Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Creative Writing Lessons from a Journalist, a guest post from Andrea Salvador

Jill here. We have a guest blog post today from the talented Andrea Salvador. She brings to us a journalist's perspective, which I think is really interesting. Please welcome Andrea!

Andrea Salvador lives somewhere in Asia, specifically a country with thousands of islands and constantly humid weather. She is a self-proclaimed writer with a liking towards creating lists, watching sci-fi movies, and rearranging her bookshelf. You can find her on Pinterest, on her blog, or on her website.

With the broad spectrum of writing divided by genres, styles, and forms, I tend to see writing simply divided into two: journalism and creative writing. 

A bit of a background on me: I'm a creative writer by heart. I started writing short stories in second grade, and now in eighth grade, I've written three novellas and two novels, now writing my third. However I'm a bit of a journalist as well. I'm currently a news and opinion writer for the school paper, and I was published last December in the Philippine Inquirer’s opinion column, Young Blood. 

While I greatly prefer the freedom, creativity, and the encouragement to go wild with my imagination from creative writing, I have learned so many amazing lessons from journalism that I've carried over to creative writing. Lessons that you can pick up if you give journalism a try. Here are five:




1. Structure 

When I write my articles, I have a certain structure to follow. There's the typical beginning, middle, and end, but every paragraph needs to connect with each other and pick up where the former left off. This is true in the plots of stories I write: I make sure to write in a way that every chapter, every scene must be relevant and arranged in such a way everything makes sense and backs up and adds to the fire of the plot.

2. Research 

As a journalist, there are so many ways to research, not just through the Internet. I conduct interviews, attend actual events to gain information, and read books or other articles related to topics I'm writing about. Even though creative writing is all about the imagination, you're bound to do some research, from a country your story is set in to traditions from other cultures to the latest inventions – to make your world and characters believable as possible. Journalism is a great way to practice this.

3. Hooking readers

Creative writers often worry about perfecting the first sentence of their stories, as well as first chapters, and for good reason. In journalism, not only should the title of a certain article grab the attention of the reader right away, the first sentence should as well. This “hook” should continue throughout the article, all the way up to the end. With practice, journalism can train you to do that well.

4. Summarizing 

If you'll notice, many articles in the newspaper are concise. In journalism, there is little room for irrelevant information – it's all the important bits, and the rest are left out. I find myself doing this in creative writing and it works spectacularly, especially in editing. Journalism makes stories tighter through the practice of summarizing and condensing everything together. This works great in fiction and can also be applied to writing pitches, blurbs, and synopses for your work in progress.

5. 5Ws, 1H

Who, what, when, where, why, and how: these are the necessities in writing an article, especially for news. For me, this also serves as a great way to expound on a plot bunny. If I have an idea I want to turn into an actual story, I get the basics nailed down first: the 5Ws and the 1H. So next time if you're stuck planning out a story, this is a great way to get yourself out of the block. 

All in all, my creative writing has been influenced by the skills I have gleaned from journalism. It's a great form of writing to dabble in and gain experience with, no matter what subject you pursue: news, opinion, feature, or sports. However, out of all things journalism has taught me, one priceless lesson rises above the rest: everyone and everything has a story, and it's up to each of us to tell it to the world.

There are a lot of stories out there. Can you think of one that you need to tell?

25 comments:

  1. This is so interesting, Andrea! Thank you for sharing it with us.

    Number 5 in particular stood out to me. I think it's a great thing to think through with every scene as well to make sure the story is logical.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us!

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    1. Thank you so much for having me guest post here! I loved being able to share my insight on journalism to primarily creative writers :)

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  2. Spectacular, Andrea! Your post was very concise, so I can tell journalism really works like you say it does. ;) Making my writing strong by focusing on structure and editing out bunny trails is something I'm sure I need to work on. I'll definitely be putting your suggestions to good use!

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    1. Also, I have to say how encouraging it is to find another person who views creative expressions in a very straightforward and organized manner. I have a tendency to analyze everything and love poring over details and elements of function. Judging from your writing style and experience, it sounds like you do the same!

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    2. Thank you, Olivia! I have to say that ever since I started journalism my writing has gotten tighter and in a way, cleaner. Also as you've pointed out, I do enjoy analyzing writing techniques!

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  3. Great suggestions! I was part of a school newspaper when I was in 7th-9th grades, and I, too learned that everyone has a story through that experience. Definitely one of the most important things I've ever learned related to both writing and life. :)

    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I agree with you, Amanda! Journalism is a struggle sometimes but then it's totally worth it, both writing and life wise.

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  4. Thanks for the advice! #2 and #5 stood out to me the most. I'm beginning a book, and (even though you were talking about articles) these tips are gonna help me a lot!
    -GJE
    (P.S. I read your bio on your website and - COOL - you've been to Hobbiton!!!! Sorry if I sound gushy! lol I'm a LOTR fanatic...)

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    1. Good luck with your book! Research can be tedious but it can really make a book seem more polished.

      And yes, last summer I visited Hobbiton! It was a great experience although on the day we chose to tour around, it started raining really hard. Still it was quite an opportunity -- it's not every day you see the movie set of a popular fantasy movie!

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    2. Thank you! I know. When I was little, I pictured myself writing whatever came to mind, but research gives the story body.
      Cool! I wanna go there so bad! :'(

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  5. I like #5 as well, and I'm also intrigued by the concept of hooking readers with titles. Nonfiction does that so well, and I think fiction could sometimes do better at that.

    Thanks again for the post!

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    1. Thank YOU for helping me out with sharing this article, Jill!

      Fiction books (particularly ones I've read) usually have vague titles that require blurbs to explain it to you and I always try to aim for titles that can give readers a vibe or feel of the book straight away.

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  6. Hi, Andrea! I think it's neat that you come from Asia. I would love to travel while blasting my music, and thinking of great story ideas. :)
    I am in the middle of writing a book, but it's hard to keep to one subject for the characters. I come up with SO MANY ideas and it drives me crazy I can't use all of them. That's neat that you've written those novellas and novel. Have you ever gotten one published? I've really wanted to be a published author for a while. Wha tare the names of your novels\novellas?
    -LHE

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    1. Asia's really cool! There are lots of exotic cultures here and I love traveling because of it.

      I get tons of ideas too! It gets really hard to stick to one so I usually give myself time to flip back and forth from projects until I realize which one I really want to pursue. I've never really seriously edited them, so as of now I'm not focusing on getting published yet :)

      The novellas I wrote are steampunk / Titanic retellings called Titanica. The novels are paranormal and called Moments and Tapes, and I still don't have a title for the one I'm currently writing.

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    2. It sounds like you're really busy! I would love to travel like that.
      I was writing a book, but I didn't see how I would end it and the plot didn't sound interesting, so I ditched it. :) So,now I'm working on my new one, and it is going pretty well so far. I am really not looking forwards to editing. :\
      I would love to read them! :) Thanks for getting back to me!
      It's hard fro me to stick to one thing. I want to put everything in one book, but I know that that can't work. ugh

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  7. Andrea, that's amazing that you already have so much experience under your belt! I love the tips you gave. I, too, have an interest in both areas of writing -- non-fiction and creative writing -- so I found this helpful. It sounds like creative writers could use a few classes in journalism. ;)

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

    Tessa
    www.christiswrite.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you, Tessa! It's great that you have an interest in both forms, and I think it can definitely make your writing stronger as you can balance both :)

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  8. Great post! I've definitely learned a lot as an essayist for websites. Thanks for sharing. ^ ^

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you! I've learned that even a bit of practice on writing essays and articles can go a long way when pursuing creative writing. :)

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  9. Creating lists and rearranging my bookshelves are some of my favorite things to do as well. :) I found this post really interesting and helpful!!! Thanks for sharing!!

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    1. Thanks Sarah! I hope you use this post for reference in the future. Haha it's cool to know we share the same 'hobbies'. :)

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  10. Fantastic article, Andrea! So many great tips. Thank you for joining us!

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    1. Thank you Shannon! It was great being able to guest post here :)

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  11. I did some articles for a local newspaper, and #4 on your list was most helpful to me. Also, since non-fiction isn't my favorite, it also helped me work on writing/editing things I didn't want to.

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    1. I hope your experience writing in the local newspaper was fun! For many reasons I prefer writing fiction to non-fiction, but I also believe that reading and writing in non-fiction can help writing stories / novels well :)

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