I’ve written in the past about how nervous interviews make me and the mistakes I think I’ve made. While I’m still working on improving my interviewing skills I’ve discovered a somewhat new anxiety about writing nonfiction and reporting. These are related to the editing process and incorporating information and quotes from sources into the final piece.
I worry about paraphrasing people and simply how I use the quotes to support the story. I end up obsessing over how the person I interviewed will react to the story. I worry that I might misinterpret their words while paraphrasing or even when using direct quotes they’ll feel it was taken out of context. For whatever reason I feel like I need to satisfy them in addition to readers and my editor. I guess I feel like I do have a responsibility to them since I am using their words and taking up their time.
Though recently I had a big boost. After interviewing several people for an article I sent them all a link to the live story and more than one replied complementing me on the story. It felt like a huge weight lifting off my chest. Seriously, the stress has made me question if I should continue with this work. But those emails gave me the boost I needed to at least pick up one more assignment.
In the past I sent sources stories to review before submitting them, but that’s not always possible when working on a deadline. I’ve also read lots of mixed advice about whether or not this should be done. I wonder if anybody else deals with this kind of anxiety when writing nonfiction, or using sources for any kind of writing. I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have on the subject.
As somebody who always wanted a career in writing and publishing, I thought many times of trying out the Gotham Writers Workshop classes. However, after looking at some of the prices and not knowing what to expect I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it. Recently, after following their Facebook page I saw an offer for the At-A-Glance free class. Of course, I’m up for almost anything as long as it is free and it was completely worth it.
They had instructors in three different genres discuss major elements and then we worked on a short exercise. We went over fiction writing, focusing on character development. The class answered questions about the character’s occupation, dream job, relationship status, age, and even what she looked like. The exercise got us writing about a conflict like what the worst thing she ever did. We also went over non-fiction and how you could still use your imagination with character descriptions, structure, and even speculating about particular elements of the story. Our exercise prompted us to speculate on a true story.
I think the most fun and enlightening was the lesson in screen writing. The instructor spoke about the tone of a movie. The tone can be another way to describe the perspective of the story. Through changing the perspective the tone will change. This then leads to distinguishing the genre. The exercise we had was to take a log line (short description of plot) of a movie and write it from a different perspective changing the genre. This is a good exercise to help define the genre and lead your writing if you are struggling. Because I enjoyed this so much I’ll share with you what I wrote. I picked the movie, American Psycho.
“A young successful Wall Street Broker struggles to fit in with his overly-materialistic social circle. Infidelity, drug-use and petty jealousy leads to a mental breakdown.”
I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’m was really glad that they were able to work in exercises to get us writing. They also had food and drinks for after that class and we got the chance to socialize with the other attendees and the instructors. I’m very glad I got to find out about their classes. In fact I found out that in addition to their courses that last several weeks they also have single day workshops called write-ins. The write-ins seem like a great way to get writing more often and a great way to meet other writers.