Saturday, October 29, 2016

How do you make a writing partnership last?

Here's a Friday Question that became a whole post.

It's from Dgm:

Beyond finding a good writing partner, how do you keep one? What happens when one wants to fly solo for a while or to "see other people" for certain projects? Do you address those issues up front in some sort of pre-nup-like agreement, or do you wait for the shit to hit the fan?

I can only speak for me and my partner, David. We generally write everything head-to-head, both sitting in a room together. But early on we decided to take one script assignment a season and split it up, one writing the first act and the other writing the second. We’d then put the two together and polish them together. The point was to feel confidant writing on our own. That way our partnership is one of choice not dependency.

The best partnerships have built-in flexibility. I won’t say “as you grow as artists” because the minute you think of yourself as an “artist” you’re destined to write “Tidy Bowl” commercials in five years, but as you fight the windmill that is showbiz your interests often do splinter somewhat. One may want to direct, write plays, or the far more common – desire to become a baseball announcer. Allow each other some room.

But make sure if you want to do something apart from the partnership you discuss beforehand. Don’t just spring it on him: “Oh, by the way, I’m going to polish the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy so I’ll be in New Zealand for the next two years starting tomorrow but I think they have cell service there.”

The key to a good partnership is that you have each other’s back. There will be times when you’ll have personal shit to deal with (your kids will only fall out of trees when a pilot is due) and he covers for you and likewise expect periods where you may have to shoulder the load while he’s in prison.

And most important: You both stand by the work you turn in together. The fastest way to end a partnership is to throw your partner under the bus during a notes meeting. “Yep, I told him it wouldn’t work.” By the time you’ve said “him” he’s texting that weird but funny guy at Starbucks asking if he wants to team up.

There will always be hurdles, tough patches. Our partnership is tested every Superbowl, World Series, Rose Bowl, and NBA Finals. We have never rooted for the same team once in over forty years. That we’re still talking to each other much less writing together is a miracle.


Jean said... I have to look up David's arrest record.

Louis Burklow said...

Ken, this answer makes me wonder how the partnership did survive your time as a baseball announcer. I believe David and you were still a team during those years, right? If so, did you only write together during the offseason? If not, how did you work it when he was in L.A. and you were in Syracuse, Baltimore, Seattle, San Diego, etc.?

Jahn Ghalt said...

Writers gotta write - sporting interests are (should be) secondary.

(announcing is a profession, not merely an "interest")

Still, you couldn't get together rooting at this World Series?? Who roots for Cleveland (King James excepted)?

NBA Finals - rooting against GSW is not the same as root "for Cleveland". Who roots for Cleveland?

VP81955 said...

To Jahn Ghalt, the answer: Anyone who remembers the "meltdown in Miami" in 1997, when the Tribe entered the bottom of the ninth three outs away from Cleveland's first World Series triumph since 1948. These days, though, it's not even as well remembered as "the fumble" involving the Browns' Earnest Byner (and that occurred in a playoff game, not the Super Bowl), and certainly nowhere near as remembered as Steve Bartman in 2003 (and the Cubs could have made that moot by winning game 7, but didn't)..