I don’t know if you’ve read any books penned by more than one author. I have. Some notable ones are Doon by Lorie Langdon and Carey Corp (loved it) or the Obsidian Mountain Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory (awesome!). It’s no stretch to say that more than 99% of the books I’ve read in my life have been written by one author.
I used to think that writing was a solo endeavor. You came up with a story, you made it the best it could be, you sent it to a publisher, they liked it so they published it. Hahahahahahah. Wrong!
While the majority of writing may be solo, read the acknowledgment section of any book and you’ll see that it really does take a village: critique partners, beta readers, friends and family, agents, editors, publishers, cover designers… Many people have a hand in making books the polished, wonderful works of art they become. But the author generally has the final say on the product.
So how is it different when you’re collaborating with another author (or more than one) to create a story? Well, I’m so glad you asked! Because that’s what I’d like to talk to you about today. 😉
I don’t know how everyone does it, but I’m currently working on a few different collaborative projects so I thought you might be interested in my experience.
For Mike Lynch’s No Revolution is Too Big series, Mike had written a short story about a character named Stelfson. He invited other authors to contribute stories to make an anthology, with each story revolving around the Stelfson character. This was an interesting endeavor in that we only read Mike’s story before we wrote ours, so we didn’t know what the other authors did with Stelfson in their stories. Now, I got to cheat a bit because two of my critique partners also wrote stories for that anthology. So I actually read three Stelfson stories before writing mine. (Shhh, don’t tell).
The thing that has been interested with this collaboration is how well the tone of the stories match. Stelfson comes through very Stelfson-y in all of the stories I have read so far. About half the series is published already, and once all the stories are published, they will be combined into a single anthology. A nice memento for my bookshelf.
For the Colony Zero project, Helping Hands Press provided the premise for the story and basic descriptions for the key characters. The first story (Colony Zero v1: Contact) was written by seven of us together. Each author wrote ~1200 words and we built off one another. It was a lot of fun to see what the next person would do with the story. Talk about pantsing vs. plotting! Travis Perry started the story, then Mark Venturini continued it, then it was passed to Mark Carver, Tracy Krauss, Shannon Laws, Grace Yee, and me. My job was to leave it with a cliffhanger to make readers want to come back for the rest of the series. Once everyone had their part drafted, we had to go back and make sure all the details made sense.
Now we’re each picking a character and writing their back-story—what happened to them before they reached volume 1. Once those are complete, we’ll resolve all the story lines for each character to finish the set. Eventually these will be combined into one (big) book as well.
I’m also co-writing a sci-fi novel with Mike Lynch. This is new for me—writing a whole book with one other person. Mike had the premise and outline, and we’re drafting it now. He writes two chapters, hands it off to me for comments, and when we’re satisfied, I write the next two chapters. We go on like that until the draft is finished, then we’ll have to edit it until is shiny and ready to submit to publishers.
I think Mike has the short end of the stick on this one. He writes much faster than I do. He’ll get me his part in a few days and then have to wait a couple of weeks to get back to him with my part. (I’m not a very fast writer). Sorry, Mike!
So what have I learned from all this?
There are benefits to working with other authors:
Accountability – if someone is waiting for you to write a part of the story, you have to get it done.
Quality – each writer has different skills and abilities. By collaborating with others, you add fullness to a piece that may be lacking if you write it alone.
Creativity – this is my favorite. There’s nothing like bouncing ideas off others, especially when it comes to world building (the story’s setting). Adding characters, gadgets, politics, and nuance make a story richer. The more people you have working with it, the more solid it will be.
And two potential drawbacks:
Compromise – this can be a hard one if you’re a control freak. There are points in a story where you will want it to go one way, and your partner(s) will want to take it another way. You have to come up with a middle ground that will work for the story.
Impasse – what happens when compromise doesn’t work. It’s useful to have someone be a designated lead so that when opinions differ, someone has the authority to make a final decision.
Well, that’s it folks. Did you learn anything about working with other writers that surprised you? Is there anything you want to know that I didn’t cover?
To get to know Lisa’s characters better, check out Colony Zero v1: Contact, released February 2014 and available for purchase here.
In 2810, they’re called Zeroes.
Some Zeroes are born, somehow slipping through the genetic screening and purification tests in utero mandated by an overpopulated Earth. Others become Zeroes later, the worst murderers and thieves and abusers, despite the same genetic screening. Whether born or made, they are Earth’s outcasts, the dregs, sent to a perpetually dark rock orbiting a Y-class brown dwarf star by a society without the patience or desire to deal with them.
The Relocation Ministry cites the humanity of the process, offering the Zeroes a chance at a new life. Yet the overcrowded world secretly knows with silent approval that they’re sent to Colony Zero for one reason: to die. That is until the RM ship Valkyrie 2 arrives on a routine survey mission to retrieve core samples. It is on that dark wind-swept planet that the crew discovers a far different secret.
In First Contact, the opening installment of Remington Colt’s Colony Zero series, the secret discovered not only threatens the crew’s deepest held beliefs, it threatens their return to Earth, a home where some soon realize the word “acceptance” has taken on a very dark and disturbing meaning.
LISA GODFREES is a wife, mom, works part-time at a church, and writes Christian speculative fiction (sci-fi/fantasy) in her spare time. Former forensic scientist turned seminary student turned stay-at-home mom turned writer, she is living the dream. As a native Texan, Lisa knows there are only two real seasons in Texas: summer and sprall (spring/fall).
Lisa enjoys digging into the Bible to learn more about God (she calls it “theology”) and is passionate about writing and reading young adult speculative fiction. Her goal is to put a new spin on Bible stories that get people, especially youth, interested in reading the Bible.
Follow Lisa at lisagodfrees.com, thescriblerians.wordpress.com, www.facebook.com/LisaGodfrees, and on Twitter @LisaGodfrees.
Isn’t Lisa great?!? Comment below for a chance to win an electronic copy of Colony Zero v1: Contact. Congrats to Jennifer Essad, last week’s winner of a copy of All Who Dream by Nicole Deese.
As always, thank your for hithering and venturing to another world with me. Please visit again next week for an interview with Elizabeth Ludwig, author of Dark Road Home.