I’ve been writing screenplays for a long time. Without dating myself, well over 20 years, but in all that time, I’ve only collaborated once on a script. Well, that is until recently. Truthfully, I don’t think it’s something you just “do” for the heck of it. It has to be for “all” the right reasons, and there are definitely pros and cons to working collaboratively on a project.
Unless you are working with a writing group on a television series, then first and foremost, you must pick a writing partner that you can trust. In addition to trust, you both need to have similar writing styles and similar goals. Once that’s established you absolutely MUST sign a contract first, no matter what. There are a number of things that need to be established, such as: Who is writing what? How much responsibility each of you share? Will it be 50/50? What are the particulars you’re looking for? Even if you are writing with your best friend, all the more reason to have a contract between you; if not, it could cost you your friendship. About now, you might be rolling your eyes, assuring me (under your breath), “that will never happen.” You know the old adage… “Never say never…”
So, as I was saying…Until now, I’ve only used a writing partner once. It was when writing a comedy, and it was a great experience. I do think that comedy lends itself to partner collaboration much more than drama. Partly because comedy is so subjective. What one person thinks is funny, another might not, and this is an important reality that can be easily explored when writing comedy with a partner. It’s a great way to test dialogue.
The truth is, collaborative writing is an intimate venture. You have to be willing to be completely transparent, and sometimes brutally honest with your writing partner. You also have to be able to accept criticism too. There are a lot of odd little irritations that surface when working on a project with a partner. However, it can be incredibly fun and rewarding, especially for the partners that have worked through all the initial kinks and established some preliminary ground rules.
So, I am now on my 3rd collaborative screenplay, and it’s (of course) another comedy. We’ve really been having an amazing time. It’s a lot of fun watching a writing rhythm develop with your partner. We’re mid-way, and in a really good place.
One of the things that has really made our process productive is using the new online screenwriting program WriterDuet. I must say, I’m IMPRESSED! This (free) program allows us to write collaboratively, whether we’re together or apart, and we can see all of the edits immediately. In addition to the edits, the program saves a history of all of the changes we’ve made, so if we decide we liked something previously written, we can revert back. Another wonderful perk…WriterDuet has a page for outlining, story-boarding and creating index cards. With the flick of a finger, using the command key, we can go back and forth between our notes, and insert right into the script!
If you’re considering writing with a partner (or even alone), please check out WriterDuet.com. It has my endorsement.
Check it out!