Contemplating a collaboration between writers

a collaboration between writers, or trees

I never thought I’d write a comedy or collaborate with another writer, but it turns out I might be doing both. Here’s how it happened.

I’ve finished another round of structural editing of my WIP and I’m currently doing a once-through scene-by-scene edit. Once I finish this, I’m trying to decide whether to send the draft to beta readers or let it sit for a month and have another read through myself.

Either way, when I finish this edit I will start drafting something new.

I’ve been thinking it will be the sequel to my current WIP, but I’m a long way from having planned enough of it to start writing, and it’s being inordinately stubborn about falling into shape.

So I’m open to ideas.

How it happened

It started with a tweet (@micah_chaim‘s not mine).

My first thought was “why would a talented and sophisticated writer like Micah who uses words like ‘epistolary’ (though doesn’t proofread his tweets) want to write something with me?”

My second thought was “I can’t write comedy. It’s so hard to pack in the density of jokes you need to be effective and to tell a good story at the same time.”

My third thought was “I want to do this.”

And the rest is history. Our book is coming out next week.

Laaaaaaaaaaa!

*Alecia wakes to find herself in bed being smothered by the cat*

Okay, not next week. But the tweet was real, and unless we kill each other first or encounter irreconcilable artistic differences I think we’re actually going to do this.

We have a kick-ass high concept. Micah sees deep social commentary and absurdism. I see a fun story with a great deal of silliness.

I can almost hear you cringing. Yes, I’ve read the advice and I know how badly collaborations between authors can go on so many dimensions.

Things that can go wrong: legal

We’re friends now, but how confident am I that would solve everything if there were suddenly $10M at stake? (Yes, I dream big.)

“It was your idea, you should get $8M.”

“But I never would have written it without your help. You should get $8M.”

“I don’t deserve that. I didn’t do it for the money.”

“I don’t deserve it either, and you did way more work than me.”

“So we agree neither of us deserves all this money.”

We end up donating it to a charity that finds loving homes for stray dragons.

Windsor Castle - can't be bought by collaborating writers
We will never be this rich. Though the dragons might be.

And what about rights to the intellectual property? The world we’re creating has possibilities. What if Micah wants to write another book in it? Or create art about it? What if I want to create art about it?

You can stop laughing. My kindergarten teacher told me my stick figures are up there with Picasso.

Our actual conversation (paraphrased to the point of being unrecognisable):

Me: We should have a contract. You know, about IP and stuff.

Micah: I used to be a lawyer. How’s this?

Me: Way too generous.

Things that can go wrong: artistic vision

Lawyer stuff isn’t the only thing to worry about. There’s agreeing on an artistic vision, finding or forging a writing style that sings to both of us, and balancing deep themes with an entertaining story.

I have enough trouble agreeing with myself on my artistic vision for a book.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written and anything Micah has written, you’ll see we’re very different writers. Is there cosy cottage between our realms where we can live symbiotically? Or a hut in some land that’s foreign to both of us?

A remote hut for collaboration between writers
I’m guessing there’s no internet. We’d probably get a lot of writing done.

Him: *deep stuff with 15 layers of meaning and literary techniques I can’t pronounce*

Me: And then the cat bites him.

At least we agree it’s not going to be a romance. And there will be magic. Or is it science? Possibly we need to talk more about this.

Things that can go wrong: process

I still haven’t figured out if I’m a plotter or a pantser. I make detailed plans, write the book, totally change the book, go back and change the plan, change the book again…

For Micah, the magic happens in the writing.

What are the chances we can come up with a writing process that gets words on paper and doesn’t drive either of us to homicide?

We do have one thing going for us: we’ve never met and neither knows where the other lives. If murder happens, it will be very premeditated, and involve a lot of sleuthing and international flights.

But for safety’s sake, maybe we won’t share any more personal details with each other.

And that’s before we even consider all the usual challenges of writing a book.

Reasons it might work

He’s finished (and published) books before.

We’re both excited about the same idea.

I have a lot of respect for his skill, and he seems to think I have some.

At least, if it all blows up in our faces you’ll have the entertainment of watching the fireworks on Twitter.

When you see this between us on Twitter, stop waiting for our book.

Now I’m off to read about what else to watch out for in a collaboration and to study Terry Pratchett.

Would you ever consider collaborating with another writer? If you already have, do you have any advice for me?

Want to hear how this collaboration turns out? Sign up for updates (though I warn you this may take a while).

Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

18 thoughts on “Contemplating a collaboration between writers”

  1. How very bold and exciting of you! I’ve always wondered how writers collaborate on the same piece, so I do hope you intend to give us updates as the process unfolds. And yes, I’m waiting for the book 🙂

  2. The obstacles would be too overwhelming to me. A writer friend and I considered a collaboration once and couldn’t get past the first conversation (we needed a decision-maker and didn’t have one. Lol) But I agree, you are funny and a collaboration could be a lot of fun if you can work through the logistics. 🙂

    1. Oh dear! Yes, I can see how you wouldn’t get far without a decision-maker. I’m sure we’ll run up against all kinds of problems I haven’t even imagined. Time will tell if we can conquer them. 🙂

  3. I’ve tried collaborations twice. Both attempts went horribly wrong because we all had different expectations for how fast the project would progress. Biggest tip is to make sure you’re on the same page about that. Also, google docs is very good for easily sharing notes 🙂
    Good luck with your collab 😀

  4. Lovely article, and best luck to you!
    Perhaps a ‘shakedown cruise’ could help? like, a short story before stepping into the full adventure.
    Or if nothing else, outlining your expectations for how collaboration should go.

    I wrote a collaborative piece before, it was very enjoyable. Sadly, very sloppy. It did teach me things though.

    1. Thank you, and thanks for visiting, Lila!

      That’s a cool idea to write a short story together first (or even a few). I’ve been thinking of writing some short stories to practice some techniques for comedy, but it didn’t occur to me to practice collaborating as well.

      I’m impressed you finished a collaborative piece even if it still needed work. 🙂 People have been telling me about their failed attempts.

  5. I tried collaboration once. I ended up bailing out of the project because it was after all the wrong type of story for me (long and detailed spanning several books whereas I’m best at writing short standalone novels). I thought length didn’t matter and I could write anything, but nope. Trying to write something I’m not good at simply didn’t work that well. I struggled to make progress whereas my co-author was constantly waaaay ahead of me and rightfully frustrated with my slowness. I think we’re both happy that we split. Now she gets to do her thing without frustration and I get to do mine without feeling guilty. 😀 We’re still best friends.

    Good luck with your collaboration! I think like with any relationship, communication is key. Talk, talk, talk. And don’t be afraid to renegotiate the deal if it feels it’s not going to work, after all.

    1. I can see how it might be tempting to try to write in a genre/style that’s not you when you collaborate, and that can cause problems. My fantasy novels aren’t comedy, but I sometimes write humour on my blog, and the book idea existed before Micah ever approached me. Still, it will be a stretch for me, and certainly interesting to see how it works.

      Great advice to keep communication open. In coauthorship as in life!

  6. How awesome! I’ve always wondered how a collaboration would work, and this sounds like you have an amazing base to start from. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  7. I’m voting with the people who said that you should start out with something short, to see how it works in practice. Beyond that, I think the important part is that if you work out who owns what character, and which parts of the story, you’ll have someone with the actual authority to change the small stuff without a lot of arguing. (My last collaboration was a while ago, and–disaster though it was–the only thing I remember about the explosion, or the story we were working on was an argument over the spelling of a character’s name.)

    1. Thanks for that advice. Being clear on who has the final call on what is an excellent idea. An explosion over how to spell a name sounds pretty bad! – I assume this was the culmination of a number of issues.

  8. It was one of those *very badly* organized school projects. Poor choice of partner, poor choice of project, poor instruction… Basically, an experiment in bad decision making from beginning to end. I’ll have to write a blog post about it.

  9. You’re welcome!

    I didn’t think it so challenging until you mentioned it. In retrospect, there were many times it could’ve fallen apart. I’d really love collaborating again someday; like many relationship types, the first go around is often the roughest!

    Also, I didn’t reply to your reply because the website wouldn’t let me. I have no idea why, but thought you might like knowing.

  10. I’d like to think we get better with practice at most things, including collaborating. 🙂

    Garh! Thanks for telling me. Commenting and liking and everything used to work fine, then WordPress decided it hates me. I’ll see if I can pull it apart and put it back together functional. :/

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