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Write On!
January, 2008

Flying by the Seat of My Pants

Freelancing For Free
The giveaway
By  Ken Robinson

Someone asked me to say something about writing for free and if it’s beneficial for the beginning writer. I could go into many of the pat answers here. Most of which you’ve heard before. For instance:

“You have to put pen to paper to have something to show people.” Even though they now have an international air guitar competition, there is no similar air manuscript, screenplay, or poetry competition.

Now if you’re J.K. Rowling, you can wave your hand in the air at a publisher and they’ll be at your feet foaming at the mouth. Remember where she came from though: a single mom who wrote, for free, whenever she could. She had no idea where things would go. I doubt if she ever thought she’d be a multimillionaire while she tried to find elbow room on the train as she tried to get in some writing time on her way to work.

Another pat answer is “We all write for free as beginners.” If you don’t put that practice in now, nobody will want to pay you later anyway because your work stinks up the place.

A third one, and one of my favourites (seriously), “You need to make connections.” Maybe someone asks for help with a no-budget project. Now it’s a given that this project will probably be a bust. But a few years down the line this same person may make it big or even mediocre, and then they remember that you were willing to wholeheartedly pitch in and help. They may just call you and ask for help again but with real money this time. One thing I’ll keep repeating over and over and over is that knowing people is a key ingredient to becoming successful.

That’s a few I could think of off hand. But I think, sometimes, giving a personal experience is just as important. And so, here I offer you mine.

So far, everything I’ve written has been for free, and still is. But a project has come up recently that, although I’m doing the freebie again, hopefully will make it all worthwhile. A local low-budget filmmaker has decided to let a group of us help him with his next project.

As the writer in the group, I get the honour of turning a short story into a script. I have to say, and he admits it, that there is no character development in the book. The story is a cross between Deliverance and The River on a budget that Hollywood uses up in five minutes, (insert seconds here). And, by the way, all the other projects this guy has done have been complete bombs. Lucky me.

Now, on the positive side he’s managed to actually complete two films, which is huge in itself. And then he got distribution for them. If you don’t get distribution, it doesn’t matter how wonderful the film is; nobody will ever see it. He was also able to get Gary Busey, Wilfred Brimley, Leon Spinks, and Tonya Harding into his films. And he’s got Tommy Morrison, the boxer, and Tony Orlando lined up for this one.

Besides being pretty well assured that the project will get past the first day of shooting – most don’t even get that far – we'll learn a whole lot from him about the filmmaking process. And when it does hit the shelf, whether or not it sells a single copy, we’ll have a credit to our names.

One thing about having something you've completed that you can show people is it demonstrates that you can get things done. For that reason, it may be worthwhile for them to take a chance on you. It could also help you get one of your projects into the right hands. You have to be prudent, though, about who you do the work for. You only have so much time to spread around.

And I know that it’s different for other literary pursuits, but in the end it’s not really free. Just like Ms. Rowling, you’re paying yourself from the future dividends that working hard now will deliver.

So Write On!
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Ken Robinson, IN's Write On! columnist, winner of Bare Bones Int'l Film Festival Best Screenplay Award, has written over 10 screenplays, 3 episodes of TV series West Law, is executive producer for the feature Sacred Bloods, board member of the Oklahoma Film Society, founding member of Oklahoma Movie Makers. His email address is:

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© Freelance Writing Organization - International 1999-2049

Write On!
IN This Issue
LA Bound
Part II: Secret Origins Of A Screenwriter
Part I: Secret Origins Of A Screenwriter
Time Management
The Well Of Creativity
Flogged By A Rooster
Write Form
Why Be A Writer?
Hoping For Rock Bottom
Strong Characters

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Bald Ego
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Writer’s Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

Bard From Deadlines
What makes a poem finally work
Is not the time it takes;
It’s how the poet used the muse
To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Don’t plant your poem on the page
As though you’re hanging drapes;
It’s shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their “themes.”

Double Vision
A writer’s life is paradox,
It’s more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

Letter Perfect
Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know you’ll never quit.

It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Rising Moon
A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

Star Light
Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poem’s through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

Read All Of Charles Ghigna's Poetry at

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