Flashing back to some time around 2006 or so…
I remember being really excited to join forces with another massively popular writer here on Gay Authors, and we were secretly trading emails back and forth, putting a story together so we could both bring our individual talents to the table and make something really special. The working title for the story was “Turn A Blind Eye”, and the author was Dom Luka. If you haven’t read any of Dom Luka’s stories on the site, I highly recommend you doing so. He’s amazing!
I still have some of the emails saved. 🙂 Nobody knew about the potential team up, as it was meant to be a surprise, but I was a big fan. I looked forward to it. The idea was for each of us to take a character (Alex and Bryce), and write the story from two different points of view. My chapters would be from Bryce’s POV, and Dom’s would be from Alex’s POV. Unfortunately, much to my regret, the story never came to be. We began working on it, but his schedule and mine were too hectic and unpredictable for us to really coordinate our efforts and make it happen. Life gets in the way, sometimes. Not to mention that we were both focused on continuing series of our own on our individual sites at the same time. So it was hard to pull off that particular magic trick, hehehe! But…Dom if you’re still out there somewhere? Hehehe, I’m ready when you are, dude!
This week, the topic is writer collaboration! How to jump into it, how to smoothly navigate your way through it, and how to combine your best instincts with the instincts of another author that you’re eager to work with.
I think that working with another writer can be a truly positive learning experience for both parties. Joining your passion with the passion of another author brings the best out of you sometimes. You begin to examine your similarities as well as your differences, and it gives you another perspective on the craft of putting a story together in general. Now, it’s extremely difficult for me to collaborate with other writers these days, personally, because I’m constantly juggling a ton of chainsaws at once as far as my ‘Comsie Work’ is concerned, but I can tell you from experience that I really enjoyed participating in other writer projects when I got the opportunity to do so. It was FUN, learning other characters and storylines that weren’t my own, and being able to put a bit of a personal spin on them. You should try it sometime, if for no other reason than you might enjoy the challenge.
There was a vampire story that I began on the “GFD: Blood Bank” site called “Lost In Shadow”, where I basically set up a cast of characters and a situation that had to be dealt with by writing the first chapter. Then I passed the second chapter off to another author, who was given total freedom to carry the story in any direction that he wanted. The third chapter was picked up by somebody else, and so forth and so on. This Round Robin story was a lot of fun to work on, but, of course…it’s hard to keep something like that for any length of time. People have different writing habits, different works schedules, different family obligations…and then there’s just plain writer’s block lurking around the corner. Hehehe! But, for a while, I LOVED it! I’d love to start from scratch and finish “Lost In Shadow” off as an ebook someday. But that’s another story for another time. 😛
If I had any tips for tackling a joint project with someone else, I’d narrow them down to the following four suggestions. Everything else, you’ll just have to feel out and work through on your own. That’s part of the fun, after all.
Plan ahead! If you’re going to collaborate with another writer, you are both going to have to come up with a game plan before you start writing. Full stop. Don’t start a story without getting together in some way and discussing what you guys want to accomplish. When I say ‘plan ahead’, I don’t mean…you plot out the whole idea and story on your own, and then contact the other author to see if he or she would be interested. Hehehe, that’s not a true collaboration. The whole point is for you both to create something as a team. So, start with a blank screen, talk to one another, and start building the story together. Figure out a theme, come up with characters, bounce some ideas back and forth with each of you having a say in what you’re constructing from the ground up. Not all writers (Or writing styles) are compatible with one another, so you’ll have to find a way to mend the two disciplines in a way that inspires, challenges, and strengthens, you both. This is something that you might want to figure out before you put the hard work in. Think a few chapters ahead. Where are you going with this? How will you separate the chapters? What kind of ‘events’ do you want to happen along the way and which one of you is going to handle that? These are all things to think about before you get started. I know how easy it is to just say, “Yay! I want to write something with this person or that person!” And have no plan going into it. Take some time, get those details fleshed out a little bit and figure out how you’re going to trade off your duties as you go along.
Communicate! No, the conversation doesn’t stop at the planning stages! Hehehe! The thing about writing your own stories without having to pass your pre-planned ideas or spontaneous instincts on to a partner, is the fact that you two (or however many people you’re working with) can quickly end up getting in each other’s way if you’re not communicating. You may take the story in a direction that ends up completely ruining the ideas and creative goals of the other writer. And vice versa. One writer might paint the main characters into a corner, making it difficult for the next writer to get them out of it. You want to work with each other, not against each other. Being in constant contact is essential in making sure you guys are on the same page. If you have ideas, share them with your collaborator(s). If you want to do something big a few chapters down the road, and want to start building up those plot points earlier on? Let your partner know. Hell, they might even be able to help you set things up with their contributions as well. But you have to make sure you work that out ahead of time. If you decide, in chapter 3, that you want Jack and Harry to get married in chapter 10…and your writing partner decides that Harry gets torn to pieces by wild hyenas in chapter 7…hehehe, well, obviously you guys are going to have a major conflict there. So keep sharing your ideas with one another to make sure your individual contributions to the same story are compatible.
Pay attention to continuity! This is important. Even if your writing styles are vastly different, you can still create the illusion that this is all the same story, written by the same talent. However, you’ve got to make sure that you’re keeping the story straight in your head in terms of continuity. For me? The stories and characters that I’ve written over the years are always in my head and close to my heart. And even I get my OWN continuity mixed up from time to time! So you have to pay extra attention when it comes to the continuity of your partner’s characters and plot points. Don’t have someone’s eyes change from blue to brown, or have a shy guy suddenly start beating up bullies at school. Obviously, if your collaborator has a character who’s father passed away…and in your next chapter, you have him randomly show up to a family dinner…hehehe, that’s going to create a serious ‘WTF?’ moment for everybody reading! So make sure that you know both your side of the story, as well as your partners’, and keep things consistent. This should be easy if you’re keeping up with tip #2 above.
Don’t ‘bully’ the story! Competition between creative minds is ok. It’s natural. Consider literature a sport when you’re writing. Put your best foot forward, and get your writing partner to do the same. BUT…don’t bully your way through the storytelling. As a writer, you know that it can be a very personal and isolated practice to create a story. We get used to working alone. So, it’s easy to fall into the habit of controlling everything that is being said and done in a story. You may have a vision of how you think things should go, and you want to almost force events to follow your ideas to a tee. Yeah…you have to ease up on that. If you want this to be a true collaboration, then you have to make room for another author’s voice. Again, this goes back to the ‘communication’ rule. Talk. Think things out, share ideas, make compromises…give the other author just as much room as you would want them to give to you. If it was just going to be ‘your’ story, then why collaborate at all? Let your partner breathe. Let them work their own particular brand of magic, and look at it as a challenge to show readers what you’ve got in response. There’s no better feeling than matching wits with another awesome writer, and leapfrogging over one another to bring your ‘A’ game to the same project. Appreciate the team effort, and the effort will appreciate you in return.
Alright, that’s it for this week! If you guys are ever looking for a unique experience and want to stretch your writing muscle a bit further than usual, try collaborating with another writer. It’s a really great way to find things out about your own writing process as well as the habits of others. Give it a shot!
Just some food for thought! Hope it helps!