Not many journalists can boast a career as successful – or well-written – as Caitlin Moran‘s. She has long been a journalism hero of us here at TYC, and as well as being Queen of the Written Word and First Lady of Twitter, she is also a rather lovely person too.
When she sent back her answers to our email (at a very dedicated hour of 11.30pm), we were torn between shrieking with delight and sinking into an ‘easy’ chair in a bid to ward off the inevitable heart attack. But now, cool, calm and collected (well, kind of), we would like to present you with Ms Moran’s advice on how to pursue a career in journalism – and how she broke into it herself.
You wrote a novel at the age of sixteen – what inspired you to write it? How long did it take to write? Was it very successful?
I am the eldest of eight kids, raised in a council house in Wolverhampton, and home educated by our parents. In the event, this consisted of little more than watching musicals and eating cheese. I wrote a book when I was fifteen because I suddenly realised that I had absolutely no employment prospects whatsoever. It took a year to write, and sold out it’s print run – can’t remember how many that was. It was Number One on the Wolverhampton branch of Dillon’s chart. That’s all that counts.
How did your journalism career start, and how has it developed?
Once I realised there was hardly any money in writing childrens’ novels, I wanted to be a journalist, because it’s writing, but for more money. I’d already read every book in the local library, and that included the collected works of great columnists like Alan Coren, Katherine Whitehorn, Jilly Cooper, Keith Waterhouse, Craig Brown, H.L. Mencken and Dorothy Parker. So I just copied them, entered the Observer Young Reporter Of The Year competition, and won. They gave me my own column – at the age of 17 – and six months later I skipped ship to The Times, and have been there ever since.
What do you think makes a good piece of writing?
What makes good writing? Well, I write from the position of a reader. I just think: what would make this next bit not-boring? What would I like to read here? I like to keep up a good pace and not, to use the technical term, “wank on.” I also take Alan Coren’s advice very seriously – that the first thought you have, everyone will have. The second – the clever people will probably have thought of, too. But your third thought is almost certainly your own.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to break into journalism?
If you wanna be a journalist – well, columnist. Stylist. I couldn’t hope to give advice about proper journalism – it’s easier than ever before, thanks to blogging and Twitter. You should write write write every day, and learn to edit and pare it right back so you’re proud of every sentence, and each one is either being useful or beautiful, but hopefully both. And if you’re on Twitter making amusing comments, you’ll very quickly get re-Tweeted and build up an audience you can then direct to your blog.
Finally – are there any plans for further books?
Yes, I’ve got a book coming out in June. On FEMINISM! It’s called How To Be A Woman.