Seeing an author’s unique personality shine through in their book is one of the real pleasures I experience working with self-publishing authors … and Sandy McKean was no exception. Sandy’s travel memoir, Something Happened on the Way to … captures her light-hearted attitude and her infectious passion for life.
In her travel memoir, Sandy takes her readers on a trip down memory lane – sharing fond memories and hilarious anecdotes from her childhood and teenage years, as well as her more recent past. Combining humour with unflinching honesty, Sandy’s anecdotes of her many trips abroad allow her to connect with her audience on an emotional level, while at the same time creating a sense of drama and adventure.
Sandy’s unique approach to promotion has seen her memoir ‘travel the world’ in the most delightful way, with fans snapping shots of it in countries far and wide. It has been gratifying to see Sandy’s engaging writing style inspire others to reflect on their own journeys, with her humorous perspective to light the way.
What Is a Travel Memoir?
Travel writing can take many different forms, including:
- holiday diaries
- blog posts.
Each genre has its own unique style and associated reader expectations, and travel memoirs are no exception. Rather than focusing on a particular destination, successful travel memoirs balance the writer’s personal backstory and description of their travels in a way that takes readers on both an emotional and physical journey to unknown places.
The primary goal of a travel memoir is not necessarily to inspire readers to travel to the places depicted in the book. Instead, a true travel memoir reveals how the writer has grown or been changed by their experiences abroad and encourages readers to reflect on their own life journey.
How to Write a Travel Memoir
Writing a travel memoir is no easy feat, as Sandy McKean would no doubt attest to. However, incorporating the six key aspects outlined below should help you on your own writing journey:
- Decide on a central theme
- Write what comes naturally to you
- Define your author voice
- Wait until your journey is over before writing
- Weave your story like a true storyteller
- Be authentic.
Decide on a Central Theme
Deciding on a central theme will help to create cohesiveness and purpose to your travel memoir. It could be something as straightforward as coping with loss or self discovery, but your story should serve to highlight this throughout the book. Eat, Pray, Love is a well-known and highly successful travel memoir because it effectively highlights the restlessness of women who are questioning their current life choices.
Write What Comes Naturally to You
Unlike fiction, a travel memoir shouldn’t be carefully planned out, or the overall message or conclusion forced. The true essence of the story is sharing the raw and real emotion and the act of reflection and realisation of what the journey ultimately meant. This can’t be artificially manufactured if a travel memoir is to be truly engaging for readers.
Define Your Author Voice
The voice you choose determines how your reader will experience your journey, so it’s important to choose something that’s fitting. You might choose a friendly, conversational, formal or humorous voice or you might choose to be aloof to add to the effect of your story. Once you’ve chosen the right voice, be sure it remains consistent throughout the book.
Wait Until Your Journey Is Over Before Writing
Introspection is the key to a good travel memoir. Yet, you can only properly reflect on your journey after it’s over. Life-changing experiences are also usually spontaneous and unplanned, so planning to write a travel memoir about an upcoming trip could result in a memoir that appears to be forced. Reflecting on a recent trip and your experiences before you begin writing can help you find the deeper meaning that’s key to a well-written travel memoir.
Weave Your Story like a True Storyteller
A travel memoir needs to read like fiction to keep a reader engaged and let them access the deeper essence of your story. This means you need to incorporate the essential elements of storytelling, such as:
- a clearly defined setting
- well-developed characters, including a protagonist and antagonist
- a strong plot
- conflict that creates tension and builds suspense
- a well-considered theme
- a narrative arc.
These elements help you engage your audience and evoke an emotional response, which is the ultimate purpose of every good story.
When writing your travel memoir, it is important to be honest about your experiences. Readers don’t expect you to be perfect; they actually much prefer to read about someone human who makes mistakes. Rather than trying to make yourself look good, tell your audience about your regrets, embarrassing moments, the way you messed things up, the things you didn’t enjoy or the silly things you said. In the same way that Sandy has done in her travel memoir, make sure that you ‘keep things real’ and allow readers access to the depths of your soul so that they can experience your innermost thoughts for themselves.