The life of a writer can be quite dull. We sit at a desk or a couch and we pluck words onto a screen that no one will likely see for months or even years. Often, we write with no one in the room except the muse. You write, essentially, in the dark. You have no idea if what you are writing is any good or not because no one has seen it but you. But, that’s as it should be. You’re busy molding. It’s not ready for the outside world. So it stays with you, and you alone. It’s the nature of the work, the solitude. And as an introvert, I do enjoy it. Most of the time.
Still, there are times you want to talk with other writers. Pick their brains. See what trouble the two of you can create. That’s where collaboration comes in. When you are collaborating on a story like I’m currently doing with three other writers on three separate projects, Amy Miles, R.J. Keller, and Randy Hunt, you are forced, as a writer, to let them see the earliest drafts of your writing. The ideas, the outlines, the crap that never pans out. They get to see your process. Which, let me tell you, is different for everyone. Amy writes pretty clean first drafts. All her thoughts she wants to convey are there so her edit time is smoother. R.J. writes her first drafts in part story, part notes to herself about what she wants the character to be doing. She’s a second draft fixer. Plugging her ideas into the story in that second draft. I’ve only just begun to work with Randy, but his pre-writing is bulleted/outlined. Each methodology challenges me to be a better writer.
This week I’m working on the collaboration with Randy while Amy returns home from vacation and R.J. recovers from the flu. The collaboration with Randy, will likely be the most challenging. Because the serious play Randy will be writing needs to, in certain ways, mesh with the romantic book I’m writing, we have to know, roughly, what the other is writing so we don’t contradict each other. For instance, I can’t have them rehearsing a two-person play if Randy writes a play with a cast of fifty. We need to have some parallels if we want this to work.
That means, we have to share our early ideas/drafts. He’s shared with me his outline for each act, listed his characters, and notes for major plot points. With that information, I now know who is going to be in my book. Those actors will be playing a role in my book. It’s kinda trippy.
I, too, had to share what I was working on, so he had a sense of how his play might mesh with my novel. I sent him the first six chapters, which is always nerve-wracking. What if this didn’t work with what he was envisioning for the collaboration? What if the voice of my piece clashed with his vision of the collaboration? The project would be over before it had a chance to begin.
Fortunately, he liked what I’d come up with and was anxious to start his play. I, myself, am excited to join these two mediums, that will have two very different themes, into an experience that can be enjoyed solo, or in duet.
Maybe this is why I enjoy having a collaboration project on my yearly slate. It helps me, as a writer, to talk to other writers. I feed off their energy and creativity. It helps me get my butt in the chair. Even if those words won’t be seen by anyone else for another year.
I believe in each of these collaborations. In all of these amazing writers I have the privilege to create with. I thank each of them for letting me tag along with their brilliance!