Here’s my question: How do you find other authors to write with. I’ve tried one joint project, but two out of four of us quit after our second session. They cited other commitments, but who really knows.
Obviously they need to be writers/people you trust. And I’m selfish, I want them to be better writers than I am so I can learn from them.
Do you have to find writers that write in the same style? The same tone? How exactly does this magic work?
So let’s do this in two sections:
“How do you find other authors to write with?”
Eileen proposed The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes to Krissie and me one night in a bar. I’d had a drink which means I was drunk because I cannot hold my liquor. She pitched the idea and I said yes. Mare is still one of my favorite heroines of all time.
Bob suggested we collaborate when we were both working at the Maui Writers Conference. As I recall, he handed me a glass of white wine, waited until I’d drunk it, and then said, “We should collaborate.” Agnes is still one of my favorite heroines of all time.
Alyssa Day proposed collaborating to Lani and me in a chat room. I was sober. We started working on Dogs and Goddesses (Lani’s title), and then her series took off and she had to write books for that, so she left the project (no worries, everybody was fine, it happens) and I told Lani I knew somebody and we invited Krissie in, and it was a blast. Shar is still one of my favorite heroines of all time.
I can’t remember who proposed Fairy Tale Lies, but the team was Lani, Krissie and I. We did some world building, but they had projects they had to do, and the project went dormant. Then we talked about doing novellas about mermaids in that world, and we did discovery work, but we were all swamped with different books and the project went dormant. We still talked about the world, we just didn’t do anything with it. But I loved the world, so I kept working and started the Zo stories, which I’m still working on, and then in September, Lani said, “I want to do a collaboration that works like a television series, episodes/stories that combine to make a season long arc, each one standing on its own as an episode, in that Fairy Tale world Jen’s been building.” And Krissie and I said, “Yes,” and I said, “Let’s ask Toni to play, too,” and they said, “Excellent idea,” and we asked Toni, and she said, “Yes,” and we got started, but Lani was working on a book and teaching, and Krissie was editing two books and dealing with taxes and upheaval at home, so they said they’d be back in a minute, and Toni and I started talking. A month later, Toni and are obsessively e-mailing and doing chat room stuff and building a much, much better world than I had started, Krissie’s still swamped but she’s starting next week, and Lani said last week, “I have to bow out,” so now it’s Toni, Krissie, and I, twelve stories/episodes to make a novel. I’m having a blast.
So looking back on this, I never start a collaboration, somebody always invites me. Having said that, I think the majority of collaborations don’t work because they are really, really, really difficult. You have to be incredibly flexible, with a big block of time you can give up to just talking about the story and the world, all the while knowing that when you get finished, you’re only going to get a third or a quarter of the money that comes in, and you have to compromise over and over and over again. So collaborations for the most part are not the way to go. In this case, it’s worth it for me because I love this world and I’ve got the Zo stories in it, and Toni’s had an idea for awhile that fits this world, so she’ll have that standalone novel, so what this collaboration is doing for the two of us is building a fantasy world–which is INCREDIBLY difficult–that we can then use for future stories we both already want to write. And Krissie, when she finally gets her slate clear enough to join us, will probably do the same. I can’t begin to tell you how much cleaner, clearer, sharper, more detailed, and more fun this world is after talking about it every day with Toni for a month. It’s been an amazing experience.
But I don’t think I’d ever go looking for collaborators. I like the ones I’ve worked with, I love the ones I’m working with now, but ask somebody new to collaborate? No.
“Do you have to find writers that write in the same style? The same tone? How exactly does this magic work?”
I’ve done five collaborative books, and some of those collaborations went smoothly and some of them did not. I’m proud of all the books, but I look back on some of those experiences and say, “Never again.” It’s just very, very difficult for writers, who are loners by trade anyway, to give up total control (this is me we’re talking about, too), and if you start out with different ideas of what the book is going to be about, it can be hell. If you have writers working with different tones, it can be hell. If you have writers who won’t compromise, it can be hell. But most of all, if you develop personality conflicts during the writing, you’re trapped and it’s mega hell. Having said that, I’m glad I did every one of those collaborations. I learned a lot, I made friends for life, and I wrote characters that I think are much richer because of the constraints of collaborating.
How do you find writers that work in the same style? Read their work. What I’ve found is that it’s more tone and approach than style. Krissie and Lani and I do not write in the same styles, but we have very similar senses of humor, and we approached Dogs and Goddesses seriously as writers, but we kept the tone light because our relationship was sunny. Our personalities and our life situations were perfect matches at the time we wrote. Bob and I had completely different styles, night and day, but we had the same approach to writing: completely professional, the story comes first, be able to justify what you want. So we’d hit places where we’d disagree, but we’d look at it from the point of view of the story: which choice serves this story we’re writing, something new for both of us, better. Bob was also very flexible: he gave in on a lot of things because he said up front he wanted to know more about writing for a female audience. He protected his character and his plot points to the death, and he was absolutely right to do so, but he was very open-minded the entire time. Toni and I have always had similar senses of humor, and I knew she and Lani and Krissie would mesh well, too, so I invited her in because I wanted to write with her and I thought she could bring a lot to the collaboration, and I was so right. So I think the key is finding people who think like you do and have personalities that are compatible with yours, at least as far as the approach to writing goes.
As for how the magic works, sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. When Lani and Krissie and I finally got together to work on D&G in person, it took off, we couldn’t brainstorm fast enough, everything we did just exploded. No book is easy, but we had a damn good time on that one. Now, the three of us are out of sync in what we’re handling in our personal lives, they can’t give up everything and just sit down and write because things are pressing them, but Toni and I hit the collaboration at just the right time for us, and we’re working obsessively now, feeding each other’s creativity. Sometimes, it’s just timing. We’re both really looking forward to Krissie joining us in a week or two, and while she’s coming in after a lot of the world-building is done, what Krissie really loves is character, so we’ll show her the world and where the heroine she’s already established starts, and then we’ll listen to her as she brainstorms and move pieces of the world around to fit her story, and we’ll be fine. Of everybody I’ve collaborated with, Krissie is the easiest because she’s a peacemaker by nature, but also because she concentrates on her characters; so as long as she gets the love story her characters need, she’s completely open to everything else. If you find a collaborator like Krissie, grab onto her with both hands. She’s a gem.