Peggy Bechko: Three Writing Lessons I’ve had to Learn

by Peggy Bechko

Writers are different. All of us. We have different approaches and different methods of carrying through – or not. There are many lessons to be learned as we write, publish, create scripts and find option and production. So many that they would fill pages.

That’s pretty overwhelming so I’ll stick to three biggies for now.lesson-learned

1. Preparation is essential. I know, I know, you’ve got this GREAT idea and you want to jump right in, have fun, get that first draft cranked out. But trust me on this. If you don’t choose a direction, prepare yourself, do what research is necessary, a direction will be chosen for you and in all likelihood that will be in circles.

Really, not kidding on this. Your method will be your own, but figure out whether it’s a detailed outline, sketchy notes or some flowing synopsis. Decide where you’re going and some of the stops along the way. THEN jump in and create that world class first draft.

2. Next let’s talk about feedback. Your ability to listen. Immersed in our own story telling and the work of creating said story we have to understand in that state, we’re not the experts on our own story. We’re not objective. After that first draft is finished we really need some input. Honest opinions. Readers we trust to give us that blunt and at times painful feedback.

But even more important is our ability to listen. Criticism is hard to take, even well-intentioned, honest criticism. It’s critical for a writer to get that criticism, shake off the sting and sift through it for the nuggets of truth that will improve your work. You’ll get criticism whether you seek it or not – from producers, editors, readers, so get used to it and find ways to really use what comes you way.

3. Get your head straight. This relates to number 2 above. Here’s the reality, writing can be really tough on the ego. Well, not can be, it IS hard on the ego. As a result most writers collect in two different and quite separate camps.

Some become whimpering balls of misery in the fetal position, crippled, miserable, depressed, when confronted with criticism such a mentioned above. Others go to the opposite pole and decide no one knows anything about their writing but themselves. They ignore comments and suggestions tossing it all aside with an “I know best” or “take it or leave it” attitude.

Both approaches aren’t going to get you far with an editor or producer – or much of anyone else. If you keep your mind open you might actually learn something. And, bottom line, if you listen with a professional air and not that of a stubborn child and actually process those criticisms you might actually sell something. I’m not telling you to tear your story apart, and there are limits, but cooperation will get you a lot further than simple, prickly denial. Really.

I hope you’ll think about what I’ve written here. Take it from me, if you can apply these lessons to your craft it won’t make writing any easier but it’ll definitely be more enjoyable…for your readers as well as for you as a writer.

One thought on “Peggy Bechko: Three Writing Lessons I’ve had to Learn

  1. All this is well and good. But having worked with literally 100’s of writers at various studios such as: MGM, UNIVERSAL, WARNER BROS., QM, SPELLING, FOX, and who cares, to become a good script writer, take time out to read scripts by better script writers. Successful script writers. One a day!
    Then…write your own scripts. One a day. Not to sell, necessarily, although that wouldn’t hurt — but first you have to get someone who can buy to read your work of art. No easy task in itself — but not impossible either. In fact, it happens every day. UNIVERSAL, MGM, DISNEY, etc., need good scripts as much as you need to write them. So get in the WRITERS GROOVE and turn those scripts out! Then break your ‘u-know-what to get them read. Kill if you have to, damn it!!!! And in between write more — and better — scripts. Believe me…I’ve been there, done that, and still doing it! Gotta go…got a script to finish! gs

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