A few weeks ago, I got a box of books in the mail. You know the drill – and the buzz you feel when you open something that contains hard copies of your work. This was a little different, though, as the box consisted of copies of APOLLO’S DAUGHTERS, a sci-fi prose anthology. I have a short in there, “EarthNight: Last Passage.”
I’ve always loved sci-fi. Even wrote a handwritten, 100-page Star Trek novel in middle school English class. No, I won't send you a copy (it was called Star Trek: Mosaic).
So, yeah. This was very exciting. The big difference was that the story was a collaborative effort. I’d co-written it with my good friend and comic book scribe Justin Aclin. This piece, along with another tag-team short story I’m working on with a fellow author (tease, tease, tease!) got me to thinking about collaboration – the challenges, the potential landmines and the great benefits that come from teaming up with someone else to create a piece of fiction greater than the sum of its parts.
I’ve always been open to working with other people. Maybe it’s because I’ve worked in comics, which is a hugely collaborative field that involves many players. Whatever the reason, I’ve found most of my collaborations – be it with another writer, an artist or as an editor – to be greatly informative and useful to my other, solo work. Here are some tips that you may find helpful if/when you find yourself jamming on something new with a fellow creator:
Be open. The entire reason you’re collaborating is so the end result will be something different. So, don’t get itchy if the process is different. Change can be good, especially if you’re set in your ways. The best part of collaborating with another writer is exploring your differences and seeing how they can help your own writing down the line.
Pick your battles. This goes hand in hand with being open to things. At some point, you won’t like what someone is doing – in terms of execution, style, format, whatever. Say your piece. Keep communication open. Be direct. But, for your own benefit and reputation, speak your mind when it’s worth it. Don’t declare war because they put two spaces after a period. Do declare war if they use adverbs more often than “the.”
Make it count. Working with someone is no fun if you’re doing all the heavy lifting or, on the flipside, if you’re just along for the ride. Make it a unique experience and equally unique product by bringing your talents into the mix as you would with your own, standalone work. Treat it like it’s all yours, even if you’re sharing it with someone else.
Be professional. Working with someone is very different than chatting at the hotel bar, or shooting the shit at an author event. Ideally, there’s money involved and there will definitely be deadlines involved. Do your part to the best of your ability and communicate if something goes wrong.
Don’t be a dick. This is a great rule for all aspects of life, but worth repeating here. Be kind, be helpful, be understanding and be communicative. You’re more likely to work with someone again if they’re all those things to you, so why not preemptively return the favor?
Hope these help. Have you collaborated on something? How’d it go? What advice would you share? Sound off below.
Great post, Alex. Collaboration is both fun and a great way to learn new things. Collaborating with my wife (aka my first editor!) on stories is always great. Last year, I also collaborated with friends to create a podcast and to publish a comic book. I loved everything about it, and look forward to doing more of it.
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