Considerations for having a writing partner

Taking a quick break for the outlining sequence for a moment, as Rick Hansberry, my writing partner for “According to Plan”, “The Journeyers” and now “Lake Regret” provides some thoughts around whether you should consider a writing partner for one of your projects.  Listen up, guys, Rick is a sage when it comes to this stuff!

His thoughts on maybe why you DON’T co-write with someone:

“Generally, use thesetwo writers as guidelines, if you’re considering co-writing with someone. Everyone’s situation is different and these are by no means universal but intended to help those that have never co-written a screenplay with someone and are trying to evaluate if it will suit them. In reverse order of consideration:

5. Do not co-write to ‘learn.’ Before attempting to write a screenplay, be sure to read hundreds of them. Literally. They’re on-line and in books. There’s no excuse to not have read countless screenplays to understand, format, structure and the nuances of the craft. Your experience level may vary but never co-write your first screenplay. Learn the craft, then apply it.

4. Do not co-write to ‘coast.’ Sure, having a writing partner makes it easier to advance pages and attack revisions but there should always be a balance. A co-writer is a co-creator and there should always be a back-and-forth, give-and-take. If you tend to be lazy about writing, do not co-write to have someone to procrastinate with, rather treat him or her like an exercise or dieting partner — Push them through tough stretches – Hold them accountable and expect the same back. You’ll both win in the end.

3. Do not co-write for the ‘credit.’ If you’re looking to hitch your wagon to someone so you can finally say you’ve had something ‘produced’ or ‘optioned’ you’re doing it for the wrong reasons and it’ll show. Just about any produced writer (yes, I can say that my work has been ‘optioned,’ ‘bought,’ and ‘produced’ but I won’t say I speak for all) will tell you that there’s a certain amount of luck and having the right script at the right time in this business. They’ll also most likely share that there’s countless dozens of scripts by writers that haven’t sold anything or had anything produced that have more than one script that totally blows them away. Know in your heart of hearts that a good script doesn’t always get bought or produced and own it for what it is.

2. Do not co-write if you’re the type of person that doesn’t argue well or holds grudges. Just like every screenplay needs conflict, so do writers. Having a strength like structure or dialogue is fine but ultimately you have to bring your complete game to every script and so does your co-writer and inevitably there will be times when you disagree about a character, a joke in dialogue, a scene, or an ending. If you can’t argue for it and lose and be okay with it, then don’t waste the other person’s time. Creativity inherently wounds egos because no one loves everything. Accept going in that you’ll lose some battles and win some and the script will be better for it but if you hold a grudge — it’ll show in future exchanges and the script will suffer for it.

1. Do not co-write if you can’t accept a subordinate role sometimes. This is a rule to follow for relationships and marriages and careers in general. Let others take credit. Have enough self-esteem to know that your contribution to a project is valuable and it’s not all about you. One of my many hats is to work as a paralegal in a law firm. In many instances, I do the lawyers work for them (at a cheaper billable rate) and they simply review it and often present it to the client as their own — and that has to be okay with you. You have to accept that we all have different roles and times to shine. If you know you’re not the type of person that needs to be recognized or given credit or put on a pedestal, do not co-write but also — unless you’re producing and directing your own films, do not pursue screenwriting. In the film industry, even after the script is optioned or purchased and everyone loves it — it’ll be changed by countless others involved in the production. Have the internal fortitude to know that you’re not the chain, just a link.”

Next time, Rick will chime in with the 5 rules in favor of co-writing.  Stay tuned — and if you’re enjoying this blog, follow and share with your friends!

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