Stop the Presses: How Journalism Helps Authors

reporterWhen at a loss for something new to write about on the art of writing, the ever-encouraging K.S. Brooks suggested to me that I should discuss the art of research for writers. She’s impressed by the fact I’m, apparently, the last person on earth who still goes to a library to do research (lest you think I’m the only one who patronizes the library, I will point out there are many individuals at my local branch – mostly homeless people trying to stay out of the cold or kids with laptops who like the free wifi).

Anyway, I’m not sure how much I have to say about techniques of research when it comes to writing, particularly for those interested in writing fiction. But what I can speak to is how my penchant for thorough research – primarily for my non-fiction writing but also to get certain facts straight in fiction as well – comes from a background in journalism. I think it was the author Tom Wolfe who noted that the best thing any aspiring novelist could do for his craft would be to spend a few years working as a journalist. Wolfe’s belief was that the world, when examined up close through the eyes of a professional observer, held a plethora of interesting stories, individuals and small details which could serve you the rest of your life in creating “fiction” that would ring true. While I’m not recommending anyone become a journalist (unless you’re prepared to make sub-minimum wage) I do think many of the skills one picks up as a reporter of non-fiction events can be transferred over to the realm of fiction writing. Continue reading “Stop the Presses: How Journalism Helps Authors”

Walk on the Dark Side

I saw on the news where Lou Reed died the other day. If you’re not an alternative rock aficionado or an aging, misanthropic New Yorker, you probably don’t consider that a very great loss. But it is.

Reed was a seminal figure in rock and roll history, as important, in his own way, as Dylan and Springsteen though he never quite caught on with the public like they did. He didn’t write catchy pop diddies, nor did his songs generally carry messages of hope or love or inspiration. Instead, Reed wrote in a matter-of-fact way about the things he saw on the mean streets of New York, things like drug addiction, male prostitution and child abuse. He was an artist who went to a place most artists either fear or simply ignore, that sometimes dark and often painful side of the human experience which many of us simply call life. Continue reading “Walk on the Dark Side”

Writers Write

For those of you who never bothered to read my bio, I’m a long time martial arts practitioner who writes quite a bit about all facets of fighting and martial arts, including the sport of MMA, or mixed martial arts, popularized by the Ultimate Fighting Championships. I bring this up because I had an interesting conversation recently with a producer from ESPN television who called to pick my brain for an upcoming story relating to MMA.

Toward the end of our conversation, he asked me why fighters are willing to appear in some of the smaller MMA shows that don’t necessarily have a high standard of safety regulation or medical care. I came up with various reasons but my main response was an old cliche, which nonetheless remains a truism: fighters fight. That’s what they do and if given the opportunity to fight, they will take it regardless of crappy circumstances.

One might also say the same about writers. Someone who is serious about writing will write, regardless of whether it’s inconvenient or difficult. Given a chance to do it for money, they will often write on subjects they don’t have much interest in because… well, it’s a chance to write for money! The same way someone who is a true fighter (or at least wants to believe they are a true fighter) will take any opportunity to jump in a ring or cage in order to practice their craft – even if they’re overmatched or the safety precautions are less than adequate – because that is what they do, writers will, quite simply, write because that is what they do and they really don’t want to do anything else. Continue reading “Writers Write”

The Most Dangerous Profession

Recently the good folks who run the Indies Unlimited website asked me to start contributing a monthly column on the writing profession. They suggested I talk about my experiences and feelings on being a writer. I mentioned that might cause severe depression leading to mass suicide among the site’s followers. But the webmasters don’t care whether you live or die, so here we are.

Like many people who make their living as writers, I have a love/hate relationship with the craft. While you sometimes love the feeling of turning out a piece of finely phrased prose, unless you are one of the tiny handful of writers who are vastly successful, you pretty much hate everything else about the business. You don’t make much money, frequently have to write on topics that don’t interest you to make any money at all, often have to deal with editors who either don’t have the time or the interest to give your story the attention you feel it deserves, suffer bouts of writer’s block, feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, jealousy, and have to deal with massive amounts of rejection. And that’s all on a good day. Continue reading “The Most Dangerous Profession”