Writing With a Partner
edited: Sunday, August 08, 2004
By Bobbye R. Terry
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Sunday, August 08, 2004
Become a Fan
This article tells how to keep from going to death row when you write with a partner.
WRITING WITH A PARTNER & STAYING OFF DEATH ROW
By Linda Campbell & Bobbye Terry
w/a Terry Campbell
Writing with a partner has its advantages. After all, two heads are better than one, and you can come up with twice as many story ideas and twice as many twists in your story. Seldom will both of you be depressed about your careers at the same time, so you have a built in cheering squad of one. But writing with a partner isn’t always bliss. We plan to tell you how you can write with a partner without plotting to kill her. We’ll tell you:
· How to select a writing partner
· First steps in negotiation – who’s responsible for what?
· To contract or not to contract?
· Can you still write on your own?
SELECTION OF A WRITING PARTNER
Your best friend, relative, or spouse may not be your best writing partner. Sometimes working together can cause major mishaps, fights and irreparable damage. Select your writing partner based on the compatibility of writing styles and life traits. What do we mean by that?
If two of you are considering writing together, read each other’s work-in-progress. Are your styles similar or does one of you write historicals with long flowery sentences and the other one write raw suspense with short fast paced sentences? If that’s the case, the two of you may not be compatible. You can be eclectic in your tastes but you have to determine if both of you lean towards a certain style. For instance, we discovered that the two of us both like warped slightly off-center humor, and that’s the thread that holds us together.
Being different, having different strengths and weaknesses, can also work. Linda ‘s strengths are the use of action and description. Bobbye’s are the use of dialogue and characterization. What about weaknesses? What weaknesses? Okay, when we started, Bobbye did a lot of telling not showing because she was used to writing non-fiction. Linda wrote less than wonderful dialogue. We recognized the other’s strengths fixed the weaknesses. Now if only we could write something better than a stinko synopsis!
On to life traits. You have to be honest with yourself and your partner. That calls for really examining your core values and your career goals. If you like to live in the fast lane, stay at fever pitch, love the big city life and being fancy-free and single, you probably don’t want to choose a writing partner who is laid back, likes to live in the country and has been happily married for more than twenty-five years. The writing team of Terry Campbell has learned that our core values are identical: faith, integrity, honesty, fidelity, security, and family—all not necessarily in that order.
As for career goals, they must meld with your core values. So, we both want a writing career that pays the bills but still allows us to have a strong family-oriented life. In other words, we don’t want to be so famous that we live life under a microscope.
Now having said our core values are the same, we’ll tell you that our personality traits are dissimilar in some ways. Linda is an extrovert with a capital “e” although she’ll tell you she’s moved closer to the Myers Briggs definition of introvert (Bobbye, however, doesn’t believe it). Linda loves to talk and will solve most of her problems out loud. Bobbye, on the other hand, goes for silent solutions. She’ll tell you, “I have to think about it,” and will come back to you with an answer.
Ironically, Bobbye is the cold-call artist and Linda is the e-mail maven. But that leads us to our next topic . . .
Once you’ve chosen a writing partner, you and your partner have to decide what each will be responsible for. With regard to your writing, how will you divide the tasks? Will you write together? Will one of you write the hero and another write the heroine? Will you alternate chapters? Or will you do what we do, whereby one writes the first draft, the skeleton, and the other edits, fleshing in the story? You also have to decide how you will develop the characters, how you will plot, how much detail you’ll complete on the front end. This will vary with different partnerships.
We start with the germ of an idea, one proposed by either partner. Then we brainstorm, many times for days, coming up with more information for the premise, more information for the characters. We do a thorough character analysis (see attached form), and then plot by screenwriting method: the inciting incident, the first reversal, the midpoint, the third reversal, the darkest moment, and the end. Bobbye refuses to do more, although Linda is plotting the whole way through her rewrite of the draft.
The writing itself is not the only thing you negotiate. Who will query the agent/publisher? Who will send in the manuscripts? How will you split expenses? Who will design your promotional materials? These are only a few of the questions.
TO CONTRACT OR NOT TO CONTRACT?
The answer is “yes.” You need a contract, especially when you’re just starting a partnership. You don’t know how long it will last or what might happen unexpectedly, such as the death or infirmity of one of you. The contract needs to be for each work-in-progress. It needs to spell out how expenses and profits are shared, how the material will be used or not used in the event of a break-up, and what will happen to your joint pseudonym in the event of a dissolution. You need to consult a good literary attorney on format. Whatever you do, NEVER let a publisher own your pseudonym.
CAN YOU STILL WRITE ON YOUR OWN?
Sure. We do. But if you’re serious about the partnership, it needs to come first. If you have time to write solo, more power to you. Remember, though, that your voice on your own is not the same voice as yours with a partner. You can’t ask your partner for help on your individual work. If you do, it will take on a voice which is not uniquely your own. After a long enough time of working with a partner you will discover that working on your own is slower and more difficult. Still, it can be a positive move if you are a faster writer than your partner because you won’t have as much down time, which can stifle the creative muse. Remember: You can only continue to write by yourself if your partner knows you are and understands your need for individual creativity. There must also be a strong bond of trust between the two of you.