Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday Talkback: Anyone looking for a collaborator?

Wes writes in:

I am a dabbler in the waters of writing and working of a couple of personal projects. What I would like to do is tap your brain and see if you know of a way to throw my hat in the ring as a collaborative contributor or even a sounding board for established writers in the industry.

A cursory survey of your blog archive did not reveal this topic – or I missed it. The latter being more possible as scotch is a normal fuel during my internet excursions.

Any information or proverbial nudge would be appreciated.

Any of you have any suggestions for Wes and anyone like him who might be looking for collaborators?  I admit I don't really have any suggestions of my own.


  1. So you're looking for someone who has spent years learning the business and their craft, developing contacts, stored up dozens of story ideas, achieved a measurable level of success and you expect that person to share his/her hard earned experience and cache with a neophyte dabbler and complete stranger... I don't know any pros who write in the fantasy genre.

    Wes, I couldn't tell from your question whether you were looking to partner with a pro for the obvious leg up that would grant you, or you just wanted to find an entree into an informal network of writers who read each other's work and offer notes and support. Either way, it's a fantasy.

    I don't know of any working writer who feels they need the advice of a dabbler to make their scripts better. That's the type of thing that's done among trusted friends, people who have written half a dozen scripts themselves.

    Partnering with a pro is a pipe dream. I run into people all the time here in LA who offer to partner with me when they find out I'm a writer, and the subtext is really insulting: "I have brilliant ideas, and you know how to do all that format stuff and have an agent. We should be writing partners." Guess what? I have a couple of notebooks full of brilliant ideas, and I'm positive my mediocre ideas are on par with your best idea. This town is rife with screenwriting dabblers.

    I may be a little sensitive right now because I'm coming off of a partnership with a non-writer friend of mine that has threatened the friendship. We wrote two sitcom pilots together based on shared experiences and it wasn't a smooth process because he's a standup and still doesn't get that even though a line might be funny, if it destroys the reality of the story, or isn't true to a character, it can't be used. He also has done nothing to learn the craft, but wants to be considered a writer. And then when I got an opportunity to write for a previous employer, he was upset that he wasn't included because he thought we were now a writing team.

    Collaborations work best when the partners are roughly of similar talent/experience and the project they're working on is something that they developed together.

    Thanks for letting me get that out...

    I feel better now.

  2. Steve,

    Glad you got that out of your system and feel better.

    When I e-mailed Zuul I was unnecessarily vague. Certainly I was not looking to glom on to an established writer with the sole intention of surreptitiously cloning their hard drive or Xerox their rolodex. Nor was a looking for an easy way into a writing room – will that is mostly true.

    I was hoping Zuul knew of a pool or service that matched individuals with life experience in an area that an establish writer was looking for to flesh out historical, technical, vernacular, or cultural details within a specific or even general genre/project. Partnering with a pro as a writing partner was not the impetus of my RFI. I am honestly looking to provide a resource of a symbiotic vice parasitic nature.

    Understanding your level of sensitivity now I take your highly personal attack about the caliber of my ideas as nothing more than an impersonal vent into the void of cyberspace. Please note though that maybe – just maybe there are people in the world who wish to provide access to resources within the vane of honest reciprocity and not looking for a quick cheat into a door or access to the success built by the hard work of others.

    If anyone knows of matching services were individuals may post CV’s of life experience as a tool to match them with writers looking for individuals with specific expertise – that is what I was looking for.



  3. Contact the WGA. They maintain a list of expert sources who provide such services for free to pro writers.

  4. Wes -- I think the best approach would be establishing yourself as an expert in your field, via publishing, getting on local television, or starting a blog. It'd take more concentrated efforts than adding yourself to any database out there (if that exists) but in the long term, would pay greater dividends.
    Establish yourself as the expert, and writers will come to you.

  5. I'm sympathetic to Wes's earnestness, but I must admit that my gut reaction was probably closer to Steve's. I've met many people like the kind Steve has encountered, but I didn't want to take for granted that Wes was one of them.

    So I don't fault Steve his reaction, and I'm glad that Wes responded in an appropriate manner as well. Thanks also to those who offered some good suggestions.

  6. Wes,
    I should have cut the first graph. Snark never helps anyone (with the possible exception of Tina Fey). I apologize. I was definitely baying at the cyber moon.

    My exhortation about ideas was aimed squarely at the several people who have considered me a convenient typist, and not the brilliant artist that I, and my poor deluded mother, think I am.

    In terms of offering your expertise as a resource, Chris has a great piece of advice. Start a blog about your area of expertise and publicize it. I have had great experiences approaching experts for interviews.

    If you're interested in turning pro writing-wise, this is an all-in type of business. Get a couple of scripts under your belt and move to LA. If you do, drop me a line; I'd like to buy you a Speyside dram to make amends for my boorishness.


  7. Chris,

    You state the best path and it is one I will embark. I don’t know if the obvious escaped me or I it. As with most writers who have not taken the plunge and fully invested in the development of their voice and craft – fear has kept me nibbling on the edges. Now is the time to publish and stand naked and unafraid (in my work that is – at my age standing naked would be a crime under most circumstances).

    I have investigated other options and suggestions with respect to technical contributors and collaborations today but as is expected all require some body of work as a vetting tool.


    Thanks for posting this in Tuesday Talkback today. Earnestness will give way to work and my hope is to assuage your first gut reaction. Sometimes a bitch-slap is what is needed.


    Any man who knows the true water of life is fired from the peat of the Northeast bight and not the Highland is entitled to a little boorishness now and then. I will hold you to it and the second dram is on me.

    Cheers all,

    Wes Holland

  8. @Steve Trautman: What a devious idea you just gave me. Make a possibly valueable contact flame me in public, make him feel guilty and apologize about it and the next thing is you'll actually have a connection and sipping drings together - who knows what might develope after that. JUST KIDDING of course :D
    ... Hm. There are so many movies about Screenwriters having to suffer and battle producers (etc.) but we have yet to see a movie where an established writer can trust these guys actually and troubles come from an "admirer" ...