By Annette Stevens.
Time and time again, I have come across something in the field of publishing, when interviewing authors, that before becoming a novelist, there trade was in journalism! So, to find out about being an author who switched from being a journalist, I chatted with Martyn Bedford; he was a reporter and feature writer, and right now is a published novelist.
Martyn on physically making the switch…
“I was a journalist for twelve years and was writing fiction (short-stories, novels) in my spare time for the last six or seven of those years. I was also attending creative-writing courses and evening classes. My first published short story appeared in the magazine section of a newspaper I worked for at the time (The Oxford Times) and another was published in an anthology of new writing. By then, I’d decided I wanted to be a writer more than I wanted to be a journalist, so I applied for the MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. When I was offered a place, I quit my job in Oxford and moved to Norwich.”
But how did the job prepare Martyn for his later career?
“In four main ways, I think. Firstly, my years as a reporter, features writer and sub-editor taught me how to convey information succinctly, engagingly and clearly, in as few words as possible. Secondly, the pressure to produce copy in time for a deadline trained me to sit at my desk and work – to get the words written come what may. There’s no time for writer’s block when you’re a journalist! Thirdly, Journalism developed my interest in people – and if you aren’t interested in people, you can’t create believable or engaging fictional characters. Fourthly, quite a few of the real-life stories I worked on as a journalist have found their way into my short stories and novels, albeit adapted to suit my fictional purposes.”
And his Journalism qualification…
“After A-levels, I went on a one-year journalism training course at Darlington Technical College, run by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ). Then I served three years as a junior reporter on the South London Press before taking my NCTJ Proficiency Certificate.”
And did he have an interest in writing at a young age? Turns out, he did (if you count 12-13 as young)…
“English was my best subject at school and the one I enjoyed the most, so I knew from around 12 or 13 years old that I wanted to go into a job that involved using words. A careers advisor at school (she was actually the librarian, I think) suggested journalism.”
Hopefully, his advice has been good for us all (I know what I will be doing most days now- writing a “bestseller”-brackets intended).