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Writing in Collaboration with Others - what are the secrets of success?

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by geo3, Feb 8, 2004.

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  1. geo3

    geo3 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 29, 2002
    How do you go about writing a single story with two or more authors?

    There are some wonderful stories out there with more than one author. Some appear absolutely seamless, with no perceptible differences in style and approach. I can think of one marvelous example in the Archive written by four people, each of whom kept his own voice, yet the story works wonderfully as a unified whole.

    How do you do it? Where do you begin? How do you decide on the story arc, the characters, and all that? How do you decide who contributes what? How do you pull it all together?

     
  2. TKeira_Lea

    TKeira_Lea Jedi Knight star 5

    Registered:
    Oct 10, 2002
    Since I am writing in colloboration currently on a short story I will offer some of what my co-author and I went through before ever writing the first sentence.

    1. We picked where we wanted to start, then we picked where we wanted to go. Lastly we picked what we wanted to achieve with our short story. Both of us had decided to stretch our legs as writers and use the other as a support system to do this.

    2. Then we worked out how we wanted to work to the end product, a good short story to read. For us the method of choice was alternating chapters with the party not charged with writing acting as beta to ensure continuity, flow, etc. Our styles are similar yet not the same and we did not intend to change the other but rather learn from each other, each of us lending help where the other needed to build as a writer.

    3. We also worked out a pattern where we knew our goal but decided to leave the in between steps unknown except for in a lightly outlined form. So as we read each other's chapter it is as new as it will be to the reader. I am currently stuck with a stunning cliffhanger I must resolve and that in and of itself is a great way to learn to write.

    4. Finally we decided to have fun with what we are doing even if it is a dreadfully sorrowful story that explores what happens when everything doesn't happen as the hero expects. It's been a great way to develop a friendship, learn to improve our writing, and reach out to new readers.

    So that's my two cents...
     
  3. Shaindl

    Shaindl Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 18, 2002
    Great thread idea, geo3!

    I co-wrote a story with a wonderful writer (hi, OE!). We went at it even looser than Tkeira. Each of had written a story exploring an EU character not used much elsewhere (she had done Xanatos, I had done Garen). People had really seemed to like the characterisations we had done, and we decided to bring them together into one story. It came about because of nothing more than a PM saying, "Do you want to write a story with me?"

    For us, we didn't have an ending in place when we started, although we had a basic idea of what the plotline would be. Both of us tend to be "write-as-we-go" type people and I don't think either of use an outline in our solo stories, and we certainly didn't here. We took turns writing posts, and before the other wrote them, we would discuss where we wanted the post to end up. How we got to that point was up to the writer of that particular entry.

    I think that the key for us was just a lot of talking and communication. We came up with a nasty villain who was great fun for both of us to write, as well as giving us great practice in using another person's characterisation. I think both of us tried to write to the other's style - in other words, we each tried to sound like the other, which helped the story to flow more seamlessly. It was a great time.

    But the best part of the whole experience was making a wonderful friend who I still keep in almost daily contact with (usually, more than once a day). Even though our story is finished, she talks me through story problems, listens to me moan and complain about characters who won't behave, and reads just about every post on every story I write.

    Thanks OE - you're the best! :)

    Shaindl
     
  4. obi_ew

    obi_ew Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 14, 2002
    Right back at ya doll! [face_blush] I think one of the most important things to remember is to have fun. I had a blast collaborating with Shaindl and like she and TKL stated, managed to make a great friend along the way. It helps if you are already familiar with the other person's writing. I was a huge fan of Shaindl's story so I think it made it easier to blend our posts. I also learned a very valuable lesson about patience. ;) I tend to post often so it was an experience to have to wait until life released its nasty claws long enough for Shaindl to get something written. The good thing was I was never disappointed! She always turned out high quality stuff. Have fun and just go with the flow! :)
     
  5. Shaindl

    Shaindl Jedi Master star 4

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    Jun 18, 2002
    LOL! I know I tried your patience a few times, OE. :D She's absolutely right - go with the flow, have fun. Something I forgot to add about our process is that we always ran the post we had written by the other for approval before posting.

    But if you're interested in co-writing, geo, just ask someone - more often than not, the answer will be yes. Jump in with both feet - you'll have fun. :)

    Shaindl
     
  6. geo3

    geo3 Jedi Master star 4

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    Sep 29, 2002
    This is great, everyone - thanks for responding to my questions and for sharing your experiences. Keep them coming, please!

    "Have fun." That's the best advice of all!
     
  7. TKeira_Lea

    TKeira_Lea Jedi Knight star 5

    Registered:
    Oct 10, 2002
    I thought I would add one more little thing.

    The worst part about collaborations is getting the nerve up to ask. I braved it once; some day I might do it again. There are tons of great authors I think I could learn from if I had the opportunity to share an experience like I have had on my most recent combined writing effort. (Of course I have to finish the first one first, but you know what I mean. ;) )

    The BEST thing about collaborations is getting to know someone better in the process. I have a new friend; we are even on a first name basis. We share things like life troubles and little fun tidbits when our real lives give us the time to chat.

    So I would have to say the BEST part definitely makes the worst part well worth it. :D
     
  8. R2D1000

    R2D1000 Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 15, 2003
    Co-writing has NEVER worked out for me. My story

    Jango Fett : RESURRECTION the outline at

    http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=14786008&replies=2

    got off to a great start thanks to Zane Marit. But none of you even bothered to post a single reply.

    This left Zane, an incredibly talented writer very disillusioned.

     
  9. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    Whoa. What's with the accusations, R2D1000?
     
  10. Shaindl

    Shaindl Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 18, 2002
    So what I get from that, R2D1000, is that you've tried co-writing all of once. Please don't throw around accusations like that - it's not productive, and certainly won't convince anyone to read your fic. A lot of the time, it takes a long time to build up a following on a fic, co-written or not. You have to keep plugging away at it, and keep posting. They'll come - you just have to be patient.

    And ask yourself, why are you doing it? For the recognition, or for the joy of writing and collaborating with another talented person?

    Shaindl
     
  11. R2D1000

    R2D1000 Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 15, 2003
    >Please don't throw around accusations like that - it's not productive, and certainly won't convince anyone to read your fic.<

    I'm not trying to convince anyone, just sharing my experience. If someone dosen't read it it's their loss.
    They're missing a good story.
     
  12. leia_naberrie

    leia_naberrie Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 10, 2002
    And I think it also helps to have some sort of character schedule right? Like in one D/G (Harry Potter fans will know ;) ) story that I read, one writer wrote most of Draco's scenes and another writer wrote Ginny's and they almost literally typed out the couple's scenes - or at least, 'Ginny' writer wrote the scene only from Ginny's PoV...
     
  13. geo3

    geo3 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 29, 2002
    I'm sorry about your bad experience with posting your story, R2D1000. Even so, I'm still very interested in how you and your co-writer went about writing it. How did you decide on the story? Who wrote what? You know - that kind of thing.
     
  14. R2D1000

    R2D1000 Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 15, 2003
    Oh, I typed out a story as a short summary with a teaser poster, and posted it also on the boards here and at www.galacticsenate.com

    (Tbone's starwars universe)

    Zane, a writer here and at the galacticsenate loved the plot idea so much he started off in right earnest,
    posting a first chapter.

     
  15. leia_naberrie

    leia_naberrie Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 10, 2002
    Putting this up again. More ideas and advice are more than welcome...
     
  16. AERYN_SUN

    AERYN_SUN Jedi Knight star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 1, 2001
    My first collaboration was with my favorite fanfic author. I was so excited to be working on it with her but we never finished the project. I was busy, she was busy and we just lost contact with each other.

    I think the key thing here is : TIME. If both authors can spare time for each other, it can work.

    ~aeryn
     
  17. leia_naberrie

    leia_naberrie Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 10, 2002
    Thanks AERYN_SUN. That hit very close to home! :eek:
     
  18. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    Communication, communication, communication. Encouraging each other, and we also beta'ed and tweaked each other scenes.

    If I wrote a paragraph, and Jane thought the dialogue should be different, she'd rewrite that section and send it back to me. There are a few things that didn't work, and we'd tell each other so, then send them back and forth.

    The other thing we did was that we had about 3/4 of the entire story done before we began posting it. We knew where it was going, and could easily do the final wrap ups.
     
  19. obaona

    obaona Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 18, 2002
    Generally, my co-writers and I tried/try to work things out a few posts in advance, and (I, at least [face_blush] ) beta the hell out of the other person's post. :p Originally, my first co-writing experience was that I was supposed to be the junior partner with less writing, but I like . . . took control. ;) And two years later, with another co-writer, I'm still in control! :p (Or just plain pushy.) I think I got lucky neither of my co-writers were/are control freaks like I am. :p Our styles - both in the actual writing and how we write (little planning, see how it works kind of mentality) - also mesh.

    I think there are a lot of factors that contribute to whether two writers are able to work together, or even have the experience be enjoyable. (I heart my co-writers. [face_love] It's always been fun.)

    Unfortunately, I think sometimes it's hit/miss when looking for a co-writer, especially if you've never had one before. :p

    But things to look for - similar styles, similar in how you get things down (outline vs. no outline, for example), time, being able to compromise, similar goals for the story, and being able to talk things out (like hammering out an end to the story).
     
  20. KrystalBlaze

    KrystalBlaze Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    Aug 3, 2002
    A few may remember the fallen DareDevil round-robin like thin with myself, snowbee-wankenobi and ZaraValinor. Lack of communication was the downfall of that one. Also, I don't think the writing styles were very... on key. Each of us wrote with different styles. The project, I believe, was dropped because we did had only a general plot and no direction. The first time we saw the posts was when we posted. (of course, only Zara and myself posted, so...)

    Basically, I think the key to a successful partnership is communicating, and TIME. I know I dropped the project because I didn't have much of it.

    The worst part about collaborations is getting the nerve up to ask.

    Lol. Same here. There are so many authors I WANT to work with, who I think I could learn from, but I don't have the courage to ask.

    -Krystal
     
  21. Jaina_Solo_15

    Jaina_Solo_15 Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Dec 5, 2002
    I think collaborating with another author would be very cool, but I don't think I would be very good at it. I would think that collaborations would involve some degree of compromise, and I'm not very good at that.
     
  22. VaderLVR64

    VaderLVR64 Manager Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2004
    I think it would be very interesting to collaborate with another author. I think that two authors could make an even stronger story, as long as they can write well together. I think every writer has strengths and weaknesses and choosing a writing partner who can mesh with those would probably lead to an amazing experience. I would like to think that it would enhance strengths and improve weaknesses, but I've never done it. I would certainly be willing to entertain the idea! Great thread!
     
  23. tangled_sphere

    tangled_sphere Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 28, 2003
    I was reading this thread with interest because I am just attempting to do a collaboration.

    The way we are starting out is brainstorming the outline. I'm not sure how we're going to proceed from there! It'll be interesting to see. ;)
     
  24. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Jedi Grand Master star 9

    Registered:
    Mar 26, 2001
    I've done many collaborations and they all work out differently.

    Type 1: Complete cooperation. I have my dear friend Annemarie who solicited one of my stories for her 'zine. A few days later, she sent me some brainstorm/additions to the scene and we found that the scenes were richer for her suggestions, so we'd work them in and she'd demurely say that she "contributed to" the story. When she started doing that more, we became co-authors. We do a lot of brainstorming, but mostly do it in the form of writing out the ideas and tweaking. It works well.

    Type 2: Play to the strengths. I remember writing a story with Melyanna called Ruins of Love. We both had certain writing strengths and liked a common theme and by using the two, it actually won an award here. I loved that.

    Type 3: Take turns and let everyone have their strengths and challenges in hand. In Strands of Time, I saw a lot of brilliant minds come together to meld their talents, but there were also times when we decided to foist a difficult style on one writer or have another writer write something out of the comfort zone. I liked that a lot, especially getting to write some very unusual mushy things.

    Basically, put yourselves out of the comfort zone, but play to your strengths. Compromise a lot and have lots of fun!
     
  25. leia_naberrie

    leia_naberrie Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 10, 2002
    Thanks everyone! This is so useful. Please keep the contributions coming! :)

    tangled_sphere: In my experience, over-analyzing the plot before writing down anything can be counter-productive -whether as a solo project or in a co-written effort. I normally start writing just knowing where to start from and where I'm going to end up; a few major scenes stand out but nothing very specific. After a few written chapters, the plot becomes more clear and then you can map out the scenes in a detailed but flexible outline. You might find another approach useful, though.
     
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