Could you write a novel about your travels? I bet you could…

Thank you blog friends Steve of Do Something Cool and Becca of The Finish Line for first planting this idea in my mind!

November is National Novel Writing Month. Thousands of people have committed to writing a 50,000 word novel over the coming weeks. If it seems daunting to you, think of it like this… you only have to write 1,667 words a day, and at the end of the month, it’s done. It may have terrible grammar, a rambling plot, and an nonsensical structure, but you have a novel!

So what to write about? How about… your travels?

I recently got inspired by Rick Steve’s book, Travel as a Political Act. Essentially, he tells us that we have unprecedented chances to explore the world, and that our impressions and experiences matter. Given the lack of accurate news coverage and misconceptions about other cultures, we have a responsibility to tell the truth. We can also learn from other countries’ solutions to similar problems and gain insight into our role on the globe.

With Rick Steves as our cheerleader, my husband and I signed up for the Novel project. We’re writing as a team, which may or may not be a good idea. Like any two people on the planet, we have different ideas about what constitutes a good story. But here’s the basic strategy:

1. It’s a detective novel starring a crime fighting couple (Think Hart to Hart, that awful show from the 80s or maybe even Mr and Mrs. Smith)

2. It takes place in different parts of the world. (That’s where all those details abroad come in)

3. We set the timer each evening for one hour and write like banshees to get our 1,667 words.

Like all worthy goals such as running a marathon or climbing Mount Fuji, there will be difficulties and set-backs.Β Here’s a snapshot of Writing Day 1.

7:00 pm- Timer set

7:13 pm- Husband says, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

7:21 pm- Husband says again, this time with arms crossed, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

7:22 pm- I hiss at him, “You are so not fun!”

7:30 pm- We get into a groove (even though there’s still eye-rolling) and a story takes shape in Mexico

7:45 pm- I think, “My husband cannot spell for the life of him.”

7:55 pm- Husband sighs and says, “That doesn’t make any sense.”

7:59 pm- We reach word goal

8:00 pm- Husband titles our novel “Hell Story: A Tale of Divorce in Progress”

Okay, the first time didn’t go so well, but other nights have gotten progressively better. Our story has all kinds of mystery, a Mark Twain impersonator, and so far a beautiful setting among ancient ruins of Mexico.

What about your travel novel? What would it be about?


25 thoughts on “Could you write a novel about your travels? I bet you could…

  1. Haha, I love it! And Rick Steve’s philosophy is so spot-on about traveling. Everytime I travel, I feel it changes my life that much more. You are both incredible for doing this and I can’t wait to hear more!

    I suppose I’d write a semi-fictional travelogue on the wonderfulness of people I’ve encountered while traveling – I think something about strangers being kind in foreign lands makes me want to remember it all the more. πŸ™‚

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Jude,
      I love that idea of focusing on the wonderfulness of people you meet on travels! I could write tons of that too!

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Lilliane,
      I love it! Traveling light and cheap is always a challenge, right? Where I excel in one, I fail in the other! I often feel proud of myself for not buying much, but then bam! I find myself with all these souvenirs I have to bring back, and of course, stuff into my luggage! I’ve been known to send things back to myself by mail because it wouldn’t fit…

      • i was in China for 3 weeks traveling the mountain and the glacier… nothing to buy except a pair of Tibetan earrings… so proud of myself… and then my 1 day in Hong Kong before flying back to Manila… an orgy of shopping happened (gosh)

  2. I have a novel in progress but not on travel. I’m not very keen on the NaNoWriMo concept. While it forces you to write daily (which I do in any case), all the poor grammar and tired language will need major edit when the word count goal is reached. I’d rather take longer and write quality.

    I think if I got Mr G involved in writing in tandem, it’s be like your scenario. Then all hell would break loose! πŸ™‚

    • maryrichardson

      Lord help the men in our lives… I’m just impressed so far mine’s actually going through with it. He expressed concerns from the start, but I convinced him it would be good bonding time.

  3. this is such a great idea… perhaps a novel is too much commitments at a first attempt, but it make me feel i should get back at least to some sort stories… as you say, a few words everyday adds up… xo bb

  4. My soul has been screaming at me to write a romantic travelogue for years and years. I’m super inspired by this post to finally sit down and at least write the 1st chapter!

  5. winxrocker

    My travel novel would be something between a journal, a diary, and something with proper English Grammar, because I hate using bad English!
    Mary, you know, you’ve already written a novel! You’re continuously writing a novel! Maybe not on paper, but still. It’s this blog! πŸ™‚

  6. Mary, Congrats to both of you! I’m not doing Nanowrimo this year, but have done it in years past – never “won” but got incredible starts on things, that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise – one ultimately was a full first draft, that I’m going to revisit one of these days. The thing that’s so hard about novel writing is the need for ongoing conflict over a very long haul. Everything can’t be coming up roses but so often – the details and reactions you have stored up from your life experiences – including your travels are invaluable. Your idea sounds like so much fun! Just keep writing towards some idea of an ending – your writing will suck – it’s all good πŸ™‚

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Margo,
      Oh, the writing as the whole already sucks, but there are some decent parts. It’s funny how we get strange inspirations. I’m hoping there will be some “pieces” that will be worthwhile. Good for you for attempting this project in the past!

  7. What a fun idea for a novel. I like the idea of using your travels in the story. I remember Hart to Hart so I can imagine what you’re going for. I really wanted to do NaNoWriMo this year and I have a lot of travel stories I could use, but I have so much going on with school and work that if I added this I would pull my ears off. I’m planning for next year though.

    Good luck in your writing, Mary. I bet you’ll be happy with what you turn out even if it has bad grammar or a rambling plot. Anything with Mark Twain, Mexican ruins and mystery has to be good.

  8. Fantastic idea! I’ve actually been developing a photo book about my travels and experience in Indonesia. Because I am a photographer I feel the need to include lots of glossy photos. I like that you and your husband are teaming up on this. I definitely want to include my wife in our photo novel. I’m sure she remembers our travels differently than I do. πŸ™‚

  9. NaNoWriMo definitely looked appealing to me, but I need more time than one month, and I’ll be spending the 2nd half of November traveling, no way I’d have the time. More than once, I’ve thought of escaping to some out of the way spot where I can really get starting writing a novel or memoir…

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Ekua,
      I really feel like we need more than one month too. Writing everyday is intense! It sounds wonderful to just hide away somewhere and write, doesn’t it?

  10. Totally didn’t know you are doing this too! (I’m not but I interviewed a couple people about it for Matador Pulse)

    We’ll have to include you in our end of month wrap up and see how the “Hell Story” works out!

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