In an undisclosed location, somewhere on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, an incredibly talented group of writers, illustrators, editors and layout artists have just finished another year of “Write-A-Book-In-A-Day”. This is the pro-level of collaboration. Twelve hours to write and illustrate a 10,000 word YA novel, with the triggers delivered at 8:00 a.m. and the final product printed and bound by 8:00 p.m. the same day.
Help them by donating to the cause. Any little bit helps. ALL monies raised go to the Kid’s Cancer Project, and 50% of book sales for the first two years do, also.
I’ve taken part in a couple of the past year (buy them here, folks, and help us help the kids) and as a group we’ve collaborated on a non-WABIAD book that is at publishers now. “Into Tordon” is “…a pacy, exciting read that middle-grade readers will love getting sucked into.”
The cool thing about Tordon is that while it is fully collaborative, it does not read like multiple writers wrote it. Having worked with these artists in the past, I think I’ qualified to share some tips for successful collaboration.
First and absolutely foremost, you have to want to collaborate. If you go into a collaborative project not completely willing to follow the guidelines below, do your co-collaborators a favour and bow out.
Leave the EGO at the door
Every collaborative effort I’ve been a part of has produced something that none of us would have , or could have, come up with on our own. And there are elements in each one that are unique to each person. There are also brilliant ideas that never left the room, at least not in any of the books we’ve created.
If an idea, no matter how brilliant you think it is, doesn’t work, take note of it for another time. Don’t try forcing it. It’ll stick out later.
Do the groundwork first
This is no time for pantsing. With multiple writers it’s essential to plot your story to enough detail to let each writer know what their “assignment” is. Basically, break your story into as many sections as there are writers. Agree what the out from the previous chapter is and what the in is for yours. Then agree how your section ends and the next one starts.
Agree on the character arc, and what part of that arc you section aligns with. Agree on physical characteristics of the main characters. Gender, hair and eye colour, special skills and If there are injuries to characters, agree on what happens to who, and when. Same goes for damage to props (cars, houses, etc.) and clothing.
Finally (and while this may seem obvious, believe me when I tell you it’s not) agree on the voice; First Person, Third Person Close, Third Person Omniscient — which ever it is, stick to it.
Stick to a schedule
CRITICALLY important in the WABIAD efforts, and almost as critical for any other collaboration. When you only have twelve hours to put something together, you need an iron fist to keep things moving. Get the plotting and character mapping out of the way in two hours. Write for two. Review, edit, and read through again, and leave three hours for “voice”. (I’ll get to that in a minute.)
When it’s a non-WABIAD effort (like Into Tordon is), the temptation is to forget about the schedule. After all, you’re no longer shackled to twelve hours. That would be a big mistake.
We took a day and plotted. Spent much more time detailing the arc, the critical clues, the character development, the twists and call backs — enough groundwork to put together a cracking good tale. We also agreed when we’d put our individual pieces together for our first read through. Which leads to:
The odds of a smooth first read-through are extremely low. The parts where one writer’s section ends and another starts will be lumpy. You might have the main character doing something at the end of your section, and the next section has the same action. Take one out. It doesn’t matter which one goes, so leave the one in that reads better. See point one about ego.
After a first complete readthrough identify scenes that don’t progress the story and kill them off. If it’s one of your scenes, see point one.
Agree the voice
I don’t mean POV. I’m assuming that you’ve all written in Third Person whatever, but each section will read like it’s written by a different person. Naturally.
One writer needs to take the manuscript from page one to page end and re-write it with a consistent voice. In the WABIAD work, this took the largest amount of time. But it is the most critical step in the process. And when it’s done well, your writing will disappear.
I *know* which chapters I wrote in Into Tordon, but when I read them, I don’t recognise my writing. And that’s a good thing. The voice is the voice of the final editor, as it should be. And if you don’t like it, don’t start the process, because the book isn’t finished until that step is completed.
Eat the EGO
It bears repeating. A collaborative piece of art only works if everybody approaches it with the intent to collaborate. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Leave the ego at the door and enjoy the process. You will end up producing something none of you could have created on your own.
Now, since I stuck that earworm in your head, here you are.