On my journey to the big screen, I have discovered the no-fail method to assure screenplay completion: write with a collaborator. But when my writer friend Denise asked me to be her screenwriting partner last December, I wasn't enthused. I remember that night vividly.
We were sitting in my car in the Borders parking lot, and I began spewing a list of projects I was in the middle of. Not for her ears, really, but for my own. I was trying to talk myself out of it, but with every excuse I threw out, my inner voice was giving me a solution.
"My writing program just takes so much of my time." But you only have five assignments left until you're done. "I really need to get focused on my novels." You've been working on those novels for years - will a few months really matter? "There's the writers' group - I can't neglect that." Yeah, that's five hours per month - it would be awful hard to get a screenplay done with only the 715 hours that are left (I hate it when my inner voice throws down the sarcasm).
Fifteen minutes later, Denise and I were shaking hands and discussing a start date. As I got out of the car, the demon on my left shoulder said This is doomed to fail. Why the pessimism? It's a long story, but it boils down to this: I'm a loner.
I'm a writer for goodness sake. "Must be a loner" is on my job description. And I don't just play a loner for some dramatic writer effect (like that time I started drinking coffee because that's what writers are supposed to do - read all about it here: The 40-Year-Old Coffee Virgin). I'm a living, breathing, bona fide loner. I aspire to sell great pieces of writing some day so I can climb the writers' career ladder to reclusive.
What in the world was I thinking - a writing partner? - me? - was I losing my mind?
Salvation snuck through (as salvation often does) in the form of capture. Screenwriting had snared me in the months leading up to this collaboration agreement, and I knew it was time to stop resisting. And the Obi-Wan Kenobi angel on my right shoulder said, May the writing force be with you. Now go, young writer - your destiny awaits. Forgive me. I've been writing a screenplay for the past two months - my writing seems to have naturally drifted into the dramatic. On the screen, that line would have played out beautifully. And yes, I realize I'm not a "young writer," but Obi-Wan likes to flatter me.
So here's our status (and it took us two months meeting two days a week to get here):
- Our outline is done. In the screenwriting world your outline is your boards. The picture at the top is of our boards. Act 1 is the first board, act 2 is the second and third board, and act 3 is the fourth board.
- Our logline (that one- or two-sentence description you read to find out what a movie is about) is done.
- Our key concepts are done and set in place (opening image, catalyst, theme, turning points, midpoint, long and short plot lines, pinches, emotional shifts per scene, conflict per scene, resolution, closing image).
- Our subtitle is done, and our movie poster image is roughly drawn.
- Our character biographies are done.
- Our character grids are done (these are at-a-glance spreadsheets that summarize our character traits)
And now, we're writing our first draft. If a scene focuses heaviest on a character whose biography I created, I write it. If it focuses heaviest on her character, she writes it. We're using Movie Magic, a screenwriting program that does our document formatting for us. With Movie Magic. we can link up our computers from anywhere and write together and use a microphone or chat feature to discuss while we write.
So that's where we are, my writing partner and I. Two months down, and about two to go. Our two-day per week schedule is solid. Our personalities complimentary. Each of our ideas stimulate and enhance the ideas of the other. Where I'm weak, she's strong. Where she's weak, I'm strong. We spend our work days laughing (we're writing a comedy) and feeling blessed that God put us on this journey together. I have never enjoyed writing as much as I have the past couple of months. And now I'm starting to think I'm not quite the hermit I portray myself to be.
What are your writing angels and demons telling you, and who do you tend to listen to the most?
Have you ever had a writing partner or considered collaborating?