Some conclusions on copyright

After my recent ponderings (here then here) I have made some decisions. I thought I’d share them as I think some of you empathised with my dilemma.

My plan was always to share little of the actual text of my writings myself online, favouring spending my energy on attempting to be published, to have my work broadcast and to win competitions. In some cases I felt that publishing something online myself would have jeopardised the chances of the former channels accepting it, but I also think it is less meaningful if I do it. If somebody else accepts a submission of mine and runs with it, that indicates it may be worth the time of a reader. For now I want exposure but also public validation, so it suits me to go through these cultural gatekeepers.

I had planned to give my screenplay away as a little something, but reading it again, I was impressed with my past-self enough to decide to give it another go and submit it to film-makers and competitions. I also saw how much trouble a lot of screenwriters go through to protect their scripts, registering them with the Writers’ Guild of America and so on, and decided not to be so free and easy with mine.

(It’s a bit like sex, all this. I’m choosing not to put it about, but the consequence is you guys don’t know if I’m any good in the sack.)

(Actually, forget I said that bit.)

'Silence' by Andrew Russeth

The main change from my investigations was my approach to sharing ideas. If I don’t share the writing itself, I used to think, at least I can get people interesting in what it’s about by teasing them with some concepts. I have however been reminded that copyright doesn’t exist for ideas and that there are people out there who steal them. Now it seems more foolish to me to share ideas than the actual writing.

Consequently I went through the blurb pages I had written and removed some of the detail. Maybe I should do it even more. I may have shared a corker of a concept with The Sacrifice, but it’s really frustrating to keep schtum about everything.

This all leaves me with an increased pressure to submit. People think the hard work is in finishing the writing, but to negotiate the submissions process in a systematic way is quite an undertaking too, and one I’ve never really done – just a few ad hoc submissions here and there, and a hard drive full of finished things that I haven’t shared.

That leaves me with a couple of final questions. I have limited time to devote to writing and I spend most of it on working on my novel. It seems that the three important things a writer at my stage should be doing are (a) writing and editing new material, (b) building an audience with blogging and social media and (c) submitting work and entering competitions in a structured, systematic way. My questions to other writers are: how do you find the time, and how do you divide it?

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