Guest Blog: Travel Writing Tips from Paul Kilduff

Hi, my name is Paul Kilduff and I have written the book that has been Ireland’s best selling non-fiction work for the past two months – Ruinair.  It’s a humorous travelogue around Europe.

Why does Ryanair ‘suck’ as an airline? I will allow their Chief Executive Michael O’Leary to reply …

‘If a plane is cancelled will we put you up in an hotel overnight? Absolutely not. If a plane is delayed, will we give you a voucher for a restaurant? Absolutely not.’‘

‘Are we going to apologise when something goes wrong? No, we’re fucking not. Please understand. It does not matter how many times you write to us complaining that we wouldn’t put you up in a hotel because there was fog in Stansted. You didn’t pay us for it.’

‘We don’t care if you don’t show up‘.

‘You’re not getting a refund so fuck off.’

‘I think we certainly have democratised flight, in that there’s no curtains anymore, there’s no business class anymore, you’re not made to feel, you know, two inches tall, like, ‘Here you go, down with the poor people at the back.’ Everybody is the same on Ryanair.’

‘We don’t fall over ourselves if you say ‘My granny fell ill’. What part of ‘No Refund’ don’t you understand?’

‘Onboard our flights we don’t allow anybody to sleep because we are too busy selling them products.’

‘At the moment the ice is free, but if we could find a way of targeting a price on it we would.’

‘We recognise your right to object. But good luck, somebody else will have your seat.’

‘You want luxury? Go somewhere else.’

’No, we shouldn’t give you a bloody cup of coffee. We only charge 19 euros for the ticket.’

‘Our customer service is the lowest prices guaranteed, on brand-new aircraft, flying safely, on time, with the least risk of a cancellation or a lost bag. Did you get that service? Yes, you did? Fine. Shut up and go away.’

Having learned a few things on my travels, here are my tips for pithy travel writing:

Don’t write about the same old things to see and do in your destination. Instead find one theme or common thread. If I was writing about my home town of Dublin I would not go to Trinity College nor the Guinness Storehouse. Being me, I would only go see all the U2 sights in the city including a trip to Bono’s nice home in Killiney.

Don’t try to make everything funny. Very often in vaguely humorous travel writing, less is more. Don’t end every sentence with a bon mot nor every paragraph with a punchline. Try to leave the reader wanting more.

Pray that something goes wrong. If everything goes to plan then it’s not very interesting for a reader so hope for a missed flight, a wrong train connection, a lost wallet.
John Cleese once said that Fawlty Towers was only funny because everything went wrong all the time i.e. guests dying, kitchen fires and no Waldorf salads.

Use the tourist office. When I arrive in a city I make first for the official tourist office and I grab all the free literature I can. And I book an official city walking tour.

Omit the boring stuff. No one wants to read about meals in restaurants, drinks in bars, rooms in hotels. People want to read about something new and different.

Don’t write about the weather. First of all it’s not very exciting and secondly it will jar at a later date. If you write about freezing winds in the Artic, chances are your reader will be on a beach on the Costa del Sol, or when you write about searing temperatures in Monaco, your reader will have received the book as a Christmas present.

Don’t research destinations on the web before you go.  This is not travel writing. It’s called cut and paste plagiarism and it does not lend itself to originality. Read one good guide book for a basic orientation. Check your facts out later on reputable web sites but only after you have been on your trip and written a first good draft.

Don’t rush your writing.
I make rough notes on loose A4 pages in pen when I travel (usually on the reverse side of my Ryanair flight itinerary which I dare not lose). I don’t bring nor do I even own a dreaded laptop. When I return home I wait a week before I write anything on my home PC. If something in my notes no longer seems valid or relevant or funny then I don’t use it. I keep only what I like seven days on. Maybe that’s why some folks say that Ruinair works.

Good luck.

Paul Kilduff

I’d be happy to hear from anyone out there with questions for me about the book, my writing or what’s next, so feel free!