From News to Novels
By TM Logan
Authors come from every kind of background. For me, it was journalism. I always knew I wanted to write, and that instinct led me to spend eight years as a newspaper reporter including a stint on a national daily in London. In many respects I think it’s a good preparation for a writer – here are a few of the ways that journalism helped me in writing my debut novel LIES.
1. Respect the reader
A constant refrain during my training was that if the reader didn’t understand what you’d written first time around, it wasn’t their fault, it was yours. In other words, the point is to communicate – to be clear – rather than try to show off. Whatever you’re writing, your words should be a bridge to connect with the reader, rather than a barrier. As the writer Amy Hempel put it: ‘Journalism taught me how to write a sentence that would make someone want to read the next one.’
2. People are going to change what you write
There’s (almost) always a better way to write what you’ve already written. When I was a reporter, it was absolutely routine for everyone’s copy to go through one or more sub-editors on its way to the page. They would tighten it, sharpen it, improve it, and come back with questions that needed answers or elements that ought to be added. This gets you used to the process of revising and copy-editing a novel – to make it the very best it can be.
3. Getting used to deadlines
This is both a blessing and a curse. I spent so long working to daily deadlines, filing three or four stories a day, that I became used to the pressure and accustomed to writing against the clock. Which is helpful when you have to meet a short writing deadline. The flipside, however, is that when the deadline stretches out for months – such as writing a 100,000-word first draft – it can be difficult to retain your focus. My solution is to have self-imposed wordcount targets, and to write every day to meet them.
4. Writing as a way to make a living
In some ways, writing is like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the more effective it becomes. Being a journalist, and in my current role in communications, there is an expectation that you will be writing every day, and this is not a bad preparation for the writer’s life. Every day you start with a blank page, and every day you fill it. Journalism showed me that I could do something I love – writing – and make a living out of it
5. ‘Write it as if it’s true'
I had quite a few weird moments as science reporter at the Daily Mail. One day I was assigned a story about strange lights in the sky that looked like alien spacecraft. Could they be visitors from another galaxy? I duly rang around various astronomers who explained to me what caused this phenomenon (not aliens, unfortunately). I told the assistant news editor the story was a dud. His response was a furrowed brow, followed by: ‘Can you write it as if it’s true?’ But it’s not true, I said again. It was one of the weirdest instructions I ever received as a journalist, but it has some merit for fiction writers. Because if you can write your story as if it’s true, as if it’s really happening to someone, somewhere, then it will feel all the more real to the reader – and that’s something I’ve tried to do with LIES.
About TM Logan
T M Logan is former Daily Mail science reporter, covering stories on new developments in a wide variety of scientific fields. He is Deputy Director of Communications at the University of Nottingham and lives in Nottinghamshire with his wife and two children.
Find TM Logan on Twitter - @TMLoganAuthor
By TM Logan
Published by Twenty7 (E-book out now; Paperback in May 2017)
When Joe Lynch stumbles across his wife driving into a hotel car park while she's supposed to be at work, he's intrigued enough to follow her in.
And when he witnesses her in an angry altercation with family friend Ben, he knows he ought to intervene.
But just as the confrontation between the two men turns violent, and Ben is knocked unconscious, Joe's young son has an asthma attack - and Joe must flee in order to help him.
When he returns, desperate to make sure Ben is OK, Joe is horrified to find that Ben has disappeared.
And that's when Joe receives the first message . . .
You can buy Lies here.