Peggy Bechko Outlines Her Thoughts On Outlines


by Peggy Bechko

Okay, so not the kind of outline Peggy’s talking about…but still an outline, yes?

Don’t run away – I’m not going to tell you to outline or not to outline. I just going to talk a bit about my writing process and you can take from it what you may.

Many writing ‘instructors,’ whether they be talking about novels or scripts, will tell you it’s a must to outline or to create a beatsheet or whatever. With writing, nothing is really a must. It’s how you do it and what works for you.

The outline process works great for many writers. A detailed sketch of where a story is going. And, admittedly, it is a good place to stash all sorts of notes regarding characters, plot and background.

For me it’s more of a note-taking, jotting down affair. Then it’s a follow the character ride.

The first novel I had published with Doubleday had no outline at all. The story was in my head and I just wrote it. I’d jot a few notes as I moved through the story so I’d remember who had a mustache or who was very tall and thin, etc., but no outline. Not much editing when I was done either.

Back then I didn’t know what I “had” to do to write a novel, I just did it. Still do.

However, now, with experience in writing several areas I do tend to outline a bit – just a skeleton of where I’m going. I still do the note jotting as I move through the story.

I’ve used a finished script as an outline to write a novel, putting the script up on Word, then working with it, filling out the characters, putting their thoughts on paper (which of course we can’t do in a script), adding background and writing the whole novel that way. Of course I keep a clean copy of the original script as reference.

And I’ve done the reverse, taking a novel, throwing it up on split screen and using it as an outline for a script.

Creating a script from a novel is more difficult since we have to reduce the wordage dramatically and add slug lines and all. What starts out as perhaps a 300 page novel must reduce down to about 120 pages of script (even better if a bit less).

Yet with that novel up on the screen it just felt easy to create a script from it. Some things had to go. Some things needed to be added, changed, morphed into something more cinematic.

With the novel open in Word and the new script open in Screenwriter it was fun to bounce back and forth and create the script. The script was optioned, but not produced, but hey, I’m not complaining.

The bottom line about outlines is, use them as you need them. And do it the ‘proper’ way or devise your own way, whichever works for you.

You may end up working backwards at times if you’ve written a script on the fly and then discover you need a beatsheet as a leavebehind when you’re marketing or for some other reason. But working in that sort of ‘reverse’ isn’t difficult, and at times it can give the writer insight into their script and bring positive revision ideas.

Don’t let anyone tell you as a writer that you MUST do something in a certain way. Your writing is your own. The rest of the MUSTs come later, when adhering to writer’s guidelines in your quest for a sale.

Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.

Peggy Bechko’s Thoughts on Taking Multiple Writing Paths

by Peggy Bechko

Seriously, guys, writers write. I’ve said it before. Many of us have scripts or manuscripts or short stories or articles stashed on a hard drive that no one has ever seen.

So what?

Well, it’s dark in there when the computer is turned off. How many people have actually read that accumulation of stuff you have? So why are you a writer?

I don’t think it’s just to pump words into a computer memory. I know it isn’t for me.

Where am I going with all this?

Maybe it’s time to think about that stashed material. Could that script become a novel? Could that novel manuscript be adapted to screen? How about the articles? If they’ve been researched maybe the info could be turned into a story? Short story – could that becomes a screen script or be turned into a novel?

Turn your writing on its head and think about new possibilities. Many of us resist change. Many say I’m a (fill in the blank…) writer and don’t try to broaden horizons and not limit ourselves.

I mean why limit ourselves to just beating our heads against the wall trying to get scripts or novels, or whatever sold? Just one thing? Why not beat our heads against the wall multiple times for projects? Why not use that writing in more than one way?

If a novel can be worked into a script, do it. A script into a novel? Might be easily done. Develop your skills. Spread your wings. Don’t bounce to another site from here with your tail between your legs because all this scares you. It’s just normal to be hesitant and nervous about trying a different approach to your writing.

Maybe you need to try the other avenue while using a pen name until you get a few reactions to what you write in that arena. Or maybe because YOU are, after all, a BRAND since it’s your name that will be out there, maybe you want to use that pen name to create a different brand in a different area.

And, in the ‘head-banging’ category, you can avoid some of that if you’re doing the ‘script to novel or short’ category. Seriously, tossing some stuff out there as an Indy publisher isn’t a bad thing.

Oh, you can do the ‘bang your head against the wall’ thing if you choose to pursue a name publisher, but what’s wrong with a bit of self-indulgence and getting your work out there in a speedy way? Do the editing meticulously or find a great editor and you’re off.

Many are jumping onto that Indy ship and many of those wonder why they didn’t do it sooner. And, remember, when you push your script to novel form, you get a whole lot more freedom to develop that character, freedom to write a whole lot more than those 120 pages. And all of this you can do yourself.

It’s not hard to learn the Indy publishing biz. How to convert your writing to electronic upload, design (or pay minimally for) your own book cover. It’s fun and it’s a great stress-reliever. And you get that writing that’s been hidden in a cave out there for others to read.

Beyond that, of course, keep writing those scripts. Get a finger in more than one pie. Get more people to read your writing aside from producers.

Exercise your writing muscles.

Break free of your own self-limitations.

On this path lies sanity.

Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.

Peggy Bechko’s 10 Best Fitness Tips for Writers & Other Desk Jockeys

by Peggy Bechko

Let’s face it, we writers are all a bit crazy. We focus so strongly on what we’re writing the world seems to draw away and disappear. Meanwhile, our bodies are locked in position at our desks and we’re just a very short distance away from all sorts of aches and pains.

I’m not saying you have to take time to jump on your bike or run for miles, take up calisthenics or go swimming every day though of course all of that would be good to. Instead I’m going to let you know about a few exercises I know about that you can actually do from your desk.

This is, of course, assuming you have no physical problems, I’m not a doctor, after all. I’m a writer. Do these things with care, all right? Or, don’t do them at all if you believe they could be detrimental.

First, a few comments on things that can happen to the deskbound.

For starters we tend to push our heads forward looking at the screen or papers or whatever. So what? Well, if you do it enough, the muscles in the front of the neck stretch and get overly long and because of that, weakened and the muscles at the back shorten up. Bad news.

Then there’s the spine and what we do to it. The spine needs to have curves and it we slouch a lot the back becomes bowed taking the curves out which will, before you ask so what, cause strained back muscles and maybe tightness in your chest. Then there’re your eyes. Strain can cause watering, headaches and other discomforts. Fun, right?

Writers and other desk-bounds might also experience rounded shoulder, tight hips, tight hamstrings, pinched circulation in the legs and a host of other problems.

So here are a few things we can do about it:

1. Shrug your shoulders. Not just shrugging them, but actually holding it. Sit up straight and bright your shoulders upward toward your ears – moving only those muscles. Hold it for a few seconds, then relax everything. Repeat that a few times. Easy, right at your desk.

2. Get up, walk around, stretch. Every hour is good, more often if you can. Seriously. Pay attention. You can do this.

3. Not ready to get up? Then bounce yourself in your chair by briskly tightening and releasing your butt muscles. It’s fun, do it often.

4. Hey, prop your feet up on your desk when you’re reading instead of typing.

5. Lift each foot and make circular motions clockwise and counter-clockwise. My grandfather used to be barefoot a lot and would use his toes to pick up his shoes. Point your toes and flex your ankles too.

6. Think about a standing desk. I have one and spend part of the day standing and part sitting. A full standing desk can be expensive. I have a Varidesk which sits on top of my old desk and love it. Very easy to lift up & down. Here’s a link — and yes, if you actually bought one I’d get a small (tiny) commission. But heck, I love it and enjoy recommending it. It isn’t cheap either, but it’s less expensive than a full standing desk with all the bells and whistles. Look around. You might be able to find one where you live used.

7. Give your arms, which you usually hold close to your body as you type, a break. Lift one arm, bend at the elbow and put your hand behind your head. Put the other arm behind your back and try to grasp the other hand. Not too easy. Don’t push it, just gently try. And do both sides.

8. For your neck, just move it. Gently, turn it side to side in a slow motion and enjoy the crackle of muscles and tendons as they release tension. Then gently move it every direction it can move, drop chin toward your chest, look toward the ceiling, whatever motion you can think of.

9. Now for the real workhorses for writers – our wrists, hands and fingers. Move your wrists in circles, clockwise and counter-clockwise. Then extend one arm straight in front in a ‘stop’ motion and press with your other hand. The stretch you feel will extend all the way up into your aching shoulder. For fingers, make a tight fist, then spread and stretch them as wide as possible. Wiggle them. Relax, then make circular motions with each finger in both directions.

10. Eyes are last here, but they’re extremely important. We get so wrapped up in our writing, how often do we look away? We even forget to blink. Bad, very bad. Look away from your monitor. Blink rapidly. Focus on something in the middle distance, maybe across the room. Then something in the far distance, maybe out a window. Close your eyes. Rest them. Be kind to your eyes.

That’s it. Just keep moving. Keep your body happy and it will improve your writing as well. One writer to another, these small things will keep your body happy and sharpen your focus. Try it.

Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.

Peggy Bechko’s Tips on the BEST Time to Write

by Peggy Bechko

You have a great idea.

You have lots of notes and the plot all mapped out in your head and maybe a synopsis typed into a word processing program.

It fires you up every time you think about it. But nothing messes up a great idea like not having the energy to bring it to life on the page.

Am I talking about you? Lack of energy to write is common. Most writers don’t start out being WRITERS and writers only. Most of us have families, rent to pay, food to buy, insurance to pay.

Which means that you probably have a job. And we all know what that does to our energy levels.

Having a job means getting up early, morning prep whatever the routine, traveling to work and spending most of your best energy there.

Then home for dinner and time with the family and it’s probably eight or nine at night before everything you need to do in your day is done and there’s that little sliver of time left before crashing and doing it all again.

That time is golden, the time for you write that screenplay or novel or TV Pilot script. But so very often even though the time is now there, it isn’t as productive as you need it to be because…where is the energy?

Somehow, every writer has to find a way to pair the two; the time to write and the energy to write. The first hurdle is finding the time to write. But the second is discerning WHEN the time is right to write.

You’ve probably read or heard things like “you must write at least two hours a day, every day!” Or maybe, “be prepared to give up every weekend and holiday for your writing!” Uh, no. If some of these plums were truth there would be very few writers. Who could get a screenplay or novel done and still have a personal life left?

Surely all of this comes as no surprise. You need both time and energy to write. How often have you carved out a portion of time just for your screenwriting or novel writing and realized you had zip energy to carry it out?

Writing is a priority, but so is life.

So, first we find the time to write.

Perhaps a few hours every Sunday. Maybe during lunch when we slip away from co-workers and get some writing in. Could be early in the morning, rising before the rest of the household to get in a hour or so of writing before the rest of the family arises. If you commute on a train perhaps writing could happen then.

Whenever the time, whatever the amount you have to dedicate to your priority of writing, you need it to be a time when you can bring real positive energy to the task.

There’s no mandatory time or length of time for writing. The  trick is to make whatever works for you a regular event, a time of your choosing when you can approach the computer with some real energy to put into your story.

After all, you can’t be grousing your way to the computer, fingers not eager to hit the keyboard, and expect to create the blueprint for your blockbuster movie/TV series or best-seller novel.

Discovering the most energetic times you work at your writing is an essential part of the writing process. Your time-energy component is entirely up to you, but you need to make sure they fit together like a bespoke suit.

Find that combination of the right time and enough energy, and I’m betting you’ll write that great script or fantastic novel…or maybe even both.

Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.

Peggy Bechko’s 6 Reasons to Give Up Writing (?)

Pic found at for ironic reasons of our own

by Peggy Bechko

Here we are again, gang, and today I’m going to discuss the possibility with you that you just might want to stop writing, give it up, walk away, move on to other things. However you want to phrase it, maybe writing isn’t for you.

It’s too late for me, I’ve been published frequently, big houses, smaller houses, Indy publishing and scripts optioned. But, you might want to save yourself. It’s hard to make if you’ve invested a lot of yourself and your time into something that meant a lot to you but just didn’t pan out.

So, here are six good reasons to stop writing.

1. You have too many ideas. So many in fact that you never finish anything. You start scripts, then drop it because you decide to work on a novel or a short story. OR you have one script in the works, but put it aside to work on another idea – again, and again, and again. So much so that no one script actually gets finished. Consider: maybe this writing thing isn’t for you.

2. Your spelling sucks. So does your grammar and your punctuation. You don’t want to take the time and effort to learn to do it right or even to use the tools in your word-processor. You don’t think it’s all that bad. You think someone else should clean up all those errors (at no expense of any kind to you) like an editor or maybe a producer’s assistant. Seriously, time to chuck it.

3. There are a whole lot of other things more important in your life. You want to bake cookies for the family. Mowing the lawn so the yard doesn’t look like a jungle is a priority. The phone keeps ringing (or whatever ‘ringtone’ you possess). There are movies you want to see, books you want to read (you should be doing that AND writing, but that’s another issue). Ummmm…. Priorities. If writing isn’t at the top of your list it might be time to move on and stop torturing yourself thinking you should do it when you really don’t want to.

4. You hate readers. Seriously there are writers out there with that problem. They figure the world is against them. Producers don’t want to read their scripts. Editors reject their manuscripts and even if a books or script makes it ‘out there’ the readers are picky and nasty and as a writer (sort of ) you really have a bone to pick with all those readers from the ‘gatekeeper’ readers to the ones at home watching those movies that have come from the scripts or reading on the couch. You loath them all. If that’s you, you really need to pack it in and find some other fun pursuit.

5. You need a vacation. Again, seriously. This one is legit. Some writers never stop. They write seven days a week, all year. They risk burn out. If this kind of writer is you, then you do need to stop…at least for a while. Take a break, refresh, let those stories rest so you can come back to them with a new perspective. Nothing bad will happen. A break is a good thing. Stop. For a while.

6. Maybe you can’t handle rejection of any kind. Then this really ISN’T the life for you. You’re going to get lots of script rejections, some with notes, most without. Editors with publishing houses are going to dump your novels with no ceremony and possibly hurtful comments. If that isn’t something you can deal with or want to deal with, then put down the pen (i.e. your computer) and walk away. There are lots of other things in life.

There are lots of other reasons to stop – or go forward when it comes to writing. It’s really up to you to consider all the angles and avenues.

Just one bit of advice. Don’t stop writing because some idiot on the internet said your writing is no good.

Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.