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Collaborating on a novel

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I've begun collaborating with a friend from my writers' circle on a MG novel (eventually a series, we hope), and I'm loving it. This is a huge surprise for someone who grew up hating group work in school.

 Here's why I'm so pumped:

 1. Now that I have someone to be accountable to, the creative work gets scheduled in with my freelance writing and editing instead of always being relegated to "when I have time."

 2. My perfectionist has taken a hike. It's so freeing to be writing along and just include a note like, "more description of kitchen needed here."

 3. It's like having a writing fairy who looks after all the gaps. In the example above, I never stop being tickled by coming back later to find that the additional description has been added. And often (usually) there's something unexpected that delights me.

 4. My inspiration and motivation are through the roof, having someone to talk about the characters with and someone to help solve issues that arise.

 Have any of you ever collaborated on a novel? How is/was your experience?
#1 - October 26, 2013, 09:32 AM

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Wonderview, I'm glad it's a good experience. I have a writer friend who wanted to collaborate on a novel a couple of years ago. I didn't. For me it would be like collaborating on breathing--an organizational mess that ends with somebody dead. But it's great to hear that it can work well.
#2 - October 26, 2013, 11:58 AM
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Wonderview, I think there are a lot of people who will want to hear what you have to share about how a partnership works. I do know of a few writing duos, and I imagine all their processes are a little different, and I think it would be fascinating to hear how new writing partners arrive at and settle into what works for them. It's great that it seems to have given you such a shot in the arm.
#3 - October 26, 2013, 01:04 PM
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Dewsanddamps, I completely understand your reaction. In fact, I think it would have been mine, too, until recently.

I think for me it's a matter of having found the perfect writing partner. Dawn and I know each other well on both personal and professional levels. Having worked together for a few years organizing a pretty large annual fundraising event, so we knew we could trust each other to put in the work that is required and to communicate clearly about expectations etc. Plus, we have very similar writing styles, and from being in the same writers' circle for 5ish years we also trust one another's skill and imagination.

#4 - October 26, 2013, 01:19 PM

MRH, I find the whole question of how people find their "collaborating groove" fascinating, which is why I began this thread. I hope come collaborators out there will join in the conversation.

At first Dawn and I simply agreed that we wanted to collaborate and started throwing very general ideas back and forth about what excited and interested us. We agreed that our goal would be to have a really good time with the story, whatever it turned out to be, because we could both use a bit of fresh air in our writing lives.

We discussed the idea of writing a book in two voices, each taking one, and also the possibility of it being told in letters. But then we came up with the idea for the series and it didn't turn out that way.

Here's how our process works:
1. We work together to decide on details about setting, character and plot
2. One of us writes a VERY rough draft (more of an outline, really) to give us something to work with.
3. We then go through it fleshing it out. Sometimes we assign ourselves certain sections, and other times we just say, "I'll do whatever I can in 30 minutes and send it to you.`
4. We use the "track changes" function in Word and share the file via Dropbox
5. If we agree with the changes, we accept them and they become part of the document. If not, we make our own changes and/or put comments in the margin about why. There`s no ego involved here, only the question of what best serves the story.
6. We share excerpts with our writers' circle to get their feedback.
7. We continue steps 4 to 6 until it's ready for a final polishing and then do that.

And... that`s it. Interestingly, my sister is an academic, and she says our process is quite similar to the way she and her colleagues collaborate on research papers.

#5 - October 26, 2013, 01:31 PM

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Because of copyright and other legal issues involved, IMHO it would be a good idea to put a partnership agreement in writing before the process gets much farther along, preferably with the help of an intellectual property attorney with experience in publishing. Some considerations: who owns the rights to the work if something terrible happens to one of the partners or if they just get bored and want to move on, what are the tax implications if the work is wildly successful, how do you register the copyright, etc.
#6 - October 26, 2013, 01:55 PM

Thanks for the suggestion, AnneB. Again, I'm interested to hear if others have gone through this process and, if so, what their agreement looked like.
#7 - October 26, 2013, 09:12 PM


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