People with writing partners - how do you determine who does what?

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  • People with writing partners - how do you determine who does what?

    I would appreciate input from people who have worked with writing partners as to how you generally work. Do you split up the writing of the dialogue and action? Split Acts? Write most if not all yourself and have your partner chime in with notes?

  • #2
    Re: People with writing partners - how do you determine who does what?

    I've found that it works best if one person is assigned the "head writer" duties, and THAT works better if both writers acknowledge each other's strengths and weaknesses.

    I'll get down a few pages each day, then e-mail 'em out. My partner will comment, critique, rewrite, etc and send them back...I'll do another quick rewrite of those pages and then move on...No endless back & forth over the same segment or you won't get much further than FADE IN.

    Sometimes it's magic. Sometimes someone ends up being rewritten out of the will.

    Good luck.

    Midnite

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    • #3
      Re: People with writing partners - how do you determine who does what?

      Talk to each other, discuss your respective strengths, interests and objectives and come to an agreement on how you want to work. I've not heard of the work being split between action and dialogue but there may be partnerships that work like that. The arrangements I've known have been straight collaboration with equal/joint input, or having a lead writer who intitiates and makes the final call. Just work out what will work best for you and your partner.
      "Friends make the worst enemies." Frank Underwood

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      • #4
        Re: People with writing partners - how do you determine who does what?

        Originally posted by Midnite View Post

        I'll get down a few pages each day, then e-mail 'em out. My partner will comment, critique, rewrite, etc and send them back...I'll do another quick rewrite of those pages and then move on...No endless back & forth over the same segment or you won't get much further than FADE IN.
        +1. It has worked very well for me this way, and hopefully for the very tolerant and flexible partner I tell myself each day I'm so lucky to have.

        Finding someone you can work with may seem obvious, but it is more than obvious. It's critical. You get to know that person better than you know your friends and family after a while, and the writing can go back and forth every day. Find the right person, the right story, and the right approach for you... this works for me.
        Last edited by tucsonray; 05-17-2011, 07:56 AM.
        Seven years dungeon --- no trials!

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        • #5
          Re: People with writing partners - how do you determine who does what?

          For the first draft T and I wrote 5 pages at a time. I'd write 5, send them to him, then he'd write 5 based on my pages. We had talked a lot and brainstormed ahead of time so we generally knew where the story would go.

          After the first draft then we would critique the script as a whole and then later certain sequences/scenes. Then we would both re-write versions and pick the best.

          It's tricky sometimes. Just learn to compromise. You might have to give a little so you can take. Communication is extremely important. Don't bottle up anything that's bothering you inside, it'll come out wrong later.
          Quack.

          Writer on a cable drama.

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          • #6
            Re: People with writing partners - how do you determine who does what?

            WHen I worked with a partner, one of us would write scene 1, the other scene 2, and then we'd swap and edit each other's scenes.

            Once those scenes were close to being done, we'd move on to scenes 3 and 4 and repeat the process.

            We found it worked best if we talked to each other before editing first drafts, but usually the rest could just be done with sequential edits - unless we got to 3 or 4 passes on a scene and weren't happy, then we had to sit down again.

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            • #7
              Re: People with writing partners - how do you determine who does what?

              My husband and I co-write. We're lucky in so far as being able to discuss ideas regularly face to face, which I think is much easier than by phone or email.

              We have two rules in our writing partnership - one is that yes/yes means 'yes' and yes/no means 'no'. If we can't both agree on a line of dialogue, an action, character trait, etc... it gets tossed and we look for an alternative that we're both happy with. Sometimes we'll leave a 'maybe' line in and come back to it later, but ultimately the goal is to be in agreeance on every word in the script.

              The second thing is - there's no room for ego. We try to base all our decision making on what is best for the story, and avoid one-upmanship and personal preference. There's a lot of give and take, to and fro - and you have to be prepared to listen and consider suggestions that might differ from yours. We use the word 'intent' a lot when presenting ideas for a scene or a line of dialogue, etc, during our brainstorming sessions and discussions. This again helps to keep the focus on the story and reduces the potential for hurt feelings when an idea is rejected.

              In our partnership I do all of the writing. We brainstorm every beat, outline, character, location, etc together. We thrash out every scene verbally until we have a clear notion of the intent, actions and some of the dialogue. I usually take notes while we're talking and then write the scene afterwards. He reads it when I've finished, then we discuss the parts we feel work or don't work and thrash it out again. I do a rewrite of the scene and then we move on to the next one.

              We're both happy with the workload split - for us it sort of occurred naturally due to the strengths/weaknesses we each have. Overall, we consider that we've both made an equal contribution, however I get the honour of having my name first in the Written by ........ & ......... because I've been the one to physically write it into screenplay format.

              Anyway, that's our method.
              HTH
              "Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead"... Gene Fowler

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              • #8
                Re: People with writing partners - how do you determine who does what?

                I used to co-write with my brother but it too often ended in fistfights and, worse, stalled progress due to disagreement.

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                • #9
                  Re: People with writing partners - how do you determine who does what?

                  I would say at the start that you agree to split everything 50/50.

                  If you are working with someone you obviously think that they are bringing something to the table that you can't. Could be contacts, humor, writing ability.

                  Who cares who wrote what?

                  I've joked with friends... 50% of something is more than 100% of nothing.

                  Jeff Shurtleff
                  Last edited by Jeff_Shurtleff; 05-17-2011, 11:22 AM.
                  "Some men see things the way they are and say why? I see things that never were and say, why not?"

                  http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?...4669871&v=info

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                  • #10
                    Re: People with writing partners - how do you determine who does what?

                    I always thought it would be fun to have a website for folks looking for writing partners. Sort of like Facebook but instead of a social profile have a few writing samples and maybe a quick bio ...

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                    • #11
                      Re: People with writing partners - how do you determine who does what?

                      Originally posted by Jeff_Shurtleff View Post
                      I would say at the start that you agree to split everything 50/50.

                      If you are working with someone you obviously think that they are bringing something to the table that you can't. Could be contacts, humor, writing ability.

                      Who cares who wrote what?

                      I've joked with friends... 50% of something is more than 100% of nothing.

                      Jeff Shurtleff
                      My similar, oft-stated axiom has been "1% of a million is $10K, and 100% of 10K is 10K, but which would you rather have". It's pretty obvious, if you're a business thinker.

                      On a similar note, and as for the notion of "bringing something to the table" in a partnership, in my day job (computers) alliances are regularly being made that focus on growth as opposed to simply splitting the job.

                      That is, each member might be able to do everything perfectly well, but if you form a "partnership" with trusted individuals, you get to "bid" on big jobs -- and you know what I mean by "big" in the screenwriting field! Anyway, each brings certain skills and experience, but what it does is mean the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts.

                      Now, I'm talking computer businesses, eg. network, software, training and database getting together to provide full solutions, and to be big enough to take on big projects. They're called "vendors of record" to be able to bid on big govt contracts, etc. that the client wouldn't let one person (except a superstar) bid on individually.

                      Similarly, writers could form such unions.

                      Oops, well, yes, we have to find some other word, don't we! We already have that, where "We got a union to look after me; what else do I need?!"

                      So, how about one writer who produces speedy drafts, and a dialogue pro, an action pro, and let's not forget somebody who's a whiz at pitching, and genre specialists, as Jeff said. Throw in a manager and accountant to look after the business side of things. Can't forget that!

                      Inevitably, you just know the partnership would lend itself to holding a contest, providing seminars, repping, and finally production, itself.

                      Except for the silly contest, computer alliances have done exactly this; some of them becoming awfully big players.

                      I don't know, but I "assume" such things are already occurring in the screenwriting business, somewhere. However, I am continually surprised at how non-businesslike (as opposed to un-) screenwriters can be, at times, at some levels. It would seem that competitiveness and envy, the fear of having stuff stolen, and the idea that free enterprise stops at our doors (and doesn't come in) prevents this kind of big thinking.

                      Meanwhile, the producers probably figure things are just fine as they are, even though that end of the business ought to do fine no matter who's writing the darned scripts for them, don't you think?

                      For agents/managers, it'd be a wrinkle, for sure, but the people in power (the smart ones, anyway) always find some way to adapt when the worker classes try to organize a little extra influence for themselves.

                      Oh well, back to my lonely journey on my latest spec script, then...

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                      • #12
                        Re: People with writing partners - how do you determine who does what?

                        Don't just think about writers working together.

                        Actors bring a lot to the table when you can work with them.

                        I did get to walk into CAA with a script...

                        and it certainly wasn't because of my accomplishments.

                        Jeff Shurtleff
                        "Some men see things the way they are and say why? I see things that never were and say, why not?"

                        http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?...4669871&v=info

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                        • #13
                          Re: People with writing partners - how do you determine who does what?

                          Originally posted by catcon View Post
                          Meanwhile, the producers probably figure things are just fine as they are, even though that end of the business ought to do fine no matter who's writing the darned scripts for them, don't you think?
                          They seem to have done just fine over the years, despite having a rather thick layer of people between them and spec material. They know who the good writers are in town, they hire them all the time. But for unknown spec writers there's some major obstacles to overcome in getting material in front of these folks, as you and I know only too well.

                          Even so a few specs continue to sell.

                          Originally posted by catcon View Post
                          For agents/managers, it'd be a wrinkle, for sure, but the people in power (the smart ones, anyway) always find some way to adapt when the worker classes try to organize a little extra influence for themselves.
                          They are a highly adaptable bunch, to be sure.

                          Originally posted by catcon View Post
                          Oh well, back to my lonely journey on my latest spec script, then...
                          Me too.

                          But first a comment or two on collaborative writing.

                          There have been some notable writing teams in the business over the years and we see shared writing credits all the time in television. This tells us it's something that can be done with success, but it doesn't measure the difficulty or what it takes to write collaboatively and be successful doing so.

                          I think it takes two (or three?) special people in that their creative selves and competence have to be generally on par. If one partner's way ahead of the other competence-wise, it's probably not going to work, whereas if they're roughly equal and have about the same sensibilities, it can work rather well. I think newer writers probably ought to avoid partnering until they've developed some competence, because being in a learning mode isn't good in terms of productivity or in agreeing on things.

                          The only partnering I've done was on a treatment, we sat across the table from one another and he wrote the first draft and I rewrote it as we went. He'd write three our for pages and hand me a diskette with them on it and I'd load them up and start rewriting them, developing them. It was a 25 pager so took awhile, but we got the pages done and then printed them and went over them together, discussing changes, making notes. Then he went for coffee while I made the changes, A couple of iterations and we were done.

                          Mind you we had spent a fair bit of time talking about the story before launching into the writing. It went well and we ended up with a pretty solid piece.

                          But we've all heard enough horror stories about partnerships that turned sour to be cautious about entering into one, even knowing they can work quite well when the partners match up in ways that allow things to proceed apace without too much adieu.

                          I agree with the idea that partnerships should be a 50/50 deal from the git go, albeit that may not be the way to go if one partner's the story guy and the other's the script guy, in which case I'd use the WGA's "story by" and "screenplay by" relationships as a guide for the deal.

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                          • #14
                            Re: People with writing partners - how do you determine who does what?

                            Originally posted by FADE IN View Post
                            ..I think newer writers probably ought to avoid partnering until they've developed some competence, because being in a learning mode isn't good in terms of productivity or in agreeing on things...
                            Oh, absolutely! I was worried that my post might inspire a slew of startups right out of DoneDealPro! Like, "Mega Blockbusters R Us LLC", and "Acme Oscar Winners Inc.", with a "$100 million gross and 5 Academy Awards or its free" type of guarantee.

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                            • #15
                              Re: People with writing partners - how do you determine who does what?

                              I write shorts with a partner, although he has no writing experience and is too impatient and restless to write more than revisions and notes.

                              We meet regularly in a pub, where we discuss the film and he jumps up and acts out various bits and explains his visual ideas. I go home and interpret the discussion into script form, incorporating any ideas that come to me. I tend to let him 'go for it' during the meetings and my contributions usually arrive after some consideration and while I'm writing.

                              We then email back and forth and meet some more until, three years later, we have a great short script.
                              TimeStorm & Blurred Vision Book info & blog: https://stormingtime.com//

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