Now, here’s a thing.
To write or re-write, that is – in a sense – the question.
As I develop my craft, preparing over the next twelve months to see if I can earn a living at this writing game by the time I get back to the UK and actually have to, I have the luxury right now of taking my time writing pieces for magazines, websites and journals. Already I have found the helpfulness of having a subject – in my case life in Bangladesh – that I can use and re-use in various guises. But, up until now, I have re-written each piece I’ve crafted rather than just re-use.
I don’t mean re-written in terms of editing, of course; you’d have to be a fool of a writer if you didn’t edit and re-edit – probably obsessively. What I mean is this: I’ve never offered the same piece to more than one editor or publisher at a time.
If you’re beginning this craft as a professional as I am, you might think this is a sensible thing. But all the guides, courses and books on writing all seem to mention frequently that you can take a successful article and re-sell it to other editors as long as you retain the publishing rights. Of course, you offer it to the editor as a re-print rather than an original and exclusive; this is standard practice – but it is also where I struggle ethically.
You see, while I want/need to earn a living from this strange hobby of putting words in print, I don’t like the idea of earning something for nothing. Once I’ve been paid for a piece – even just a very straight-forward and boring little informational number – I like to think that belongs to the publisher for good and will never be seen like that anywhere else. It would be grandiose to suggest I think of my work as ‘art’ (I can’t afford to think of it as such anyway – art doesn’t pay after all) but even a simple book review contains a little piece of me. I guess I see each article or story as something personal I’m sharing just the once with an audience.
Like I said, I’ve used my life in Bangladesh many times over often referring to the same facts, same stories, same characters I’ve come across. But each time I’ve re-written so it is a new piece, even if related to old. But then I still have the luxury of writing when I want to and spending as long as I like on it. I won’t have that peace when I return back to sunny Britain in January. Can I afford such a lofty ideal or will I ‘sell out’ and offer re-prints of articles to different editors?
I’d like to hope that I will still opt to re-write when I’m busy meeting deadlines on a daily basis instead of, as I am currently, on a weekly one. I just don’t know if it will be possible though.
So, if you’re an experienced freelancer or, like me, just starting out on the job for real, I’d be interested to hear your views and see what you advise. Do you re-write pieces for new editors or have you sold the same article several times and do this as standard? Share the love.
Related articles you might want to take a look at while you’re here:
- Writing Catch-up (7 Reasons to be excited) (kenthinksaloud.wordpress.com)
- 10 ways to tell if you are writing with confidence (memcmahon.com)
- The Disadvantages Of Over-Editing (painttheworldwithpenstrokes.wordpress.com)
- Editing vs. Writing (pristron.wordpress.com)
- Brief Thoughts on Writing and Vocation (libbygorman.wordpress.com)