Susan Lewis gives her expert tips for budding writers

We know that our destinations are inspirational, but when we launched our writing competition last year, we were astonished at the breadth and quality of the responses.  

We invited Simpson Travellers to share a holiday memory, experience or encounter using 250 words or less, and entries ranged from exquisitely descriptive to deeply moving. After days of deliberation we agreed on the winning article, a piece so powerfully evocative of the evening concert it described that we could almost hear the music in the cathedral at St Florent. The talented author is Ilene Sterns, and you can read her winning entry here.

Such was the quality of the entries we couldn’t resist publishing some short-listed ones too: our sincere thanks to Michael Shaw for his uplifting description of a morning swim at Arosmari Village in Crete, and to Joy Tetley for her moving account of how a holiday on Meganissi helped her start to come to terms with the loss of a loved one.

A little professional insight

In order to do justice to the quality of entries, we enlisted author Susan Lewis to judge the competition. As one of the UK’s best-loved writers with over 30 novels to her name, Susan not only helped choose the winner, she also shared some background as to her own inspiration for writing:

“It often surprises me where inspiration comes from, especially where locations are concerned. Sometimes, it can be a passing glimpse of a leafy trail disappearing off into woodland or an intriguing looking front door. The grandeur of a city whose history feels as vibrant as the present (Venice, Florence, Vienna, Paris) always gets me going. The same goes for the dreamy, romantic, even mystical land and seascapes I’ve been fortunate enough to visit and use as a setting within my books.

Most recently, I found myself on the shores of Lake Maxinkuckee where the main character in No Place to Hide – Justine Cantrell – is trying to escape the past. The book opens with her standing on a small beach, watching the light on the water, wondering about the million dollar homes on the far shore, while thinking of the husband, children and successful business she has left behind.

When writing about a place, if you’re not doing it in situ, it’s important to absorb as much of it as you can, while you can, and take plenty of photos as reminders. If, when recreating a location, I can hear the traffic of the city, or smell the fragrances of a beach or forest, or taste the fruity wines of a vineyard, I am confident that my readers will too.

Travelling to a place can be an exhilarating experience and, for me, those experiences can be the inspiration for an entire story, whether it’s the beautiful landscape, the wonderful people I meet or the unexpected adventures I have there.

When you’ve had an inspirational moment, you need to keep its memory alive and that’s why I would encourage you, whether you’re a natural writer or a beginner, to grab a pen or a laptop and let your imagination carry you away.”

Susan Lewis's personal writing tips

  • Have fun with an opening line. You don’t have to use it in the final draft, but it’s fascinating to find out where a random line can take you.
  • Try not to over-analyse, self-censor or re-read every word – it will stop your flow.
  • Think about your experience through all five senses and share the interesting details.
  • If you wouldn’t use a word or phrase in everyday conversation, don’t write it.
  • It’s helpful to start with one idea, but keep an open mind!

You can find out more about Susan at