Advice from the Masters: Bill Bryson

Feb 1, 2012 | Better Writing

I love it when a friend points me to a great book that I probably wouldn’t have discovered on my own. That’s how I discovered In a Sunburned Country and Bill Bryson.

My friend Chrysula Winegar contacted me after she read one of my short business stories about Nellie Melba. Chrysula is an Aussie and loved the story about Melba. She wondered if I had ever read In a Sunburned Country.

She assured me that the book was a superb portrait of Australia. She didn’t warn me that Bryson would have me laughing out loud.

I loved the book and I loved Bryson’s writing. He’s a great travel writer who gives you a delightful picture of the places he travels and of the world in general.

When an interviewer asked Bryson for tips for aspiring travel writers, this is part of what he said.

“I think the main thing is to just write. There are an awful lot of people that just talk about a book they are going to write, but they never get round to writing it. I think that unless you just get on with the writing, there’s no way to tell whether you’re a good writer or not.”

I would add one comment from my own experience. “Just writing” the book will give you a zero draft, the one before the first draft where you learn what you don’t know and what you need to clarify.

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