The Art of Collaboration

My writing partner and I have been working together on a book. This is a new adventure for both of us, and while fun, it comes with new and interesting challenges. For example, while we each write our own chapters, we have to collaborate closely so that the details of the story will match up. Already we’ve run into conflict here. Days and dates have been switched, details about how characters look, or what they wear, or the description of a building have all had to be double checked so we didn’t goof up the specifics. I described a scene in a restaurant that was based on an actual place. Because Jared had never been there, he wrote a scene in the same location with a completely different description. We both wound up doing some revision to make it work.

Then there are the issues of pacing. Not just the pacing of the story, mind you, but the pace at which each of us writes. Some weeks I move more quickly, and other times he does.  He writes the odd number chapters and I write the even-numbered ones. If I get too far ahead, I wind up back tracking, and if he gets too far ahead, I wind up having to hurry my chapter along to catch up. And now we are reaching a new issue – his character kidnaps mine, and they spend a great deal of time together. As we’ve moved in this direction, Jared and I have had to spend more and more time working things out. We have to coordinate dialog, which usually means one of us IMs or calls the other and says, “Would your character say this like this, or would it be different?”

Recently, I spoke at a meeting of the local Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators (SCBWI) chapter. Jared and his wife came with me as my support team. At the end of the session, I opened it up for questions, and someone asked what I was working on currently.

“I’m revising a YA speculative fiction, and I’m coauthoring a book with my writing partner.”

I got a stunned look from the woman who asked the question. “Writing partner? How does that work?” she said. She seemed completely incredulous.

Jared and I looked at each other and laughed. We do a lot of that – laughing. He gave his part of the answer – which was really excellent. “It’s synergy,” he said. And that is about the best way I could describe it.  We do have a certain chemistry – we are good friends, we tease each other (privately and publicly – he’s ruthless to me on Facebook!), and we each have a writing style that meshes well with the other person’s.  We are brutally honest with each other, but we are not brutal to each other. We respect the other person’s writing while still offering suggestions for improvement and encouragement. As with many things, this is a balancing act. I think of us like a team of acrobats. Our trust has to run deep, and our timing has to be impeccable. We do trust each other, and that has strengthened our friendship immensely. Timing – well – we’re still working on that, but we get better each day.

In the end, we both believe strongly in the story and in each other. We’ve got plans for other books we want to write by ourselves when this is done, but we also want to keep working as a team – if for no other reason than we enjoy working together so much. I’ve mentioned before that Jared has inspired me, but he has also  planted his shoe squarely in my backside to keep me going at times. I’d like to think I’ve done these same things for him.

When I’m asked if I would ever collaborate with someone else, my answer is “It would depend.” I don’t know that I could find someone with whom this process would work so well again. It was really serendipity that brought us together, but I believe firmly that the universe had a plan and made us friends. I never question the universe – and I am just grateful that it has all worked out this way.


One thought on “The Art of Collaboration

  1. Well said! Yes, we are a lot like acrobats… good analogy there. I am honored to be able to work with you. What I’ve learned in this process is irreplacable. Thank you. I still don’t take for granted the help you’ve given me!

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