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  • Joe Wilson

Some brief writing about writing.....

Here is a question I am sometimes asked; ‘who writes your scripts?’

Here is what I say in reply; ‘well, me.’

Over the past 20 years (and more!) I have appeared on all kinds of broadcasting output covering all kinds of stories under the broad umbrella of ‘sport’. The exciting and challenging part of this is unpredictability. If you’re covering a match there are basically three things to be aware of. You don’t know who is going to win, when they’re going to win or how they’re going to win (it could be a draw!). All these factors take on critical significance when you’re trying to prepare a piece for a very specific, immovable, broadcast deadline.

But what happens when, for example, a report on a game of football becomes a story about society’s response to racism? What about the ethics of risking the welfare of horses for our sporting enjoyment? What about when someone made famous by sport dies?

In all of these cases, and countless others, finding the words and tone is what matters. It is crucial, it is everything. So, that is why I, along with the other members of my reporting profession, write the words I broadcast. It is not only the most important part – it is also the enjoyable part.

Occasionally you have plentiful minutes to craft these words. Sometimes they are scrawled in seconds. Sometimes they never reach a page at all – they only ever exist inside your head as you look at a camera and wait for the gallery to shout ‘cue’ in your ear.

It is one discipline of writing. I have always deeply admired others.

To write fiction is something I’ve always imagined. In a Leicester suburb in the 1980's I laughed and gasped at the exploits of Jennings and his cohorts in their imaginary 1950's boarding school (thus demonstrating Anthony Buckeridge’s timeless ability to transport the reader. It didn’t resemble my life at all but I liked living in it).

It was early in the current century that I first came up with an idea of my own, something which might be original and exciting enough to turn into a full story. Something that became ‘The Island That Didn’t Exist’. Making that happen required far more than imagination. I think the word is dedication.

To plough on, without knowing if any of it is actually any good, is an act of faith which occupied hundreds of hours. But it also provided me with a diversion, a place to go in my brain whenever there were snatched opportunities. Mostly this was train journeys. Buses were harder, I can recall writing one passage at midnight fighting nausea on a rail replacement service ploughing through the outer London darkness. It was later redrafted. Well, everything was later redrafted.

So, in conclusion, does one form of writing discipline help with another? In my experience the answer is ‘yes’, in one important way. From necessity I have learned the skill of being able to write when I have to – not simply when I want to. That, I suppose, is where hobby crosses the border into profession.

Thoughts, words, camera. On a roof.

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Joe Wilson is represented by Becky Bagnell www.lindsayliteraryagency.com

'The Island That Didn't Exist' is published by Oxford University Press

hannah.penny@oup.com for PR enquiries

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