Art of Collaboration
a two-part article
Dawn E. Greenlee and James Kenneth Mills
Dawn E. Greenlee and James Kenneth Mills
Art of Collaboration, Part 1
Dawn E. Greenlee
A fine art
indeed it is. One might equate
collaborating to a juggling act. Jim
and I are a well-balanced team with our skills supporting each other.
For example, I am very good at world building, plotting, and
characterizations, but my prose is at times not sufficient to the task.
Jim is weaker than I on world building and plotting, but he is an
outstanding writer -- at least in my opinion.
He is able to turn my mumbled, scrawled and fragmented ideas into a
But you need
more then complementary technical skills in collaboration, whether in writing or
anything else. You need individuals
who are flexible and able to handle the criticism that is required in order to
work together. You have to be
willing to accept your flaws and grow from your mistakes.
For our novel, Lord of Change, we did one major rewrite and a host
of editing sweeps where we deleted
or changed things in our book. This
was, at times, cause for heated discussions on the why's of it all.
But out of this I have seen improvement in both my poor writing skills
and Jim's ability to develop plots and world build.
For both of us it has been a learning experience.
additional difficulties that make this a juggling act.
You also have to consider personal relationships between the
collaborators, as well as their working conditions, because you are going to
spend a lot of time with your collaborator, and this can be stressful on your
personal relations. For Jim and me,
our biggest challenge in this is that he is married and I am not.
So I have very careful not to impose on his time with his wife -- either
directly or indirectly. By this I mean, you have to be able to force a quitting time
when you know that you've been at it too long, even though you are on a roll and
don't want to stop. Or,
since I work a day job from 6am to 2pm and am on call 24/7, there are times I
have to stop, since I don't have the luxury of a partner who can support me
while I write.
So as you work
with your collaborator, consider these issues, because all of them will impact
your ability to work together -- some in a positive and some in a negative way.
I personally think that collaborations are an excellent way to work
because, as it is said, 'Two heads are always better then one'.
Art of Collaboration, Part 2
James Kenneth Mills
Jim's #1 rule
of collaborating: Friendship first. Don't
let conflicts over the story destroy your friendship with your collaborator.
Always, always keep in mind that you are working with a friend to tell a
story and the story is not (usually) as important as your friendship.
You will have disagreements about how to handle things.
Always consider your partner's points fairly, and that if one of you
feels very strongly about something, then that's the way to go.
You need to consider and understand the reasons for wanting to 'do it' a
certain way. Most disagreements
fade when the reasons are examined and understood.
Holly has an
excellent article on "How To Collaborate -- And How Not To"
Scroll down to
the list of the seven absolute minimum number of things you need to agree on, in
writing, before you start your project. Review
the list often. And make sure you
and your partner understand and agree on each point.
Get it written down and sign your names to it.
here are how Dawn and I have our collaboration agreement (the numbered
paragraphs are from Holly's article):
Who owns each character and the universe you have created (or each part of it),
and whether either of you has the right to do solo works in the universe or
whether it can only be used for collaborative ventures.
has exclusives to characters Jack (Chance/Kesu in Dragons of the East) and to
Kim (Secret Psychics) and Dawn has exclusives to Astra (in Dragons of the
East) and Garth (Secret Psychics). Other
characters are for both writers, though each of us has some voice in whatever
happens to them. LoC and SP
universes are shared. We have
often written scenes involving our characters; many such scenes will never see
print - they were written for character and/or plot development as we
worked on ideas.
What each of you may and may not do to characters owned by the other?
we do (to characters owned by the other) has to be agreed on before doing it.
For example, the main character in Lord of Change is Chance, a shape
shifter. Part way through the
book, he dies... and is reborn (hatched) as a dragon.
Who gets final edit on the manuscript or manuscripts, or if this will change
from book to book, how you will determine in advance who will get final edit
each time. (And I'm telling you right now, you cannot both have final edit. Only
one person can ever have the last word. Figure out before you type the first
word who that person is going to be.)
normally gets final edit, but Dawn gets to comment, which may result in more
How you will divide the work itself.
agreed to share expenses and any income 50-50.
Dawn handles much of the character, plot and world building.
Jim puts the words down on paper.
What will happen to the universe and its characters if one or both of you want
to drop out.
have agreed that if one of us drops, then the other may continue.
How you will resolve differences if one of you does work that the other deems
unacceptable, inappropriate, or simply wrong for the world.
agree to discuss differences, our reasons for wanting things certain ways, and
we agree to work to find ways to resolve disputes in a friendly manner.
Whose name will go first on the cover. It's going to have to be the same one
every time, so figure it out now.
were going to write as "Dawn E. Greenlee and James Kenneth Mills"
but, in light of how big corporate bookstores handle book purchases (a topic
for another article), we have recently decided, at Holly's suggestion, to
write our collaborative books under the pseudonym of "Mills
held a workshop on collaborating. The
log for that workshop is on the Class Transcripts Board:
Collaboration Workshop 07-23-2001:
I hope this
article clarifies some things and helps you in any collaborations you undertake.
Good luck and keep writing!
James Kenneth Mills