On Collaborating

by Melany Logen

If you've ever given a writing collaboration a thought, it's important to know your writing partner. A solid friendship before you start is a plus. Most of all, you should enjoy writing together. Give it a practice run together before picking a genre and going for the real deal.

There are many aspects that must be discussed and documented before hand. Whose name will go first on the covers? Will you order names alphabetically? Or will you use a shared pseudonym? It's going to have to be the same way every time, so figure it out before it becomes an issue.

How will you divide the work itself?

Since writing role-play characters together worked so well for us, we work that way now in our writing. Before going into a story, we decide who will write which lead. Hero or heroine? We have the sole ownership of the writing and voice for that character. From that point on, we're in control of that person and any world/story building they bring into the storytelling.

We brainstorm over anything we need to. We critique for each other as well as edit (perform creative touch-ups) for our own sections. I (Mel) put notes together for the synopsis, and write a rough draft. Lany, God bless her, cleans it up for the final copy and writes the blurb. We divide the work as equally as we can.

This isn't the only collaboration format that can be used, but it works well for us. Once you decide to collaborate, you'll have to find the best method to work together. Maybe you'd prefer to write by chapters, by scenes, or simply split the book in half. Maybe one of you will handle the even chapters, and the other one will write the odd.

In some collaborations, one partner will write the whole story. Then, the second will clean it up. I personally don't feel this is an equal collaboration unless the second person is truly fleshing the story out and putting their own creativity into play instead of merely catching a few typos. But the choice of how the collaboration works is yours and your partners'.

Collaborations present important legal issues. A legal business agreement is a must for any collaboration! You must cover every aspect of your writing partnership from who owns what, to what happens if someone wants out of the relationship, along with an in case of one collaborator's death clause. You should include how profits and debts will be split. Don't forget about including what happens if one collaborator's power of attorney has to be activated. This agreement is something that will have to be signed by your spouses if you have them, and it must be notarized to make it binding.

The ideal collaboration is one in which the book you're writing together is one neither of you could or want to write alone. If, however, both of you are doing this because you think it will be easier than writing a whole book by yourself, remember collaborating is a give and take of ideas. It's a balance between two writers. Don't do it just to save on work because you'll be sorely disappointed.

For anyone out there thinking of collaboration, remember your priorities. Make sure you have everything worked out before you start, including any legalities. Because no relationship as good as the friendship Lany and I share should be jeopardized by a lack of legal agreement. Lany concurs and says, while two heads can be better than one, remember the lack of planning could end your relationship before it starts besides ending any friendship you have.