#MyWritingProcess blog tour
Our good friend, the lovely Miss Darian Lindle, has tagged us in what is an apparent tour of writing blogs wherein writers discuss their writing processes. Stop by and check out her blog (and her own writing process) at the link above.
Our process is probably different from most, as it seems much more common for people to write solo than as a team (and married writing teams are even less common).
We write screenplays, teleplays, audio drama, comic books… just about anything that comes in script form. Hey prose, we love you, really, but you’re just not our thing.
We prefer to write sci-fi/action, though certainly also write in other areas. But we do our best when we’re having the most fun (true for all of us, we think), and we have the most fun when writing crazy blow-your-mind sci-fi action stories.
No matter the format or intended medium though, our process stays the same. It always begins with the idea, which almost invariably is when we’re not actively trying to come up with one.
Can’t tell you how many of them came from just talking to each other on car rides in the dark or that sprang out of something weird we heard on television.
Trufax: our most recent blockbuster action sci-fi screenplay sprang out of ONE WORD we heard on an old Brady Bunch rerun. We weren’t familiar with it, though we could guess what it meant. We thought it would make a great title, and then said… okay, well, what would a movie with that title be about?
Not two minutes later we had the basic concept down.
This won’t be the last time you hear us say how great it is to have a writing partner, and how sometimes it’s like cheating because you’ve got someone else to do half the work for you. You’ve got a constant sounding board telling you which of your ideas are stupid and which smell like bacon on a Saturday morning. But of course, that’s just where things START to get interesting.
If the concept is strong enough we’ll figure out the characters first, and what their arcs are, and how they relate to each other, and what their goals are, and then we’ll figure out the story, how the characters interrelate and sort of talk through everything, taking copious notes. We’re not too strict through that stage — sometimes you find a character needs serious changes, and sometimes you find the story does too. But eventually we do up a draft outline, and then we revise it until it makes sense to Susan (Susan does not put up with too much vagueness and hand-waving. Susan needs facts. Susan is fine with this and so is Jeffrey SO THERE).
Jeffrey will do some super-vague outlines when he’s not sure about a story idea, or when he wants to convince Susan of a thing. This often happens after Jeffrey tells Susan an idea and Susan does not like it. So he’ll do a really rough outline just so we have something to talk about, which almost never resembles the final product at all. Basically it’s just trying to get down a bunch of our ideas about plot and character, and toss them together if only to see what DOESN’T work and give us ideas on the right direction to go in.
After that, usually, we can then proceed to the character step and then walk them through the story (as mentioned above) and then get to outlining.
Our outlines generally don’t go scene by scene (though sometimes they do, or for some portions, usually near the end where it becomes more vital to tie up loose threads), but more just give us a general idea of where we’re going.
It does get more specific as it goes through revisions, though. We’ve written both with and without outlines, but it’s been a VERY long time since we’ve done the latter. We find outlining saves us time later, as in revising the outline we can see the entire story at a glance, and find places to better set up that turning point at the end of act 2, or we can see that we’ll need to beef up a weak character arc. Or, we find after we’ve outlined the whole thing that there’s really nothing good there.
We definitely remember the first time we outlined an entire screenplay and then said “yeah, I don’t really like it.” WE SAVED MONTHS OF WORK. No joke.
So then one of us will usually write the more specific outline, then the other will review and revise, then the first will review and revise the revision, and on and on until we’re both happy (and have argued until we’re out of breath multiple times, hence the image that goes with this post).
To be clear, there’s no animosity, but we are both creative, passionate people, so we do get into it when hashing things out. But this is another way in which having a writing partner who you trust and who won’t get their feelings hurt when you tell them something sucks is an amazing thing. It puts every idea, every character, every line of dialogue through the fire. What comes out the other side is, we believe, far stronger than anything either of us would have done on our own.
We all have strengths and weaknesses, and we’re very well set up in that we’re each stronger at what the other is weaker at. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement for both of us. With lots of yelling.
Okay, no, there is rarely yelling. But sometimes. :)
From there, scripting basically works the same as outlining. One of us will write the always shitty first draft (it’s what first drafts are for, which is why they suck so much… you gotta force yourself to keep writing, even if it sucks, just so you can finish it and then go back and make it awesome).
Despite our outlining, we will also still find new ways to improve it, beats that were missed, a new way to tie a character to the plot, etc. There’s no getting around that, but outlining DOES save us from getting to the end and not knowing what in the hell to do about a subplot that doesn’t relate to anything or a character that seems entirely ancillary.
Sometimes we’ll split scenes or pages on the first draft, but lately there’s been less of that. Especially at the beginning, when the character voices aren’t quite set in both our heads yet, that can lead to a bit of disjointedness and almost makes the first draft more work to revise. It’s worked well for us, for the past several scripts, for one of us to do the entire first draft, then the other edit and revise.
Then we discuss the revisions, and the scenes and characters and plot, and revise again. And again. And again. Each time tossing the chaff and only keeping the best stuff.
Once we get to the point where we think it’s in decent shape but our brains are fried, we’ll get outside feedback on it and step away from it for a week or so to let our brains rest and come back to it with a fresh perspective.
Depending on the comments we get back, we’ll edit and revise again, somewhere in there deciding on calling some version a draft final.
We try not to go back to scripts once we’re done with them entirely, but sometimes it happens when a new piece of outside feedback catches something we find important, or gives us an idea for a change that would make it stronger still. But that’s rare.
It’s important to always be willing to edit and change in service of making the work stronger, but you also can’t dwell on the same project forever. At some point you have to let it be and move on to the next thing.
ALWAYS have a next thing. Take a rest between projects, sure, but always have a new one ready to go. Keep that brain going, keep it working, keep thinking. We’re always scanning everything and everyone we encounter every day, learning new bits about how people behave and react, filing away bits of news that we could mold a story around, etc.
Incidentally, this very post you’re reading was done in draft form by one of us, and then the other went through and cut out redundancy and added bits and trimmed others, and then we talked about it, and argued, and when we were both happy we had a pretty good blog post on how we write.
Having a partner teaches you the extremely valuable art of compromise. You will need this skill in all of your professional dealings. It also teaches you how to fight for your viewpoint without belittling or destroying the other person.
Many people will caution you against entering into partnerships. They’re right. Partnerships are not for everyone, and it all depends on finding the right partner, but it works for us, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.