Monday, October 19, 2015

What I Learned From My Days In The Newsroom

I worked in the radio news industry for over ten years, everything from a freelance reporter to news director. There are some things I learned during that time that I’ve carried over to my fiction writing.

1. Lead lines

The first line of a news story is supposed to grab attention. This is the same in fiction. You want the first line of your story and chapters to grab the reader so they aren't tempted to put it down.

2. Write tight

When writing news, you only have a certain amount of time to get the story across. It’s amazing how much you can put in a two minute newscast if you stick to the important details. This goes for fiction too. Don’t use two words when one will do. Make every word count. If a scene isn't contributing to the overall story, dump it (yes, even if you slaved hours over it and it's your favourite).

3. Check your facts

There’s nothing worse than airing a story with the wrong information. It’s important to check your facts, same as in fiction. If you’re writing about something that you’re unfamiliar with, look it up, find someone knowledgeable to talk to about it. If you're doing historical fiction, research, research, research.

4. Everyone’s story is the most important

When people are planning events or have a cause, to them, that is the most important issue and should take precedence. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. It’s great the people are passionate about what they do. In the grand scheme of news, their story doesn’t always rank. It’s the same for characters. Each character has a motivation, an agenda. To that character, his issues are the most important to him or her. This goes for secondary characters too. They have desires, issues, and needs that they want filled.

5. Professionalism

With social media and email, this seems to be a dying thing. Just because you can't see the person you are writing to doesn't mean you shouldn't put your best foot forward.

When you attend an event as a news person, you're representing the place you work for (this can be said about any professions). Media outlets are under constant public scrutiny, the last thing I wanted is people talking about how unprofessional I was at an event and having it affect the station. I also wanted the people I was there to see to talk to me and take me seriously. If they didn't, they may not have granted me interviews. I've met the Premier, federal and provincial ministers, heads of companies, musicians and more. I used to deal with mayors and city/town councilors on a daily basis. If I couldn't get these people to talk to me, it affected my job.

This carries over to writing. If want agents and editors to take your work seriously, then act professional. You're trying to enter into a business deal with these people. It doesn't mean you can't be yourself, just make sure you're coming across as someone they would want to work with.

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