Writing advice from Nora Ephron, who died this evening

Nora Ephron died this evening.

You might know Ephron wrote When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail.

You might not know that she got her start as a journalist, and she often suggested that wannabe screenwriters start out as journalists.

Here’s the opening paragraph from her essay, “What Narrative Writers Can Learn from Screenwriters,” which I found in the book Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University, edited by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call:

A lot of college graduates approach me about becoming screenwriters. I tell them, “Do not become a screenwriter, become a journalist,” because journalists go into worlds that are not their own. Kids who go to Hollywood write coming-of-age stories for their first scripts, about what happened to them when they were sixteen. Then they write the summer camp script. At the age of twenty-three they haven’t produced anything, and that’s the end of the career. By the time I became a screenwriter, I knew a few things, because I had worked as a journalist. When I wrote Silkwood, I knew what a union negotiation looked like because I had been in on several of them.

Cover of "Telling True Stories: A Nonfict...

Cover via Amazon

Please also read:

10 Things We Should Thank Nora Ephron For

Bookish Moments from Nora Ephron Films

One response to “Writing advice from Nora Ephron, who died this evening

  1. Thank you for posting this. I would think then that older writers perhaps then have more value whether or not they were journalists. They just have been around longer and have experienced more life to offer up in their writing. At 22, what do most people know about life anyway? I certainly feel that I knew absolutely nothing at 22 and as I age it seems the less I know.

    Thank you very much, Ms. Ephron, for all of your honest insight into life, I am a richer person because of it.