To Write or Co-Write – Part Two

In his previous post, Rick had thoughts about why you shouldn’t write with someone. Today he talks about why you should take on a writing partner.

Here are Rick’s thoughts:

These are the guidelines I’d recommend using 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. Co-write to get out of a rut. Many times we’re ready to write a screenplay, but nothing in the idea journal or desk drawer really sparks interest. Herein lies opportunity. Seek out a writer you like, respect and/or admire and ask if there’s a project that he or she would be interested in collaborating on. Immediately, you’ve opened yourself up to whole new set of possible screenplays. It only takes one idea to get the creative juices flowing.

4. Co-write to learn. Maybe you’re an outliner and envious of the writers who just dive in and see what happens. Or vice-versa. There’s lessons to be learned from both approaches. Find someone that works differently and observe how they handle difficulties with story or act breaks or pacing. It’s important to be upfront and explain how you typically work but hopefully, you’ll be open enough to trying a different ‘process’ to see if it works for you. There’s no ‘right’ way — it’s a matter of finding and trying new methods. You can always revert to your comfort zone but at least try it. You’ll see a different perspective to the blank page.

3. Co-write to step up your game. Many television shows have writer’s rooms or a group of staff writers AND deadlines. To me, that’s the ultimate in pressure. You’re working with a bunch of talented writers and you know you need to nail a quality script by the end of the week. So, imagine being at a keyboard in that room while everyone else is tapping out their ‘A’ game. As I said, I can’t imagine more pressure. But pressure is good and co-writing a script is the shallow end of the pool rather than the high dive of a writer’s room. Yes, you’re signing on and committing to contributing but, if you work with a good partner, you’ll learn that the expectation of ‘delivering’ forces you to not slack. Moreover, once the characters and pages start to come alive, you’ll both become invested in raising the bar for the story and winner is the script reader or producer. Accepting that you will be read, daily or weekly, by a jury of your peers, is usually enough to keep you from typing over and over again: ’this script needs work’ just to say that ‘yes, I did write something today.’

2. Co-write if you’re ready to act like a paid ‘writer.’ Trust me, getting ’notes’ and ‘feedback’ from producers is incessant. Recently, I received just under 300 notes from a producer on a 94 page screenplay. Be ready for everyone, from producers, to agents or actors to competition readers — for cold sometimes brutal notes. Guess what? It’s the norm and the sooner you accept that no one likes everything, the better. It’s far better to get ‘it’s not working for me’ from a co-writer than a film executive. Maybe they’re wrong — Maybe it is working but that’s where you have to determine if you’ll be true to yourself. Are you willing to change your character, or the pages to suit someone else? Are you willing to bend? If not, maybe, in addition to co-writing, the whole concept of writing for the screen isn’t for you if you’re not willing to cater to notes from someone who might have the ability to get your script made. Making movies is the ultimate collaborative medium. Own it. Unless you’re able to produce and direct your own work, start to learn the collaborative process. If you want your words to remain your words — write a novel or a play. Novelists and playwrights have far greater control over their words.

1. Co-write to increase your body of work and give back. This seems like it should be two rules but I’ve found that they go hand in hand. I personally have a self-imposed mandate to write one feature screenplay a year. In addition, I’ll write a few shorts and try to get work rewriting a screenplay or working on things like commercials or video productions. My goal? Get paid to write. Everyday, you’ve got to shop your goods. I’ve got five unproduced feature screenplays that I shop by myself every chance I get. Marketing emails and trade journals take up time. How to keep generating fresh product? Write everyday. Don’t have a script you’re burning to write? Tough. You need content to shop. That’s where co-writing helps. You get to continually generate new material to shop and — bonus — you get another motivated writer to shop it right along with you. How does this all ‘give back?’ You’ve learned a craft and you apply it to writing a film that no one may make or see but countless other screenwriters are in the same boat. Give back to them by sharing your skills and unique voice. Give them the ‘reading’ diversion they need when they’re stuck on a story point. Most importantly, do not quit or not write anymore because things haven’t worked out thus far. Be someone’s inspiration. Find motivation in being the writer who is willing to do whatever it takes to pursue their screenwriting passion. Not all heroes wear capes. Write or co-write but do one or the other.

Great notes, Rick!  Hope you’re enjoying, and please share or follow if you are!

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