Writing

What Is a Writing Partner? The Pros and Cons of Writing With a Partner

Written by MasterClass

Apr 30, 2019 • 3 min read

Some of the most successful creative writing projects stem from writing partnerships. When you write a script or a screenplay by yourself, you have full creative control. But working with a writing partner offers more opportunities that can make your project even better.

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What Is a Writing Partner?

A writing partner is a creative collaborator. Instead of tackling a project as a solo writer, you approach it with a co-writer and share responsibility. Most writing partners brainstorm, outline, write, edit, and re-write scripts and screenplays together. They may write individual scenes together, separately, or both, but the overall writing process is collaborative from start to finish.

7 Reasons to Work With a Writing Partner

  1. You can bounce ideas off someone. Talking through ideas with someone else can make you see things in a new way or think of something you hadn’t thought of before.
  2. You have double the material. Two heads are better than one. A writing partner has their own unique perspective, opinions, and set of experiences to bring to a project.
  3. You can divide and conquer your workload. Some writing partners divvy up the material, work separately, then exchange scenes to get feedback. You’ll have double the amount of work than if you wrote alone.
  4. You’ll get instant feedback. When you write by yourself, you don’t get feedback until you ask someone to read your script, but with a partner, you’ll get constructive criticism on your writing and ideas as you write
  5. You’ll balance each other out. The most successful writing partners have skills that complement each other. For example, one person is strong in writing dialogue or character development, and another is strong in creating structure.
  6. Your writing skills will improve. Writing partners push and inspire each other to be the best writers possible. The exercise of continual feedback sharpens your writing skills faster than if you were writing and reviewing your work by yourself.
  7. Someone always has your back. Screenwriting is a competitive world but with a writing partner, you’re not in it alone. They’ll believe in you, support you, help you work through feelings of self-doubt, and advocate for you, even if no one else in Hollywood does.

Potential Drawbacks to Working With a Writing Partner

  • You give up creative control. You must be willing to drop your ego, respect your partner’s input, and pursue the best ideas—even if you didn’t come up with them.
  • You won’t always agree. You may immediately disagree with an idea, but you must give your writing partner the chance to contribute. Keeping an open mind keeps the spirit of collaboration and creativity alive—and will hopefully make you more productive.
  • You will share the spotlight. Any awards, accolades, or criticism will be split between you and your co-writer.

What Makes a Good Writing Partner?

Finding a writing partner isn’t easy. For successful collaboration, you both have to:

  • Share the same sensibilities
  • Have similar work ethics
  • Complement each other’s skills
  • Listen and be open to each other’s ideas, even if you disagree
  • Share focus and not dominate the process
  • Set ego aside and collaborate
  • Commit to staying on track and seeing a project through

Alternatives to Working With a Writing Partner

If writing partnerships don’t appeal to you, there are still ways to get feedback from the writing community while maintaining full creative control:

  • Join a writing group. There are many in-person and online opportunities for writers to share their screenplays and get feedback. Writing groups aren’t as involved as writing partnerships, but they still foster a sense of community, can act as a support group, and keep the spirit of collaboration and creativity alive.
  • Enlist beta readers. Ask trusted friends or colleagues to read your screenplay, short story, or writing sample and provide constructive criticism—whether or not your story flows, makes sense, and accomplishes what you set out to do.
  • Attend a writers’ conference. Writing conferences are a great opportunity to meet fellow writers, network, attend workshops, and get feedback on your screenplay.

5 Famous Writing Partnerships

Some of the most popular films of the last few decades were written by a writing team, including:

  1. Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel: Splash (1984), City Slickers (1991), A League of Their Own (1992)
  2. Joel and Ethan Coen: Raising Arizona (1987), Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998)
  3. Peter and Bobby Farrelly: Dumb and Dumber (1994), Kingpin (1996), There’s Something About Mary (1998)
  4. Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor: Citizen Ruth (1996), Election (1999), About Schmidt (2002)
  5. Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson: Bottle Rocket (1996), Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Learn Spike Lee’s advice for working with a writing partner here.