Thursday, 15 January 2015

Lessons from Journalism and the Joy of Non-Fiction

This post is, I guess, an extension of the previous goals I posted for this year. 2015 for me is about going back to the grass roots of why I enjoy writing, and that means all kinds of writing. I like writing non-fiction. In fact, the first thing I did when taking tentative steps towards a writing career was press releases for my sixth form college at 16. While taking a year out globetrotting I kept a travelogue of all the places I'd been. And then I enrolled for a qualification in journalism in Glasgow, and was lucky enough to get a reporter's position at my local paper.

I miss it. I miss the buzz of uncovering facts, doing interviews and getting a great quote. I think I've been so obsessed with developing my fiction writing that I forgot the pleasure that can be gained from a well-honed article. Furthermore, there are lessons to be learned from journalism that we can apply to our fiction. What's interesting about the story? Who are the main players, what troubles have they seen and what are their triumphs? In journalism you have to find the most important thread and put that front and centre.

So this year I'm going to devote more effort to my freelance writing career by pitching some article ideas to paying markets on topics I enjoy writing about. I know a bit about being a step-parent, raising a disabled child and coping with the loss of a child. Plus, all the ephemera that swirls about my head to do with music, movies and historical figures has to be useful for something.

I also need to get over the idea I'm not good enough. I'm qualified, people have said I'm alright, I need to start having more faith in myself if I'm going to get anywhere.

I'm also going to restart the goal to write and submit one short story a month. I spaced on it in January as I was just getting back into the swing of things after the holiday, but I'm definitely going to refocus on this in February.

Do you enjoy non-fiction? I know we all do it via blogging, but do you enjoy reading it or writing in-depth articles? Do you think fiction and non-fiction have lessons to teach each other?

31 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You are qualified!
I don't think of myself as a non-fiction writer, and yet when I consider all of the articles I've written for guest blog posts and the IWSG, I guess I do know how to do it.

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

I think you write your articles on your blog very well. Isn't that the same as non fiction articles? You could always submit to writing markets?? I would love to do that too but it is a question of prioritising for me. I MUST finish my present WIP and what with writing blogs and keeping up with social media. It really is a no brainer for me to Not take on any new projects at the moment. Good luck whatever you do this year!

Lara Lacombe said...

You are definitely qualified! And I think it's a great idea--it'll bring a nice mix into your writing, and I bet the creativity from non-fiction will bleed into your fiction, and vice versa.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I've written some well-received articles for the newsletters of the writing groups I belong to but I've thought about doing more nonfiction. Good luck with what sounds like a terrific idea.

dolorah said...

Sometimes I like non-fiction, depending on the topic. And how well written it is. But I don't seek it out; as a social worker I see about as much non-fiction as I want to first hand. I like articles though.

Good luck with both these goals Nick. You have suffered quite a bit of losses last year, and getting back in the writing game may be a healing answer for you. Your son would want you to continue with what you love. He would be proud.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Nick - you're definitely qualified .. and I'm sure you'll bring those knowledge ideas to fruition somehow .. and then be able to open up other doors ... most definitely and lots of opportunities in your Glasgow area for freelance submissions ... good luck and go for it ... go with 2015 at the determination and positive level - you've encountered so much of life.

Cheers and very good luck - Hilary

Miranda Hardy said...

I'm happy to hear you are returning to something you enjoy. I have a love of knowledge, and researching information is the best part of writing anything, be it fiction or nonfiction. I tend to focus more on my fiction though, but I did write articles long ago for the nonfiction market.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

It's wonderful to hear you are writing articles again. I enjoy writing non-fiction. I think I'm better at it than fiction.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

If that's what your heart/gut is telling you to do, then go for it!

And don't forget Write 1 Sub 1 if you're looking for motivation in getting those stories out. (If you're not familiar with W1S1, I've got info on my blog's sidebar.) :)

jamieayres.com said...

You are great, Nick! I love reading nonfiction articles online, and I definitely learn new stuff . . . not a huge fan of nonfiction books though. Can't hold my interest long enough.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I used to want to be a journalist, but never pursued it because I figured it would involve a lot of travel and I wanted to be a mom. (I was always aver-thinker!)

Good luck with the free lancing. I think you came up with a genius idea.

Cynthia said...

Nick, you are most certainly qualified to dive into non-fiction and journalism. As a news writer for my city's local newspaper, I think that the questions you present on your approach to unraveling a story are good ones.

Sherry Ellis said...

I like writing non-fiction because of the research that goes into it. It's a great learning experience.

Heather Musk said...

Have faith in yourself! You can do it! I've often thought about writing non-fiction articles for submission but with no experience I don't even know where to begin.
Good luck with the short story submissions.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Until recently, I'd only made money writing via nonfiction articles on parenting and such. I've been thinking about getting back to that to have a writing income, and because it's a change from the fiction. Good luck on your goals this year!

Loni Townsend said...

I'm not a fan of writing non-fiction myself, but it sounds like you're great at it! Best of luck! I wish you great success in it.

Shelley Sly said...

I think it's awesome that you have a passion for non-fiction, and I agree with the others that you're qualified. I enjoy reading non-fiction a whole lot, but I don't have enough experience in writing it. But it's something I'd like to work on. Good luck to you!

Tobi Summers said...

I've always had difficulty reading nonfiction. No matter how interesting I find the subject, if it's longer than an article I can't make my way through the whole thing. But I definitely think there are lessons that both can teach the other. I worked in journalism in high school (newspaper), college (TV station), and after I graduated (online), and I truly believe that the experiences there helped my fiction writing threefold. Similarly, I think my ability to write fiction helped me write compelling, engaging articles.

Good luck with your nonfiction (and fiction) pursuits! I think you'll do great!

Christine Rains said...

I definitely think fiction and nonfiction can teach each other lessons. I do enjoy reading some nonfiction (I just finished a Mary Roach book last week!), but I gave a try to working for a newspaper and discovered it isn't for me. I'm too timid to be a reporter. Good luck!

Melissa said...

You are most definitely qualified all around. Go for it! :)

Tyrean Martinson said...

You are definitely qualified! If you love uncovering facts and writing non-fiction - go for it! I've found that I like creating writing curriculum for my students so I have a writing curriculum project ongoing even though I am still writing fiction too. I just like all kinds of writing. :)

And yes, I think non-fiction and fiction have lessons to teach each other.

Patsy said...

I've written very little non fiction, but I can see some similarities. Whatever we write, someone has probably already been there before us, so we need to find a fresh angle or new way to get the readers attention.

cleemckenzie said...

Nothing finer to read than well-written non-fiction. Good luck and let us know when those pieces find homes.

Michelle Wallace said...

I really enjoy writing creative non-fiction. Actually I enjoy lots of different things including poetry & haiku, flash fiction and letters (handwritten ones...)
As long as I have a pen and paper in hand, I'm happy!
Good luck with the Write 1 Sub 1 project. It's a good way to keep the creative juices flowing.

Jay Noel said...

I hope you do pursue writing non-fiction this year. As a blogger, I consider myself a quasi-non-fictioneer, I guess.

Good luck!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Excellent on your goals. Definitely go after what you love to do.

It's interesting that I started out this whole writing thing because I wanted to write my personal history. Not a memoir. You gotta be famous for memoirs. lol But just my personal history. Decided to learn about writing so it wasn't a cure for insomnia for my descendants. Now I'm having so much fun with fiction ...

Jemi Fraser said...

I've never submitted nonfiction, but I do enjoy writing it - loved those research essays in high school and college! Maybe one day .. although I'll have to find my faith in myself too :)

Al Diaz said...

Thinking one is not qualified is quite usual for writers (and non-writers in general). Often we doubt our skills. Listen to those who say you're okay! They're right. I used to write articles for a magazine. People liked it although I had no journalism knowledge. It was fun. :)

M. J. Joachim said...

You're absolutely right,Nick. There's a lot we can learn from the disciplines of journalism that will make our writing (whatever it is) that much better. I say go where the passion is, and follow the passion. It sometimes has a way of changing directions on us, and we need to follow it anyway. Good for you following your writing dreams and goals. I believe we're always happier when we do that :)

Annalisa Crawford said...

I love reading good articles, but I rarely read a non-fiction book. It sounds like you really enjoy writing it, and I think it can work really well alongside fiction. Like you say, it can hone your skills.

Good luck with the submissions. I'm attempting something similar.

Darla M Sands said...

Very thought provoking. Thank you for sharing the link on your latest blog post. Best wishes to you and yours!