Monday, July 28, 2014

The Power of Collaboration

Miranda Hardy and I want to thank everyone for their support last week as we unveiled our YA paranormal thriller, Death Knocks. What was also so exciting was how everyone became interested in the whole collaborative process. So that's what I wanted to talk about today.

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking delves into the psychology of creative people. She says that artists are "almost always individuals who like to go off by themselves - who can tolerate the solitude that creativity requires."

So very true. The fact is, collaborating with another artist - whether you're a writer, musician, or painter - is definitely not for everyone. Many writers, for example, refuse to read other books in the fear that what they're reading with subconsciously seep into their own writing.

Collaboration is a challenge for artists.

Look at Paul McCartney and John Lennon. In the beginning, they wrote many songs together. Literally sitting there with their guitars creating music. But later, as their music became more intricate and personal, their partnership became more like duel editors, going back and forth.

Here's my personal take on how collaborating with an author can be a successful adventure:

1) Brainstorm together. Miranda and I first started just swapping ideas back and forth before we even conceived the idea we'd write Death Knocks. It was just the two of us talking about a blog post I made, and it soon became obvious we were already collaborating on this idea that had taken a life on its own.

2) Give and take. Miranda and I first started working at the same time on stuff, and that logistically became impossible. It was pretty cool working via Google Docs and seeing our writing in real time, but it was tough to schedule. So we went the McCartney and Lennon route and wrote our book piece by piece, going back and forth. This worked for us because it became apparent that neither of us were willing to let EGO get in the way of our process. We'd throw ideas out there and talk it out. And the best ideas always won out in the end.

3) Make sure you're compatible. This is tied into #2. Our partnership worked because our personalities and strengths/weaknesses matched up perfectly. Miranda is much better at putting that spark into action and throwing it all down on paper. I work very differently, probably because I spent more than a decade as an editor. I'm more methodical in my approach, and I often ponder and struggle before I put anything down. Together, we made a great team.

She'd get it down, and I was good at going back and polishing and refining what we had.

4) Don't be afraid to raise the white flag. When you've got a partner, and your end product isn't working out, it's easy to just continue for fear of making the other person angry. Again, you have to shove aside your ego and look at the work itself. Our first draft of Death Knocks was essentially scrapped. It was a gut-wrenching decision to pretty much start over, but it was the right thing to do.

5) Get your ducks in a row. Make sure to deal with the business aspect of the collaboration. This includes all the details like publishing contracts, marketing costs, and other expenses. Talk it out and make sure everything is clear. Get it in writing too.

Finally: Have fun and enjoy the ride. Collaborating with another author successfully is such a blast. Writing can be such a lonely existence, and it's a nice change of pace to be able to have a great writing partner.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You scrapped the first draft? That must've been tough.
I think with the right person, writing a story together could be a lot of fun. It would be like a marriage, each filling in where the other is weak.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I've never collaborated on a fiction book, but I had a good time working with several other writers for one of my non-fiction books. You definitely need to have fun and enjoy the ride.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

It's good you were both on the same page... (Ha! Get it?) And I definitely think compatibility and balancing each other's strengths and weaknesses is important in the creative process.

Madeline @ The Shellshank Redemption

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

Wonderful advice for collaborating with someone.

Loni Townsend said...

I think I'm too much of a control freak to allow collaboration. That's great you found someone who works well with you!

Miranda Hardy said...

Wonderful post Jay! I couldn't have said it better myself.

J. A. Bennett said...

I used to have a burning desire to write a collab, but I released I don't have the disposition for it. haha :)

Maurice Mitchell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maurice Mitchell said...

Knowing when to quit is just as important as knowing when to keep fighting. Good advice. *typo*

Jay Noel said...

Alex: You're exactly right. It really is like a marriage!

Diane: It's been fun, and I look forward to collaborating again.

Madeline: Being able to compliment each other is so important

Michael: Thanks for visiting!

Loni: I'm a control freak too, so it was surprising to me too.

Miranda: Woo hoo!

Jennie: Like I said, it ain't for everyone!

Maurice: That was a tough pill to swallow, but it was for the best.

Nick Wilford said...

Very interesting post, which makes collaborating sound more attractive to me! Definitely sounds good to have a partner where you can pick up on each other's slack, and being able to bounce ideas back and forth is a great benefit.

Southpaw said...

I've been waiting for this post. It's interesting to learn how you came together.

M Pax said...

You obviously both worked very well together. Which would be the most key element.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Excellent tips. I'm so very bossy. I pity people who collaborate with me.

Stephanie Faris said...

I don't think I could do that...I'm too much of a control freak. I wasn't a very good boss, when I worked in I.T.! I'm better as a solo player--although you're always collaborating, in a sense, as long as you have an editor and publishing house. It's all teamwork--I just like to write alone! Revising, I can do as a team.

Milo James Fowler said...

Have fun -- that's the most important thing. We can't take this writing gig too seriously. Sounds like you have a very cool collaboration going. Keep up the good work, Jay & Co.

Dana said...

Like Stephanie, I'm kind of a control freak. However, I think I'd really love to try a collaboration. You never know until you try, right?

Happy weekend!

Jay Noel said...

I'm a big control freak, and I think Miranda is too! But our personalities are a good fit for working together. I think it all comes down to that.

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