The Art of Collaboration

The mind of a writer is a strange and wondrous thing. No, really. I mean, think about it, all we really want to do is sit in a quiet room somewhere, fingers tapping away at a keyboard as we work on our latest epic, or poem, or epic poem, or whatever. But in order to be able to do that properly, in order to get to the heart of the thing, we need to know people. We need to get what makes them tick. We need to understand the rhythm and flow of dialog, and life. We need to pick up on the little tricks of body language. We need to play well with others.

But we don’t want to talk to people. Well, not most of us. Not most of the time.

Of course, that’s a very big generalisation and it is also a very big over-simplification, which is more the problem. Because most writers do like people. Most writers do like interaction.

At the very least, most writers really like to talk to other writers. It’s nice to know that we aren’t alone. It’s nice to know we aren’t the only idiot locking ourselves away in a room while we try to explain why the world is the way it is. And that is one of the great things about the internet– we can stay in our quiet room and interact all at the same time.

And it brings about all sorts of opportunities we wouldn’t otherwise see.

Recently, a meme thing started going around on Facebook and from that, a friend and I came up with an idea for a ‘story’. (I put it in quotes because it isn’t quite a simple as that, but anyway.) And I really think it could work. I think it could get a lot of readers and create some interest. (Of course, it may just be me and my mother reading it, though it isn’t really her type of story.) And it is the perfect vehicle for collaboration. There will be multiple, interlinking story lines with any number of characters. We could have ten or twenty writers working on it, (We are only in the planning stages and have already recruited someone else) weaving stories around each other as we build the bigger world in the background.

But this wonderful opportunity for collaboration also create problems. Firstly, I’m on holidays at the moment (until Monday) and I’m keen and ready to go. The other two conspirators are not in the same situation. They have other stuff to do. This won’t be an issue once we get the whole thing up and running because there will really be no pressure to write– it will be a case of do what you can when you can and the others can go on ahead (or backwards, if they want) without you– but at the moment it doesn’t work that way.

There will also be problems once we get deeper into the story. At the moment the history and back story is nonexistent– we’ll make that up as we go along. But the further we forge into the unknown, the less unknown it becomes and the more restrictions we will place upon ourselves. I don’t mind that so much, really– it’s the way I usually work– but for the first time ever, someone else will be creating those restrictions along with me. Something someone else wrote six months ago (this is a web-based story that could last for years) could make it impossible for me to do things that I want to do.

But…

Something someone wrote six months ago might also send my story off in unexpected directions. It might give me ideas that I would never have thought of before. It might create such an interesting web of history and character and story that people will be talking about it for years to come. (Or my mother might stop reading after the first couple of weeks. Who knows?)

I can’t wait for this to get going. As usual, I want to dive in head first to see what happens, but a bit of planning now will make it that much better, so it might be good that I have other people around to keep me in check. Seeing it is a web-based story we won’t be able to change our minds after we get started, there won’t be any ‘second draft’ that we can go back and edit before the public read anything. (Blaming unreliable narrators can only take you so far.)

Collaboration may well be the perfect situation for writers… until you find that story that you want to keep for yourself. And let’s face it, most of the stories are ones you want to keep for yourself. If I wanted to share my stories I’d be an actor.

So, I’ll keep writing my own stories and every now and then (after the initial rush is over) I’ll dip my toe into this shared world, adding another layer, building the depth and the breadth of the story and eagerly reading to see how the others are doing the same.

Stay tuned for updates on both fronts.

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5 thoughts on “The Art of Collaboration

    • Well, I suppose I could do that…

      Not sure how much the thing has spread (this was the only time I’ve seen it) but you had to tell put in the comments how it was that you met the person who posted. (That’s the correct usage of meme, isn’t it? Never actually done any of those facebook things in the past). I did a nice little spy story about meeting in Moscow in 1983. We just got a bit silly with some cold war spy cliches after that.

  1. I think the definition of meme isn’t too set yet, so that’s probably a fair usage. πŸ˜‰
    I’ve seen one that was a serious inquiry about how people met. The lie version is fun.

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