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Author Topic: Co-authoring
legolasgalactica
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I have some doubt in my ability to pull off my current writing project. Were it some personal project, Iíd be all for risking failure. However, with this current story, itís more important to me that it be done well and released to the world properly, than that I get all or even any of the credit for the work (all though that would be nice).
My self-doubt is large enough that I have and am seriously considering that it would be better to have a more experienced/talented author of like-mind and passion about the subject help write/produce it.
Any advice or thoughts about co-authoring? If someone were to approach you about it, what would you expect from them? A finished, but lacking manuscript? A detailed story outline? If youíre very experienced and successful and the person approaching you is a total novice, what would you want/expect/accept regarding rights, royalties, etc.?
Thanks.

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extrinsic
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I wouldn't get involved in what appears to me to be a ghost-written work without substantial and guaranteed payment. I have gotten into several ghost-writing projects that didn't pan out. The inspirations were worthy; the writers didn't have the fortitude nor open-mindedness needed to follow through.
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MAP
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I would never co-author anything. I'm a control freak. It sounds like you have a pretty good idea of what you want this story to be, and if you get someone else to write it for or with you, you will lose some of that control. No one will write it the way you will.

We all suffer from self-doubt. Don't let fear of failure hold you back. If you don't have the ability to pull it off now, work hard and get that ability. Don't be afraid to fail and learn from that failure. That is the only way we will grow and develop.

Remember no writing is a waste of time because we learn from it. Anything can be fixed. You can always rewrite it if it doesn't work the first time.

Writing is hard, and the only way to learn how to do it is to do it.

Good luck.

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shimiqua
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I think there's a huge difference between co-authoring, and wanting someone else to do the work for you.

Even if you find someone willing to drop all their story ideas to tell yours instead, that means they will own the story. It'll be their characters, dialog, and everything that you'll end up reading, and it won't be satisfying for you.

I'd suggest either try your best to tell your story, or else move on to the next idea, and do the work necessary to be able to tell your beloved story right. The only way to become experienced, is to do the work.

I'm working with a couple amazing writers and we're co-writing a story, and it's AWESOME. I would and will do it again. It works, because we all believe in it, and because we've all done the work.

Best of luck.
~Sheena

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legolasgalactica
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Thanks for the advice. I realize that it might just be a matter of conquering fear and low self-esteem. I have thought of moving on until I've got my feet wet a little, but its hard when this is the one that wakes me from a dead sleep with ideas.
But who knows, maybe with some courage and a lot of dedication I'll surprise myself.

Anything else about how to approach a co-authoring partnership?

Sheena, so how did it work out that you started your partnership? Did you know each other beforehand and this project grew out of an existing relationship?

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legolasgalactica
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Just FYI: It's not that my writing is terrible, i feel comfortable with the overall narrative and descriptions but when it comes to people--I've just never been much of a people person or conversationalist and i feel that it shows through in my characters' interactions. I feel like an alien masquerading as a human who's still trying to figure out normal human relations and when i write, my characters feel fake, the dialogue forced, flat, and lifeless. No matter how i try it all comes out clunky and unnatural. It is in this aspect that I thought i could use the help of another.
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LDWriter2
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I would co-author because I could use some help in a certain area of one of my novels but it would depend on who was the co-author was.

If it was a pro--this has happened to starting writers even though very rare--I would most probably go for it. If it was someone I didn't know I would probably reject them. If it was someone in-between I would have to think about it.

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tesknota
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I would co-author for only a few reasons:

1. Because we share similar thoughts and beliefs toward both writing and the specific work.

2. Because I admire my partner's writing.

In answer to your questions, legolasgalactica, I would want to split each part up equally. We both work on the outline. We both work on each chapter. We both revise. Of course we can take turns going first, but I would need to contribute to every step of the process to fully accept and believe in the end product.

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Pyre Dynasty
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I have successfully co-written one novel and failed at two others. I took a class from Tracy Hickman and learned his method. This is what I've learned:

1. First and foremost you don't go into a partnership to make up for your own weaknesses. It's not their job to do your job. Your approach shouldn't be, "I'm not good enough please help me." It should be, "I'm awesome, you're awesome, I'd bet we could write something super-awesome."
2. You enter into a partnership because the chemistry between both people creates a synergy you can't get otherwise.
3. Cast all thoughts about who is the better writer out of your thoughts. If you think the other is better then that breeds jealousy. If you think the other is worse that breeds superiority. It's a partnership, both of you
4. Leave your ego upstairs. (This is from the Hickmans who write in their basement.)
5. There will come a time when you both hate each other. I've known plenty of marriages that ended because of a book. Just know that it's coming and that it will pass.
6. You have to be totally honest with the person you're writing with. Honest about your feelings especially when they are hurt. Honest about your vision for the product.
7. Make sure you are both dedicated to the project. It burns me up that I have half a novel that I dearly want to finish but can't because the other half has but-first disease.
8. Negotiate from the beginning, who does what, who owns what rights (Usually 50/50 is best,) what the plan for publication is. Possibly draw up a promissory agreement. (Also something I wish I'd thought of, decide what happens if one half drops out.)
9. Tracy Hickman's method for co-writing is one is the wordsmith and the other is the guardian. The wordsmith writes the rough draft, then the guardian heavily edits it, adding scenes and removing others, then the wordsmith rewrites it so it's in a singular voice. This comes with planning beforehand by both of them. There are plenty of other ways, experiment.
10. The biggest danger to a project is one person feeling they are doing more work than the other. This is a dragon that must be battled constantly.
11. It is probably best to start a partnership before you start the story rather than bring someone else in on a project you have already begun. To echo what has been said, no one can tell your story but you. If I signed on with you then it would become our story and it would be different from the thing that's clawing on your brain demanding to be told.
12. The most important for last: co-authoring is twice the work for half the pay. People think it's less work when they first start trying, that the other person will share the load. It's not true. The other person will create as many new problems to solve as they themselves solve. You have to come out with ideas sometimes before they are fully formed. You have to hear, "that's stupid" once in a while, and say it just as often.

Oh dear, I do love making lists.

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LDWriter2
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Some good advice here.

I would add that with my book I think I want more how to advice with one area of the plot not a whole section written for me. While writing that area I realized I didn't know how to do it. I try to recall how other writers do it so I am probably some where around 80% guessing.

But at the same time if a well known writer was to ask me to join them in a book I would probably say yes. The chances of that are probably along the lines of winning the lottery but it has been known to happen. If I did though I would want, on paper, an understanding of what I was suppose to do and the other writer was to do and when.

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MartinV
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quote:
I feel like an alien masquerading as a human who's still trying to figure out normal human relations ...
That's my line. [Big Grin]
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Jim Aikin
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quote:
Originally posted by legolasgalactica:
Thanks for the advice. I realize that it might just be a matter of conquering fear and low self-esteem. I have thought of moving on until I've got my feet wet a little, but its hard when this is the one that wakes me from a dead sleep with ideas.
But who knows, maybe with some courage and a lot of dedication I'll surprise myself.

Everything Pyre Dynasty said makes sense to me. Collaborating worked like a charm for Niven and Pournelle. I don't know how they split up the work, but I'm pretty sure they were both established pro authors before they teamed up.

The thing I want to mention is that ideas are cheap and plentiful. It's wonderful that you've got ideas -- write them down! Worry about how to bang the book into shape after you've got some stuff written. The thing is, if you're looking for a more accomplished writer to help you get past the areas where you're weak, you have to understand that that other writer ALSO has tons of great ideas waiting in the queue.

In a related field (interactive fiction) I sometimes see plaintive forum messages from people who have a great idea for a text adventure and are hoping to find an experienced author to write the code. This is a fruitless quest for several reasons, not least because the people who know how to write IF code are busy writing their own games. They don't need ideas. Also, the novice's ideas may be very impractical (in a game programming sense) for reasons that the novice is not aware of. I suspect the same thing applies in conventional fiction: Your most treasured idea might have to be changed or tossed out entirely by your collaborator, if it doesn't work in the context of the story.

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shimiqua
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quote:
Sheena, so how did it work out that you started your partnership? Did you know each other beforehand and this project grew out of an existing relationship?
I'm collaborating with Melanie (unwritten) and Sabrina (boredcrow). I met them both here on hatrack when they were amazing beta readers for me, and I tried my best to be a beta reader for them.

I'd suggest beta reading for someone before you make a collaboration with them. It's important to see how they take criticism, and to see how insightful and honest they are. Also, then you can see where they are in their writing journey. Collaboration is a lot of work, and you want to be sure you've all done your homework.

It wasn't something we planned on doing, it just kind of happened, but I went into it with confidence, because I knew how amazing those girls are. We decided to collaborate on a project after we had blogged together over at theprosers, and I knew they were consistent people who wouldn't flake out on me, and I knew they had similar sense of humor and style.

We're super different though. Sabrina writes horror, and science heavy sci-fi, Melanie writes fantasy romance, and I write weird stuff. (Who knows what going to come out next.) We've found a kind of alchemy that works; we're a bit scary, and romantic, and weird, so we chose the project to be YA paranormal romance.

My main suggestion before starting, is to not bring a project idea into a collaboration. Create it together, because then you all own it.

Collaborating has been an amazing experience to me. I write by instincts 99 % of the time, and sometimes I'll come to my partners with this brilliant idea my instincts have told me to do next, and they look at me like...no. No, that's not the right choice.

I get flummoxed, and emotional, and my instincts are screaming, "Yes it is!" That's what needs to happen next." Why is no one listening to me?

I don't actually scream.

But then, usually after a good sleep, I come back and realize that logically, it's just a plot bunny I'm trying to chase us after. Sometimes I realize it is the the right decision, I just need to write it out and let them read what I meant to do. When I do that, it's worked.

It's been helpful because now I need to explain my decisions and instincts to them, and it keeps me on track. Which is something I didn't realize I needed.

It's also cool to work in front of people, because I can see SO much clearer what my process is.

We are almost finished with our second draft, and usually second drafts are the death of stories for me, because they are hard! But having my partners helping me keep to my deadline,which helps me so much to not turn to the next shiny story and let the second draft "sit." When I'm stuck, they help me with suggestions.

In a way, it's like having incredibly smart beta readers that know every thought you've ever had, and an intimate view of the characters. It's been amazing.

It's hard though not to take the character too much to heart though. We've each written our own POV character, and I can't tell you how weird it is to have my character Sam confess his feelings to my partner's character, or have one of them bad mouth something my character did, and not take it personally.

I have to remind myself on a frequent basis that Sam is just a character. He's not an extension of me.

Collaborating isn't for the tender-skinned. But it's been amazing, and we're creating something way beyond what we would have created on our own.

And we're all pretty awesome.

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Unwritten
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I haven't been on hatrack for a while, and this happens to be the first thing I jump to! I guess it's on my mind. I've got to second everything shimiqua said, especially the part about beta-reading for them first. Writing styles don't always mesh well, but I knew Sabrina and Sheena's would work with mine. And we are all pretty awesome.
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legolasgalactica
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Quote by Shimiqua: "My main suggestion before starting, is to not bring a project idea into a collaboration. Create it together, because then you all own it."

That is the main reason for my request for advice and why this has been blocking my progress with this project is that I didn't want to get everything too planned out or too attached to a particular story line if someone where to join the project.

I also wasn't sure of other writer's preferences (obviously everyone's different, but I still wanted to see other's views) as to whether they'd prefer collaborating on a nearly finished work or one hardly thought through, etc.

My thought was to approach several people who are experienced and have dealt with nearly this exact kind of project before, people who'd see the genius, importance, and timely necessity of such a work. I do know of two or three such authors who would probably like the project even if they didn't accept the offer--assuming they had time. But I didn't want to waste their time or mine with an undesirable proposal or even with anything at all if most here thought it'd be a bad idea.

Thanks to the advice here, I've pretty much abandoned that idea.

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