Novel Writing: Does real-life experience as a journalist help or hurt?
I was recently asked by a blogger if my experience as a journalist and news anchor helped when it came to writing novels. My first reaction — of course! But then, after really thinking about it, I realized that my time as a reporter might have made my learning curve a little more steep. Let me explain.
As a broadcast journalist, you quickly learn that everything is about deadlines. There’s a deadline for the noon show, the 6 o’clock show, the ten o’clock, and so on. And not only do you have to complete your assignment, but the stories have to be accurate, compelling, and brief. Most of the time, my own stories were never longer than a minute and 30 seconds. That’s not much time to get in the necessary Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How!
After working in the television biz for six years, I became quite adept at completing assignments, writing down my script in the news van (going over bumps in the road), and typing at (a little under) the speed of light. Unless I wanted to look for a new career, there was no missing any deadlines, so I learned to work fast and smart.
When I decided to retire from the news desk, stay home with my children, and dip my toe into the author world, my experience as a journalist certainly came in handy. I could come up with a zillion ideas, I was disciplined enough to crank out several pages of manuscript in a day, and I could create fun and interesting characters.
On the flip side, I wasn’t used to working on a single project for longer than a day or two, so sitting down at a computer keyboard and working on the same story day after day was a challenge. Also, instead of the fun, noise, and excitement of the newsroom, I had my laptop and a tiny, quiet corner in my house. I’ll admit, my first attempts at novel writing were not pretty — meaning, I didn’t take the time to plot, I just sat down and wrote. My stories meandered and went in a million different directions, and when I tried to rein everything back in, I might as well have been trying to catch raindrops in a sieve.