Does a Vacation Lead to a Novel?

Several people have suggested that my recent trip to Ireland will lead to a new novel. Well, if you love novels set in Ireland, I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you. I’ve discovered taking a cruise or a trip and then trying to write a story set either on a cruise ship or in a country/state that’s not familiar simply doesn’t work for me. For me, it’s like the writer who gets all wrapped up in researching a story. I find I want to tell too much about where I’ve been or what went on, and I lose track of my characters and the conflicts they’re facing.

I am bothered when I read a book where I feel as if I’m being presented with a travel log. I love it when an author uses real places or events and seamlessly weaves them into the story, but not when the details become intrusive. And that’s what I discovered when I’ve tried writing a story after a vacation/trip I loved. I had all of these wonderful notes I’d taken and memories I wanted to share, and I was putting all of that into the story until I realized…it just wasn’t working. Those details rather than enhancing my story were dragging it to a stop.

What I have done in the past (and something I strongly recommend) is write the story first, then go visit the location or take the cruise. At least get a rough draft of the story down. This way you know what to concentrate on when you’re at the location or doing something new. I’m sure you’ll discover things you hadn’t known ahead of time or thought you needed, but you won’t be trying to insert every experience into the story.

Of course, maybe you’re different than I am. Maybe you can take the trip and craft a story afterwards. I just know it doesn’t work for me, at least not immediately after the trip. Time does lessen my need to include everything I saw, felt, heard, or did. Distance from the experience allows me to use some of those reactions to flavor a story.

For those who wanted to see some pictures. Here are a few.

View of Waterford

View of Waterford

Downtown Dublin

Downtown Dublin

Cliffs of Mohr

Cliffs of Mohr

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8 Responses to Does a Vacation Lead to a Novel?

  1. Melissa Keir says:

    At least you had a wonderful trip. I’m sorry that you won’t write an Irish story…. but maybe you can go back again, just so it becomes more familiar! :)

  2. I’ve had a little success with this. My trip to Greece resulted in a novella. And I finished my samurai story after I went to Japan. But as you say, the story has to come first, and the things I saw have to be added carefully. I wouldn’t rule out an Irish story, though. You never know – one of your characters could suddenly NEED to go to Ireland to solve a mystery!

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      You’re right, Patricia. One of these days a short story might pop into my head set in Ireland, or, as you said, one of my characters might suddenly find herself there. Hmm, maybe then I’d have to go back to do a little more research. (I can only hope.)

  3. Lucy Kubash says:

    Enjoyed the pix! Also like the idea of a character needing to travel to Ireland to solve a mystery. Setting is always important in my stories and sometimes affects what happens to the characters, but you’re right, the story and people come first.

  4. Alexa Bourne says:

    That’s great you’ve learned that about yourself as a writer. Too many times people don’t realize that until it’s too late.

    I love writing stories set in foreign countries. I like to bring the culture of the country to readers.

    Thanks for the pics! I’ve only been to Ireland once and I would LOVE to go back for another visit!

  5. Lyla Fox says:

    Totally agree about the exotic location-centered writing. Once Jessica Fletcher started traveling the globe, I stopped traveling to CBS on Sunday nights. Always enjoy your column.

  6. As a former travel writer, I tend to add too much about the scenery to my stories, but when I read chapters aloud to my writing group, and they say it sounds like a travelogue, I know I’ve included too much. I try to include action with the scenery so the story keeps moving. Carolyn Rae Author – facebook