Saturday, February 11, 2012

Why Write?

The initial motivation behind the journalism degree I received in 1994 was the desire to be a writer - but to draw a regular paycheck. Along the way, my interest in sports journalism gave way to news, and my major changed from Newspaper to Broadcast Journalism. I worked at the campus radio station where Bob Costas, Marv Albert and Mike Tirico got their starts, and after graduation I got a job in news radio, working in that industry for almost four years before getting "a real job."

As a radio news anchor I was responsible for writing most of the news stories I read on air. This meant about 15 minutes of content per hour. I wrote four different versions to use in the 6:00 and 7:00 hours, and recycled those for the 8:00 and 9:00 hours. It was a lot of writing, and although print journalists may not consider it "real" writing, I believe I learned a lot in those years which is directly applicable to fiction writing:

  • The concept of showing and not telling is key for good broadcast writers. 
  • Writing for the ear requires a constant consideration of how things will sound, which translates naturally to how dialogue will read on the page. 
  • The requirement of producing thousands of words each day is really no different than what's required of a novelist. 
  • I was able to see how much my writing improved over the four revisions, reinforcing the notion that "writing is re-writing is re-writing." 
  • The ability to write clearly, concisely and conversationally (the three Cs of broadcast writing) is just as important in writing fiction.
  • Doing all of the above while under intense deadline pressure (new deadlines come every 10-15 minutes) encourages more rapid writing.
Most of what I learned about writing for broadcast came from two people: one of my journalism professors, Ron Graeff (his on-air name was Ron Hastings), and my first News Director, Geoff Dunn. Using the techniques they taught me I won countless awards from the New York State and New Hampshire Associations of Broadcasters, and was the News Director of an Edward R. Murrow award-winning newsroom.

I realized recently that, although I quite enjoyed writing, I hadn't done much in a long time. And that's one of the biggest reasons why I'm writing this book.

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