Let’s Talk Collaborative Writing

Just about two years ago, JR Murdock and I decided to undertake the grand adventure/experiment of collaborating on a book.

We both knew each other virtually through Twitter and through each other’s writing, but we had never really talked. So, I extended the invitation to JR and we began to discuss the pros and cons of working together on a book.

The first thing we had to nail down was what the book would actually be about. Seems like an obvious thing to know going in, don’t you think? The truth was, we knew it had to have humour in it, it had to be fantastic and that was about it. The idea of Steampunk was probably one of the first things we talked about.

So, at the end of our first conversation, we knew we wanted to write something Steampunk with humour. Over the course of a few more days we extended that to include YA and Superhero elements as well. We came up with our heros and our protagonists and the motivations and plot for each.

Now we were cooking with gas!

Except, how to move forward?

NaNoWriMo was coming up quickly and we thought we would use that as a vehicle to see how much of the book we could write in 30-days. We once again met (by the way, these meetings were all via Skype) and did a chapter by chapter outline of what the story should be including the when’s, where’s and who’s. I was to write the antagonist side and JR was writing the protagonist. When we were finished our outlining, we had a pretty good idea of who was writing what chapters and kind of how they would tie together.

So, the plan was, take our own separate pieces of the outline, go away and write like crazy on them during NaNoWriMo.

Let me pause a moment here to say, we made some very good progress during NaNoWriMo on the book (and other projects as well). When we pulled everything together we saw some obvious holes in the manuscript. We also saw a lot of little continuity errors. JR would describe something one way and I would see it a different way. He had me put a case down somewhere when my characters hadn’t picked it up yet.

Niggly little things that are taking a while to clean up.

Then, after NaNo when we were almost finished the book we had one major battle scene to write that naturally included both sets of characters, JR’s and mine. We decided to play tag, so to speak. JR would write a portion of the scene and then I would write a portion.

Two amazing things happened: (1) it went extremely quickly (even faster than previous writing had gone) and (2) the continuity errors disappeared. That experiment proved, for us at least, that having everything pre-plotted was only part of the equation. The second, and perhaps more important piece is, we also need to work very closely as we write. That will minimize/eliminate the continuity errors and perhaps move the whole book along more quickly. Consequently, the second book (and, yes, it is already plotted) will feature a different method of collaboration than most of the first.

Now we just have to get a couple of our individual project out of the way so we can get working on the next one. That and I need to finish my round of edits on the current Jack Kane novel so we can send it out to beta readers.

Good luck with your collaboration efforts.


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