Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Life Plan

See, I had this plan. I would work my way up through the newspaper world, getting an enormous amount of practice writing, become a foreign correspondent, just happen to be the only journalist on the ground at the outbreak of a major war in a little-known backwater country (I think China, Russia, and the UK were going to be involved. Maybe France.), win a Pulitzer, settle down, and write fiction.

Of course none of that happened. And when I decided to settle down and write fiction anyway, I made an enormously unpleasant discovery: Journalism and novel-writing are two very different things. Practice getting all the most interesting facts into a 29-word lead gets you absolutely nowhere when you sit down to write your very first novel. After setting my stories aside to focus on non-fiction for nearly a decade, my dialogue and scene descriptions were just as wooden, childish and unreadable as before.

'Course, I can write a kickass 29-word lead. Not to mention an awesome headline featuring a laugh-out-loud pun that the publisher will decide is inappropriate after we've printed our final proof and I've already turned off my computer. But I don't want to be a journalist anymore.

Malcolm Gladwell says you've got to invest 10,000 hours into a thing before you get really, really, really good at it. And his books are just so darn readable that he must be right about everything.

I have no idea how many hours I invested in my exciting newspaper career in the sticks. But apparently I'm back at the starting gate.


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