Author Archives: Dennis Budde

7 Things You Need To Know About Co-writing a Screenplay

– Guest post by Geoffrey D. Calhoun

Co-writing is something that every screenwriter needs to do in their career at least once. It will improve your writing by leaps and bounds. There’s nothing wrong with being a lone wolf, but you miss out on the beauty of collaboration. The moment when you are in sync with a writing partner is a feeling that is difficult to describe. It’s like the Tibetan proverb of explaining the taste of an orange. You can’t. You have to taste the orange. It’s experiential.

Like any relationship, getting to the point of sympatico with a fellow screenwriter can be difficult. There are plenty of horror stories out there about abandoned projects because writers couldn’t work together. The secret to successful co-writing is to treat it like a partnership and not an arrangement.

1. Collaboration Contract – Protect yourself and the work

First things first, we need to get a contract signed. It states the amount of pay, writing credits, and contribution both of you will have on the agreement. This is a must. Never take a handshake. The best of friendships have been lost because of money or credit being mishandled with a project. You can download a standard contract from the WGA here.

2. Define the relationship – Set the boundaries and expectations

Many screenwriters blindly jump into co-writing. Someone gets a great idea and brings in a co-writer without the relationship being defined. Two or three drafts later, they are at each others throats and the project falls apart. Being passionate about a project is fantastic, but be smart about it. Define the working relationship between the two of you by what you expect the other writer to contribute. Is one the engine and the other a wheel? Is this a 50/50 split? Have that conversation. Yes, it will be awkward and uncomfortable, but ultimately necessary. This will help to reduce any friction between the two of you when things get stressful. And they will get stressful.

3. Compatibility – Matters more than you realize

How well you work together defines how easily the process will go. Find someone that can bring skills and talents to the table that you particularly lack or are weak in. This works two-fold. First, they will obviously balance out the script. Second, you will be able to learn from them as you work together and improve your own skills as a writer.  Constantly pushing ourselves to become better is something all of us should be doing. When I find a writer that I want to collaborate with, I offer to exchange scripts and notes with them. We read each other’s work and give feedback. I tell them to be honest and not hold back. See, you can learn a lot about a person based on how they give notes, but more importantly how they receive notes. It’s a window into their soul. Are they bitter, resistant, argumentative, thankful, humble, or gracious. This will tell you if you can work with them or not.

couple typing


4. Trust & Respect – A must

Without trust and respect there is no partnership. They are the foundation of a solid collaboration. After we give each other notes and have decided we are compatible, I go one step further. I get to know them through several “creative” meetings on story development. Once we feel comfortable with each other, then I know that trust is building and it’s time to move forward with the project. You might ask, “How do you know when trust is building?” Simple, are they comfortable sharing things about themselves with you? Do you look forward to seeing or talking with them? And most importantly do they make you laugh? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you are starting to build trust.

We don’t just want to respect our co-writer’s skill as a writer. That’s a given. You wouldn’t be collaborating with them if you didn’t respect what they can do. It’s about respecting their creative vision and keeping their “voice” in the script. This is something to really keep in mind during the rewrite. Especially, when it comes down to cleaning up the script and making it seem like one “person” wrote it. How do you make two separate writers come off as one? You do a draft together where you both comb through the script side by side and make it as clean and lean as possible. Eventually if you work with this person enough, you two will begin writing in a way that is almost indecipherable from one another. It will be as if one person is writing. That is when you hit that beautiful moment of sympatico.

5. Set the ego aside – The work is what matters

The work is what matters most. Not you or your ideas. The script. You can’t become too attached to an idea. This unfairly limits the contributions of your co-writer. You need to remain open. If you spend most of your sessions arguing with your writing partner about the story, then I’ve got news for you…you’re the problem. You need to step back emotionally from the work. Listen to what they have to say. It’s okay to disagree with them, but make sure you have a compelling reason why it has to go your way. Usually the best solution is something neither of you have thought of yet. However, sometimes you hit an impasse. That’s when it’s a good idea to have a “gimmie this one” rule. This is when you have a moment in the script that you feel very strongly about, and you must have it in. Your co-writer must respect the “gimmie this one” rule and you have to respect when they use it as well. Of course, these should be used sparingly on a script – once or twice maximum per writer.

6. Figure out your style – Make it efficient

There are a myriad of ways to co-write a script. Some will pass scripts back and forth. Others will break up which scenes, acts, or even characters each writer will exclusively write. There have even been teams where one co-writer will dictate as the other types. Always do your outline and beat sheet together as a team. No exceptions! I prefer to write the entire script side by side with my co-writers. I feel it’s the best way. You have each other, right there and can constantly try out what works and what doesn’t in the moment. When I co-wrote my multi-award winning zomedy “Hipster Z” 😊, my co-writer and I used WriterDuet. It allowed us to write in real time and bounce scenes and comedy beats off one another. We knew what material was good, when we could crack each other up into fits of non-stop laughter. Then we would write the scenes in real time with WriterDuet, which was amazing. No other software even comes close to offering that. Eventually, one of us would plod forward in the script while the other would fall back to cleanup dialogue, fix formatting, and make sure the script was perfect. You can imagine how fast we banged out this screenplay!

There you have it, the fundamentals of collaboration amongst screenwriters. It has it’s challenges of course, with its own unique ups and downs. We are writers after all, we eat ups and downs for breakfast. Working with another writer can help you learn how to address your own weakness as a storyteller. Which forces us to grow and become even better ourselves. Eventually, you will get into that writing groove with your co-writer, where you play off one another and experience a very special feeling of bliss that comes with collaboration. Then you’ll know what an orange tastes like.

Till next time,

Geoffrey D. Calhoun is the founder of where they provide script notes and feedback with a personal touch. Visit their website for a free 15-minute consultation.

WD3 Is Ready!

WriterDuet v3.0 is now public for everyone! It is time for you to move your account. Just a few things to keep in mind:

    1. Your active collaborators have to move when you move! So if you are working with a team, you may want to find a common time during which you can all move your accounts. Their accounts will be prompted to move to Beta if they go to a script that is shared with you. Changes will not sync otherwise.

    2.  Once your account is moved, you need to re-download the desktop application right away. 

Go to to update your account to WD3. Going forward, your URL might say /script again but your account will still be updated (for example, you’ll notice a Drafts menu instead of a Plugins menu; Plugins are now under Tools). For the iOS and Android apps, you can find them by searching for WriterDuet in your respective app stores. If you encounter any problems, shoot us an email at

Thanks! Now get back to writing.

The WriterDuet Team

WriterDuet v3.0 Is Here!

WD3 is the most exciting update that we’ve ever had. So if you’re not excited, you should probably seek professional help. Move your account here.

We recommend WriterDuet Pro, which in version 3 will (professionally) help you…

  1. Write on the go with the mobile application. Gone are the days of you having to stop writing while on the toilet.
  2. Organize and filter your script with the tagger. If you have a script that will be produced, you can tag props and characters. If you don’t have a script that will be produced, you can tag content that is bad and is probably what’s preventing your script from being produced.
  3. See when notes are added with in-app notifications. No more missing when your producer (see, we believe in you!) comments, or scanning the entire script with no idea which notes are new.
  4. Save content for later with the Graveyard, a separate script space that you can open whenever you need it. Copy/cut content to it with a simple shortcut.

But forget you for a second… the biggest features in WD3 are actually meant to help us. This update features massive structural changes to how we represent data, and is the gateway to a future of endless possibilities.

With the new internal layout in WD3, we will have the tools we need to turn WriterDuet into a world of multi-viewable, filterable, merge- and unmerge-able glory. We’re starting with branchable Drafts that can be accessed from within a script in one click. With this new tech, our goal is to seamlessly capture & enhance your unique creative process.

We want to help you write better scripts. We believe the way to make that happen is to give you tools that let you write freely without ever thinking about all the magic going on in the background. And when you need that magic… poof. There’s everything you ever needed.

As a reminder, WD Lifetime includes all upgrades for as long as you are alive (we hope that’s a while). So now is the best time to upgrade to WriterDuet Pro Lifetime. It’s a steal.

You’re literally stealing from us. Hurry up or we’ll call the cops.

The WD Team

Introducing WriterDuet 2.9!

Hello Writers,

The WriterDuet Team has had all eight hands and four paws on deck for the past months creating our newest release: WriterDuet 2.9! This upgrade has involved a number of major infrastructure changes that allow for much greater flexibility and efficiency in creating new features and customizations in the future. Building from these, we have implemented the following new features already:

Free users:
1) Dual Dialogue can now be multiple lines long and include all line types.
Use Command or Control plus the number for each Line Type (e.g. Cmd/Ctrl+3 is a new Character line) to create new lines in your script without leaving the left or right column that you are in! Hit Enter to return to a normal, full-width line.

2) Copy, Cut, Paste, and Text-Select Operations are smarter.
Check out this video for details.

PRO users:
1) Shared Folders in the Portfolio!

Folders in your portfolio now have sharing options, controllable with the plus sign in the top left corner. Once created, any script that is added to that folder will be automatically shared to each collaborator with the permissions that you set. If you don’t have permission to share the script, a share request will be sent to an administrator, who can accept or deny the share request.

2) Two New Templates: UK Stageplay and Stageplay Compact!
Along with the new Audio/Visual and Virtual Reality templates (available for purchase here), we have a new UK Stageplay template and Compact Stageplay template (designed to look like a published play) available to all Pro users! Both feature the “CHARACTER: Dialogue” format on a single line; give them a try!

These changes will be in effect the next time you open WriterDuet.
Thank you and enjoy!

The WriterDuet Team

WriterDuet Gift Exchange: Deals From Now Until Christmas!

Happy Holidays! 
Because WriterDuet customers are our true loves, we have lots of gifts to offer you this season!
From now until December 25th, purchases of certain WriterDuet products will be reciprocated with the gift of a free annual subscription to different products each day! In other words, buy a WriterDuet product to get a different one for free, every day from now until December 25th.
The combinations change every day, so keep an eye on the banners in WriterDuet or refer back to this post to make sure you seize the perfect opportunity:
December 14th: When you subscribe to WriterDuet MultiColumn, you’ll get a free year with the ReadThrough plugin.
15th: When you buy the HartChart Lifetime, you’ll get a free year with the ReadThrough plugin.
16th: Subscribe to ReadThrough to get a free year with WriterDuet MultiColumn.
17th: Buy the HartChart Lifetime to get a free year with WriterDuet MultiColumn.
18th: Buy WriterDuet Pro Lifetime to get a year of the HartChart for free.
19th: Buy WriterDuet Pro Lifetime to get a free year of WriterDuet MultiColumn.
20th: When you buy WriterDuet Pro Lifetime, you’ll get a free year of the ReadThrough plugin.
21st: Subscribe to Premium on this day to get a gift subscription to WriterDuet Pro.
22nd: Buy WriterDuet Pro ScreenCraft Lifetime to get the added gift of a year of ReadThrough.
23rd: Buy WriterDuet Pro ScreenCraft Edition Lifetime to get a year of the HartChart for free.
24th: Buy WriterDuet Pro ScreenCraft Edition Lifetime to get a year of MultiColumn for free.
25th: When you subscribe to Premium, you’ll get a free upgrade to the ScreenCraft Edition.
And may the merry bells keep ringing!
The WriterDuet Team

Announcing WriterDuet Premium!

WriterDuet Premium is the ultimate package for your fully integrated screenwriting experience. In addition to all of the amazing features of WriterDuet Pro–limitless collaboration, mobility and revision tracking supported by powerful security and analysis–Premium benefits include these awesome enhancements and plugins:

Premium Support
With a direct line to WriterDuet’s development team, your questions, thoughts and ideas will be heard and dealt with as quickly as possible.

Translate your script into any language in a matter of seconds,
and then edit each script separately to perfect it. View as separate scripts or side-by-side.

Bring your script to life by sharing it with voice actors, or by listening instantly with text-to-speech performance from a full cast of computer voices.

Compose audio and video in side-by-side chronology, write scenes in parallel, or even write in our Virtual Reality template!

Subscribe to Premium here for the full power of all things WD.

And then get back to writing 😉

The WriterDuet Team

P.S. If you’re more interested in our standalone plugins, each is also available for separate purchase. Just click on their links to learn more.

Austin Film Festival 2016

The WD team had a blast at this year’s Austin Film Festival. We shared some of our best and newest features, introduced WriterDuet Premium (coming November 1st!), flirted about some upcoming concepts, and most importantly, we spread the word about the world’s greatest screenwriting software through good conversation, good looks, and tee shirts (let us know if you want one)!


While the panels were profound and diverse, there was a common message within them. From sitcom writers to professors to directors, all advice about developing tone, networking, or finding success fell back into a familiar central theme: work hard, and all else will follow.

But what does it mean to work hard? Here is what we perceived:

1. Write constantly
Literally don’t stop, unless it’s a question of health. Especially don’t stop writing when the going gets tough–nor when the tough gets going–because that’s when you are improving most rapidly.

2. Read constantly
Somehow, you should also read scripts constantly. Multiple very successful writers, such as Paul Feig, Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber, and Christina Hodson were script-readers early in their careers. Luckily, you can find innumerable high-quality scripts online and follow in their footsteps immediately. Here is a great article to start. Beyond scripts, there is magic to be summoned from myriad books, short stories, and plays.

3. Don’t get distracted
Put WD in Full Screen mode and leave your phone in the bathroom (unless you write on your phone, or in the bathroom). It is important to inspire yourself and build an education from sources like Screencraft and the Scriptnotes podcast; however, only do this as a supplement to the act of doing a whole lot of writing. For more tips on that, see #1.

The whole team is a lot smarter after this year’s Austin Film Festival, and unbelievably inspired. More than anything, our takeaway this year is the clear truth that WriterDuet is the right choice for writers around the world. The best way to spread the word: Just. Keep. Writing.

Because passion is contagious. Like whooping cough!

The WriterDuet Team