Working with Writing Partners

15 Apr

After talking yesterday about getting creatively burnt out, I met with my writing partner yesterday, and felt a lot better. Working on a project WITH someone is an unusual experience, but can be great… if it balances right.

I’ve worked on MANY collaborative writing projects. When I finished my first novel-length story–Manifest Destiny–it was because of me and my friend decided to work together on this massive outline that we had come up together. When it was finished, it printed out to 500 pages of glory, and… I discovered that my writing partner had stopped reading after 300. At that point, we were living in different cities, and I had to email new revisions. But… it’s really hard to read off the computer, so… he didn’t.

I love that man like a brother, and I’ve forgiven him for that, but I certainly haven’t forgotten. This was back in 1996, so it was prior to the self-publishing revolution, and so when I sent my magnum opus to publishers they said, “Thanks but no thanks.” I revised it into a 200 page book that just had the first part of the story and got the same result. Once I learned I could self-publish it, I’ve tried to go back and revise it again, but… for a technothriller, it is SO dated that it’s not worth publishing. Plus having to re-read your old work is a certain level of hell. Which is why you won’t see my first novella, Suicide Kings and Drama Kings, written when I was 17, anywhere on my available books page.

My second experience with collaborative writing was a play-by-email game called Tech Infantry. Now the problem I had with PBEM games is that you told the GM what you were doing, and the GM wrote several stories to each of the players telling you what you did. This is very time consuming on the part of the GM and leads to burnout… fast. So that first experience was short enough to get self-published later as The Daughters’ War.

When we did it again, this time, everyone got the SAME story, and you could follow everyone’s story. Then the players wanted to write much of their own material, with me editing for grammar and game play, so it became a collaborative writing project. So Rage Against the Dying of the Light became a HUGE writing effort, spanning 10 months, with a 20-page excerpt every week, and was rather enjoyable. Eventually, that burned everyone out. A couple years later we tried it again with The Middle Kingdom which was similar, except it lasted 5 months, and everyone rather enjoyed it. In that experience, I learned what it meant to be an editor, as well as having to balance your writing vision with other people.

However, I also learned how to crank out a lot of words in a short amount of time–it’s a pretty amazing experience. If you’re wanting to find out what this looked like, click here. Out of this project actually came a couple stories. Because this was a shared universe, there were a few GLARING plotholes, so I filled in one by writing my own novella called Prayer for the Technocrats, which you can buy now. My dear friend, Editor Ed, also took his story out of Tech Infantry, revised it heavily, and published Predatory Practices… which is one of my favorite stories (that I helped write). So I thoroughly recommend it.

Now I’m working again with another friend, but in this case, he wrote the outline, I’m writing the story, and he’s editing. I can’t go into any greater detail than that, because the novel is still gestating… one doesn’t want to announce anything until it’s born. 🙂

As long as you have clear expectations of what each other’s role is, then you’re more likely to be successful. In Tech Infantry, the players could write what they wanted, but they understood I had editorial control. In this, he has the background knowledge and the story idea… but can’t write. I can write, but don’t have the background, so he’s able to edit technical mistakes that I miss. Of course, our collaboration still leads into needlessly long discussions of gun calibers, how to build a Faraday cage, and bitching about the news… but a writing partnership is not just work, it’s a friendship. You’re going to get off topic.

Have you had a writing partnership? Did it go well? Did it go badly? Let me know in the comments below! And after you type that, check our my books, some of which were collaborative, but many are not. However, if $1.99 is too high to pay for curiosity, go ahead and download one of my stories for free.

3 Responses to “Working with Writing Partners”

  1. Tomrebro April 22, 2021 at 7:25 am #

    I attempted writing partnership with my brother. Can you elaborate what Tech Infantry is?

    • albigensia April 22, 2021 at 7:31 am #

      “Tech Infantry” was a shared universe that combined White Wolf’s World of Darkness (vampires, werewolves, et al) with military science fiction (a la Starship Troopers). It was a fun experience. It also had a lot of writers… of varying quality. However, there was a lot of good stuff as well.

      • Tomrebro April 22, 2021 at 7:58 am #

        Oh ok I gotcha. I thought it was a technique you used to do collaborative writing.

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