Megan Eaves, author of This is China, a Guidebook for Teachers, Backpackers and Other Lunatics visits The Lost Entwife today to speak on writing travel books. Megan is a friend of mine and one of the masterminds behind our recent project, The Button Club. I was thrilled when she said she’d gladly do a guest post here and was excited to read it when it came in! I currently have a copy of This is China set aside to read on my plane trip home in June and am looking forward to reviewing it. Megan’s blog is hilarious (she even has a funny entry on squat toilets!) and I encourage you all to head over there and check her out. You can also find Megan on Twitter.
When I wrote my first book, it poured out of me easily. A handbook about living in China, I wrote it while living in China, meaning that I was basically writing what I was living everyday.
I was thinking about this fact this morning. I am in the middle of composing a new ebook about studying abroad for a client that hired me via Elance and I realized that I had written about 1000 words in 30 minutes, which is totally record time for me. By comparison, normally it takes me about an hour to write a 500-word blog post. I started relating this fact to my husband and was reminded of those 6 months I spent in Zhejiang Province writing This Is China. The words poured out of me easily because what I was writing was firsthand experience that required no research. I was the expert and my words were the expert’s advice.
My second book, Insiders’ Guide to El Paso, was not so simple, although the concept and destination seem like they should be more straightforward than a book about China. After all, it’s EL PASO for goodness sake.
The fact of the matter is, despite living only a few hours from El Paso for much of my life, I knew relatively little about it when I started writing the book. I knew a lot less about El Paso than China, ironically.
Complicating matters was the fact that This Is China is more of a cultural handbook, with advice about daily living matters, travelling in China and teaching at Chinese schools, while Insiders’ Guide to El Paso is a guidebook with listings, relocation information, restaurant reviews and hotel descriptions. It required so. much. research.
Most people think that travel writing is probably a dream job. In reality, it is, but like any job, it is neither perfect nor fun all the time. Imagine trying to describe the difference between 25 different chain hotels – Sleep Inn, Comfort Inn, La Quinta, Days Inn – in small-town America and you’ll understand what I was faced with in writing the El Paso book.
I never thought I would be a book writer, mostly because I felt that I didn’t have the stamina to finish a whole book, particularly a fiction book. I still think fiction books would be much harder to write, but in fact, I realize now that book writing, like any other type of writing, is a simple act of fitness. You can’t expect to be a writer without writing. A LOT. Do you think that professional volleyball players expect to simply step on the court and bring their A-games? Certainly not, and the same is true of writing. You find, the more you do it, the easier it gets.
On my back burner the past few years is an unfinished manuscript – a fiction story – about a girl (more or less me) who goes travelling around Ireland. I’ve wavered between feeling that it was a regular fiction story and a young adult story, and I still have no end to it, but I know now that the end will come as it is supposed to, and when it is supposed to.
Aspiring writers occasionally ask me how I managed to break my way into travel writing. My answer is fairly simple: be willing to work for nothing. I am the published author of two books and still oftentimes work for only a pittance. I once read a blog by a guidebook writer who had written several Lonely Planet type guides to Guatemala. He said he’d vowed never to calculate his hourly wage, because guidebook writing is a 12-hour a day (or more) affair. First you have to visit the places, then write about them. It’s 8 hours of sightseeing (terrible, isn’t it?) followed by 8 hours of writing.
I write for the love of travel and the love of writing. I’ve never expected to make money out of it, and it’s only now I’m starting to barely make some money out of it. Finally.
Megan Eaves is a travel addict and has found herself writing about her world adventures for a living. She’s the author of two travel guidebooks and, currently, lives in her home state of New Mexico. More about her at www.meganeaveswriting.com
By Megan Eaves (www.meganeaves.com)
Available now on Lulu.com in Paperback and eBook formats
‘This Is China’ is the expert guide for anyone thinking about becoming a foreign teacher in China. With tailor-made advice on what to do before you go and you how to navigate daily life in China, ‘TIC’ is a must-read for anyone looking for a genuine China experience without suffering utter and total humiliation.
Inside you’ll discover:
•Where to find a teaching job
•How to get a Z visa and not an L visa and why
•How to pare down your luggage without losing the essentials
•Ready-made tips for deciphering travel tickets and menus
•Expert advice on phones, computers and the postal system
•Top 10 must-see places and road-less-traveled destinations
•A ‘Laowai Dictionary’ with word and language tips to match each chapter, and real-life phrases you won’t find elsewhere!
Want to avoid finding a basket of chickens on your train seat? Don’t know the difference between mianzi and kuaizi? Generally confused by the oddities of life in China? This book is for you. ‘This Is China’ is your essential guide to transforming from a China newbie into a groovy laowai laoshi and a true foreign expert in the Middle Kingdom.
ISBN: 978-0-557-08118-9 Publisher: Lulu.com
Price: Paperback – $14.98; eBook – $6.00 Copyright: © 2009 Megan Eaves