Jessica “Kirby” Alexander and Dana “Howell” Melton (aka: Kirby Howell) are authors of The Autumn Series: Autumn in the City of Angels and Autumn in the Dark Meadows. The duo, who have been writing together since 2000 when they met as freshman in their first script writing class at the University of Alabama, shares 5 tips for a successful, long-lasting, writing partnership.

1. Find the “Write” Partner. We often tell people that we each have two life partners: our husbands and each other. And this is so, so true. We spend nearly as much time together working on our material as we do with our significant others. So for any serious writing partnership, you have to make sure you can spend, quite literally, hours together without wanting to kill one another. Often times, you may find someone you like to write with, and it goes great for a while, but after a few months, you find that the work strains your relationship and you find it hard to maintain a healthy writing partnership. Sadly, those are the writing partnerships that don’t last. So be choosy and know that it’s okay to “play the field” and go on lots of writing “dates” before you choose your partner. And, if you’re successful, you’ll find “the one” you’re meant to be with. We have been together for 13 years… and we’re still going strong.

2. Girl Talk. Like any good relationship, communication is key. It’s especially important for writing partners to be on the same page (metaphorically, of course) so that the work is cohesive and as strong as it can be. For instance, if Dana discovers a new character while writing a section, she discusses it ASAP with Jessica so that the new character can be accommodated in Jessica’s section further down the road. Keeping the lines of communication open are also especially important to keep resentment from creeping in. When you work with a partner, the two of you continually re-write each other, but if you are engaging in an open dialogue about your changes and the reasons, it protects the feelings of your partner.

3. Be a Good Gym Buddy. Having a writing partner is like having a gym buddy, and if you do it right, you keep each other motivated. But, as with gym buddies, if one person starts to slack off, it pulls the other person down, and eventually you both gain 15 pounds and have to go buy fat pants. And nobody likes having to buy fat pants! So it’s important to set goals and deadlines and do the work to stick with them. You help each other, and in the end, you’ll have a project that you can both be proud of and no metaphorical fat pants lurking in the closet!

4. Put Your Puzzle Pieces Together. Everyone has areas where they come up a little short, and areas where they excel. It’s important to know what those shortcomings and abilities are, because in a writing partnership, you’re never alone! If you think about your strengths and weaknesses like puzzle pieces, where one person might struggle, the other may stand out – but if you pair these attributes up just right, they fit together and show a full picture! By acknowledging these things and making a plan to play to these strengths, your product will be stronger for it.

5. Breakfast and Stretchy Pants. Writing books takes time and hard work. We all know this. But if all of your time spent with your partner is nothing but noses to the grindstone, you’ll burn out! So you should try and make your time with your partner as fun as you can. We meet every Wednesday night after work, and on Sundays we do a greasy spoon diner before settling down to work for the rest of the day. We indulge in runny eggs and toast, and spend some of the time talking about what tasks we need to accomplish and how we plan on tackling them … and we also spend a good portion of this time just being friends, talking about husbands, the dog, shopping … whatever. Having this relaxing time together with no makeup and stretchy pants gives us something to look forward to on Sunday mornings… and then we get to work.

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  1. […] screenwriter Joshua Moore, I Think It’s Raining; Write On! Wednesdays; Guest Columns – Tips for a Successful Writing Partnership and Steve on Screenwriting: The Character Arc; Reviews; and […]

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