Collaboration made easy: 6 ways to build a writing relationship



Alexis Brown/Unsplash

Sean Williams, Flinders University

Writing is a pastime best conducted on your own — or so common wisdom would have it. Yet writing teams exist, and in many realms they are expected. Take television, where the writers’ room is the norm. Or the academy: one physics paper has 5,154 authors.

In literature, collaborations are more common than you might realise. For every superstar Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett team-up (Good Omens), there might be an F. Scott Fitzgerald and his uncredited wife Zelda, or a “James S. A. Corey” (The Expanse) being the pseudonym for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

Although new writers such as the Brontë siblings may collaborate, the practice seems to fall away with age, perhaps because writing relationships can be as fraught as familial ones, with as many pitfalls to navigate.

Add to this a collaboration nearly always proves to take as long as a solo work and any monies might have to be divided among the contributors. Why would anyone willingly share their art with someone else for little to no benefit?




Read more:
10½ commandments of writing


In my experience, collaborating can be creatively stimulating, educative, motivating, productive, and revitalising. Plus, it’s great to have a friend to keep you company on a publicity tour.

Here are six techniques to help would-be co-writers take their first steps in this direction.

1. The chain

This is the simplest method, one of two that require first settling on what your story will be and then breaking the writing of it into bits completed separately, in chronological order.

There are many ways to serially tackle the discrete tasks that will combine to form a glorious whole. Some teams might choose to write alternate scenes, chapters or sections; others might alternate whole drafts, giving each participant long stretches of time to work on solo projects.

Whichever way you tear it down, every member of the team has a professional obligation to deliver. Break one link in the chain and it falls apart.

The chain method can give each writer long stretches of time to work on solo projects.
Brad Neathery/Unsplash

2. Parallel processing

The second way to devolve an outline requires trust and communication beyond that required of ordinary collaborative relationships.

In parallel processing, you divide characters among authors, so one provides the voice of X, another Y, and so on. Each arc is written separately, then edited together when complete. If X or Y diverge too much from their expected paths, plotting and structural problems can arise, but the powerful juxtaposition of distinct voices can outweigh the risk.

3. The hothouse

An extreme version of serial collaboration, this method used to require being physically in the same room as your writing partner(s). One starts writing and keeps writing until they get stuck. They then tag in the next writer, who takes over. Repeat until done. Food and sleep are optional.

The benefit of this method is the words are guaranteed to keep coming.

These days the “in person” requirement is greatly relaxed. Google Docs is just one platform allowing writers to work on the same document at the same time, no matter where they are.

4. The undertakers

Brainstorming what a story will contain is, for many collaborators, the fun part — providing they can agree on a final project.

One method of achieving this agreement is by giving one of the co-writers a veto to be exercised when consensus can’t be reached.

Another method requires every element of the final project must be agreed to by every collaborator. This can be time-consuming to achieve but avoids any lingering resentment if someone is outvoted or overruled.

To avoid any lingering resentment, every decision can be agreed on by every collaborator.
Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

More generally, every shared undertaking should have a binding agreement in place before serious work commences, covering issues such as whose name goes first, which agent will sell the work, how any resulting IP will be divided, and so on.

It is much better to have these agreements in place and not need them than the other way around.

5. The Marxist Manifesto

Collaborators should have common ambitions but complementary skills, otherwise you might as well work alone. The way roles are divided in the working relationship can reflect those skill sets – which might, of course, lie in non-writerly areas such as business or marketing.

To some, the perfect collaboration is one in which every participant’s weaknesses are covered by strengths in their fellows. Everyone contributes and everyone learns by example.

Not everyone needs to write. Someone on the team might have the perfect brain for business or marketing.
Helena Lopes/Unsplash

6. Resurrection of the dead

Finally, the easiest and safest way to audition a potential co-writer is to give them a failed draft and see what they accomplish with it. If it’s a success, great: the original author gains a new collaborator and a finished work.

Should this (or any of these methods fail) the author is no worse off.

They can just revert to writing alone – for some their natural habitat.The Conversation

Sean Williams, Senior Lecturer, Flinders University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Site: Building a Children’s Library


The link below is to a page on The Guardian’s website that is concerned with putting together a collection of books for a child’s library. Well worth a look I think.

For more visit:
http://www.theguardian.com/books/series/building-a-children-s-library

Article: Human Chain Moves 50 000 Books into New Library


How do you move 50 000 books from an old library building into the new library building? In the Uintah County Library it is done by forming a human chain.

For more visit:
http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765590083/Hundreds-form-a-human-chain-in-Vernal-to-move-50000-library-books.html

Article: Building a Library with Diigo


The link below is to an article, which though old, will still be a useful introduction to the bookmarking service Diigo. The service is so much more than a bookmarking service though, being a very useful service for research and online library building.

Diigo V5: Collect and Highlight, Then Remember! from diigobuzz on Vimeo.

For more visit:
http://www.knowthenetwork.com/2010/01/turning-links-into-a-library-with-diigo/

Free Book: Planet ebook


More Free Books

The link below is to a listing of free ebooks available at Planet ebook. A good number of free books to start building your digital library.

To visit:
http://www.planetebook.com/free-ebooks.asp

Library: Ideas for Building Your Library Infrastructure


The link below is to an article on various bookshelf designs – some of which seem a bit not so practical as perhaps required. Anyhow, there could be some ideas for your own library here.

For more visit:
http://www.buzzfeed.com/melismashable/20-insanely-creative-bookshelves

LIFE AT THE BOOKSHELF: A Life Around Books


I have spent a lot of my time around books. I love books. I can’t have enough books – at least it certainly seems that way. I’m always on the lookout for books. I don’t buy a lot of new books these days, however, if there is a good one – well, I just have to buy it.

I’ve always read a lot. Early in life I probably read more out of necessity in order to pass subjects and exams. It wasn’t until I left school that I really got a passion for books. What spurred my passion for books was my growing interest in Christianity and my subsequent embrace of it. I just wanted to learn and to learn as much as I could. So I started to buy books

Somewhere along the track I became interested in reading books of other subjects as well, especially books to do with history. I also read novels, but for me to read a novel it has to have a great plot. One of my favourite authors is Tom Clancy, which probably gives you some idea of the type of novels I read.

Of course I collected books on horticulture (I trained as a horticulturist), cooking, computers, travel, wilderness and other areas that I was interested in. However my real passion in books has always been theological and historical.

At the moment my life is in a ‘treading water-like’ situation. I’m probably still another 6 months away from moving into another home to rent (I currently live in a caravan park in a cabin), so the vast majority of my books are in storage and I can’t get at them because they are quite some distance away and I don’t have a car. There probably isn’t a day that goes by that I wish I had access to some book or another. I am longing for the day when I’ll be able to make use of all my books again.

I’ve probably managed to collect another couple of boxes of books in the time I have been away from them and I am slowly accumulating a collection of them in the cabin. They are enough to get me by at this stage, but my various interests are crying out for the books to assist me in them.

I have begun to place a listing of the books I own on my web site at particularbaptist.com and will eventually add them to my Shelfari presence as well. A look at the list (which is nowhere near complete) soon gives an idea of the number of books I have.

See the list at:

http://www.particularbaptist.com/kevins/kevinslibrary.html

See my Shelfari Profile at:

http://www.shelfari.com/particularkev

I have also started accumulating books online at both the particularbaptist.com website and the Kevin’s Family – History Site. These two virtual libraries encapsulate the two main areas of my passion for books – theology and history.

It is for these two libraries (other than my own interest of course) that I am buying out of copyright theological and historical books. Gradually I am building up my collection of online books in these libraries, sharing my passion for books and the wealth in books with a much wider audience.

Visit the libraries at:

http://particularbaptist.com/library/libraryindex.html

http://particularbaptist.com/matthewshistory/library/articles.html

Not only do these libraries contain the works that I have collected and put online, they also have many links to others works that others have placed online. In short, these two virtual libraries have an enormous amount of resources in them – enough to keep the most avid reader going for a life time.

I have now started the ‘At The BookShelf’ Blog and the ‘Reformed Reading Group’ at Shelfari to provide another aspect to sharing my passion for books, especially in the two areas I have mentioned – theology and history. With these two latest sites I will be able to interact with visitors and discuss various books, what we have learnt, questions and issues raised, enjoy fellowship, etc. So I am really hoping that my visitors will join the Reformed Reading Group (I am thinking especially of Reformed Christians here obviously – though others are most welcome) and get involved in the discussion, as well as having visitors interacting via the comments provision here at ‘At The BookShelf.’

Visit the Reformed Reading Group at:

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/36946/about

What I intend to post here in the Blog are reviews of the books I have read and possibly some quotes from some of the books also. I will probably also be posting URLs for new books (old books) I post in the two virtual libraries also.

What else is left to say but please get involved at some of the sites I have mentioned? You won’t regret it.