The Travelogue

I’ve recently dusted off the first novel I ever worked and reworked and then reworked and then, okay so it wasn’t that dusty. Each time I’ve worked on it I see that I have managed to practice a different aspect of writing and I have also been able to see more flaws, then other flaws that I added over the years to a simple clear story to try to make it more interesting and more marketable and catchy.

Anyway, my current observations of this great work are simple and it is simple advice that I am passing on to some, though not all, first time novelists. Buried deep in my novel, I see, is the need to take my reader on a journey, not of the spirit or the soul, or life, but a damn journey through Ireland, where part of the story is set, and where I had some interesting experiences as a teenager.

I am seeing now that my travelogue has been getting in the way of the story. I have my protagonist go just about everywhere, for no apparent reason, and in fact, no apparent reason is admitted by the characters in the process of his goings and comings. It added pages to my book, but not really much else. There was nothing enlightening or even worthy of mentioning about my protagonists growth and character development in his observations of things like the horse races, a nightclub, a pub here, another pub there.

I can see what I was trying to do with those first attempts, and not only did I write them but they are full of detail. But why? Who cares about the colour or texture of the barmaid’s hair if it has absolutely nothing to do with the story? Save it for another time.

Which leads to my next point. When we first set out to tell our story, and record all of the interesting experiences we think we have had in our lives, we not only do it but we go into great detail. Slowly we get earthbound and the wings that had carried us aloft to our simple goal, are now weighing us down with side trips to god knows where and then full of cumbersome detail of brand names, sizes, and styles when the word “shoe” might be perfect.

So if you find your story is not really getting off the ground, you might have to be slightly ruthless in the cutting phase, and ask yourself why. Save that trip to the Irish open or the Irish sea for another piece of writing. Free yourself, lighten the load and you will find that you can see much more clearly, your intention.

Published by Andrew Binks

I am a writer living in rural Ontario, 2 hours east of Toronto. I was born and raised in Ottawa but spent the last 15 years in BC. Glad to be back. My first novel, The Summer Between, was published in 2009 by Nightwood Editions. My website is www.andrewbinks.ca My fiction and non-fiction have been published in Joyland, Galleon, Fugue, Prism International, Harrington Gay Men's Literary Quarterly (U.S.), Bent-magazine, The Globe and Mail, and Xtra, among others. I am a past honorable mention of the Writer's Union of Canada's short prose contest, Glimmertrain’s Family Matters contest, finalist in the Queen's University Alumni Review poetry contest, and This Magazine’s “Great Canadian Literary Hunt.” My poetry has also appeared in Quill's “Lust” issue and Velvet Avalanche Anthology. Harvard Square Editions will be publishing a chapter from one of my novels in their upcoming anthology "A Voice from the Planet," this fall. My satirical play, Reconciliation, about Native land claims, Japanese internment, and political corruption, was read this spring in Toronto as part of the Foundry play-reading series. My play Pink Blood received a public reading, from Screaming Weenie Productions in Vancouver this June. I spoke at the AWP conference in New York City in 2008 on the merits and challenges of multi-genre writing programs.

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