More on Writing With Partners

by Paul William Tenny

I've thought about this for a bit and while I generally don't think this is even worth the time since this is almost entirely trolling on the part of another party, it's probably worth getting a few words in here to clear the air because loud annoying people..well annoy me. I wrote a post called Writing With Partners on Oct 25th which linked to an article by Patrick Walsh on Cinematical which featured some tips for writing with partners, hence the title.

Two items that have become flash points are partnerships and outlines.

I don't see the value in writing partners for reasons that matter only to me and are not really subject to debate by others. I am not the only person, amateur or professional, that hate outlines and avoid them at all costs. I don't use index cards, character profiles, dart boards, plot wheels, or outlines - I don't need them. It doesn't matter that writing staffs need them and that you can't get by without them, I'm not on a staff. Those standards just don't apply to me.

A couple of people have taken issue with my views on writing partners, two of them left comments on the published post (one of eight I wrote that day) expressing surprise that someone who doesn't live in California, who has never sold a script much less been in a writers room before, didn't know that people work in pairs on a staff. I appreciate them leaving comments to enlighten me on the matter. I was equally unaware that writing teams share their salary, though I did figure they would certainly share whatever they made on the script fee depending on how the credits were sussed out. It's always nice to learn something new, though it really doesn't have anything to do with what I was trying to say, that *I* personally don't see the use in having a partner.
No amount of anecdotal evidence that such things happen (that I fully accept) will ever make me see the value in it, though. I'm glad to know it works out for some, but I have no use for it.

As for outlines, I'm not sure why I have to explain this either since undoubtedly all parties involved have been in precisely this situation at some point in their lives: I have no use for outlines because I am not these people. I don't have a network executive or a showrunner to answer to; I'm writing specs, just as they did, in a way that suits me for getting the best result while sitting on the outside looking in. Based on what I've read of how Kay (someone I'll be addressing here in a moment) broke into television, the spec script she wrote for Chris Carter was written without the benefit of an outline and still got her a job anyway.

Not everybody needs them and honestly they just tend to get in the way.

That the rules change once you've got somebody to answer to is not beyond me, it simply doesn't matter, and they'd surely be among the first to agree. And just to make a point before I move on: Dave, I understand how collaborative television writing is and how essentially the entire room is your writing partner, but that is entirely different than spec writing with (or without) a partner who is your friend in the way Patrick Walsh was talking about, and the situation I was commenting on.

As for what Kay wrote, it's hard to find much worth replying to in this post because it's so filled with immature antagonistic crap that it reeks of a blogger trying to get attention by being witty and acerbic, but only ends up looking like an ass. Perhaps she's nicer in person, as most people tend to be compared to the persona they create online, but it's certainly not showing through in this instance.

All I see, really, is arrogance and anger. And with that, I'll address some specific statements:

Hey, at least the Cinematical guy doesn't call himself the media pundit! But how hilarious is this? It's a total mystery to him how two writers could possibly write something together. Although I am unfamiliar with the term "telescript," maybe PWT's really, really old. I dunno. But it gets better:

I'm pretty sure the "Cinematical guy" calls himself Patrick, just as I call myself Paul, you know, because we actually have names. In case you haven't noticed "The Media Pundit" is the website's name, or are you not familiar with the concept? Damn newbie bloggers, who do they think they are, challenging us cagey veterans with their five-cent pre-made templates and completely free hosting? Argh!!

Seriously though, in most instances it'd probably be best to just stop right here. For what it is, this could have been written by a pissed off 12-year-old that trolls the Usenet for 18 hours per day - it's really that pointless.

Both Dave and Kitty - whoever they really are - managed to explain that partnerships do in fact exist in television without the insults, and without the attitude. Though Dave has commented on a few other posts of mine where we apparently disagree, he has been mature about it and I welcome both his and "Kitty"'s comments. I'm sure pro writers are extremely stressed right now and have been for the past few months because of the labor strife, so I expect them to be on edge and perhaps not in the best of moods when going online, but I expect people to at least act their age.

Those two have, and I appreciate it. Others..not so much.

An outline -- actually knowing where the story is going -- will hobble you? Hey, fellow writers -- has this been your experience? And if you're hired on staff, not only will you have to "heavily" rely on the outline, that's all it's about, baby.

I'm sure it is (required) and I've never disputed this, but again I remind Kay and whomever is bothering to read this that just because you are bound by those constraints doesn't mean that I am. I feel like outlines constrain me and the work I've produced has been far better without them. And yes, I can work from them and I've written them before - I may not be getting paid for it, but I'm not just sitting here writing about writing on a blog either, nor am I berating others to stroke my own ego.

Outlines, a synopsis, telescripts, screenplays, short stories, essays and editorials, blogging, community reporting, paid and for free, some of it finished, lots of it not - it's all just words. If I get hired on a staff, I'll just have to suffer with them, won't I?

A small price to pay, that one.

His claim that it's a waste of resources indicates that he thinks each member of a team makes a full salary, which isn't true. You split a salary. So basically, you make HALF of what a single writer makes. It's two for one, which is the opposite of a massive waste of resources. It's like recycling!

Another fantastic reason never to do it, but yeah, I had no idea that they were forced to split the salary. I also don't know if you gather around large cheery boardroom tables you could set a car on, or use a couple of $15 folding card tables placed end-to-end either. I don't know what kind of donuts the boss likes or if happy hour comes a little bit earlier on comedies than dramas, of if the showrunner likes to write his scripts in Microsoft Word.

So what? You complain that it pisses you off that people might believe that I know what I'm talking about, and you're worried that Joe Blow browsing for the latest box office results is going to care that writing partners in television are in fact common?

Give me a break.

Look, PWT. Anybody can shit out sixty pages of crap. I could type sixty pages of something today. That doesn't mean it's a STORY. And I would LOVE to know how long he thinks it takes us to break a story.

I don't have a clue. It's useless information to me and you know it, though I bet you didn't know either when you got your break, did you? Does it surprise you that I admit not knowing? Does it surprise you that I don't care? Do you really think anybody who reads your blog or mine cares either way?

Because if this were a contest, we wouldn't have to actually write an outline. We'd take a day to break a story and we could write a first draft in another few days or, if pressed, THE NEXT FUCKING DAY.

Yes, it's very impressive that you or whomever could write the script in a single day after the entire thing has already been laid out for you via a room full of fresh ideas. As you said yourself as applied to this, an outline or a room full of paid writers is no guarantee you're going to get a good story either.

You got your break, did the work, and earned what you've got. Good for you, I'm sure you'll have that Emmy on your mantel any day now. However, you're not an expert just because you've been paid to do it and others have not. You're not automatically right because you live in California and others do not. There are undoubtedly far more talented writers than you that will never make it because the stars didn't line up for them, as I'm equally as sure you're more talented than the vast majority of the population at large including myself - big deal.

You were down here in the trenches with the rest of us, just like Dave, just like Kitty was at some point, just like a million other people are right this second. You didn't know everything there was to know and just like the rest of us, you learned along the way. I'm reasonably certain you didn't keep your mouth shut the entire time, either. It doesn't give you license to be a prick about it, and honestly, in about 48 more hours, you're going to be unemployed just like the rest of us wanna-be's and your advantage of being the "paid pro" is going to mean about as much as this blog is worth - which ain't a whole lot.

I wouldn't be quite so smug about it, if it lasts long enough, you may end up spending the rest of your life down here with the rest of us unwashed masses, blogging about the good old days when you didn't have to put up with all those damn amateurs that actually had the gall to speak their minds.

It's people like PWT who make me effing crazy because somewhere, somebody's reading his posts with the notion that he knows what he's talking about, JUST because he has a website.

Well, get over it. I'm pretty sure nowhere on my "about" page does it say I have a degree in entertainment bullshitting. People are free to judge for themselves if I know what I'm talking about and for those who are just dying to reveal me as some sort of horrible fraud to the masses, I have comments enabled just like everybody else.

Get in line behind Dave and Kitty who beat you to it.

Back to addressing readers -- I think that this boils down to - what's happened in the comments and on Kay's blog in the past few days - is frustration over the labor issues. They are tired of being pushed around by the producers and since it's all coming to a head this weekend, it was time to blow off some steam. I'm fine with that, but there's a line here between blowing off steam and emulating your abuser.

"You don't know what you're talking about"; "How dare you speak out about that"; "Why don't you just be a good little person and do what you're told?" -- Sound familiar anybody?

There's little to nothing in Kay's post of value that actually addresses what I said about Patrick's tips. I generally try to be a humble person and I'd be the first to admit that when it comes to actually knowing things, I don't know piss all about how things really work on the inside when it comes to every little detail. I don't need to, it doesn't help me write better specs so why should I bother, and even if I did, where would I go to learn about the inner workings of a writers room for a mainstream television show (or feature writing) when people like Kay spend their day whining about other bloggers?

I write here as a natural evolution as a writer in general. I've had three or four blogs on Blogspot (where Kay is hosted) over the years, one of them was purely personal, one featured predictions for feature film failure or success, one featured mostly political and science essays on Newsvine, eventually culminating on this site which was launched not quite three months ago because television and film is what I love, and what I want to do.

It's for the fun, plain and simple.

Blogs are all about bringing your unique voice to the table in a world where you're constantly fed the same few voices and opinions over and over, shouted down, and that's what I do here. So what if people disagree with my opinion? So what if I get a fact wrong once in a while? Big deal, how is that any different than what Kay does, or Craig Mazen and Ted Elliot or Alex Epstein or Jane Espenson or Joe Mallozzi do? They write, and they blog. I write too, I just don't get paid for it...yet.

Neither did Kay once upon a time, and what if I land an agent the day after the strike ends? Will I graduate from a know-nothing amateur to a know-nothing pro? At what point do people realize that most crap like this is just petty ego stroking and attention whoring?

I'm not one to sit and write a lengthy justification for what I do and why I do it, but in this case, there's only so much sanctimonious bullshit a guy can take in a single week. A couple of months after the strike ends, I may be sitting next to any of the names mentioned above (hopefully getting paid for it) and maybe I'll never make as a screenwriter.

It'll suck, but that's not the end of the world. When people lash out like this, they hardly ever do it for altruistic reasons. If Kay actually believed that I was spreading misinformation about writing partners and the use of outlines professionally, and cared about it, why didn't she just explain what reality is without all the rhetoric and insults? I do it all the time and for whatever faults I have, I've never written a post that sad before.

I've never sat and spent an hour of my time, on a blog, just dissing and shitting on another person for my own amusement or to stroke my ego by getting cheers from the comments.

I am sorry that people feel threatened by others that can write quality content very quickly without being lead around by an outline. I'm sorry for people that have no choice but to deal with them. Most of all, I'm sorry the retards running the studios and networks pushed the guild into this strike.

But don't take out your problems and frustrations on others.
in Feature, Site, Television


    Related posts:

    Leave a comment

    View more stories by visiting the archives.

    Media Pundit categories