Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Collaborations between writers
Would you ever collaborate with another writer on a book?
I started thinking about this when I spoke to MJ Goodnow, an online friend whose recently released SF novel Red Storm Regime was co-authored with writer Marie Pacha. Curious, I asked how they had divided up the work. MJ explained that he did the first draft and Marie took it from there, but he had a final say. She also developed his characters further and added a few new characters.
I asked whether they had ever disagreed. He laughed and replied that they had discussed differences of opinion and worked it out.
The reason I’d never considered a collaboration - and was wondering about disagreements - was because when I first become interested in publishing, I found this article by author Holly Lisle. She didn’t have a good experience with collaboration and she describes it in detail, though she also suggests ways to improve the experience and avoid pitfalls.
Collaborations are much more work than solo novels. They can be much more frustrating. They present special legal problems. They can cost you in a lot of hidden ways.
On the other hand, three successful collaborations came to mind right away. C. T. Adams and Cathy Clamp, Spider and Jeanne Robinson and Judith Michael – the pen name of husband-and-wife team Judith Barnard and Michael Fain. Still, that’s only three. If anyone knows of any others, please drop me a line in the comments section.
I thought a bit more about collaborating with another writer and realized that while it might work well for others, I would most likely never be able to do this. A couple of reasons why…
1. Sharing creative control
I’m a control freak (due to a demanding upbringing and a peripatetic past where it wasn’t even clear whether I could continue to live in the countries where I’d grown up). My work was the one aspect of my life where things always went the way I wanted them to go. So the idea of someone else being able to legally redraw the map of Eden or change the one biological weakness of Weaponbearers is a bit disturbing.
Critiques, revisions and editing are different. My friend Jordan suggested a change to the first draft of The Mark of Vurth that was, quite simply, a brilliant idea which ended up shaping the entire book. I also like having an agent’s or editor’s input, because the creative details rarely if ever get changed, and I’m flexible plot-wise.
Besides, when doing revisions or editing, writers are still in charge. An editor will point out when something doesn’t work, but won’t step in there to rewrite it. The characters and the world and the events are still mine. All mine! My precioussss…
2. Deadlines and expectations
I’ve been planning for months to write the sequel to Before the Storm, During the Fire, over the summer. So being the Type A personality that I am, I wrote 93K words over five weeks, ending up so exhausted that I slept for most of the weekend (and still feel kind of fuzzy). But I completed it. Made my self-imposed deadline.
But could I realistically expect that from another person? I was able to do little except drink tea and write for days on end because I didn’t have school, didn’t have work and didn’t have a family to take care of. When you work with another person, you have to keep their schedule in mind as well – and what if that other person has problems that delay their share of the work?
Not to mention that it’s best to have a contract between co-authors that defines who owns what, how the royalties are to be divided, etc. and that’s just too much hassle for me, especially if I can manage the book on my own.
So these are my own reasons for my choice. But I would love to hear from other writers on this topic. Would you ever collaborate with someone else, or have you already done so? What are your thoughts on it?
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