On Collaboration

Q: Why do you have so many collaborative stories? And now a novel! What’s up with that?

I love writing. I have all these great ideas, and I love working them out, shaping them, expressing that elusive emotion or mood in words. I especially love that moment where I can see–even maybe just a little teensy bit–that the thing that was in *my* head (and heart) is now in *yours*.

And I love editing, critiquing–reading someone else’s story, working to see the thing in *their* head, and helping them to develop that, to get it out of their heart and mind and available to the rest of us.

To me, collaboration combines the best of both of those activities–two people, together, challenging and helping one another to do something that neither of us could (or maybe would) do on our own. I love the interplay of working with another author, one whose strengths are not my own. And a collaborator keeps you honest in a way that no one else can–not a first reader or a critique partner or even an editor. After all, their name is going on the story too. They have to be 100% on board!

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Not everyone can, or should, collaborate. There are a lot of details and particulars to consider. Even if your strengths may be different (and I think they should be, otherwise you are not adding value by bringing someone else in), you have to be compatible enough in your overall vision so that you don’t just clash.

And, speaking of conflict, you have to be flexible! If you believe your every word is golden, and that no one should touch your precious prose–then I advise that you pursue a solo writing career. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

Of course, being flexible doesn’t mean you should let your collaborator run rough-shod over you, either. It’s a partnership.

And speaking of partnerships. 🙂 Yes, most of my collaborators have been romantic partners–though not always! I think that’s more a factor of time and focus than anything else. If you’re dating a writer, reading each other’s work, talking about it, and planning new projects–well, it just sort of happens. And you both have a level of commitment in the project, just automatically, that more ordinary friends would not have.

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There are all kinds of ways to collaborate. Here are some of the ways I’ve done it:
-Writer A starts the story in one point of view, hands it to Writer B to interweave a second point of view. Story goes back and forth till finished.
-Writers A and B conceive of the story together; one Writer drafts it; the other Writer edits it, they hand it back and forth till both are satisfied.
-Writer A starts a story and gets stuck; Writer B picks it up from there and takes it to a new challenge; Writer A resumes from there; etc till done.
-Writer A has written a story all the way through, but it kind of sucks. Writer B takes it and makes a few judicious tweaks, whereupon it all falls together most brilliantly.
-Writers A and B conceive of the story together; Writer A drafts a PERFECTLY GOOD draft; Writer B thinks it’s horrible, rewrites it COMPLETELY; Writer A edits B’s draft, ruefully realizing how much better it is now and how she hardly deserves to have her name on it. Ahem. I mean, just for random example. Because I totally made that one up.

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Anyway! These are just a few thoughts to get you started. The Wonderful World of Collaboration is a joyous process. I wish you much delight and success in it!

© 2017 Shannon Page. All rights Reserved. Header art by Mark J. Ferrari