The Project from Hell (And What I Learned from It)
When I got the project, I was coming off of a four-month famine, and I needed the dough. So I ignored the red flags. First, the expert co-author took so long playing hardball with the publisher that the deadlines were crunched. Then, she insisted on being the point of contact with the publisher, even though she had never written a book for a publisher before. (With this type of project, the writer is usually the point of contact.) Finally, she set deadlines for the chapters that were way earlier than the publisher’s deadlines — and even wanted Eric and me (my husband was also on the project) to write five chapters within 10 days — when we didn’t even have a finalized table of contents from the publisher.
But the lure of money was strong, and I thought, “I can do anything for three months.” Thereafter followed a month of what can only be called hell. I won’t even get into it here.
I spent last Tuesday evening on the verge of tears, and suddenly I decided: I quit! I’m done. This project is over. I sent our agent an e-mail (it was after hours so I couldn’t call and I wanted to do it right away), and that was it.
I should also mention that while I was working on this project, I got a ton of other work…probably more than 10 magazine assignments. Three of them paid more than one-fifth of what the entire book was to pay, and these articles were only one-hundredth the length of the book.
Before you start throwing things at me, let me say that I’ve reformed. I had a goal meeting with two writer friends the day after I quit the book project, and one of them convinced me that from now on, I’ll take on only projects that I love — and that pay well. I’m currently working on a proposal with my life coach for a book I would actually want to buy myself.
This writer friend also reminded me that I’ve been writing full-time for 12 years, and that I’m a pro. I don’t need to scrape the bottom of the writerly barrel for money. Even though I have famine periods like everyone else, the assignments generally come flowing in without my even having to query anymore.
So: Have you ever ignored red flags and taken on an assignment because you needed the money? What happened? Please share your experiences in the Comments section below! [lf]