October 06, 2004
MJ Rose on Switching From Fiction to Journalism | printable version
I am struggling with an issue related to writing. I am in my second semester of college, studying journalism. My past writing experience has mainly been fiction, and personal essays. Last semester I wrote several feature articles as well as a movie review. This semester, I have been working on an investigative piece and am now having a problem with switching writing styles.
The professor feels that I am taking the editorial butchering of the article as a personal offense. I am not, I know that once the article hits the copy editor's desk, it is no longer mine. I do know that making the switch is not easily done. The professor told me to forget everything I ever knew about writing. This is easier said than done.
Have you any tips or suggestions that may assist the transition? I want to be a good writer. I also want to be a writer with a somewhat regular income as a result of my writing. Journalism seems to be the best route.
If you understand that everything you've written can be changed by the copy editor and let it go - then you can be a journalist.
When you write fiction, you are writing from your heart and sharing your fantasies with your own voice.
When you are a journalist, you are writing from the facts, covering a story that already exists, without your own voice.
The best advice I can give is to keep writing some fiction so you can get the "creative" part of your talent down on paper and not be frustrated by the impersonal non-fiction.
It's a good road to take. For 99% of us, non fiction or journalism is a real way to pay the bills and still be a writer - meaning - getting to use your ability to put words on paper and get paid for them.
Also, fiction editors allow much more of personal styles to come through. Non-fiction editors have a very different job. I think the biggest shock I ever got was how Wired (when I had a news column there) changed every headline I ever wrote.
I learned after a few months not to look at the editing as a personal issue. The editor was pushing the work to fit the style of the publication.
M.J. Rose - http://www.mjrose.com - author of The Halo Effect
M.J. Rose teaches the following classes at WritersWeekly.com University:
Procrastinate Your Way Into Writing a Novel -
Create a Buzz Plan Without the Guesswork: Marketing for Authors -