I also have a writing milestone worthy of recognition: February marked the 15th anniversary of my first published fiction collaboration with my best friend and frequent co-writer, Kevin Dilmore. Fifteen years, twenty novels and novellas, a handful of short stories, and a basket of magazine articles later and neither of us has yet attempted to murder the other in our sleep. We’re even still friends. How’d that happen? How’s it work? Do we fight? Is there blood loss?
I wrote about our collaborative process way, waaaaay back when, as a guest post here at Novel Spaces. Well, it’s :: mumble mumble :: years later, and we’re still here.
Is it easy? Oh, hell no.
It helps that Kevin and I were friends before we were writing partners. Because of that, when we decided to try our hands at collaboration, we established a single ground rule: Equal work. Equal credit. Equal blame. It’s simple and blunt, and has served us well over the years.
Collaboration can be a challenge when facing any task, particularly a creative endeavor and most assuredly when we’re talking about writing. After all, writing often includes long periods of solitude spent staring at a blank piece of paper or a computer monitor with that cursor just blinking and judging you while it waits for you to type something. How do you take such an activity and essentially split it in half so that you can work with another writer?
There are the usual sorts of foibles and drama that are often present when dealing with writers: rampant insecurity, delusions of success and grandeur, and the occasional bout with insufferable egomania. A lot of that is mitigated by the fact that we tend to have similar opinions about what we think makes for a good story. We also just get a kick out of our sometimes extended brainstorming sessions, which have gone on as long as nine hours during a drive between Kansas City and Denver.
No two projects are ever really the same, so the division of labor from story to story tends to take on many forms. However, years of practice and a long history of writing for the same sets of characters makes this process pretty painless. We each have our favorite characters, for example, so dividing plots and subplots based on “who’s doing what” becomes a simple matter. Therefore, integrating our pieces of a particular story puzzle as it all comes together has always been a fairly straightforward task.
There’s definitely a degree of adaptability when it comes to collaborating with another writer. One of you may spend hours contemplating the precise placement of every word on a single page, while your partner is like one of those old-school pulp writers churning out scenes and chapters while taking scotch intravenously and smoking like a chimney. Maybe you’re creating sheer poetry with every page, whereas your collaborator seems to have lost the ability to process anything beyond a caveman’s string of grunts and belches. Those can definitely be some trying times, and I’ve seen more than one partnership engulfed in flames because of one or both contributors being unable or unwilling to adapt when things get rocky.
Sure, Kevin and I have had some rough patches, but we always find our way back to the “true path.” I’m certain our friendship is responsible for that, along with our trust of one another and our joint desire to always do what’s best for the project—and, ultimately, our readers. If only every writer seeking a collaborator could team up with someone as awesome as either of us. Can I get an, "Amen?"
So, here’s to me and Kevin, and our 15th “manniversary” as writers joined at the brain. Been fun, dude. Hopefully we can continue to cause trouble in the years to come.
Just to end things on a funny note, here’s a link to a story about collaboration and what happens when the colleagues aren’t on the same page. Enjoy!
Anyone else have any anecdotes about collaborating? Uplifting stories or tales of horror? Come on. Let’s see what you’ve got.