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 one 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 Alyssa’s 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.
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. [Note: I wrote this in 2014. In 2022, I asked Bob to save Lavender’s Blue, and we did three more books, so ignore that last sentence.]
“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, [eight now] 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. 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. It’s like dating: you don’t know until you’re actually across the table from each other, trying to see if you can make something work.
Added in 2022: If you want specifics on how I collaborate:
• Each person picks a character to be their protagonist and they have absolute ownership of that character. They decided that character’s speech, thoughts, and actions.
• Establish a common strong antagonist with a strong goal. That way, even if the protagonists don’t know each other, they’ll be pulled together naturally as part of the fight, and forced to work together because the antagonist is more powerful that they are individually.
• Block out turning points, so you’re aiming at the same crucial scenes as your protagonist works through the plot.
• Set up a chat room/collaboration group online and talk everyday, swapping scenes to keep each other in the loop. (Bob and I just wrote three novels. I haven’t seen him or heard his voice since 2010, but I see his typing every day.)
• Set up a Dropbox folder to share, and whenever you make a change to ms, change the date in the doc title.
• Keep talking. A lot. 90% of collaboration is talking. The other 10% is typing.