Monday, July 22, 2013

The writing partnership

Some writers write alone.

I don't know how they do it. 

For me, I've learned to love the collaborative nature of screenwriting having worked with my writing partner, Ben, for almost five years. 

During that time we've had our ups and downs and almost stopped working together a few times. But a good partnership is like a good marriage. If you just stick at it, great things happen. Like children. Or paychecks. 

I think the primary advantage of working as a team is that it gets out me out of my head and allows me to get perspective on the project, scene, line of dialogue, or chunk of action we're writing. It allows me a bouncing board to throw ideas at. It gives me someone to argue my point with and make me really figure out why something is good or bad. It makes me think in a way I would never do on my own. 

You have to work with someone you trust. Because that person is going to hurt your feelings sometimes. They're going to tell you your idea sucks, or that the line of dialogue you wrote is so on the nose it belongs in a soap opera. But they also push you to be better than you are, and together you become greater than the sum of your parts. 

Our working process has evolved over the years. We used to only write together in the same room at the same time. This was fine, but we found that it actually takes double the time to write something. I think this was good for us at fist because it allowed us to unify our style. Ben quickly taught me little tricks like eliminating "and" from our screenplays (I'll talk about why this is important another time), removing the royal "we", and keeping action sections to only three lines. 

After a few years of this, we learned a new way. We read Thomas Lennon & Ben Garrant's book How to Write Films for Fun and Profit. It's hilarious and if you haven't read it to and grab a copy. Go now. I'll wait.....

Ok. Read it? Good. So in it they talk about how they write and we adapted it for our needs. They outline their scripts together, and write a lengthy document to do this. Ours tend to be around thirty pages. Then they split those pages up, (we split ours by sequence) and one writes one page of that outline in script form, sends it over to the other who re-writes that and then adds their pages and sends it back to the other, who re-writes everything then adds their pages and so on. 

We split ours into sequences, then meet once a week to put our sequences together and edit them. We do all our rewriting together in the same room. 

Our last script, Beauty and the Beasts went from initial idea to going to market in about three months. That's fast. 

But you can only do this if you trust your partner. Ben is an excellent partner and I'm so lucky to be working with him. He's like a business partner, best friend, wife, and the other side of my brain all in one. 

And when it comes to writing my sections, I know that they have to be ready by a certain day because that's when we're meeting to put together. This gives me urgency because I know that there is someone waiting for m to finish. It's no longer just about me tapping away on my computer. 

So if you are stuck, try writing with someone else you trust. It makes it a whole lot easier. 

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