Thursday, May 8, 2014

Misery shared (or The Highs and Lows of Co-Authoring)

So, I am going to share three true stories in as unbiased a way as possible. 

Story #1:

I have a friend who is an amazing writer with quite profound ideas.  One of these was for a work of Holocaust literature.  Since she knows I have a passion for that, she bounced ideas off of me.  A couple of months later, she asked me to co-write.  We traded objectives, traded ideas.  I read 14 books and distilled a lot of information on what we needed to know.  She sent me a huge binder full of more stuff that we needed to know from her research.  We wrote a couple of scenes.  Then, one day, she announced that I was off the project and said it was another person's idea.  There was no commentary beforehand.

Story #2:

Interestingly enough, this is the same person.  Months before this, we cowrote what is unofficially called "Crack."  It's a story based on pure insanity.  It involved everything from brain-damaged androids to a group known as the Towel Brigade.  (Wardrobe, not accessory.)  It had in-jokes with both the authors and the readers.  We would start out with a scene and once the first person had written a draft, the other would add in their insanity, they'd write more after they'd collaborated in the Crack World.  Eventually, the scene would go up and we would still laugh at it weeks afterwards.

Story #3:

I created a project called the Botosphere.  It's based in Transformers and started out as the alien blogging experiment.  Thirty-odd stories later, we have a huge following and four authors.  Our writing sessions are best done after dessert and when we write so simultaneously that we have to go back and edit out the overlapping sentences.  We're four women who write four college boys in an apparently hilarious manner.  (Or so we've been told.)  That is the main story.  The side stories range from the absurd (The Autobots are punished for an April Fool's Day joke by going to mandatory sexual harassment seminars) to the sublime (A very long and awesome look into the relationship between Optimus and the human Prime, Sam Witwicky).  Our sublime author, who is really the one who deserves the most credit, has been very kind.  I had a very specific feeling on a plot point and she yielded to me as the creative director.  She let me borrow her story for a chapter so I could write philosophy of my own.  One April 1, I called her and said that I had some concerns and needed to talk to her.  I went over how we were going in a direction I couldn't support and I needed to ask her to step away for a while.  It was only because she was so darn kind to me about it that I stopped the joke early on.  And then I wrote her a story just to reward her for that.

This isn't a gripefest.  This is a perspective.  Tonight's perspective is on what makes a collaboration work.  I hope that you gleaned from the three stories my theme.  It is that the best element of collaboration is equal partnership.

If you start with respect and a healthy give and take, no collaboration starts out wrong.  You may have to fine-tune your work process.  You probably will not always agree, but you usually will work well.

It is essential that forgiveness go into effect.  In any partnership, romantic, friendly, professional, there will be mistakes made.  There will be faulty communication.  If it is something that is likely to fester, a problem should not go unresolved.  In all things, faulty communication or not, there should be honesty.  That honesty is an extension of respect.  As you can see in all three stories, the best results came from all parties being willing to be vulnerable to the others in that honesty.

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