Friday, January 29, 2010

The Joys of Collaboration

Once upon a time, two brilliant writers were scarfing down Mexican food and talking about, surprise, writing. Brilliant Writer 1 said, “I’d like to do a book about witches.” Brilliant Writer 2 replied, “I’ve always liked the concept of the Witchfinder General, not to mention the cool movie of that name staring Vincent Price.” BW1 and BW2, between bites of burritos, began world building, throwing ideas around as freely as globs of salsa, and coming up with names and locations and such, as writers are often wont to do.
And so a series was born. THE BALEFIRE CHRONICLES tells the story of a young witch and her love for the next in line to position of Witchfinder General. But it’s not all seventeenth century swords and sorcery, no sir; it’s here and now, and the Witchfinder General runs a mega-powerful and vastly rich family-held company called WFG.
But enough of that; soon, some perspicacious agent will grab this series (both books one, Balefire and Moonstone, and two, Balefire and Lodestone, are complete as we speak, for any agent who’s asking) and the collaboration will start making BW1 and BW2 some money.
But that is in the not-so-distant future. Right now, let’s discuss the joys of collaboration. First of all, who does what? In our co-writing venture, we decided to have the first book alternate between two 1st person POVs: the witch and her new love. We brainstormed a brief outline, since neither of us is good at following—or writing!—very detailed ones. Then we started writing, each of us taking one character, making sure our scenes flowed smoothly and without (too much) repetition from one chapter to the next. We changed the outline to suit things that popped up unexpectedly. It worked. The book, as we’ve heard from reliable sources, reads as if it had been written by a single brilliant writer hand instead of two, uh, four. Cool! That was our intention.
Other collaborators work in somewhat different fashions, or so we’ve read. But the most important thing in any collaboration is to have trust in your own work and even more in your collaborator’s work. Outlines are good, so you both remain on the same page, plot wise. But you also have to be flexible enough to go in a different direction if one jumps up, waving its hand and shouting, and you both agree to go that way.
Some questions you might want to ask a prospective collaborator:
1. Can you take criticism?
2. Do you trust my criticism?
3. Do we both have similar drives to see this puppy through to completion?
4. Do you like Mexican food?
So there you have it. Now go forth and collaborate.

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