One summer, I had a part-time job writing news releases. The work was repetitive, mind numbing and, as the days slipped by, I questioned its value beyond the much-needed pay check.
Years later, I appreciate that job taught me valuable lessons about writing craft – ones I now use as a romance writer.
1. Get to the point…fast
Busy editors don’t have time to sift through detail to find the core of a story. Grab their attention and hold it from the first line.
2. Find the hook
What makes the story unique for the reader? Why?
3. Make dialogue natural
Those releases had to include quotes from people I’d never met nor was likely to meet.
By training myself to be an active listener, focusing on how people used words and why, news release quotes became more natural, paving the way for writing fictional dialogue.
4. Cut dull and irrelevant details
Writing news releases taught me to write tight and use the delete key.
If information wasn’t central to the story or didn’t move it along, it got cut – better by me than by my editor.
5. Write and rewrite
News releases require multiple rounds of revision and approval. I learned to write and rewrite until the content was fit for purpose.
6. Ask for help when you need it
I was the junior on the team, hired short term to help the client at a busy time. But I became part of a community of writers, including an insightful editor, who helped and supported each other.
By asking for help, I not only learned about writing but life too.
7. Celebrate small successes
Sure, I dreamed of one of my releases being picked up by the national press but I celebrated when the story was covered in a small-town paper or by a local radio station.
My writing had touched someone, somewhere, which was an amazing feeling.
8. Understand and respect your audiencee
Who was I writing for? Did they live in a big city or small town? What did they care about, fight for?
As the completed releases piled up, I learned about identifying and writing to an audience in their language, understanding and respecting their interests and needs.
9. You can’t please everyone all the time
If a release sank like a stone, the story wasn’t right for that editor at that time.
Their silence or polite rejection weren’t personal. I learned to move on and keep writing.
10. Look for opportunities and be prepared
That summer gave me an unprecedented opportunity to practice writing craft, preparing me for the next job that came my way.
Like news stories, opportunities are everywhere – we just need to recognize them and do the work to be ready to seize them.
What has a job taught you that you didn’t appreciate at the time?