Travel Writing About Africa – How To Begin Writing

It’s hardly an industry secret that, for travel writers, the fun part of the job is the research rather than the writing. Whether it’s a South African safari, hiking in Morocco’s High Atlas or discovering the islands of Lake Malawi, hitting the road offers more obvious excitement and appeal than the subtler creative pleasure of writing up your notes. Writing can be extremely rewarding of course, but the trick is to get started. Beginning is, for most writers, the hardest part of the job – and there are different techniques for easing into the article.

Some writers like to dive in and begin wherever it feels easiest, perhaps in the middle of their account. This morale-boosting approach takes the path of least literary resistance. As you write, various ideas for the beginning will occur to you; note them down at the top of the page, then compose that attention-grabbing intro when you feel ready…perhaps at the very end.

Other writers, myself included, live by Douglas Adams’ comment: ‘Writing is easy. You only need to stare at a blank piece of paper until your forehead bleeds.’ The late Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author’s advice may not sound encouraging, but I’ve always preferred to begin at the beginning. Sure, getting going takes a little time and there may be a few false starts, but that’s because you’re subconsciously figuring out the whole piece. In your choice of subject matter and tone for that first paragraph or so, you’re working out the structure, emphasis and thrust of the entire article.

So, don’t be discouraged if getting started takes longer than hoped, but persevere and you’ll soon be whizzing happily along. Not unlike catching a bush taxi in Africa really…

Learn travel writing tips from expert James Bainbridge, who runs travel writing courses in South Africa. James covers Africa for publications including Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, the UK Guardian, AFKTravel and

Want to discover the finer side of Africa? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Leave a Comment