Monday, August 8, 2022

Journalist to YA Author

By Mary Ford

It’s really hard to become an author if you’re a full-time reporter. Why? Because finding the time to write outside of the job means taking on even more hours.

For me as the reporter, then editor, of two community newspapers, all I wanted to do at the end of the week was get some wine and unwind. My eyes and brain needed to recharge.

As journalists, we are used to having a tactile result of our work efforts. At the end of the day or week, we’ve written something—maybe a lot of somethings—and they’ve been published. It’s a touchable result. We can sit back and say “I did that!” It’s satisfying. We yearn for that affirmation.

If you can squirrel away a few hours, or pick up the “author” pen after hanging up your journalism hat, then writing a novel or short story can be equally fulfilling.

I had a novel rolling around in my head for decades. When I stepped away from my newspaper career four years ago, I dove into starting my book. But the words didn’t spill out the way they were supposed to.

Leaving the newswoman inside me behind was a bigger challenge than I realized. But the good news was—once I made the switch from reporter to author in my writing style—I was freed up.

Journalists are good listeners; they have to be. They cover government meetings and conduct interviews. But our job is to present the facts in a concise manner. We’re not supposed to “show” but “tell.”

The best thing I did was sign up for creative writing classes and join writing groups that critique your work in exchange for your critiquing theirs. That’s where I learned to let my writing flow without having to check my notebook or digital recorder for the exact quote and correct attribution. That’s where I learned how to do less “telling” and more “showing.”

But what is the same in both mediums is the importance of the story. New judgement is something that journalists develop. The same needs to be true for writing a book: a good story is paramount.

A great story fell in my lap when I met my future husband some fifty years ago and learned about his adventures as a young teen runaway. I knew someday I’d have to write it.

The result is a coming-of-age story that is a good read for young adults on up. My local libraries have two copies: one for the YA section and one for the regular fiction shelves.

My husband, who is the fifteenth of sixteen children, grew up in East Tennessee. He ran away at thirteen and hitchhiked through the south ending up in New Orleans selling hotdogs. The underlying theme of the story is the conflict between father and son and how he was also able to turn his life around after making some bad decisions.

Unlike news writing, crafting a novel takes a lot more time. But with the plethora of self-publishing avenues today, a journalist-turned-author doesn’t have to wait in hopes of connecting with a literary agent to get published.

Mary Ford, an award-winning journalist, is the author of “Boy at the Crossroads: From Teenage Runway to Class President” a classic coming-of-age story set in the 1950s. For more about Mary Ford and her novel, visit: She and her husband, Conley, live in a small town south of Boston, with their dog, George. “Boy at the Crossroads” is available online wherever books are sold.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Happy First Wednesday in August!

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

The awesome co-hosts for the August 3 posting of the IWSG are Tara Tyler, Lisa Buie Collard, Loni Townsend, and Lee Lowery!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG posts. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience, or a story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Remember, the question is optional!

When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?

The best answer to this question for me is that I write a story that either haunts me, intrigues me, or delights me. I'm really telling myself a story, so I'm not focused on whether or not I'm trying to be original, and I hope that if I like the story others will too. 

Is that self-centered? 

Yes, but if I tried to write what I "guessed" others would be interested in reading, but I had no passion for the topic or the characters, I don't think I could write at all. 

This question really asks if we want to be author-centric or audience focused and research the current  market trend so we can churn out what's hot right now. It is pretty common to see copycats come after huge successes. Take something like the Harry Potter series. After those books were bestsellers, hundreds of wizardry tales appeared. Or Twilight. Good heavens! How many vampire books can a bookstore shelve?

There's nothing wrong with jumping onto a winning train and taking advantage of the ride, but for me, all that I said at the beginning of my answer still applies. If I weren't engaged in what I was writing, I'd be a total fail in coming up with anything worth printing let alone reading. Now, if I just happened to love writing what everyone clicking through Amazon was searching for, hey, that would be a win-win.

Just in case you have a hankering to try your hand at giving the readers what they want, I found this book that's a guide, and it's appropriately called Write to Market. In it, the author promises to teach you  “how to analyze the market, and to use that information to write a book that readers want.” 

What's your take on this question? Be sure to check out what the others have to say. There are always interesting answers from our members.