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Is Collaboration Worth it?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Barsook, Nov 12, 2012.

  1. Barsook

    Barsook Minstrel

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    This thought started to nag me for awhile now. I'm thinking about collaborating with an author that writes the same genre (more or less) and publishing the novel under my name as the main author and the other as the co. Like how Weis and Hickman wrote most of the stories for DragonLance. Would it be worth it to do it for other fantastical worlds?
     
  2. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Funny; Before seeing this, I just published a blog post about collaboration.

    My answer to your question: it depends.

    Why do you want to collaborate? How would the partnership work?
     
  3. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I agree with BW. Think about it. You're going into business with this co-author. You're going to be making not just one choice on something but hundreds of them. Is this co-author someone you can work with? Are they someone you can argue with without making it personal?
     
  4. Barsook

    Barsook Minstrel

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    Fine, you guys win. I was thinking that the weakness of one writer can be the strength of the other. I don't know know how that came from this article: Finding Strengths in Your Weaknesses as a Writer

    But what, I got my answer. :) And fantasy writing is not scientific writing for research papers.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2012
  5. Leif Notae

    Leif Notae Sage

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    Sure it is, but you must establish ground rules and have them in writing. Contracts would do best, but that's up to you. Find your strengths, see where your weaknesses are, and think about what can happen if you both work together. Worse comes to worse, you might not be able to use that idea.
     
  6. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I agree with Leif - contracts are good. In fact, I'd go so far as to say they are imperative if you're smart. I can't tell you how many situations I've seen where collaborators end up at odds and it is a huge mess. You ask them if they had a contract, and they say "no, we didn't think this would happen to us."
     
  7. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    I tried to collaborate once...once.

    The person I tried to write with is probably more stubborn than I am.... It was doomed from the start and never got more than 1/4 way into the planning phase.
     
  8. Weaver

    Weaver Sage

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    Well, I cannot say that I've ever found the 'rule' that collaboration doubles the work to be true, but neither have I ever found it to half the work. I guess whether or not it's worth it depends on your reason for doing it in the first place.

    It is my understanding that a book gets one of two authors listed as the 'main author' when said author is someone famous, someone whose name alone will sell the book. It is often the case for these books that the 'main author' doesn't have a lot to do with writing it, beyond perhaps making a detailed outline. It's a way for newer authors to get noticed; people buy the book because of the famous name on the cover, and then are willing to buy more books by the other author: 'This book is by that guy who co-wrote a novel with Ms. Bestselling Author - I'll give it a try even though he wrote this one alone.'

    On the other hand, some novels simply have two authors, with neither one the 'main author.' (Who's the main author of the Dragonlance novels - Weis or Hicknam?) If both writers did approximately equal amounts of the actual writing, and if both are equally well-known (or if neither is well-known), this is more common.

    As for my personal opinion on if it's worth it... My clone-sibling and I collaborate on everything we write. There are potential drawbacks (writer's block can be contagious if you're mindlinked to your co-author), but overall it works out well for us.
     
  9. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    If I remember right Weis wrote all the prose for their collaboration on the Dragonlance novels.
     
  10. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    My first thought would be do you know this person? Are you friends? Can you work together? Because failing that sort of very close easy going relationship I would say that your first step would need to be to establish ground rules as to who writes what, how and how often you communicate, who has final say over the work etc, etc. Then you need some form of contract to tie all that down.

    And before any of that you need to ask yourself one question, how can this other author help me write books? Or can I do it myself?

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  11. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    It depends on the people and what you're doing. Sometimes people gell. Sometimes people don't know how to collaborate. Sometimes people want to divvy up the work and have their own part to do, which might be fine sometimes but isn't really collaborating.

    The important thing is to fight, believe it or not. Have that conflict, figure out how you as a partnership deal with that conflict, and make sure that process works. Brilliant minds think alike, but fools never argue. If you avoid conflict too long, you'll fall apart one way or another. Either the conflict will happen and throw you apart, or you'll keep your mouth shut until you no longer care. It's best to figure out how you deal with disagreements, and do so in a way that makes sure every opinion is heard enough to do them justice.
     
  12. The Dark One

    The Dark One Inkling

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    I think it's almost impossible for a novel collaboration to work. (Mind you, screen play - no probs.)

    And even a contract isn't going to help sort out the complexities that this type of relationship can throw up...unless one writer always has right of veto and the other is the resilient type who can put up with that. In all seriousness, what is the point? What are you going to get out of a collaboration that you can't get from beta readers and editors?

    Funnily enough, I had a collaboration request recently from my sister who has been trying to get published for a long time. The request came despite the fact that our tastes in literature are totally different, our writing styles are totally different, and she disagrees loudly and violently with just about every word that comes out of my mouth (believe it or not, we have a pretty good relationship). Have to say I was amazed she'd want to collaborate...if I was a bitch, I might suggest that maybe it's because I have two books published, a third on the way and am represented by a major agent. But I'm not a bitch, so I'd never say that.
     
  13. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I think there are enough people who do it to make the accuracy of this statement doubtful.

    It seems like it would depend a lot on the relationship between the collaborators, the personalities of the collaborators, and what each of them are bringing to the table.

    Granted that I'm only two chapters into such an arrangement, but, so far, things are going great. The work we're producing is exactly what we want, and neither of us could have done it independently.
     
  14. You really have to make sure that the two of you are compatible as writers, but it can work. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle are as famous for their collaborative works as they are for their solo works. The trick is, the way you work has to work with the way the other writer works. Before you even get to the point of a contract you have to be sure that the two of you can actually work together without killing each other.

    For example, BWFoster is a fantastic writer, but I doubt we could collaborate on something successfully. The way we approach the work is just too different, and we'd never get past the pure mechanics of writing, nevermind the story. Chaos and order are just like that sometimes. ;-)
     
  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yes Niven and Pournelle are a good example. Also, Steven Brust and Emma Bull did an excellent collaboration called Freedom and Necessity.
     
  16. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I agree to an extent, but I would also suggest that defined roles can help a lot.

    As you might have guessed from my love of rules, I'm always willing to play by the rules as long as they're clearly established. If we were to say: My role in the production is A, B, and C. The rest is Christopher's. I think I'd be fine with it. I'd do my best to accomplish A, B, and C, and, other than that, leave you alone to do your part.

    The trick, then, would be to develop and agree on exactly what that A, B, and C entailed.

    EDIT: That is not to say that I recommend collaboration or that I think it's easy. I do think that it can be done, but it should only be attempted if you have a good reason. My reasons for doing it are:

    1. It's nice to have someone as excited about the project as I am. Her energy feeds my own and makes the whole process more fun.
    2. It would be difficult for either of us to do the project alone. I have a lot more experience writing. She can put me inside the mind of teenagers and give me an authenticity for YA that I would not be able to produce on my own.
    3. We have clearly defined responsibilities. We brainstorm together. I'm solely responsible for stylistic considerations. She keeps the wording and dialogue real.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2012
  17. Helen

    Helen Sage

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    A decent article about this here:
    WORDPLAY/Special Notice
     
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