Friday 12th August 2011

Crumpled paperWriter's Block by Steve101, Flickr

One way in which many expats find themselves when living overseas is to write about their experiences in the form of an observational journal, blog or expat guide that they one day hope to publish. Writing about your life overseas can be a great method of taking in your surroundings, finding yourself and embracing the true excitement of time living abroad and it is especially useful for the trailing spouse, who may find themselves occasionally at a loose end if they are unable to find suitable employment in their host country.

If you’re a budding expat writer and want to put pen to paper in the hope of publishing tales of your life abroad then you should learn from the writers out there who haven't quite made it. For some reason, their works just don’t get much attention and we’ve put together a list of their most common traits so that you can learn what not to do when trying to become an expat writer.

1. Bang out writing whenever you have a spare moment

Once you make the decision that one day you hope to actually publish your written works you need to live and breathe it. Every single piece of work that you publish will now constitute an element of your professional personality and you need to ensure that you only ever put the best work forward. Even if you’re simply writing a blog entry that you don’t intend to act as part of your portfolio, the chances are that a would-be publisher could see it and it a part of your portfolio it will inadvertently become. Never publish anything on any medium that you haven’t put your full effort into.

2. Write for and about yourself

There are literally thousands of expat blogs out there but only a few that ever make any real headway. What distinguishes a successful expat blog from one that festers away somewhere on the Internet without any visitors? The underlying objectives of the writing. Blogs that simply describe the day-to-day experiences of the author without providing any real value to the audience, will never gain the interest they need. Although you may not want to hear this, people don’t care that much about you and a stranger isn’t going to want to sit through thousands of photographs just like your friends and family fear the dreaded slide show upon your return. Your writing needs to educate, help, entertain and guide others. Start by trying to identify who your potential audience is and write for them.

3. Be inconsistent

If you’re writing a blog, regularly publishing articles or are communicating with an editor about a possible publication make sure that you deliver to all your promises. All too often I observe bloggers who write a great article, promise to publish part two the following week and then fail to do so. Always give your audience what they are looking for. If you have promised an editor of a magazine or website an article, make sure you deliver it on time and in the form discussed.

4. Write about something that you know nothing about

Spending a few months in a given country or city doesn’t make you an expert in their intricate cultures and traditions. Don’t be tempted to brand your lose observations as fact and never generalize. When attempting to gain attention as an expat writer for the first time you need to earn people’s trust and establish some type of credibility. The best method is to concentrate on a subject area that you know a lot about. Are you a great photographer? Then write about areas to photograph in your host city. Are you raising children abroad? Concentrate on your experiences as a mother and what you can teach others. Figure out what you are good at and what you know a lot about and concentrate on those, at least until you have got yourself a name.

5. Copy others

So an author has written a great book about the city you live in and you think you can do the same. Maybe you can BUT the book already exists. Don’t be tempted to try and recreate the work of others but in your own name. Publishers and readers are looking for something new and unique. Give it to them.

6. Give up at the first hurdle

Gaining attention as a credible expat author is difficult and will take a great deal of time and effort. You may have to write over a hundred blog posts before you start to get any real traffic to your site and you may have to contact tens of editors before you find one that is interested in your material. However, don’t just give up and soon as you face some difficulties. The world is full of expat authors and bloggers who have made it and, providing you have what it takes, there’s no reason why you can’t be one of them.

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