Collaboration

I’m the guest du jour over at Over Coffee today, talking to Sia about collaboration and writing with a partner.

I know there are some kickass critique groups out there, who collaboratively shape and refine each others’ work, but what about folks who write together under one name? What’s your experience like? As for me, and Candy, we’re still frequent flyers on Seat Of Your Pants Airline, in collaboration and pretty much damn near everything else. How do you work collaboratively?

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    I’m married to my co-author—which information invariably makes people blink at us like, wow, and your marriage is still intact?

    It helps that we played music together for many years and learned how to work our collaborative process. Knowing how to say, and hear, things like “Dude, your chords sound… weird. Is that on purpose?” makes it easier to communicate about writing. “Dude, this plot point… I’m not buying it.” And no, we don’t really call each other dude. Much.

    We also know that we are very complementary in both our strengths and our weaknesses. It’s a joke of ours, but not too much of a stretch, to say that had it been up to Anthea, she would have a dozen unpublishable manuscripts written by now, and had it been up to Lawson, he would have one perfectly-written chapter. We balance one another. We argue. We concede. It works. Two minds taking the writing to a higher level, which is maybe part of why our first novel is up for a RITA award. We have the advantage of what we call the uber-mind.

    We also make good “research” partners, nudge nudge, wink wink. Sometimes those hot scenes need a little “blocking out” to make sure they work as written…

    Seriously though, there’s nothing like having live-in support. We talk plot points over dinner all the time, and never get stuck for long. It’s not without difficult times, especially when deadlines come up and one of us is working a bit too slowly for comfort – but so far it’s been a great process.

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    Tracy Grant says:

    I started out my writing career co-writing with my mom.  We started writing together when I was in 8th grade and were first published when I was in college.  We had a wonderful time, and we got along very well, though we argued more as writing partners than we did over mother/daughter stuff.  I think it helped that we had the same literary influences (Austen, Heyer, Sayers, Dunnett) and that our writing styles developed together.  Plotting and brainstorming together was so much fun.  We plot out our books in quite a bit of detail, then blocked out two or four chapters scene by scene.  Then I’d write Chapter 1 and she’d write Chapter 2 or perhaps I’d write Chapters 1 & 2 and she’d write 3 & 4.  Then we’d read through the whole book and make notes and talk them through (often in a café, which made it easier if we got touchy about being critiqued :-).  We’d do a second draft of our own chapters and then a couple of more drafts where we did picky editing. Sometimes we had a hard time remembering who wrote what because there’d be a paragraph I wrote in the midst of a chapter my mom wrote (though mostly I can still remember what chapters are hers and what are mine). 

    Our worst argument was in a Regency romance called “An Improper Proposal.” The heroine’s mother, a French actress, had left the family when the heroine was very young to return to France and the stage.  In the midst of the book, the hero is instrumental in bringing the mother back to England and back into the heroine’s life. I thought the mother was an awful person—she left her children, I’d say.  And my mom would say, well, I can understand, she was trapped in this awful marriage…

    In the end, I think the mother/daughter relationship in that book was more nuanced than if either of us had written the book alone.

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    Chloe Harris says:

    Chloe Harris is really two people Barbara and Noelle. It’s Noelle typing here. 
    Our debut, Secrets of Sin, will be released in Jan by Kensington Aphrodesisia.

    We’ve been writing together for 3 years now, maybe it’s four. We started out as critique partners and collaborators on a paranormal fan fiction site. We were both also writing other stuff on our own and both had reasons we weren’t getting anything finish or sold. For me I have serious time issues with a full time day job, ADD and two very active kids. For her even though she teaches English and is very good at it, it’s still not her first language and like me, she’s a very busy lady.

    Secrets of Sin is an historical and is the second book we finished together. We are now busy working on the third. We write the Synopsis together then normally one of us has a stronger idea of what a certain chapter needs and will take the lead. That person will write the rough draft and the other will then add, delete and rearrange and send it back. If everything goes perfectly it’s done by the third revision (this might have happened once or twice) if not it might take a few more. But in the end the chapter and the novel as a whole has Chloe’s voice which is different from what either one of us sound like individually.

    Thank heavens for tools like, Word track changes, Google docs and Skype! They make it very easy to work together so far apart.

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    I adore collaborating! (Only in the literary sense, definitely not the military.) So far, it’s been magickal for me. I’ve collaborated under a common name, i.e., The Fantasy Shoppe stories written as Annalise, and with both names on the cover. ROGUES bears two names because I couldn’t even think about keeping track of a third pseudonym without gibbering! (What? You think my parents saddled a poor defenseless baby with “Liddy Midnight”? I’d’ve crawled into a tiny hole at a young age and never been heard from again.)

    We collaborate over the Internet. Cricket Starr lives in sunny CA but she could be a vampire living in Antarctica or my back yard for all it matters when the lovely convenience of email is available. My Annalise co-author is under deep cover and if I told you where she lives, I’d have to kill you. Let’s just say that since we decided to write smutty books together we seldom meet in person.

    Usually a collaborated story—in my experience, at least—begins with a brainstorming session, over the phone or at a conference. We get at least the basic premise down, the antagonists and the germ of a plot, before we begin writing.

    One of us starts the story and passes it off to the other, who rewrites, tweaks, and continues the next part. This process goes on until we’re done. Since we’re adding and editing each other’s work as we go, the first draft is pretty much polished when it’s complete. In VENUS RISING, I don’t think there’s a single sentence that both of us didn’t mess with. The result is a work with a distinctive and unique voice.

    The prospect of eating and breathing the story, living in a writing partner’s pocket, is a bit daunting to me. However, since I’m a binge writer and thus produce prose more slowly than my collaborators, having someone right here to nudge me in the direction of the keyboard would come in handy. What I love most about the way I’ve collaborated so far is how I send the work off and when it comes back, marvelous things have happened! That alone inspires me.

    And I’m completely free to alter those things if I choose. So far, I’ve been so in synch with my coauthors that we’ve not run into arguments over anything. Yes, occasionally something I’ve written doesn’t work, but I’d much rather have a writing partner tell me than an editor (and that might happen in a rejection letter—yikes!). Have I mentioned that I love the revision process?

    Choosing your collaborator carefully is paramount, much like selecting critique partners. You want someone with complementary ideas, strengths and perspectives, who is professional enough to leave his or her ego at the door. (Bullies need not apply.)

    Anthea and Lawson, I completely understand about the uber-mind. Collaboration has made me a better writer and IMHO my collaborated works are among my best.

    This is a very interesting topic. Like most discussions about how authors write, this gives me a glimpse at the creative process developed by others. I always learn something.

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    I do a lot of collaboration, both on original stories and the dreaded fanfiction.  Ordinarily what we do in these cases is that each of us splits the characters and writes our own people, and we discuss where the plot is going as we write.  Sometimes we’ll hash a scene out in script format, and then myself or someone else will flesh that out into prose.  Lately with one girl, we’ve been each writing it ourself, but hitting the other one up for dialogue and actions to make sure we write the other character correctly.

    All are fun and can be an experience.  :D

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    Bree says:

    I love writing as part of a team. Sharing a single penname can cause confusion, though.  Honestly the worst part is when I’m talking to someone about our books/writing/career and I forget to mention that Moira Rogers is two people.  Eventually they will tentatively inquire as to my use of the royal we.  I imagine, though, sometimes I do it to people who probably never ask and think that I’m quite insane.  :D

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