Collaborating with another writer… Would you? Could you?

October 9, 2014

Children and education, kids and girls reading book in parkOn Tuesday of this week, I heard a fascinating interview on Minnesota Public Radio. In fact, it was so interesting that I have preempted my planned post for today in order to share it with you.

In her regular Talking Volumes live interview, Kerry Miller talked with Cassandra Clare, author of the Mortal Instruments series, and Holly Black, author of the equally well-known Spiderwick Chronicles. The two authors have recently co-written The Iron Trial, which came out in September of this year.

In the interview, they talked about the way they worked together. I found it very interesting to hear how they build on each others’ work, session by session. Here’s a video clip of them talking about their method of writing together. You can listen to the full interview here (it takes nearly an hour, just so you know).

I have heard Emma Walton Hamilton (whom I interviewed earlier this week) and her mother, Julie Andrews, talk about their way of collaborating, in which Julie provides the “flights of fancy” and Emma provides the “nuts and bolts.” They often Skype when they can’t be in the same room, and talk through all their ideas while Emma serves as scribe. Emma talks about that process in an interview I did with her in 2012. That is a very different method to the one described in the interview with Cassandra Clare and Holly Black.

A friend and I were pondering this MPR interview, and my friend suggested I ask you, my blog readers, this question:

“If you were to collaborate with someone to write a book together, what do you think you would bring to the duo? What would you want in your partner?”

I think I’d bring both flights of fancy and nuts and bolts. I love thinking up story lines, but I also am keenly aware of the grammar and sentence structure side of things. I think I’d want/need in a partner an ability to see the story arc, to understand character development, to be solidly grounded in structure, while also being able to fly. Perhaps I’m looking for the kind of meeting of equals that Cassandra Clare and Holly Black have? It’s an interesting question to ponder.

I’d love to know how you would answer the question! Feel free to tell me in the comments.

10 People reacted on this

  1. Great post! I never imagined collaborating (Control freak, much?), but a good friend who doesn’t read or write picture books had a great idea and wrote it in her own rambling 2000+-word way. Then she gave it to me and said, “Make it a picture book.” So I did. That’s what I’d like in a partner. Free reign to do whatever I want. (Yup. Control freak – totally)

    1. I’m grinning at your response, Genevieve! Thanks! Collaboration probably isn’t for everyone. (I think you and Cupcake make a great collaboration team, by the way. 🙂 )

  2. My answer is a positive Yes. I do this when writing plays with kids. Imagine 20 other people working on a project with you. That’s what I’m doing right now. It’s exciting. I actually want to write plays with other people. I can’t think of everything! I have some great characters and story line, and I know that other people could bring something to the story that I might not ever think of. I do write my plays on my own, but I know I’d be more motivated with a creative partner. In fact, I have two blogger friends in mind that I’d love to create with. As for books, I could also do that with someone, in the right project. I am good with dialogue and characters. The other person could be the one who fills in the details.

  3. I really like Genevieve’s answer! I don’t think of myself as a control freak, but because I’m an older sister, I think I am to a certain extent. I think I just don’t like to work with a partner because I’m an introvert and prefer not to talk to anyone if I can avoid it. 😉 But, yeah, if I had to work with someone, I’d prefer free reign. I do appreciate someone with a strong grammar background too. While I’m no slouch in that area, I am an ESL person and there are things that trip me up occasionally.

  4. I’ve thought about what it would be like to collaborate, but I think I’m a control freak like Teresa. If I did collaborate and had to choose, I’d chose the flights of fancy. I feel I have a good understanding of the nuts and bolts, too, but I wouldn’t want to let go of the flights if fancy. See…control freak!

  5. I found listening to Holly and Cassandra very interesting. There is actually a number of ways to collaborate with someone on a project, as you know, Beth, with the way Emma and her mother work together one with the flights of fancy and the other dealing with the nuts and bolts, and then how these other ladies work together giving each fair share of penning chapters etc…with equal share of editing. Very interesting indeed. I guess I would be open to sharing in any capacity, as long as we were on the same wave-length. I would love it.

  6. which are we, beth? we’ve been working on a book together now for, what? four years? you had the original, excellent idea and we have both flown with it.

  7. I know how Emma and her mother collaborate, but I’ve also seen other authors like Holly and Cassandra collaborating by giving equal writing/editing time.

    I think if I found the right person to collaborate with and offered a balance, I’d try it. I’ve always worked on teams with people in my career. I loved how I might have an idea and how others jumped on board with their thoughts and the product was always so much better. So yes, I would consider it. I’m not one that needs all the credit.

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