by Megan Larson
If youíre a writer, chances are you know a lot of other writers. Naturally, the idea often comes up to collaborate with one or more of them to create a new story. This seems especially logical if youíre good at dialogue but bad at action, and your friend is weak at dialogue but writes fluid action sequences. However, writing a collaborative story isnít as simple as one person writing this chapter and one person writing that chapter.Send comments to
These days, although doing collaborations is technologically easier, most of the problems lie within dealing with the people involved and actually getting the story down. One thing to remember, perhaps the most important thing, is to choose your partner carefully. Your best friend who lives next door might seem like a logical choice, but considering the nightmares that collaborations can be, it would be better to choose someone who isnít so easy to get to when you get angry about something.
Right off the bat, you should talk with your partner and establish who is doing what, including who gets to have the final decision. This will avoid constant clashing later on. You should then decide how you are going to write the story and begin creating an outline. Frequently one will come up with a storyline, while the other will do the actual writing of the scenes. Or, if one writer has knowledge about a particular topic, they will do that while the other does the rest. The principal thing is to have the work clearly divided, so there will be no stepping on each otherís toes.
The second most important thing to remember is to ditch the ego. Having an ego will not help you in the long run; so leave it in a drawer while you are working together. Youíre both working towards the same goal and there is no need to bring unnecessary drama into the mix. Try to be flexible as well. Itís frustrating to work with a writer who wonít work with your ideas or supply needed information.
Stay focused, and keep track of where you are in the story, especially towards the end. If you and your partner have been trading off chapters and are nearing the finish line, you need to make sure the outcome of the story is going to make sense! Constant communication is important, and thanks to e-mail it is incredibly easy for all writers to keep in touch. A good way to keep on track is to set a schedule for the project, such as a chapter a week or a scene a day.
If youíre looking to publish your collaboration, good luck! Generally new writers to the market have to be very good or very lucky, because first novels typically do not sell well. A book by two unknown writers will not help the sales except that there will be twice as many relatives buying your book to be nice. The publishers themselves often set up the collaborations you see at the bookstore: they pair established authors with those that are struggling to get their name out there. But donít be fooled by this: the lesser-known author will still end up with most of the work, and along with it, the blame.
Even if you arenít planning on publishing, make sure you discuss the legal issues with your partner. Although it might not seem necessary, it is a good idea to draw up a basic contract before you begin writing. Does your setting belong exclusively to you? Does your co-writer want ownership over a certain character? Also, later on down the line if you decide to send the story in for publishing, it is better to decide how the payments will be split before you even know what youíll be getting for the story. Additionally, if your co-writer skips out halfway through and you are forced to finish the story on your own, it is much easier to prove they forfeited revenue or exposure if you have a contract written and signed.
In the end, your popularity will be determined by how good the story is. This will be easier to achieve if you and your partner are both good writers on your own, and not just when you work together. However, fans might not like collaborations by the same authors they enjoy alone Ė one example in this case is Mercedes Lackey, who is immensely popular on her own but doesnít sell as well with collaborations. A different example is the highly successful duo of Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman on the Dragonlance series. If youíre looking for the Ďmagic combinationí, there probably isnít one. However, what you can do is read other collaborations and books in general, and not just ones within your genre. Note what the authors are doing wrong, but more importantly notice what they are doing right. Donít copy these authors, but do take to heart their methods.
Remember, collaboration can be both beneficial and unkind. How you deal with the experience can make or break your story.
Megan Larson is a journalism student and photography addict. She lives in Minneapolis with her boyfriend and kitten.
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