Healthy Distractions

December 4, 2009

Hearing crickets? The rustle of a skittering leaf?

Yes, it’s been silent here of late.

Taking care of family matters and writing client projects, both with steep deadlines, has silenced my typing on the screenplay and the blog for a bunch of days.

And I mean "silenced" my typing literally, since I often use voice recognition software to type.

But never you fear…

…not only because that’s a pretty stupid thing for you to be afraid of—unless you’re the one who paid me to write—but because creative writing still springs forth from my verbal quill (again: the voice recognition software); it just springs from a different fountain: a different screenplay.

The scoop:

For the the past two weeks or so, between the rush of duties related to family, holiday, and the copyedit client gigs, I’ve been unfaithful to the Liberty in the Fires/Men of Gray III story, sneaking out to the nearby Buffalo Bruce’s Mercantile coffee shop and engaging in screenplay brainstorming sessions on a completely different story with my friend and fellow writer Jeff Schnaufer. image

Jeff is the bearded guy in the picture you see here. No, he doesn’t dress like this normally. He co-wrote an episode of Star Trek Voyager. Thus, the getup.  Jeff is also a teacher, a blogger (you can read his entertaining blog here), and a seasoned, award-winning news journalist. You can get the full scoop on him at JeffSchnaufer.com.

I’ve never done a true co-writing effort with a screenplay, but Jeff and I have decided to give it go. I’m finding the process to be a real adrenaline kick.

True co-writing? as opposed to…fake co-writing?

No, as opposed to co-brainstorming on creative story concepts, which I have done with producer-actor G. Anthony Joseph. While both processes are similar at first (the brainstorming sessions in particular), co-writing will be a much more interwoven experience from beginning to end, requiring constant interaction: give and take.

When working creatively with G.—which was also a creative adrenaline kick—one of us would come up with an idea, then we’d brainstorm together on how to make it into a story, then I would go off and write the whole thing. Once I completed it, we would either (A.) e-mail back and forth subsequent iterations of the story—a G. tweak, then a Ric tweak, then a G. tweak, etc.—until we eventually tweaked the story to completion, or (B.) we would meet up after he had read my first draft and have another brainstorm session to get agreement on what adjustments the story needed, and then I would keep writing.

Creative and enjoyable, but not what I would call co-writing.

What then does co-writing look like?

By contrast, the creative process of true co-writing is much more conjoined, with every step of the creative process done in partnership. The writers work together on devising the concept, choosing the primary plotline, creating the characters, crafting the scenes, and so forth.

Maybe one will be the primary typist throughout, or maybe that effort will alternate. Maybe one is stronger in dialogue and the other in scene or story structure, so some aspects may fall more to one writer or the other. But it will be a tandem effort.

Exactly how Jeff and I will divvy up the work is TBD, since we’ve never worked together before. And it’s too early to tell yet.

What about MOG3? Are you still writing it?

Absolutely. It’s still not done, and I’m still writing it.  Just not in the last 10 days or so. The Men of Gray III story is too exciting and important to let it go.

And I don’t think it will suffer from the occasional creative jousts with Jeff on our co-writing venture (a nominal time commitment so far). In fact, I suspect that the alternative screenwriting interludes with this other screenplay may actually stimulate my creativity on the MOG3 story, since the styles of the two stories are wildly different, but both involve similar skills. MOG3 is a political drama. The story I’m co-writing with Jeff is a comedy. Both will put a healthy dose of synaptic sizzle into my life.

As for working with Jeff, I suspect that we won’t always be nodding our heads in agreement with every idea that gets tossed up for consideration. It certainly hasn’t been that way so far. And I’m glad. I think it’s great when we both get jazzed on a certain idea. I think it’s equally great when when one of us has to fight to "sell" an idea to the other. If we don’t reach consensus, then we just keep pushing creatively until we find an idea that we both buy.  Like iron sharpens iron. 

Now, if I can just convince him that Chicago style is better than AP style…

But that’s not going to happen.