copyright ©2000, Ron Collins and Lisa Silverthorne

Working with another author can be a rewarding experience. Collaborative works utilize the talents and strengths of both authors, but reaching this zenith requires effort from both authors. In this workshop, we will offer some guidelines that might help you in the collaboration process whether you've collaborated many times or have only thought about collaborating. In addition, we'll examine motivations for entering into a collaborative relationship and discuss the personal side to the results.

Rule 1: Know why you are collaborating and share it with your co-author

     There are many reasons why you might collaborate on a story, and only the participants can really
     say what these are. The ideal collaboration is one free of hidden agendas. If you're out for
     something specific from the relationship, it's best to state it straight out. This can avoid conflict and
   frustration on the part of one or both writers.

Rule 2: Know the writer and his/her work before entering into a collaborative arrangement

     If you don't get along with the writer or the two writing styles conflict, then a collaboration may not be
     the best idea.

Rule 3: Enter the relationship with an open mind and flexible ideas

     If you enter a collaboration with set images and plot ideas, then you limit the other writer's
     involvement. This can also lead to conflict. If your collaboration begins with something previously
     written, then there will be some constraints, but still be flexible.

Rule 4: Respect your collaborator's ideas and opinions

     Leave your ego at the door. A partnership works because of input from both sides and a healthy
     respect for each other. There are no stupid ideas. If possible, state your biases up front, so that each
     writer is aware of differences of opinion. For example, one of you might be adamantly opposed to first
     person stories or present tense. Knowing this up front can help you avoid conflicts.

Rule 5: Explore each writer's strengths

     If your specialty is plot and your partner's specialty is description, then use those strengths to the
     work's advantage. Utilize these strengths. The ideal collaboration results in a story that neither writer
     could have generated on his/her own.


Rule 6: Divide the workload appropriately and agree on it at the beginning

     Perhaps one of you will write the first draft and the other will edit/rewrite the draft? Perhaps one of you
     will write the skeleton and the other will fill in the descriptions? There is no one right way to    
     collaborate. It is as unique as the two writers who come together to collaborate, but each writer wants
     to feel equally involved in the process.

Rule 7: Avoid rewriting a piece to death

     Stories can be overwritten to a point where the story no longer works.  Or so much time has been
     spent rewriting that the story will never be marketed. Avoid this by agreeing to plot points and
     characters, etc. ahead of time before you actually begin to write. Also, state your biases up front, so
     your partner knows where you stand.

Rule 8: Discuss differences of opinion and employ the art of compromise

     Don't make differences into impasses by turning them into either/or situations. Work through the
     differences by posing solutions that compromise between the two points of view. Don't let the
     differences escalate to a dissolving of the partnership if you both have a story to tell.


Rule 9: Allow for an easy, clean way out

     In case things don't work out (and to avoid hard feelings), each writer will have a painless way out of
     the partnership. More importantly, make sure you have agreed on how to divide up intellectual
     property before beginning a collaboration. The escape clause should be agreed upon ahead of time.


Rule 10: Have Fun

     Collaborations are too danged much work. If you're not having fun, try something less painful!