Iain and I have been writing collaboratively for nearly a year now.
We’ve written fiction and non fiction. We’ve planned, plotted and edited a LOT of words during that time. Clovenhoof, our novel is now very close to publication. We’ve learned a thing or two about how to play nicely together. Here are some top tips:
Don’t sweat the small stuff
If you’re super-prepared collaborators, you will have worked out some ground rules about how the collaboration will work. If you’re really canny, you will have worked out a way to bring up small problems and irritations if they arise, in advance.
But what do you do if your collaborator is doing something that you don’t like? There are two choices – accept it, or bring it up and talk to them about it. You need to decide how much it really bothers you. If it’s a small thing that you can live with, then just get over it. Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to grumble and gossip about your partner to someone else.
If this was a list of just ONE essential habit, it would be regular communication! Even the above point is much easier to tackle if you have worked out a way to bring up difficult subjects with your writing partner. The best way to do this is to assume, right at the beginning that there will be difficulties, and maybe even plan in some chats about how the process is going, and whether you’re both happy with the way you’re working. Communication is essential when things are going well too. If your partner impresses you with some nifty plotting or some sparkling dialogue then be sure to tell them. It keeps you both bouncing along if you know you’re doing it right.
If yours is a democratic partnership then make sure it stays that way. It’s fairly easy to split the actual writing, and we’ve blogged before about the cycle of synopsis / writing /editing that means that you can both have equal involvement in each chapter. There are other jobs to do though, so make sure that you keep things fair.
Know your characters
Writers are very protective of their characters. If you’re going to argue with each other, then don’t let it be because you treat the characters badly.
f you have developed your characters together then you will each know exactly what they would do in any given situation. You can develop characters with the index card method, and then test that you both have the same understanding using the Mr and Mrs game.
Introduce a sex doll
Sharing ideas. It’s one of the best parts of collaborating. Something that we found to be rather useful when stuck was to throw in the most outrageous possibility. The first time we tried this we threw in a sex doll. We exchanged sex doll anecdotes and tittered like schoolchildren at the possibilities it opened up. This sparked some memorable scenes and made us unafraid to ask for ideas during the rest of the process.