I’ve always wanted to write books. For as long as I can remember, even when I was very small, books were it for me. One of my earliest memories is when I was three or four. I used to carry around a thick, bound book I have no idea what it was!) with nothing but words in it. No pictures, just words that I couldn’t read. I used to sit down and ‘read’ it, i.e. try to imagine what the words I couldn’t read said.
So, back in the nineties when I was deciding what to study at university, I picked journalism. I figured I would do the degree, learn to write, and then multiple bestsellers would ensue. Right?
Wrong! I knew so little about writing that I didn’t realise that the accepted journalistic writing style was worlds apart from fiction writing.
I’ve been a journalist off and on for close to 20 years, working for both Fairfax and News Corp. But when it came to sitting down and writing my first fictional novel eight years ago, I basically had to re-learn how to write. It was a rude shock, to put it politely.
Journalists are taught to pare down information into basic points. They have to get the point across in as few words as possible, because vast paragraphs are not only impossible in news mediums where space is sold at a premium, but are also unlikely to be read in the age of diminishing attention spans.
So I learned to cut back on word usage. I learned to get to the point, and quickly. I had to cut out adjectives as much as possible, and put all the pertinent information at the top of an article, leading down to the least important information at the bottom (because sub-editors cut from the bottom up). I learned not to editorialise, and just work with facts, not opinions (it could be argued that thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, this art has since been lost, but that’s a separate blog).
As a news journalist, you are telling your readers what they need to know, why they need to know it, and how they can find out more about it. It’s fairly devoid of imagination.
So when it came to writing fiction, completely changing my style was very hard work. The imagination I’d had to stifle in a world of dealing with facts and quotes, suddenly needed to be reawakened.
I had freedom to use adjectives again! If only I could remember what they were…
As a journalist, you are telling a story. As a fictional writer, you are showing your reader a story (as my poor editor says while banging her head on the desk, ‘show, don’t tell!’). You are weaving a tale from pure imagination, involving editorialising and opinions galore.
For a news story you need to get the point, and quickly. But, when it comes to novel writing you have to build up to your point, slowly, taking many twists and turns along the way before eventually coming to the most important points.
My first novel was essentially one big news story, and that was it. There was no descriptions, locations, or waffle of any kind. When I went back to re-draft, I had to add all that in, to the tune of about 30,000 words. It was hard going, because it felt like my imagination needed a jump-start.
Now, I’ve just finished writing my fifth book, and my style is totally different from that first poor attempt. Now, I let my imagination run riot, and I love it.
This blog originally appeared on Write Note Reviews.
Want to check it our first? Read the first chapter of Bloodlines here!
Check out the reviews on Goodreads!
Praise for The Enemy Inside:
‘THE ENEMY INSIDE is dark, raw and not for the faint of heart or stomach. As fascinating as the whodunnit is, Berg and Jay are equally interesting. While THE ENEMY INSIDE is a dark read there’s a strong undercurrent of hope as it showcases the strength of kindness, caring, and resilience of the human spirit.’
‘The Enemy Inside had me shaking in my pajamas and I loved every bit of it.’
‘It was a mind blowing experience to see how the whole thing came together. If you want to try your hand at a serial killer cop drama, pick up The Enemy Inside today! You won’t regret it.’
Praise for Broken:
‘I loved this so much. The pacing was great, the twists very clever, and the characterization made you unsure of motives, which added to the suspense.’
‘Vanessa Skye has done it again with another amazing novel. ‘
‘This book .. whoah.. THIS Book!.’
Praise for Bloodlines:
‘This is just a fabulous series and I cannot recommend it highly enough.’
‘Murder, mayhem, marriage, blackmail and lies all spiral together around Berg and Jay. It is a truly great conclusion to this trilogy.’
‘I wish Vanessa Skye didn’t need to end the Edge of Darkness series with Bloodlines. I wish there was more, but I’m willing to settle for any more books that she decides to churn out.’
‘Skye doesn’t disappoint with the final book in The Edge of Darkness trilogy.’