Another guest post with my friend Jyvur Entropy. Enjoy!
I love collaborating with other writers. It can be incredibly energizing to combine your creative energies with other people. You get to mix your ideas up with someone else’s and the result is something truly unique.
I’ve collaborated on short stories, longer stories, blog posts and articles, and most recently, on an anthology that is soon to be published. (Pre-order link here!)
Over time, I’ve collected some tips and tricks for collaborating with other writers.
- Be discerning in who you collaborate with.
There are some writers that I am friends with that I would never collaborate with. Not because they aren’t lovely, but because it just wouldn’t work. I’m friends with some awesome people who are just far too new to writing.
If you’re going to collaborate with someone they should be at about the same level of writing skill and experience as you. That doesn’t mean you don’t bring different skill sets to the table. Maybe they are better at some of the things you are weakest at. Maybe you know a lot more about a particular genre than they do, but overall, it averages out to about the same level of skill, even if you each have different strengths and weaknesses.
If you have a fluent grasp of writing basics, then you won’t get much out of a collaboration with a newbie just learning the ropes. If something needs to be tweaked, it won’t be a quick, “Oops, you switched tense here.” Instead it could be an entire lesson on what verb tense IS and how to make sure the verb tense remains consistent.
If you want to be a mentor and teacher to newbie writers, great. But that’s a collaboration that won’t make the best use of your talents. The newbie writer will get far more out of it than you will.
- Research the person that you will be collaborating with.
The number of times I’ve been mid-conversation with someone I’m collabing with and they threw out some idea or angle that did not align with my beliefs at all….And they would have known this, if they’d even spent ten minutes googling me and reading my content. Then I have to sit there and go “Seriously? You don’t even know the basics of what I stand for? Why are we talking then?”
Every time this has happened, I’ve looked at the other person with new skepticism. It makes you look very unprofessional if you agree to collaborate with someone and don’t research them first. It’s like taking a new job without researching the company, then showing up to work and pitching a campaign that doesn’t align with the company values at all. It makes you look like you don’t really care who you collaborate with. It looks sloppy and like you don’t care very much about the content you put out into the world.
Plus, how do you know what projects to pitch them if you don’t research them? Even if you’re the one who was approached/pitched, you should research your collaborator so that you have a better idea of how to meld your respective interests and experience.
What if it turns out you both have the same niche interest? Like you both love model trains produced in the year 1953. Well, that would be pretty valuable information to go into the project with.
Or what if you’ve written historical fiction and they’ve written horror and learning that gives you a great idea for a horror story set far in the past.
You just aren’t fully prepared to go into the project and make the most of it if you don’t research the other person first.
By researching them, you get ideas of what their strengths and interests are, and you may realize they have a unique set of knowledge that you don’t, and now you have the chance to take advantage of that.
- Make sure you both have the same goals for the project.
If my goal is to write something innocuous and light-hearted and your goal is to write some hard-hitting allegorical piece about the horrors of capitalism, well…that isn’t gonna work too well.
Take the time to clearly discuss your goals for the project. Discuss topics like: What will the tone of the piece be? Who will be the target market for the finished project? What will be the parameters of the piece? Is there anything that any of the people involved are absolutely opposed to including?
That last question is particularly important. Some writers refuse to get political at all in their works. Some writers like to use their fiction as a vehicle for the beliefs that are important to them. It’s vital to make sure everybody is on the same page here.
The same applies to sensitive topics. When it comes to topics that can be potentially triggering, some writers prefer not to go near them at all. Some only want to write about potentially triggering topics in a specific way and for specific projects.
You also shouldn’t spring potentially triggering topics on a collaborator. It’s easy to get caught up in the flow of writing and, especially when you aren’t used to getting others’ permission about what to write. But you don’t want to potentially trigger your collaborator. If your collaborator has been through some kind of trauma, they may not want to be involved in a project where that type of trauma is written about. Or they may have specific thoughts on how the trauma they have experienced should be approached via fiction. If you and your collaborator are not in agreement, that’s okay! Save your idea for a future collaboration or write it independently.
What you can’t do is include something in a collaboration that makes your partner/s deeply uncomfortable.
- Know when to compromise
Although I believe collaborators should agree on the big picture aspects of a work, when it comes to the smaller stuff, everyone involved has to know when to give. By virtue of it being a collaboration, you’re not going to have a final say in every single aspect of the work. Know when to petition for your way and when to bend and let the other person run with their idea.
I had a friend that I used to collaborate with on short stories. He had a habit that I really couldn’t stand. He misused semi-colons. He didn’t do this because he didn’t know how to use them. He did it as a stylistic choice. I really didn’t care for it and felt it detracted from the flow of the story, rather than enhancing any story elements.
He didn’t agree though. I laid out my arguments. Explained why I felt it was a little too avant-garde and why I was worried about it distracting and confusing readers. But after hearing my arguments, he was adamant that he didn’t want to completely stop using semi-colons that way. He let me trim a few of the incorrect uses, but wanted to keep most of them.
This was a time when I had to give in. While I didn’t like the way he was using semi-colons, ultimately it didn’t completely ruin the story. The genre was erotica, where I think readers tend to be more forgiving of grammar and punctuation mistakes.
There were other circumstances when he had to bend, because I wouldn’t budge on something.
The key is that both people (or if it’s more than two, all people) involved need to be willing to budge and not get their way sometimes. The collaboration will not work if one person is calling all the shots.
- Stick to deadlines!
Look, I know us writers are flaky. I’m flaky. I have missed a deadline or two in my time. But you should really try your very best not to miss a deadline when other people are counting on you.
- Do your share of the work
Related to tip 5, when other people are counting on you don’t leave them with the bulk of the work. Sometimes in a collaborative project with many people there will be a core group of people doing the bulk of the work and a handful of less involved contributors. If that’s the case and you know you aren’t expected to do as much as those heading up the project, then that’s fine. Make sure you’re just doing what’s expected of you then and contributing what you can. But if you’re just a two person team, then the work should really be split pretty evenly.
- Be professional
Even when you disagree with the people you’re working with, you need to approach it with tact, kindness, and respect.
You can always voice your opinions and show your personality without being rude or dramatic.
People will be more likely to work with you again or recommend you for projects if you keep it professional.
That’s it for my tips on collaborating with other writers! Collaborations can be a great way to take your creativity in new directions, learn and grow, and best of all, have fun! Collaborations are so much fun.
Collaborative projects are something I recommend all writers try at some point in their writing journey.
And if you want to check out my latest collaborative project, you can check out the anthologies coming out November 19th! Emily Hurricane got together a group of writers to self-publish a romance anthology and an erotica anthology. She did a great job bringing everyone together and getting everyone organized.
The romance collection includes a sci-fi alien romance, a paranormal romance, a role-reverse romance, and more! While the erotica collection is a steamy collection full of bdsm and other kinky fun.
You can get yourself a copy of either anthology just in time for the holidays.