Are All Amazing Authors Journalists First?

Paula Hawkins

Paula Hawkins. Holly Bourne. Patrick Ness. Stieg Larsson.

These authors all have one major thing in common - they have also worked as journalists.

Holly Bourne did a degree in journalism and went on to be shortlisted for the Print Journalist Of The Year Award 2010. Stieg Larrson produced far-left political activism and had to hide his address. There are so many more who did so many amazing things. Having written stories in a variety of publications across the globe, these writers have gone from news based stories to fictional ones with huge success. But why? And how? Does this mean that the skills of a journalist are transferable to that of an author?

As a journalist myself and an aspiring author I can see how some of the skills may transfer. Notably structure. Just as a news story is structured into what, when and where, a novel follows a similar series of events. Plus newsworthy stories are often unusual and inspiring, probably working as a great basis for a novel. I am not claiming any of the above authors based any of their works on a news story, only that the people they write about, the situations they learn about and the global responses they deal with might give journalists an insight into what makes a good story.

Of course there are major differences between journalism and novel writing. Novels are a hell of a lot longer and require more description and feeling than many news pieces. That being said, not all journalism is fact fact fact fact and does also include pieces on social issues and emotional, personal insights. It's where this overlap forms that true authors emerge.

John Green. Gillian Flynn. Stephenie Meyer. John Grisham.

These authors aren't journalists and never have been. But that's not to say they aren't great or ambitious. John Green has built a successful YouTube channel and Gillian Flynn has published comics. Stephenie Meyer is noted as a film producer and has her own production company  while John Grisham used to work as an attorney. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there are more to authors than writing novels. Some may have a dip in poetry while others may go into screen-writing or journalism or even work in the publishing industry. It makes being an author all the more impressive, they're the furthest from one trick ponies you can get.

Do you know of any other authors that started off as journalists? Let me know in the comments!

Love, Jess

7 comments:

  1. Hi Jess, Yes have often thought this myself! In terms of 'author-brand' I tend to be drawn more towards journalists-turned-authors, I'm not sure why. From a more professional perspective as a publisher we tend to lean towards authors with an outgoing personality and lots of media contacts - it all bodes well for reviews, publicity, signings etc. Fiona Barton, author of The Widow was a journalist for years... Not a coincidence that the novel is largely from the perspective of a reporter... Thanks for the article! Glad I'm not the only one thinking this.

    Natalie

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    1. Hi Natalie, I can see what you mean about the benefits of having a platform and perspective. I've definitely noticed lots of news journalists becoming crime authors and journalists for women's magazines becoming women's authors. -Jess

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  2. I'm a journalist turned author... Interviewed writers in my time and also wrote a lot of crime stories for the BBC News website... Plenty of ideas for people and scenarios there...!

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    1. That's great Mary-Jane! Some people say that contacts help as a journalist looking to be published and others say it's the skills of being a writer - what would you say is most important? -Jess

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  3. That's a really interesting question... I think contacts can help in maybe getting your book further up an agent's slush pile, or getting an editor interested, but in the end, if the writing isn't any good then you won't get published... There are, of course, exceptions - if you were, say, a mega-famous journalist - but mostly it's down to the writing. From my own point of view, I have a friend who had a friend who was an agent... But she didn't take it... When I finally got my agent it was through pure persistence in submitting! She didn't know me from Adam and I only knew her by reputation... Agents don't take you on out of friendship... They want to sell your book! I do think publishers like journalists as authors because we can work to a deadline and are also used to taking criticism...and can rewrite to order... But again, I think the skill of being a writer, of being able to tell a good story that get people turning the pages, is most important. Having said that, when my copy came back from my editor I was SO EMBARRASSED at the stupid mistakes I'd made!

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    1. I definitely agree. I am currently seeking representation for my debut novel and as I have no contacts to help it's purely on the writing. Wish me luck!!!

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  4. I do wish you luck... someone once said to me 'A published author is one who never gives up' ... so don't give up!

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