collaboration2Have any of you ever collaborated on a novel? How did that work out?

I think of fantastic writing pairs, like Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, or Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee, and I wonder, how is it possible to actually agree on something to make a final product?

I’ve had more than one person talk to me about collaborating on a project, and while I like the idea, I’m not sure how it would work. I know how things should go, and while I enjoy brainstorming and coming up with ideas and twists, I still like to have the final say in how it ends up.

I’ve done some great brainstorming. The project I was going to work on for NaNo (and still will pursue eventually) was tossed about with Ben Erlichman to get the ideas flowing. One time I won a plot storming session with a multi-published author, and it was really good to go back and forth with her and fill in plot holes and figure out how things would go.

Not all of my collaborative efforts have gone so well, however. I was working on one project and shared with a friend some of what I was doing, and he kept trying to give his two cents, so finally I said, “well maybe you can help me brainstorm the sequel.” The next thing I knew he was trying to take over the current work and inform me how things should happen, and telling other people we were writing a book together. It was so intrusive I had to step back completely and honestly my interest in the project completely fizzled.

But over the past couple months I’ve had a couple different people throw it out there that we should work on something together. At least one, I’m very open to. The other, I don’t really know the person (or their writing style) well enough to know if they’d be someone I’d even be interested in writing with.

In the meantime, I still have plenty of other things I’m working on and don’t even really have time to jump into anything else, let along start a collaborative effort which requires communication and brainstorming and plot development and character development, not to mention the actual writing of the story, and who gets to do that, especially if your writing styles are different? and so on, so I don’t even know if I’m capable of working with someone else.

Does that make me a diva?

What do you think? Have you co-written a book? Have you thought about it? How was the process? Would you do it again?


About Avily Jerome

Avily Jerome is a writer and the editor of Havok Magazine. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, both print and digital. She has judged several writing contests and is a writing conference teacher and presenter. She writes speculative fiction, her ideas ranging from almost-real-world action/adventures to epic fantasies to supernatural thrillers.

9 comments on “Collaborating

  1. Avily, it’s kind of unusual perhaps but a lot of my writing has been in collaborative projects of some kind or other. I originally wrote The Crystal Portal but it needed heavy editing and I offered Mike Lynch co-author billing to help me do that. He and I made a lot of changes together; we often disagreed, but found a way to work things out.

    In Aquasynthesis I helped create the original story order and in Avenir Eclectia I edited the collected flash fiction stories for content and placed them in the order they are now. I’m also working on three separate short story series of a collaborative nature from Helping Hands Press. In addition, I’ve enlisted the help of Cindy Koepp in finishing the novel I’ve been working on now but couldn’t quite finish. Cindy is awesome to work with–she brings original ideas and is writing out scenes I couldn’t seem to get done on my own but understands this is basically my story and she even works at imitating my style.

    I’ve always worked the process by one or the other writing something and the other reviewing (I’ve used track changes for that), swapping a chapter back and forth until both parties are able to come to an agreement on the final product. Some times Mike Lynch and I exchanged a chapter 7 or 8 times before settling on a final.

    Coauthoring simply will not work if either you or your writing partner are unwilling to compromise. Though I have to say the toughest people to deal with in some of my short story work were those who simply would not answer emails. Some authors are EXTREMELY against working with anyone else under any circumstances.

    I’d say if you pick a co-author with a vision similar to yours willing to cooperate or one willing to follow your lead (or vice versa), you can have a wonderfully productive time sharing the production of a work with someone else. 🙂

    • Interesting, thanks for your perspective! I’m not unwilling to bend. Heaven knows I’ve changed/cut/rewritten a TON based on editing suggestions. And I’ve had critique groups and things that have given me suggestions, but it was still always MY story, know what I mean?
      I’m willing to give it a shot, though. Could be interesting. Thanks!

  2. Writing a story is a very personal thing for most authors. There’s a vision, and something about the story touches emotions and values deep inside us. To share that process of drawing out what is deep inside is difficult. It’s hard enough to draw it out by yourself!

    But that being said, there are some projects that work well as a collaborative effort. And there are some writers who need or desire interaction with another writer to help break through the spots where they get stuck or lack experience or ideas.

    I’ve collaborated on fan fiction type stories, and even just with that experience, I would advise that any writer enter a collaboration with caution and with clear agreements about what happens if it doesn’t work out. It’s not easy to find someone who is on the same page (as it were). I’m actually looking at collaborating on my current story, because a dear friend and I enjoy writing together, I value her strengths and she is willing to participate on my terms.

    If you’re developing a story for publication, it’s also incredibly important to agree in advance about ownership, copyright and payment. Have it in writing. Things can change over time, and it’s best to have all that agreed upon before you start.

  3. I take a collaborative stance with some of my clients, but the amount of leeway I’m given is entirely up to them. Because it is their story.

    I do often wonder how true collaborative teams sort out differences. It’s one thing to ignore a piece of advice from a beta reader or even a paid book doctor, and another to ignore the other person whose name will be on the cover.

    • Right, exactly, and I think that’s where I have trouble. I am pretty good about taking advice from editors, because usually I can see the value in it or at least see their point. I don’t always agree, and I don’t always take advice, but at least it’s advice not a 50-50 partnership. I think I’d have more trouble sharing the story like that.

      • I imagine it’s rarely a 50/50 partnership. As John indicated in his comment below, you need a captain on the ship — someone has to lead. Sometimes this means you split the leadership. One person has final word on characters and dialogue, the other has final word on prose style and plot-related edits.

        Whatever the details, those things should be agreed upon. If there’s any hint there’s going to be a power struggle, don’t do it.

  4. Yes, my first novel was a collaboration and I took the second seat in the title under a pseudonym as I wasn’t the inventor of the universe in which the action was centered.

    Some lessons I learned:

    1) When two or more people work together, one must lead. This means the worldview of the book must ultimately be shaped by the one who leads.
    2) The metaphysical background of the authors needs to be the same. At least both must be in agreement as to their common metaphysical ground, and therefore the common ground behind the book.
    3) Each author needs to live up to what he or she knows that metaphysical background actually demands of the author.
    4) If one claims Christianity as that background, both authors need to come to terms with “what fellowship has light with darkness?” really means. One cannot serve two masters, not even in fiction.

    The deepest flaw in our collaboration came from not looking hard enough at 4). Have that, and the other three will tend to fall into place.

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