In one of my earliest blog posts, when I was still making the transition from journalism to general writing, I wrote that journalism and writing were not as compatible as they seemed. I’m still glad of my journalism grounding though, because the skills required for journalism contain valuable lessons for writing, particularly if you’re going for publication.
I’m going to outline a few of them now
1. Get to the point
In journalism, you only have a limited amount of space to say what you need to say. So you learn to weed out any unnecessary words and phrases and develop a crisp, concise style, making every word work for you. When you’re writing, being able to express yourself using very few words increases the emotional impact of your writing.
2. Find Your Angle
When you’re developing a story in journalism, you need to know what’s newsworthy about it. What’s the angle that will make your story interesting? This angle acts as a roadmap when you’re writing your story. It helps you to decide what to keep in and what to take out. Put simply, anything that doesn’t relate to your story goes – including that beautiful sub plot that you can’t quite bring yourself to kill.
3. Stick to deadlines
Journalism teaches you to be disciplined about your time. If you don’t send in your copy or broadcast by the deadline, it doesn’t get used. The same applies to publishing. After all, time is money. When you know you have a date to aim for and that there’ll be consequences if you don’t meet the deadline, you’ll soon smarten up your act. The deadline can even be a motivating factor; knowing that people are counting on you to send in your work helps you to see the value of it.
Ultimately, being a journalist helps you to be ruthless and rigorous with your content. It’s the level of rigour you need if you want to survive in the dog eat dog world of publishing.