Tuesday, July 10, 2012

6 Lessons for Your Writing From the Newsroom

Stacks of newspaper - web image
Besides being a creative writer, I am also a weekly newspaper reporter.

In this post I want to discuss a few of the aspects from my day job that have taught me how to write better fiction and be a better blogger.

Since there's too much to fit in one post, I think I'm going to expand this into a series.

My very first series, how exciting!

1) TheArt of Interviewing

When I do interviews for feature stories at the newspaper, I’m not only given the opportunity to hang out and visit with an unusual number of varying personalities, I’m tasked with listening to their stories and the words and ways they use to describe those stories. 

The practice of listening to others converse has probably been one of the biggest contributing factors to more fully developing my fictional characters within my own writing. I study people’s speech patterns to incorporate that voice into the article. This skill helps me develop a character’s voice through dialogue and they seem more believable that way.

2) Drivingfor Answers

A newspaper reporter has to constantly be asking questions, the probing ones that get to the heart of a story. Everybody knows about the five W's – who, what, when, where, and why – but sometimes people don’t realize how many varying ways those few words can be combined.

Journalists are tasked with figuring out what those combinations are; because the second I don’t, one of my readers will think of a new question, and then the answer won’t be found in my article. You can only know what you ask and reporters know that they have to drive at an issue until they get the answers they want, not just settle for the answer your subject is willing to give.

Sometimes I think our fictional characters and stories give half-hearted replies to their creator’s questions because their creators are afraid to drive at them and learn how they really tick. I’ve learned to keep slinging questions until I start getting the types of answers that I think will sedate my future readers’ thirst for knowledge of my characters.

3) Cutthe Crap

Journalists have a limited space in which to compile all of the facts into. They have to learn to write lean. No extra words. No fluff allowed. Every single word has to count.

I imagine short story authors or writers of flash fiction can relate to this. In my novels, I relate this to the setting. I’m a fan of showing rather than telling because, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

4) Deadlines– My Worst Enemy or Best Friend?

Deadlines; in a nutshell, I hate them.

But then again, I couldn’t live without them. In any newspaper, you have to learn to write quick and clean and to do it before press time. If you’re late on writing a story, everyone gets backed up. And then you make your editor mad.

Trust me. You never want to make an editor mad.

5) BeProfessional

As the employee of a small, weekly newspaper, I represent my paper whenever I’m in public. How I behave and conduct myself both inside working hours and outside will reflect on the reputation of my newspaper and, in a way, the entire news industry.

The same is true for writing creatively, whether it be fiction, non-fiction, poetry or blogging. The moment you declare yourself a writer to the public eye, people are going to take note of what you say, do or even tweet. Yes, as a writer, even your social media presence has to reflect a certain amount of professionalism. That’s because all those things are affecting your potential audience’s decision to read your work.

That doesn't mean  you can't have fun, it just means you need to be aware.

6) And Don’t Forget…

Remember, the same principal applies in all categories – write, don’t stop. Discipline, don’t slack. And always know that you can get a story out of any situation if you look at it from the correct angle.  

What lessons can you pull from your work or personal life into your creative writing?


  1. Great post. Insightful way to improve writing skills and hopefully grow as an author. Nice to hear this stuff from a slightly different angle.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Pat! I'm always keeping a look out for ways to improve my writing. Hope you enjoy the rest of the series too ^_^

  2. "You only know what you ask." Such a smart post. I'm happy to see you'll be doing a series with this, I think that's a refreshing and fun idea!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.


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