How I Spent My Summer... And it was no day at the beach
By Peggy Bechko
Well, I could say “vacation,” but it wasn't. It was something else; it was a good summer for writing. About everything.
During the summer past I ghost wrote a screenplay on contract, re-wrote short biographies for a gallery to make them more lively, smoothed out a translation (i.e. rewrote sections and edited for overly long sentences and messed-up grammar) of a longer biography, and helped work on a screen treatment.
Another ghost-write looms. In between the work for immediate pay, I managed to submit a short story and work on my novel, which I intend (hope) to have ready for submission by spring. Then I put in a bit of time working out an idea I have for a screenplay.
So, why am I telling you all this? Not to convince you I'm "super-writer," believe me. I want to make a point. Leading by example is good, lecturing is not, so I refer you back to my first article for IN, Blood Oozing From Your Pores, in which about half way through I mentioned casually, "I recommend writing everything."
That said, I don't recommend a shotgun, scattering your attention all over hell and gone approach. Writing a variety of things requires focus. You must be able to zero in on the project at hand, write it well and get it out. Then you move on to the next.
Few of us are able to effectively work on several projects at once (though I admit with some chagrin that I have done that too in a pinch). But beware. By that route lies the feeling your head might explode.
It's easy to agree that making a living as a writer is no easy trick. Picking up your chops and writing whatever comes your way can help. A writer writes. It's as simple as that. It may mean putting your personal “baby” aside for a short time, but it's worth it.
Whenever you're writing you're improving the way you communicate. Skills you develop in sculpting sentences and delicately choosing words you carry into other works.
There are many times when writing one thing opens the door to another. Consider it networking and practice. And, consider this; a project you're working on for pay may well spark ideas for other articles, stories or who-knows-what which will also pay and (joy, oh joy!) allow imagination to run wild.
And there's no law that says a writer can't be selective. As you write more you'll discover what most appeals to you. Avoid gigs you find mindnumbingly boring or repulsive. No matter how good those dollar signs look, you likely won't do a good job. That's not good for your resume or your ego.
Never tell someone you can do something you've never done -- very bad idea. But, on the other hand, there is no reason not to truthfully and diplomatically accept an assignment. If you've been writing and have credentials in one area it really does frequently translate.
If you’re asked, "Can you write this?" there are a couple of options. You can foolishly say you've never done anything like that before, and stare at your feet, which'll scare off a prospective client pronto.
Or you can reply your experience has been in another area, but the project really interests you. Offer a couple of samples pages and if all concerned are tuned to the same wavelength, negotiate a fee and don’t look back.
I must report that the latter approach has worked much better for me.
Yes, it's been a good summer, and the fall doesn't look bad either.
Author of Doubleday western novels, Harlequin romances, Fictionworks' fantasies (Ebook format), Peggy Bechko has also optioned screenplays domestically and abroad, written for an animated series and for variety of other venues. She's working on a new novel and collaborating with a producer on a animated series. http://www.peggybechko.50megs.com/