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:
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.
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.
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?