Journalistic Method: A Technique for Authors (Part 1)

Ronald E. Yates is an author of award-winning historical fiction and action/adventure novels, including the popular and highly-acclaimed Finding Billy Battles trilogy.

[This is a re-post of a post I published a while back. I am posting it again because of questions I have received asking me to discuss how authors can use the skills practiced in professional journalism]

Without a doubt, one of the best places to learn the craft of writing is in the professional newsroom.

The number of successful authors of fiction and non-fiction books, who began their careers as journalists, is remarkable. Here is a list of 10 (It could be 50 or 100):

  • Charles Dickens
  • Samuel Clements (Mark Twain)
  • Ken Follett
  • Thomas Thompson
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Edna Buchanan
  • George Orwell
  • Graham Greene
  • PG Wodehouse
  • Tom Wolfe
Ernest Hemingway

Someone once asked Ernest Hemingway where he learned to write. His answer: working as a general assignment reporter for the Kansas City Star from 1917 to 1918.

“Everything I needed to know about writing I learned from the Kansas City Star style sheet,” Hemingway once said.

The first paragraph of that stylesheet reflects Hemingway’s writing style. It begins: “Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative.”

 The advice may seem simplistic, but it is far from it. One of the first things I learned as a young journalist (coincidentally, at the Kansas City Star) was how to write succinctly and clearly and how to gather information accurately.

Hemingway did all of those things–and he did them well, both as a journalist and later as a Nobel Prize-winning novelist.

Not far behind those skills is something called Journalistic Method. That is a fancy phrase for how a journalist works.

That is what I want to talk about today. In parts 2 and 3 of my blog on Journalistic Method, I will get into some of the other skill sets such as the aforementioned ability