Earlier this week, I shared some of the joys of collaborating with other creative types…but I think I missed something. It’s all well and good to talk about why collaboration is great for the creative process, but if you’re a writer–probably working solo from your home office–what does collaboration actually look like?
The Many Faces of Collaboration
I’m not expert on the collaboration front. I haven’t co-authored a book with anyone, for instance–the stereotypical form of writerly collaboration. However, I’ve found that kicking around ideas with other readers, writers, and daydreamers is a great way to improve my fiction writing.
It got me thinking: Where have I benefited from working with others on a project? What opportunities for collaboration have I stumbled upon, and what collaborative possibilities have other writers harnessed that I haven’t yet tried?
Here’s what I came up with, listed from least (“Level 1”) to most interactive (“Level 4”). Feel free to suggest more possibilities and examples in the comments!
Level 1: Soliciting Feedback
This is a great starting point for the novice collaborator: sign up for a conference critique, find a writing mentor, or join a critique group to solicit others’ views on your plot, story world, characters, etc. This is a great way to experiment with what it feels like to work with others on a creative project.
Some things to keep in mind:
- When giving or receiving feedback, be sure to bring an open, non-judgmental mindset to the process
- But also remember–you’re the owner of your project, so don’t let others squash your vision
These days, though, critiques from other writers aren’t the only form of feedback you can seek. You can also connect with “regular” readers. Share your writing on platforms such as Wattpad, FictionPress.net, or even your own blog or website–not for a critique, but to get a sense of what is and isn’t working in your stories.
Level 2: Casual Brainstorming Session
Do you have a half-formed story idea floating around in your noggin? Sometimes discussing it with a like-minded friend can spark new ideas and connections. I’ve solved many a plot problem by discussing my story with fellow writers over coffee. Sometimes, they hand me the perfect solution; other times, they come up with the perfectly wrong solution.
You know–the kind of solution that’s so perfectly wrong that it nudges your mind toward a true solution. Sort of like you can’t choose between two restaurants until your significant other picks one…and you realize that you want the other.
I have a weekly hiking session with my sweetheart and co-daydreamer, where we discuss (and occasionally argue) about my story world, plot, characters, magic systems, etc. Most of my best ideas come from these rambling discussions–all the result of a regularly scheduled time to be creative with another person.
Level 3: Directed Brainstorming, Storyboarding, or Plotting
My critique group has held several meetings where we helped a writer complete or edit the plot for a work-in-progress–and each time, it was a fabulous experience. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to bring any of my books before the group while the story was still in its formative stages, I’m very excited to try something similar with the Plot Doctors. I know from first-hand experience how much these two children’s/young adult authors, Hilari Bell and Anna-Maria Crum, can help a writer to sort out problems with story structure!
Level 4: Co-Creating
There are many examples of writers who work alongside another to author their books. The fabulous Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman of Writers Helping Writers come to mind–they’ve coauthored several reference books for authors, such as The Emotion Thesaurus. There are also plenty of examples on the fiction front, such as the Beautiful Creatures YA series, coauthored by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.
But co-creating doesn’t have to mean co-writing. Illustrators co-create the story with a picture book author even when handed a “finished” manuscript–the images they create expand on the story’s meaning, and often tell a second story as well.
Co-creating also doesn’t have to mean coauthoring a project with another “writer.” In The Amanda Project series, authors provided the opportunity for readers to co-create the story world by creating characters and sharing those characters’ stories on the Amanda Project website.
MSPA stories are largely “reader-driven”, in the sense that most of the text commands were supplied by readers through a suggestion box. I would select a command from the list, and then illustrate the result of the command.
It was a great way to help him connect with readers and get them involved with the story, as well as a way to generate unexpected plot turns!
Collaboration: it can come in many different forms, and can be as intense or as loose as you want. I think the exact formula for what works will be a little different for every person and every project, but there are definitely some great arguments for bring another person into your creative journey. How much do you collaborate in YOUR writing process…and where might you see yourself experimenting with collaboration in the future?
I’d love to hear your thoughts–please share in the comments!