When I saw this month’s theme of “collaborative writing” I felt about as uninspired as a romantic comedy starting with two people who initially hate each other, then fall madly in love after extraordinary circumstances throw them together.
Not only that, it made me realised how much I have shied away from the opportunities I’ve been given to experiment. Even though my stories have appeared in several anthologies which have had active communities behind them, I’ve never joined in. People were open about struggles they were having, keeping everyone updated about their progress, but I just couldn’t do it. It’s not that I don’t know how to socialise online, I do far too much of that in fact, and jump in and out of Twitter and Facebook all day.
I wrote for the Red Book and the Yin and Yang books, both eMergent Publishing projects which actively encouraged collaboration between writers, but again, I didn’t join in. Once I had the material I had to work with to create my story, I went away and wrote it, whilst others worked closely together, weaving story elements together and discussing characters.
Off with his head!
I’m a tyrant. I like total control over my dominion, which means I always write alone. Yes, I prefer to write short stories to prompts, but once I have a prompt I like, the doors close and the rest happens in private, like a dictator shooing advisors out after reports are made.
This isn’t because I have a dislike of collaborative writing, I simply don’t understand it on a fundamental level. I can appreciate how a plot could be discussed, even characters, but for me, there is a world of difference between discussion and writing them into life. The idea of sending work to another author, to make their changes and add bits, confuses me. Won’t it be like two people trying to talk at the same time? Perhaps this never happens, I am ignorant after all.
Editing as collaboration
The closest I have come to writing collaboratively is being edited. Jodi and I had discussions about each story in From Dark Places, sometimes as comments in an annotated document, sometimes over email, sometimes over Skype. I found the process exciting and challenging. It wasn’t just a matter of tightening up the prose or smoothing rough edges, it was about excavating those last details, revealing the whole story, sometimes even changing the feel of it in places. But at no point did I feel like the stories were any less mine. I think that shows how good an editor Jodi is! And probably how possessive I am…
How does it work?
I’m recording an audio book at the moment which is a historical romance, the first in the genre I have ever read. It has two authors listed, and as I record each chapter, I wonder how they worked together. Did one provide all the historical details, whilst the other wrote? Did one focus on dialogue whilst the other focused on the narrative prose? Or did they both discuss, but only one did the actual writing?
I don’t know. Do you write closely with another author? How do you do it? What do you love about it and hate about it? Please enlighten me, I’m genuinely curious.
Emma Newman is recovering from the launch of her short story anthology ‘From Dark Places‘ whilst preparing for the release of her debut novel ‘20 Years Later‘ in hardback next month. In a vain effort to retain a modicum of sanity, she blogs and gets up to all kinds of writing mischief at www.enewman.co.uk.