Another question and answer today, regarding filthy lucre. Obviously the dream for most of us is to sell that spec, but what happens then?
Anonymous writes: I recently made my first script sale (for a feature), but now I'm faced with the prospect of writing a draft, I'm a bit frozen. Because they're paying money for this script, suddenly I feel like a fraud, and am not sure if I can do it. Is this normal?
No, it's not normal, it's completely unheard of and you are a monstrous freak.
Of *course* it's normal, absolutely. Happens to everyone. It's hard enough second guessing your work when you're just doing it on spec. But as soon as money enters the equation, it's a whole different kettle of fish: OMG, they're paying me, that means I have to deliver the best thing I've ever written, until now people have just been polite about my writing because it didn't make a difference to them, but now they're paying me there's no way anything I write will pass muster, they're going to hate me, it's all shit, I can't write, I'm a complete fraud, they'll find me out, what the hell am I thinking, nothing I write is worth *anything*, surely they won't pay me cash just for writing silly stories down on paper... And as soon as I hand in the script they'll say "Oh. Oh dear. And we *paid* for this? I thought we'd hired a proper writer? Jesus. Can we get the money back? You know what, forget it - we'll just cut our losses, that's the price we pay for being idiots. We'll just never work with this joker again. Get me that list of Proper Writers."
ALL these thoughts and many more went through my head when I sold Severance and had to sit down to write a draft that they were paying me for. And then again when I handed it in, as you can read in this post from 2004. And then again for every other draft. And again for every other draft of everything else. Once they're paying for it, you immediately assign a cash value to every line, it can't be helped. The only thing you can do is breathe, and remember that stuff you wrote yesterday for free is JUST as valuable as stuff you write today for money. If you're writing honestly and doing the best work you can - which you bloody well should be, for everything - then it'll be fine. Don't second guess yourself, just write it exactly how you normally would.
There is literally nothing else I can say that will help with this feeling, other than: yes, it's normal, happens to everyone. If it's any consolation, it happens every single time you hand in something that's paid for. Never goes away. Just one of the many writer insecurities to add to the list. On the bright side, it means you're now a proper writer - you have the two main qualities, which are (a) getting paid for words, and (b) massive insecurity.
They're paying you because they can't write. If they could write, do you think they'd fork over large sums of cash? No way. Most producers and execs are tight-fisted bastards, so you're obviously worth the money. If you weren't a proper writer, you wouldn't be getting paid. Therefore, you are a proper writer. Congratulations! Now, savour the feeling, and look forward to that heady moment when the money goes into your account. And then blow it all on hookers and crack.
Update: Just to prove it happens to all of us, here's an early interview with JK Rowling, who mentions the panic she faced when she sold the US rights to her book (that part starts around 5:29, but it's worth watching the whole thing to see how happy she was to have sold 30,000 copies, and her hopes about the upcoming movie deal - wonder how that turned out...)