October 06, 2004
MJ Rose on Switching From Fiction to Journalism
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.
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 teaches the following classes at WritersWeekly.com University:
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