The Beatles said that "one is the loneliest number," and most writers will probably agree that they were right! Writers hole themselves up all by their lonesome rewriting and editing draft after draft. While you get to communicate with people when it comes to networking, notes, and pitching, the bulk of the work is still pretty much done in isolation. But what if you had a partner? Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, the Farrelly Brothers, Joel and Ethan Coen; some writers find great success in being part of a writing partnership! Today I'm talking all about how to write with a partner.
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Is a writing partner right for me?
Every writing partnership is different based on the people who enter into it, and therefore each partnership should be considered its own unique process. When two writers come together, they might want to discuss how they personally work best, expectations for working with someone else, and their future goals. If you're someone who doesn't like to talk about their thoughts and feelings on how a relationship is going, a writing partnership might not be for you. A writing partnership is just that, a relationship. All relationships need to be cultivated, nurtured, and looked after. You don't want to be stuck in a writing partnership that's frustrating or makes you miserable, just like you wouldn't tolerate that in any other relationship!
Choose your partner wisely
When choosing a writing partner, you want chemistry and like-minded thinking, but it shouldn't just stop there. The best partnerships have each person bringing a different perspective or skill (or both) to the table. You want a partner who challenges you and makes you question things. If you agree on everything, what's the point in even having a partner? It's also nice when your partner has strengths that might be your weaknesses and vice versa. Maybe you're not formally educated in writing, but you're passionate and have many great ideas. Then you might benefit from a partner who's got a degree or has studied a lot about writing techniques and methods. You want your partner to compliment you and your skills. The goal of the partnership should be that together you create something greater than what you would have done separately.
Determine your writing process
Some writing partners like to brainstorm an outline together, while others like to brainstorm separately and then come together with their unique ideas.
Some partnerships have one writer doing the bulk of the writing and the other writer giving feedback from a producer-like mindset.
Sometimes one writer will write a section of the story, and then the other writer will build off of it, writing the next section, almost like a relay.
Sometimes writers divvy up the writing based on plot points or characters.
There are tons of different ways for two people to write a screenplay together. No matter which way you choose, you want to discuss it first to agree on a method that will work best for both of you.
Be prepared to disagree
Inevitably, since you are two different people with unique views on storytelling, you will find yourself disagreeing. When disagreements arise, don't panic! Don't give in to a knee-jerk reaction to defend your opinion in a way that implies that you know better than your co-writer. You're on the same team, so remember to be kind! Both of you should present your point of view in a prepared explanation and then review them through the lens of what's best for the story. Still can't agree? Sometimes it's best to move on to something else and then return to the problem section with fresh eyes.
Get it in writing
Once you agree on how to work with each other and who will write what, it's essential to write it all out and have every party sign the written document. Especially in screenwriting, writing credit is often determined by how much of a screenplay you wrote, and you don't want to end up in a situation where one person gets all the glory. You also don't want the matter of credits to destroy your writing relationship.
Hopefully, this blog didn't scare you away from a writing partnership. Writing with a partner isn't for everybody. A writing partnership requires vulnerability, kindness, respect, and a set of shared expectations. It will help if you strive for a partnership that makes you both better together. Happy writing, partners!