Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Not everything we write is wonderful - Jo Carroll


Not everything we write is wonderful.

There, I've said it. And I think it's particularly relevant for memoir writers - including travel writers. So I'm going to give myself a bit of a kicking here, but hopefully some of it will echo in your chambers too.

There are many who can write beautiful sentences. The basis of our craft is sentences. We can perfect our grammar and absorb the thesaurus and create images that leave a reader bewildered by our erudition.

Yes, but is it interesting? I could describe, in glorious detail, my hotel room in Killarney (I've just got back from Ireland) but I won't because - let's be honest - who the hell cares? It was clean and comfortable, and there were no rats or cockroaches (very relevant given some of the places I visit), so what more do you need to know; I ate great food (Irish cuisine has improved hugely in recent years) and drool over the Guinness (oh the Guinness) but my readers - if any have stuck through this ugly, convoluted sentence - will fall asleep.

For our challenge is surely two-fold - to write beautifully, but also (and I would argue more importantly) to be interesting, or funny, or original. And how can we know? There is always someone, even if it is only Auntie Nellie, who will tell us we are wonderful. And there may even be someone on tenterhooks waiting for details of hotel rooms and what I eat for breakfast. You might even suggest that I should write about it, just to please the reader who has got this far in the hope of such nuggets.

Up to a point we must rely on the advice of other readers and writers. But I think we must also look to ourselves. Not everything I do or think is of interest to anyone other than me. My reader doesn't really give a toss about me and my little world; he or she wants something that touches them in some way. A what-would-I-do moment, a goodness-me moment, a glimpse of something different or glorious or funny. A titbit that will lead them into a different way of thinking, or feeling, or looking at the world.

All of which doesn't mean that I can't have a wonderful time, wherever I am. It simply means that I only write about it if I think it has relevance in your lives as well as mine.

And here, just for the one person who might be interested in where I've been, is a photograph from Ireland.



You can find more if you play about on my website here follow the links to the travel and then Ireland pages.

7 comments:

Bill Kirton said...

Ironically, Jo, that's a feeling I have quite often when I'm blogging. At least with fiction we're writing (in theory, at least) about people who are outsiders to us as well as to readers, but when the first person of the narrative is actually me, the 'who cares?' sensation is familiar.

Dennis Hamley said...

Absolutely. I worry that I'm now writing (beautifully, of course!)a blog of supreme interest to me but of which everyone else will say 'So what? Who cares?'

CallyPhillips said...

Just about nothing I write or think is of any interest to anyone (including, possibly this) so I'll just take the opportunity to say that today is S.R.Crockett's 155th birthday and The Galloway Raiders are celebrating with special offers and free ebook. What he wrote was interesting enough 100 odd years ago to sell out over 10,000 copies in a day... now? Anyone interested? Go to www.gallowayraiders.co.uk if you are.

Lydia Bennet said...

beautiful writing is important to me as reader and writer but not if it's just a mass of words describing every breath and twitch and sip of coffee. it's about pruning down the the minimum beautiful writing to move the story on and have the effect you want. Otherwise it's beautiful padding. But they say as a writer you have to murder your darlings! I'd not really thought of travel writing as memoir writing before, though of course on reflection it is.

madwippitt said...

Oh yes, the Guinness ... and the Irish coffee ...

JO said...

Thank you all. I was AWOL yesterday, so not able to foster this post. And glad I'm not the only one to drool over the Guinness!

Mark said...

I think passion, excitement, knowledge and skill is always interesting so long as it is skilfully conveyed. These things are always relevant to my life no matter what the object. I think it is the conveyance that gains my interest or doesn't.