Monday, September 23, 2013

Collaborative Writing

Months ago, someone I know decided to put together a collaborative writing challenge. Those of us who were interested signed up, and we were split into two groups. One was an urban fantasy group, one epic fantasy. I ended up in the epic fantasy group, in which exactly none of us were writers of epic fantasy (though that was part of the draw - to try something new).

Unfortunately, summer ended up being crazy busy. At first, I was able to make the weekly meet-ups, despite about a billion other meetings each week and my husband being out of country for work (my poor children were dragged all over the place). But when I started the CNA class, I was out for five weeks at least. And I went on my trip to Oregon the following week. So on and so forth. Point being, I was forced to drop the ball and stop going to the collaborative writing meetings.

It wasn't just me who was busy, though, and the group ended up folding. We got as far as fleshing out our characters and outlining the majority of the book.

The good news is that we re-formed, this time with an urban fantasy novel idea, something much more up our collective alleys. And this time we took into account that we were all busy people, moving our gatherings out to every other week and working out a way to do most of our collaboration online.

Collaborative writing has good aspects and bad aspects. On the positive side, if you can't come up with an idea, a character trait, a next step in the plotting process, etc., there's someone else who can. You have other people to bounce ideas off of, and valuable feedback to hone the ideas you're trying to form. Plus, other people may come up with things you wouldn't have necessarily thought up yourself. Each of us brings a different piece of knowledge, a different history, and so on, to the collaboration. What one of us doesn't know, surely another does.

It's fun, but it's also a learning process. It's quite different from sitting down at your own computer, wrapped up in your own world, and throwing those words out. You have to have a consensus, make a case for whatever you're pushing for, and be willing to drop something everyone else isn't fond of. There's the chance of artistic disagreement and the tension that might bring with it. And for me, plotting isn't something I typically do, so thinking ahead through the story when I'm not actively writing it to do so is a bit of a challenge for me.

That said, I'm enjoying the process. If you have an opportunity to collaborate with someone, consider giving it a try, just to give something new to you a go.

Successful collaborations:

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Stephen King and Peter Straub
And, of course, Bryan and Brandon over at A Beer for the Shower.

Here's a piece on 10 Famous Ghostwriting Collaborations (though I'm not talking about ghostwriting or anthologies here, both of which are separate topics).

There are legal considerations in writing collaborations that you might want to look into should you want to try it, so do please research that if needed.

Also, Happy Banned Books Week!

Have you ever collaborated on a novel? Would you consider doing so? Why or why not?

May you find your Muse.


  1. I never had although it would be fun. Brandon and Bryan put together great books. And of course I am a big fan of Preston and Child.
    Hope your new collaboration group works out and produces something fun!

  2. In my writer group, MVRWA, we have a yearly retreat where we brainstorm our little hearts out. Many of those session produced published books. This retreat (and my writer buds) is one reason I miss living in the States.

  3. Thanks for the honorable mention! And really, it's a great learning experience, but finding a truly good collaborative partner is NOT easy. The two of us are a fluke. The fact that we can agree on story elements for more than one novel, that we can trust the other to "take the reins" and write the next part of a story without completely f***ing it up, and the fact that we can work together without wanting to strangle one another is a miracle in itself. We've both tried collaborating with others before. Each time it failed miserably.

  4. A collaborative writing project sounds like fun but also quite challenging, especially getting collaborators to fit together comfortably...
    Open-mindedness and flexibility would be important factors.
    Writer In Transit

  5. I don't think I'd be a good collaborative writer. I'm too much a planner and controller. (I'm aware of my faults, but I usually veer from what everyone else sees. Even in a master class, I seem to hear a different drummer.)

    I tried collaborating on writing at work, and styles of writing usually gets in the way. One wants to be eloquent, and the other just wants the facts, m'am.

    Sometimes collaboration muddies the waters of creativity, so if someone can work with another writer well, I salute them and wish them much luck.

    Interesting post, Shannon.

  6. Alex, it IS fun! However, I'm going into it as an enjoyable project, not something that will necessarily get published.

    Em, that sounds great! I'd love to have an annual creative retreat.

    Bryan, I don't doubt all that you say. I'm not usually much of a team player as it is, so it's definitely an interesting experience.

    Michelle, we seem to have the open-mindedness and flexibility, so that's good!

    D.G., I have yet to see how we do when we get to the writing part. Right now is just the planning. I hope the writing part goes smoothly.

  7. I have a project I'd like to collaborate on, but I haven't been able to find anyone willing to do it. Maybe, I'm just too much of a hard...

  8. I'd love to find someone to collaborate with. I think it would be a blast if the two people were comfortable working together. K J Larsen is a collaborative effort between sisters and an excellent detective series. Keep us updated!

  9. Hey Shannon,

    Yes, finally and yay, I'm here to comment.

    I suppose the Tree of Life was sort of collaboration writing.

    I'm not really into collaboration writing. However, I can see how it could be the workings of several writing angles. Good, perhaps. Chaos, perhaps.

    I do some collaboration writing, on the odd occasion and odd being the operative word, with a certain Jack Russell dog.

    Off to find a muse. Cheerio....