have worked well for me.

Journal on the go

Now I keep a small notebook to jot down ideas or do a quick sketch when inspiration strikes. I'm sure I miss some things. But I try to capture the essence of whatever is fascinating me at the moment. What I can't write at the time, I try to do it later, even if it's on the flight home. I alternate between using a note app on my phone and using paper, depending on a variety of factors. 

Note apps I like: Notes on iPhone is great for quickly recording ideas and information. If you have a mac you can easily send the notes to your laptop then incorporate them into Scrivener. I also love Evernote and save a lot of info there. Just beware of tour guides getting impatient with your notetaking. I once had a guide in Alaska lose his patience and ask who I was texting! He was quite flattered to learn I was taking notes for a possible novel.


Yes, I'm using that as a verb. Photojournal your trip. This is a fantastic way to jog your memory later on. A few years ago, when I was Mexico, I snapped pics of different types of buildings, homes, and wildlife. Later, looking through the photos, I noticed that a family kept a deer penned in their back yard. It brought a lot of questions to mind. Was this deer a pet? Or food? How did they catch it? 

As you curate your photos, keep in mind that those you post on Facebook or instagram will not be the same as those you will want for research or to stir your imagination for writing.

What are some of your favorite ways to use travel to enrich your writing?

No comments: