Friday, April 23, 2010

Put a Spin on It

People now associate the word “spin” with the public relations hype that surrounds the President or other public figures. In that context it means to spin the information in the opposite direction to distract the public from the actual problem at hand. In writing, it has a very different–and positive–meaning.

I’m sure you’re familiar with spin-offs of popular T.V. series. These are new shows in which a character from the popular one plays a leading role. The NCIS series is a good example. Some of the characters from the original show occasionally appear in the new show to provide continuity. But in lots of spin-offs, the new show takes on a life of its own. And so it is with writing, especially for freelance writers.

Spin-offs of new articles, short stories, lectures, and whatever else your creative mind can think of are what make freelance writing interesting and economically possible. Too many beginning writers work on one project at a time and after it’s finished, they don’t do anything with all the research that went into it. That research is a gold mine of information. It can provide the facts for a series of articles, the background for a short story or a play, or the material for a lecture.

As I worked through the last 25 years, I learned to gather as much information as possible so that I could write for different markets and in different media. On one trip along 1,000 miles of the Oregon Trail, I gathered enough information for 16 articles. But I didn’t stop there. I’ve also put together two lectures on the pioneers, and wrote a children’s story, all based on that same research.

Spin-offs are easy. They can take the shape of sidebars, which later you can turn into stand-alone articles. Sometimes, the big picture is just too big–too broad, which forces you to divide it into parts. There’s always a market for short pieces. They right in front of most writers, but they don’t see them.

Writing a book is a BIG project. It takes a lot of time and a lot of work, especially in the research department. I’ve written a book on restoring and refinishing antiques. From that I’ve spun off articles, blog posts, short pieces for my antiques Web site, a seminar, and finally a continuing education course.

While you won’t get rich doing this, it certainly helps pay the bills. So start spinning and see what develops.

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