Steve WetherellVisit Steve Wetherell‘s website.
There’s a romantic image of the writer as a creative force sitting alone at their desks, master of their domain, haunting their own world. Slightly removed from reality, and veiled with the artist’s mystique. Then along comes social media and blows that out of the water, and the writer stands blinking in the sudden sunlight or public scrutiny, keenly aware that they didn't bother to put on pants today.
Writers talk to their fans a lot these days, but, just as interestingly, writers talk a lot more to other writers. Team-ups, anthologies, collaborations and the like are inevitable, and while this is potentially great news for the reader, it’s also a sea worth sailing for any adventuring wordsmith out there.
Putting my money where my mouth is, I’d like to tell you about my recent experience co-authoring a novella with renowned Dick Joke and Fantasy scribe Robert Bevan. The TL;DR of the situation is this; it was great and I think all writers should do it if given the chance. Why? Read on!
I was frankly stunned at the progress I made while collaborating with another writer, with each of us putting out worthy daily word counts every day until the first draft was finished. I think as a writer, discipline is your friend, but procrastination is your lover, and keeping up a strict regime can be difficult (particularly if you're not a full time writer.) Actually making sure you get the work done is usually your own responsibility, with no one else involved, and while you’re always accountable to your readership, being accountable to another writer is a different ball game. Knowing Bevan was checking his watch waiting for me to come up with my end of the deal was a motivator, but not in a stressful way. It was kind of like being in a satisfying tennis rally…
Having some experience with article writing, I would guess that article writers have a more dynamic relationship with their editors than indie authors. When writing a book, you might pen a hundred thousand words before your editor even sees it. With articles, though, you’re getting feedback every eight hundred words or so. Working with a fellow writer was the best of both worlds, with feedback and suggestions coming almost in real time. Looking at your own work through another’s eyes is the best way to improve your game, and a collaboration is a great way of doing that.
Bevan is a far more established author than I am, so perhaps this works more in my favour, but a collaboration is a great opportunity for cross-pollination of fan bases. in this case, Bevan and I tackle similar genres and have similar influences, so I’d certainly hope that our collaboration baby (note to self: stop calling it a collaboration baby, that's weird) will have something that appeals to both camps. The theory being that Wetherell readers will become Bevan readers and visa versa. Again, I’m not sure how well this would gel if you're known for writing historical drama and your partner is known for writing snake erotica, but who knows? New genres are being born every day.
For those of you who, like me, aren't full time writers, enjoying what you do is the primary reason you do it, and a collaboration should be no exception. Some of the greatest acts in history were started by people who, first and foremost, got along well with one another. I’d recommend that, if you're going to collaborate, find someone you know, like and above all trust, to do it with. Half way through a novel is not a great place to test a friendship.
There you have it, that’s what I’ve learned from my collaboration experience. As I write this the first draft is being edited, and soon Hell’s Titties: Unleash the Beast will be sent out into the world. Hopefully to sterling critical acclaim, but maybe not. Either way, even if the book doesn't sell a single copy, I’d do it all again in a heart beat.