Working Together

Daybook 6 | The Power of Collaboration


I became a serious musician (in 1989) a few years before I became a novice writer (in 1993) and a serious writer (in 1997) – at age 15, 19 and 23, respectively. When you’re in a band you learn quickly the power of collaboration with other creative souls. Music is one of the most communal of all the arts, and thus, the musician often has an innate desire and ability to collaborate.  I’ve seen this on a regular basis with my current band.  Over the past 25 years I’ve been in several bands and the vast majority of them have been creatively democratic.  It’s more rewarding for all involved when contributions are welcome, appreciated and accepted – collaboration.

However, when it comes to the art and act of creative writing, it’s traditionally been a starkly different situation.  It doesn’t help that creative writing is, by and large, a predominantly solitary activity.  So my writer’s ego – particularly with prose – has almost always been that of the lone wolf; at most times confident, but usually at the very least I’ve been fairly self-assured of vision and self-possessed to the point of complete stubborn independence, at least when it comes to my role as a writer. In other words there’s typically been no room for another’s vision when yours truly is writing the prose.

Well, times are a-changin’. I’m feeling very collaborative in a literary sense of late. It also helps one come around to the idea of creative collaboration when one realizes that about a third of his entertainment – television – is written collaboratively in a Writers Room, led by a Showrunner. I would like to do something similar to that in prose as well as comics. I currently have one collaborative partner on a new comic book/graphic novel concept with my best bud Joshua S. Hooten. Since this graphic fiction project is a co-creation, I will be collaborating story ideas with him to ensure our visions mesh well and I am providing him with the kind of stories he wants to illustrate. A true partnership rather than writer dictates to the artist, artist just follows direction dutifully. The thought is that in comics the artist does all the heavy lifting, so why not ingratiate yourself with him and accommodate him the best you can as the writer?

A quick aside: five years ago I made a confession here about my, um, envy of other writers who are privileged to collaborate with an artist in graphic fiction.

So, anyway, there’s that.

However, that is not prose. Prose collaboration, which I’ve done in the distant past and really enjoyed, is a trickier affair for all the reasons I mentioned above – on both/all writer’s side of the equation. Particularly on long-form works like novels, I’ve begun to truly embrace the idea of teaming up with some writer friends who I know would be good collaborating partners on a few different projects.

I also want to try something like a TV Writers Room where groups of 3 to 5 writers come together to create a small universe in which the characters we co-create can co-exist and then we hash out plot details and split up chapter or ‘episode’ duties among each other. With the recent resurrection of the Zoetrope Virtual Studio, I think I might be able to attempt this experiment, which is fitting that’s where I’ve done prose collaborations before.

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