Niamh Griffin is a full-time writer and she loves saying that! You can read more at her blog Irish Wanderings where she blathers about culture shock, travelling and women who love sport.
Have you seen the episode of Sex and the City where Carrie realizes that she could have bought an apartment in Manhattan with the money she’s spent on shoes? Men roll their eyes at that, women wish they were her. Me? I want to know how much she gets paid for her one column? And how can I get a gig like that?
Yes, being a writer takes over your life so even watching telly becomes a hunt for leads and story ideas. But my favourite part of writing is actually shaping the story. When you’ve sold the idea to wonderful editor, talked to all the people connected to that idea, gathered the facts, statistics and startling pieces of information – that’s when the fun starts. My first writing teacher was Valerie Khoo at the Sydney Writers Centre. She showed us how to define the main idea of the story, and then create a diagram with the key information around it.
This stage can take me forever – moving information from the beginning to the end, choosing which quotes to use and deciding which pieces of information to leave out. I love chatting to people so sometimes end up with completely irrelevant information. (Ahem, yes working on my interview technique now.) I used to feel bad that someone had spent time talking to me for a short piece but now I appreciate that sometimes the best quotes come at the end of a longer conversation when people are relaxed.
I love the feeling when I find the shape of the story – the setting for a profile or the key point to drag lots of interviews together. It’s like magic when you can take that pile of papers and recorded interviews and turn it into a story someone will read over their coffee. I’m still on the hunt for that elusive generous editor – if you see her, do let me know.