1. mboz62
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    mboz62 New Member

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    Collaborative writing

    Discussion in 'Collaboration' started by mboz62, Apr 26, 2011.

    I’ve been writing for quite a number of years now, with a book of poetry about ready to be published, and currently a children’s story that I’m hoping will be finished in the next few months.

    However, I do have a lot of ideas for stories that stack up but I am entirely aware that I’ll never actually sit down and write. (I get distracted far too easily)

    So for the last year or so, I’ve had an idea buzzing around in my head about whether it would be possible to put together a small group of people, ideally geographically close, who could collaboratively write.

    Obviously there are concerns with keeping the writing style consistent, and I’ve no idea how the eventual authorship would work. However beyond the problems, I think the positives would make it an interesting project to be able to sit down and discuss the storylines, the issues that we all face when writing anything.

    The end result of this is primarily a commercial venture, as well as the secondary purpose of seeing some of my story ideas written, but the primary focus would be creating stories of commercial interest and so of course there would be contractual terms between parties etc.

    I have considered how remuneration would work, and in the first instance, for the first project, I could probably afford to pay a (modest!) salary (of a couple of hundred a month or so), or for it to simply be a share in whatever is eventually made from it (which could quite probably be negligible!). the ideal end result would be something that could earn a living for all involved.

    So I am simply curious of some perspectives, as to whether anyone thinks this could be a workable way of writing stories, and any obvious pitfalls that I’ve overlooked!

    Thanks in advance…
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    first of all, never enter into any sort of co-writing situation before having a collaboration agreement in place... here's the best one you'll find anywhere:

    http://wga.org/uploadedFiles/writers_resources/contracts/collaboration.pdf

    it's intended for screenwriters, but just takes a few word changes to make it work for any kind of writing...

    next, before you start paying anyone, or agreeing to do so, keep in mind that it's almost guaranteed to be money down the drain, since such a patchwork quilt piece of writing will have next to no chance of being published unless you pay to put it in print... and if you do, it's hard to imagine it selling well enough to make back your investment, much less 'earn a living' for anyone involved... sorry to be so negative, but those are just facts of life in re the publishing industry...

    you say 'stories' which to writers/publishers means 'short stories' that are published in magazines and literary journals... and such will not generate much, if any income, even if some do turn out to be marketable...

    if you mean 'novels' then you're talking about years and years of writing/editing/revising/querying/submitting and then waiting months on end to even get rejections from agents/publishers... even if miracles occur and you eventually snag an agent who eventually snags a publisher for one of these books, it will then take another one and a half to two years before the book is out in the bookshops... and the money you'd make on it would most likely be minimal... certainly not enough to provide a living for even one of you, let alone a whole 'team'...

    finally, if not paid up front, what writers who are good enough at it to turn out marketable work would be willing to work for nothing, in hopes of the thing selling, eventually, when the odds are so great against it?... how do you see an 'end result' of anyone making a living this way?...

    the bottom line is that you need to write your own stories/novels/whatever and go through the trying to get published process on your own, if you hope to succeed in making any money at it... the alternative is to hire a ghost writer, if you don't have the requisite writing skills... but a good one will cost thousands for a book and then you still have no guarantee it will ever sell... nor if it does, that you'll ever make back what it cost you to have it written...

    so, my answer to your final 'question' is 'no'... i don't see this as a 'workable way of writing'... and i hope i've laid out the most major pitfalls well enough for you...

    love and consoling hugs, maia
     
  3. Mr. Blue Dot
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    Mr. Blue Dot Member

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    I agree with Mamma. Collaborative writing could be a fun activity with friends or in a workshop or whatever, but as far as a money making venture, it doesn't seem like a good idea.
     
  4. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with what's been said.

    Unfortunately, I can speak from experience and factor in human nature here... I've worked on projects with someone I was close to (related to, no less) but we've since had a falling out. Now I'm not too concerned about the money, as there isn't much to be concerned about right now. She is welcome to keep what I wrote for her and use it. But I prefer to go it alone.

    Overall my advice is to be careful who you choose as 'collaborator'.

    Good luck and let us know how it pans out. :)
     
  5. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends on you, really. If you're the kind of person who does well at collaborations, then you will have an easier time of it. Of course you need to pick who you collaborate with. Also if you haven't been making money off of your personal writing efforts already, I wouldn't expect to make any off of the collaborative ones.

    I'm doing a co-authorship right now of a self-help book, but it's a vastly different situation from what you're describing. That sounds like a fun sort of workshop, but I wouldn't go into it expecting to make money.

    I've also been collaborating on some poems with Baywriter which we've posted here. This hasn't been for money, but it's been a lot of fun and a rewarding experience.

    I'm going to vote for yes. Go ahead and do it. It's totally workable. Just don't expect to make money off of it.
     
  6. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    I usually work solo, but I will say one of my most popular short stories was the horror story "The Demons that Haunt My Mind". Some said it was scary because there were three different authors, making the sudden writing style changes almost frightening, and you can never expect that "Oh, and now a bat's gonna pop out".
     
  7. mboz62
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    mboz62 New Member

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    Firstly, thank you all for your responses, they are insightful! (and apologies for this late response, it’s been a busy week!)
    The central idea was to use this to write novels, as I say I’ve a lot of ideas for them, but nothing like the time / inclination / patience to spend writing them. In my professional life I exist as part of a team that solves problems, we all have our own particular talents and when a problem comes through, we sit around and decide who can best do what parts to make a working solution (this is usually an iterative, creative process). Team working is very much a way of life in my work life. I am simply curious about the concept of using that model to write with as well.
    Maybe phrasing it this way would be better, if I went out and hired two or three full time, professional writers, where it became their actual day job, would that scenario be capable of producing a novel. After all it would be a very similar approach that is taken to screen writing (thank you for the contract by the way, very interesting indeed!) where collaboration is considerably more commonplace.
    I’m not really talking about having people spewing out whatever it is they’re told to write, but of the benefits of creating a creative process where each member of the team brings particular writing skills and experience. Then using that process to write some good literature, in a situation like that, where it is goal driven and tem based, where problems become a source of improvement, I can’t see it taking years and years, again a good novel is no more difficult to write than a good screen play.
    Does anyone see any benefits to this method of writing? Is there any way it could be made to work.
     
  8. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    I dunno. If you're just hiring a team of writers to bang out the novel, why does it have to be a team? It would actually probably slow things down and make the work less marketable. Whereas screen writing is conducive to workshops and other team activities, prose fiction is more of sit-down-with-your-laptop-and-a-pot-of-coffee sort of activity.

    Hey, you could always use Racter!

    More than iron, more than lead, more than gold I need electricity.
    I need it more than I need lamb or pork or lettuce or cucumber.
    I need it for my dreams.


    Now that's one good author!
     
  9. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    Since I don't know much about collaborative writing with the intent to publish a novel for money, I won't comment on that.

    But... as far as just collaborative writing, it can be both extremely rewarding and taxing at the same time.

    I currently am co-writing a novel with someone. It’s just for fun and we end up sharing it with others in our writing community. But some of the things I have learned are:

    You need to pick your partner very carefully. I was luckily in the sense that I found someone that in the end works with through a problem than one who works against me when we don’t agree on something and vice versa. Our writing together almost works like an RPG but its more plot focused and every single part includes both of our input with a set direction.

    There will also be a dominant person in your writing relationship, regardless of how much of an “equal” partnership you push and think it will be; it doesn’t work out that way. One will be the stronger partner; one will be the passive partner and which ever one you find yourself being, there are boundaries and lines that can easily crossed and how you deal with those lines make a lot of difference. The biggest thing is when you’re a dominant one, you can easily hurt your partners feelings and you need always make sure that even though you may be the driving force, your partner is not feeling dejected, left behind or feeling burned. I found out that I am the dominant one in our relationship and I’ve learned to constantly make sure my partner is okay, half the time she won’t say anything as in the past, my ideas workout better than hers, and it made her doubt herself and instead go with the flow. There is no room for ego or to ever think that a piece of shared writing is more your work than someone else’s. You gave that up as soon as you decided to co-write and share and even if that piece of writing has more of one partner’s ideas or “work”, in the end, the success has to be equally shared, otherwise a writing relationship won’t work.

    There has to be implicit trust and honesty for a long term collaboration project. Both of you should be able to reach an understanding to where you’re brutally honest. Neither one of you should be hesitant to tell the other how you feel about a piece and the other person should always know that when I say something like, “I don’t like what you have written at all” or when I’m tearing their piece apart and nit-picking things that I don’t like, it is not to meant to be hurtful, but rather always constructive to where there is room for improvement. I know I come off as bitchy at times since I have a way about me that can think ten-steps ahead of an idea and can see how everything connects and doesn’t connect and when someone else can’t see it, there has to be a level of trust that I may see things she doesn’t yet and vice versa.

    It will be stressful too as boundaries and lines WILL be crossed and you’re going to be pissed at each other and wont feel like working that day etc. You need to learn to let go, apologize to each other and move on.

    Writing style and skills also are hard. Since you want it to be a cohesive piece in the end, blending writing styles can be tricky. People have strengths and weaknesses and writing together brings both the best and worst out of you. It really does.

    But in the end, it is something I think everyone SHOULD try. As stressful and hard as it can be, it’s extremely rewarding. The project will never be what your initial plan was, it changes and you should be okay with that. Especially since you have two perspectives with things, like you plan on giving a character a problem. But how I see it and how my partner see’s it are extremely different even if both agree the “problem” should have a specific outcome, it rarely ever works out where we both completely agree.

    The reasons I recommend writing with someone at least once… is mainly to sharpen your writing skills. Both in editing and revision but in style and method. It’s a learning experience. You also learn to write fast and learn how to go with the flow. You don’t have time to get frustrated and feel like you can’t write, you learn how to deal with situations effectively and how to move on. Your partner can’t wait on you until you’re in the mood to write or until you over come whatever problem you’re having, you have to learn how to deal with your weaknesses and push through them. You also are working on a deadline, so again, good practice to in learning to keep the momentum going and to keep improving and writing on a level that is skillful. In a span of one month we, together wrote roughly 200,000 words and we’re just reaching the meat of the novel now. Extremely long? Yeah, but GOOD practice for writing on your own. I’m very introverted and like working on my own, but writing with someone has helped me more with my own project because I’m learning how to overcome problems and struggles faster and I’m being pushed out of my comfort zone.

    Also, it’s interesting to see all the places you go when suddenly you have someone give you an idea that you would never try on your own. And also, you end up having a pretty damn good friend rather than just an acquaintance.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    1. professional writers wouldn't take on a job like that, since they'd be busy writing their own stuff and don't need to use your story ideas...

    2. even if you found pros to do it, the cost would be prohibitive...

    3. even if you found pros to do it and could afford to waste all that money, there'd be next to no chance any of what they turned out would ever be published...

    aside from the money and publishing roadblocks, novels just don't lend themselves to being written 'by committee'... the only successful team efforts you see on the bookstore shelves result from writers who know each other well and have forged an effective partnership on their own, not been brought together as strangers, by yet another total stranger...

    so, i don't see any possible 'benefits' to doing that and don't see any way it could be made to work and produce anything that would make any money...
     
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  11. Gothic Vampire Queen
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    Gothic Vampire Queen Member

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    Yeah, my girlfriend and I are working on a novel but......she doesn't really have any time for that. She has surgery to get done and stuff. But, she promised me when she comes out of that, she will work with me.

    Like attracts like.

    :)
     
  12. Gothic Vampire Queen
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    Gothic Vampire Queen Member

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    Sorry for double-posting but um, I would like to state an update.

    Well, it turns out that my gf isn't so serious about writing with me. But, hey, I'm doing lovely without her :)
     
  13. _Lulu_
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    _Lulu_ Member

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    I think your best bet is to find a ghost writer, I have no idea how much they cost though.

    Do you have all your novel ideas written down? If not, then you should, you might be able to almagamate some.
    I think you should start writing and working on them by yourself, there is no rush afterall, is there? It'll be far more rewarding than getting a bunch of other people to do it for you.

    Anyway, good luck. :)
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    a good ghost writer will cost thousands!... and even the best can't guarantee your book will ever get published...
     
  15. _Lulu_
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    _Lulu_ Member

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    And doesn't it disgust you that people like Katie Price can become an over night bestseller because of her money and fame while we are the ones who put all the time and effort in and struggle to get it on a shelf.

    I will stand corrected if I'm wrong, if infact she does write her own stuff!

    Sorry off topic :redface:
     

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