Writing with a partner can be both beneficial and challenging to your writing process. How do you collaborate as a team on a job that’s typically done solo, and how can you work through your creative differences to develop a shared voice and vision for your story?
Our Conference has played host to many great writers and creators who have done some of their best work with a writing partner, and we’re looking to them for their advice on writing as a team.
Here are six tips for tag team writing from past AFF panelists who found their success working with a writing partner:
1. WRITE FOR YOURSELF (AND YOUR PARTNER)
You have to go through your own personal trial and error on the page before it’s ready for even your partner to read, let alone anyone else. So, the way it’s worked for us is one of us writes and he sends it, and we write to please each other. We are each other’s biggest critics and biggest fans.
-Michael Brandt (co-writer The Double, Wanted, 2 Fast 2 Furious; co-creator Chicago P.D.) at AFF 2004
2. DECIDE WHAT STORY YOU’RE TRYING TO TELL
There’s a lot of talking it out and really deciding what it is we’re trying to say because…there’s no point if there’s not something you’re trying to say. So…there are a lot of things you think about, a lot of things you want a movie to be about, but as the process goes, you have to narrow it down so it’s clear.
-Nancy Meyers (co-writer Father of the Bride, The Parent Trap, Irreconcilable Differences) at AFF 2016
3. RESPECT THEIR WORK
The only way to have a writing partner is you have to respect their work, and if you don’t, it’ll never work out. I’ve seen that over and over again with writing partners that break up. They always say, “Oh, well, the other person didn’t really know anything,” and if you have that attitude, it’s never going to work.
-Cormac Wibberley (co-writer National Treasure, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Bad Boys 2) at AFF 2018
4. BUILD A LARGER COMMUNTIY OF WRITERS
Having a community of other writers, friends who are writers who are going through the same struggles as you, is really helpful. We have a lot of writer friends that we talk to aside from talking to each other, and sharing those gripes and realizing that you’re not alone is a lot less overwhelming.
-Kirsten Smith (co-writer Legally Blonde, 10 Things I Hate About You, The House Bunny, She’s the Man, The Ugly Truth) at AFF 2015
5. SET ASIDE YOUR EGO
Just keep ego out of it, and there’s no right or wrong. There’s just exploration. That’s all it is, and there’s no such thing as a dumb idea, because any idea starts something new. Any conversation can lead in a million directions.
-Chad Hayes (co-writer The Conjuring, Whiteout, The Reaping, House of Wax) at AFF 2015
6. VALUE THEIR FEEDBACK—AND USE IT
Almost always if we have a big argument, something’s wrong…we have enough respect for each other’s opinion that if somebody feels really passionate enough to argue, there’s probably something wrong. It doesn’t mean your solution is right, but there’s something there that’s wrong, and out of our fights comes something better usually.
– Shari Springer Bergman (co-writer American Splendor, The Extra Man, The Nanny Diaries) at AFF 2004
Visit onstory.tv for a closer look inside the creative process from today’s leading writers and filmmakers.
Want to hear these tips first hand? Join us at this year’s Writers Conference (Oct. 24 – 27, 2019) for a weekend of insider tips and writing advice from the leading voices of film and television. For more information on how to attend, click here.