Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Being An Author: Collaboration

One of the first times that I came across collaboration in writing is when Matt Nord started looking for writers to work with him in the Collaboration of the Dead. Basically, a collection of authors (18 I believe) who were to write a book together. Something alone the lines of a chapter each. A mammoth task.

Then I started working with others myself.


I work with two readers. They are my go-to guys when I need special help. I need a lot of special help (That's what my mom says, anyway). But I digress. One is an avid reader, an individual who understands the written word like no other I've met, and although doesn't allude to put 'pen to paper' can just glance over my work and tell me what's 'wrong' with it. He can look at something and say, "You've done this too much," or, "This is totally unnecessary."

The other is what I like to call a fact finder. He's the guy who may or may not even understand the story, but point out that, after he checked, Buick's weren't available in that color, that year.Not a mistake to be taken lightly. They are my most trusted friends, and I would not wish to be without or replace either.

On occasion, outside of my readers I will ask an author to check over a piece, especially if that author is in a field that I might be struggling in, deep human emoting, erotica, elephant faeces, deer stalking etc.

(It is a different subject, and one that I may touch on later, but of course, be wary of sending your work to other authors if you don't really know them, and vice versa. The last thing you want is to be accused of plagiarizing a piece that you read for someone as a favor five years ago and have forgotten all about.)


Collaborative writing is something that has to be understood before attempting. Imagine, as I do, that I go up to the young lady of my dreams the night of the ball and ask her to dance. A cheeky tango has just started playing, I've had a glass of dutch courage and I am able to show my peacock feathers - just once - the first impression. It has to be just right.

Then I remember that I don't know how to tango. No, worse, I've just forgotten how to walk. Aargh! The blood is leaving my legs. I'm squirming about on the floor.

I see her leaving... thinking me a joke.

That's what collaborative writing can feel like if you crap it up. Yes. Working with readers is easy.

Firstly, and I cannot stress this enough, if two writers are going to work together they have to work together. Style. Possibly the only time most writers get accused of having style is writing style. If you are going to work together your styles have to work together. That's not to say you have to write, or sound, the same, but if I write 'Leaves and Color for 3 - 5 Year Olds', and you're bent on how many bones can be removed from the human body before fatal collapse, then it may fail as a project. On the rare occasion that chalk and cheese works it will unlikely be by design.

Therefore, step one: Read something that the other person has written. Did you like it? Did it make you laugh? Was it supposed to? Decide if you can work with them, their style, and even be prepared to flex your own. (and you never know, you may read something that you've never read before...and like it)

Next, know the person. I have worked with several other authors, sometimes with fantastic results, some with extreme hard work, and one time I felt like I had been strung along for three months, before the whole thing fell through. Do you trust the person? Will you do all the work? Will they suffocate your creative talent?

And then; You are going to spend time together. Time Together. Think about that. It could be email, phone calls, facebook, skype, hey, in a perfect world you'd live in the same town. But once you're working together, you can't suddenly decide that the other person is intolerable. Crack a funny. Share virtual beer. Do you want to be professional, or friends? Both? Maybe more? The world is after all a wierd and unstable place. 

These are all questions that you should look at. (I know, I'm in TL;DR at this point) The list goes on, but I'm just trying to get you to think about it before you plunge. Three months unusable work is not just a shame for a writer. It's a crime.

If you find the right person? You never know. They might inspire you to write more, be more, maybe your best work, will change your life forever (longest blog posts?) and you'll want to strive to be better, just for them, yourself, or even just because you can...

'Til next time...

Oh, and just in case you hadn't noticed, after a rather long sabatical, Kevin's back. Big time.

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