WRITING: Writing in Teams

Being an amateur writer means that you have to be very good at self-motivation and direction, because (unless you have a manager of some kind), you are in charge of your own development. I learned that pretty early on, latching onto a website that offered me a chance to not only practice my writing in a challenging setting, but also something you can’t really do: write in a group, as part of the staff of a project with deadlines and readers.

I’ve written within a group plenty of times, particularly as part of a staff, and I usually really enjoy the experience. Development with a group can bring some amazing results creatively, and it allows a larger project (such as a television show) to come to fruition without colossal effort on the part of a single creator.

I’ve worked on a number of projects that utilized the television structure: a single showrunner heading up a staff of anywhere from two to ten. I can say that the collaboration, when headed by a strong central voice, is very rewarding. One project in particular will be finishing a five-year run in early 2011, allowing me the opportunity to write a number of episodes and develop characters and stories over the long term. That has allowed me to develop skills I typically wouldn’t have the chance to practice.

I’d like to try a similar project that doesn’t rely on the Internet, by assembling a writing staff who can work together in person. While a virtual writing room is often very effective, it privileges those able and wiling to argue on the merit of their ideas, and passionate rhetoric can often overpower the back-and-forth and group dynamic of a live staff. That isn’t to denigrate the idea of a virtual staff, which has been overwhelmingly positive for me, but merely to explain that they are not the same. I’d like to try a live group and see how that dynamic plays out.

I have co-written scripts with others before, which is an entirely different type of writing. On a virtual staff, co-writes are typically done by splitting an episode on a scene-by-scene basis. This tends to damage the writing process, as collaboration is more difficult (and less organic) via email. It becomes particularly problematic when the writers work completely separately, based off an outline given to them by the showrunner. Not only does the script have a lack of continuous voice, but it becomes difficult for either writer to stretch their creative muscles. Co-writing, in particular, would benefit from a live partnership supplemented by online communication.

If I have the time and can stir up the interest, I’d like to lead something in that vein this summer. My thinking is either an original series or a continuation of a cancelled series. The latter would be easier, with a predetermined structure and development process, plus built in fandom and committed from those involved. However, the development process could be a real bonding experience for the fledgling staff. It’s something worth pondering over… What do you guys think?

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