Ah, collaboration. There’s nothing quite like it. And whether you’re working with someone else for the first time or are a seasoned pro, there’s always something new to learn about the art of combining styles.
I’ve tried to collaborate with other authors a few times before, but I’ve never had the kind of results I wanted. Usually the project ends up dead in the water, which is sad at best and embarrassing at worst.
So why am I concerned with collaboration today?
I’m working on a project – a supernatural YA story – with an author friend of mine. For those of you who have been following me from the beginning, you’ll probably remember me mentioning my awesome friend, Mark Gardner. He writes great books (like 16Sunsets and War of the Worlds: Retaliation), knows his way around a blog post, and even has mad skills in cover creation (check out the cover he made for my book, Banquet).
Recently he sent me a story that had stalled for him and asked me to take a look. Rip it up and put it together another way, he said. See what you can do with it.
Honestly, I don’t know how editors do it. I know what it’s like when you’ve written a story and someone sees it before it’s been edited, beta read, re-written, polished, and dressed to the nines. I’ve described it before as like being shoved out into a room full of strangers before you have a chance to get fully dressed. It’s like being naked, and it’s terrifying. (There’s a reason collaboration is so close to collapse in the dictionary. I am on the verge of it just thinking about it.)
So viewing someone else’s work in this state – and judging it?
Despite the awkwardness and with my own uncertain perfectionism standing on my shoulder like a pirate’s familiar, I’m doing it. I’m going through the manuscript a chapter at a time, a buzzard on a carcass, and trying to help him make this story more than it is. And it’s surprisingly enjoyable once I get past the feeling that I’m peeking into someone’s bedroom window.
If you’re a creator, I suggest you try collaboration. If you’re just a reader, a viewer, or a listener, try out a work created by a team. You might be pleasantly surprised at the unique voices you find.