I write fiction. So when a travel writing project appeared on my list, I had to regroup a little.
Just the facts, ma’am, I imagined the editor saying. No making up a character who will appear on stage just in time to drop a bombshell into the story, propelling it forward. No typing in “The phone rang” just to interrupt a difficult conversation. No inventing a new name in order to hide the real identity of some small village.
Hmm. Where’s the fun in that?
Well it turns out, travel writing (at least when writing about Ireland’s Shannon River, a place I really enjoyed) can be fun too, just in a totally different way. I already had a natural arc to the story: start at the beginning of our adventure, and stop when it was over. I already had the point of view: saltwater small boat sailor on a freshwater motorboat. And I already knew the audience: other potential charter clients who were trying to decide whether to spend their next week of vacation on a river. I needed to convey the joy and relaxation of timeless surroundings, without reverting to fiction.
Fortunately our week was full of enough colorful characters, satisfying details, and varying scenery that I was faced with the best of all possible writing challenges after finishing the rough draft: I needed to cut the word count down to something people would actually read. I chopped out the second, third, and fourth references to “gorgeous river scenes,” instead describing more specifically the variety of landscapes we motored by: waving meadows of grasses, peat bogs, tree-lined canals. And then I dug through the hundreds of photos, weeding out any that didn’t convey the relaxation of cruising at five knots from the comfort of an inside steering station.
You can read the result on YachtWorldCharters.com.
And I promise, I didn’t make any of it up.