Collaborating – the Good
If you’ve got one or two writing friends, then collaborating on a project may be a very good way of getting you to write. Here are some of the good things you can get from it.
Now, I should say before I start proper that my experience of collaborative writing is a little limited, and restricted specifically to a “make-it-up-as-you-go” format. But that can be fascinating, of course, and I would recommend giving it a go at least once.
So, here’s the deal with this approach. Two or three people (the latter in my case), take it in turns to write a section of the story (it might be a page, a chapter, or something less well defined. In our case, it was what you might call a “scene”). One person starts, and sends their section on to the next person, who adds to this and passes the whole lot on, and so on (and yes, one of those people was Dave).
The immediately interesting and liberating thing about this approach is the massive unknowns that are inherent in the process. You do not have to have the slightest idea where a story is going to begin with, and feel no responsibility that the seeds living in the details of your work have to sprout later in the piece. It’s impossible to guess what the next person will write anyway.
This freedom will either mean a lot less, or more worry about the writing process, depending on how self-conscious you are. Personally I get some reassurance from knowing that the other people in the group are experiencing the same worries, and it makes that much easier to just start writing.
Another fantastic thing about this is that you are automatically provided with new inspiration with which to continue the story. Every time it comes round to your turn there are more new details and unexpected twists for you to pursue or ignore. It is constantly fascinating to see how others interpret little hints you leave, or pick up and develop what you thought were throw-away details. Of course, it can be just as annoying when someone completely ignores what you thought was a carefully laid out set up.
It may not be just inspiration to carry on the story either. Imagine that somewhere along the process, you come up with a brilliant scenario to occur later in the story, or maybe an entire plot. Now it may be that that never unfolds, but there’s nothing stopping you from using those ideas elsewhere.
And sometimes it’s just fun to do something with someone else for a change. Writing can often be a lonely experience, and working with someone can get you used to a few things you should be trying to do anyway. One of these is sharing your work. Some writers are a bit precious about what they’re working on, but it can be a real help to share it with a few people and get some feedback. Of course, this process is automatic when collaborating, and provides a more comfortable atmosphere with which to do it, as all sides are exchanging work.
Finally, it’s a writing experience, and as such should be embraced if you get the chance. It’s a fun challenge and can develop your writing skills in interesting ways. But, there are some downsides of course, and with time limited, you may also want to consider if you should spend that time on your own writing. Read my post next week on some of the pitfalls of collaborative writing.
What have you got out of collaborating with someone else?