Posts Tagged ‘Collaborative writing’

dark-duetsI went to a book launch at Murder by the Book for the dark-fantasy anthology Dark Duets by a renowned group of fiction authors. Each story is collaboration between two or more authors. In the introduction, the editor, Christopher Golden, writes, “Collaboration in general is harder than you’d think. Logic would suggest since you are halving the number of pages that you, yourself, are responsible for, you are halving the work involved. In truth, collaborative fiction is more work than writing something by yourself. But the work, and the relationships that may spring from it, and the magic that sometimes results, are their own rewards.”

The contents of Dark Duets are Trip Trap by Sherrilyn Kenyon & Kevin J. Anderson, Welded by Tom Piccirilli & T. M. Wright, Dark Witness by Charlaine Harris & Rachel Caine, Replacing Max by Stuart MacBride & Allan Guthrie, T. Rhymer by Gregory Frost & Jonathan Maberry, She, Doomed Girl by Sarah Maclean & Carrie Ryan, Hand Job by Chelsea Cain & Lidia Yuknavitch, Hollow Choices by Robert Jackson Bennett & David Liss, Amuse-Bouche by Amber Benson & Jeffrey J. Mariotte, Branches, Curving by Tim Lebbon & Michael Marshall Smith, Blind Love by Kasey Lansdale & Joe R. Lansdale, Trapper Boy by Holly Newstein & Rick Hautala, Steward Of The Blood by Nate Kenyon & James A. Moore, Calculating Route by Michael Koryta & Jeffrey David Geene, Sisters Before Misters by Sarah Rees Brennan, Casandra Clare, & Holly Black, and Sins Like Scarlet by Mark Morris & Rio Youers.

Also the story, Renascene by Rhodi Hawk & F. Paul Wilson, is included. Renascene is a Steampunk piece. E. Paul Wilson is an award-winning New York Time bestselling author of nearly fifty books and many short stories. He’s also written for the stage, screen and interactive media. Rhodi Hawk won the International Thriller Writers Scholarship for her first work of fiction, A Twisted Ladder. Their tale is a fresh take on the intriguing Victorian theme of bringing the dead back to life. It’s set in 19th century New York City with two quirky characters that I loved.

Rhodi Hawk was one of the authors at the Murder By The Book signing. I asked her if it was she or Paul Wilson who initially wanted to write a Steampunk story, and she said, it was Paul. Another interesting tidbit is that to celebrate her Steampunk story, her husband actually bought her a live octopus. It’ll be kept in an aquarium at her house where she keeps a hosts of critters. Having a pet octopus is so steampunk. When asked what she was going to name it, Rhodi said she was thinking of calling him Sigmund after the children’s TV show, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. I got confused about that, because I was thinking of the old cartoon show, Beany and Cecil. Cecil instead of Sigmund. That was way back in the early 1960’s.  I use to watch it so I’m showing my age. I even use to have a stuff toy of Cecil the seasick sea serpent. It was one of my favorite toys. But either way Sigmund and Cecil are both great names for a sea monster, a  sea serpent, or an octopus.

The authors at the Dark Duet’s book signing spoke of their thoughts and experiences on collaboration. There is an adrenaline rush from having the opportunity to bounce ideas off another writer and this increases creativity as well. It’s important in a collaboration that both authors understand the other’s creative vision, do an equal share of work, work well together, and keep their own author voice, therefore adding ta unique flair and perspective to the story. Methods writers use for collaborative work vary. Many use a sharing method, one author starts the story off and the other revises that then writes the next pages,which the first author revises them then adds more and so on until the first draft is complete. Then they work it into a cohesive flowing story. I heard a successful husband and wife team, who write romances together, speak at a conference. They developed  a pattern of collaborating where she wrote the scenes set in the heroine’s point of view and he wrote those set in the hero’s point of view. It worked wonderful for them, they write under a pseudonym  combination of their two names together.

Though collaborations can be frustrating at times they can also be fun and rewarding. Many steampunk fans are strongly familiar with the basic idea and practice of collaboration because it’s followed in role playing games, which are so popular in steampunk. Also Some writing such as screen plays and  music is routinely done through the collaboration process.

Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts and experiences on: writing collaboration, fantasy anthologies including at least one steampunk story, having an octopus as a pet, old sea monster children TV shows or anything else you’d like to comment on.

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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Today we welcome writing team Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris.

Philippa Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order series with Ace- Geist and Spectyr out now, and Wrayth (2012) and Harbinger to follow. She is also the co-author of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series with Tee Morris. Phoenix Rising debuted in May 2011 and The Janus Affair will be out in May 2012. She also has the Shifted World series with Pyr Books, with the first book Hunter and Fox coming in June 2012.

Tee Morris began his writing career with his 2002 historical epic fantasy, MOREVI The Chronicles of Rafe & Askana. He won acclaim and accolades for his cross-genre fantasy-detective Billibub Baddings Mysteries, the podcast of The Case of the Singing Sword winning him the 2008 Parsec Award for Best Audio Drama. Along with those titles, Tee has written articles and short stories for BenBella Books’s Farscape Forever: Sex, Drugs, and Killer Muppets, the podcast anthology VOICES: New Media Fiction, BenBella Books’ So Say We All: Collected Thoughts and Opinions of Battlestar Galactica, and Dragon Moon Press’ Podthology: The Pod Complex.

Collaboration: An Art within the Art

By Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

People are fascinated by how the two of us managed to write Phoenix Rising and The Janus Affair, as well as pen several short stories for our podcast series, Tales from the Archives. The questions range between “How did you manage to keep your continuity straight?” to “How did you two manage not to kill one another?” Collaboration is a risk for publishers and, sometimes, for readers as the end result can be jarring when switching from one chapter to another. The running complaint for many collaborative works tends to be that the two-featured authors cannot effectively mesh their styles.

Somehow, we manage to avoid that pitfall. Exactly how do we do that?

We begin with an understanding that this book will not be a novel by Tee Morris and not by Pip Ballantine, but a novel written by the both of us. That means the style might have moments of Pip and moments of Tee, but a voice and a style completely different. This hybrid style is born from trust. If you were to talk to other collaborative teams, you will find that alongside communication, trust is an essential ingredient in a successful collaboration. We trust each other, not only in the way we write but in the way we plan and the ways we want to progress our plots forward.

From the trust also comes the faith in giving each other’s work a good, hard editorial eye. This is when the hybrid style matures. After Pip writes her scene, Tee steps in and begins an edit for not only grammatical and typographical slips, but also peppers throughout his own trademarks and touches. The same rule applies for Tee’s work when it comes under Pip’s red pen, and between each of our passes, this new voice emerges and the story begins to unfold.

Communication is also key in a successful shared story. To use a steampunk analogy, harbored grievances between authors are a bit like boilers building pressure. If you don’t release that valve, even slowly, you have a bomb on your hands; and when it blows, the damage isn’t pretty: Plot twists and characters flaws strewn across the furniture, and cliffhangers that — no matter how hard you clean — will never come out of the carpet. Yes, maybe relieving the tension is noisy and uncomfortable but in the end, that essential communication can save a story and (in some cases) a writing relationship. When collaborating with friends, family, and loved ones, keep the communication solid. If your communication falters, your trust soon follows.

These factors are all part of a successful collaboration, but they are also building blocks for any creative endeavor, whether you are sharing a byline or flying solo. How so? At the time of this posting, we are about to head up to Pennsylvania to shoot our book trailer. This time around, our trailer is calling on the talents of a cast of six, the resources of Brute Force Studios, and the filmmaking talents of our friend, Linc Williams. The brainstorming, the writing, and—across four days—the visual creativity of Linc, Thomas Willeford, and the two of us will come to fruition through six actors who have never worked together before and, in a few cases, never worked on camera before. We’ve been swapping emails, tweets, and text messages for weeks now; and in the final two weekends of April, it’s all coming together.




Sound familiar?

Collaboration can yield amazing things, and while you may have a book under one person’s name, don’t forget that within those words, within those chapters of narrative, struggle, drama, and revelation, there is an editor offering an objective look, a proofreader attempting to catch any of the typos that may have missed the editorial passes, a designer that gives the book’s interior a flair and a polish, and a cover artist that makes people stop to look. It may vary from publish to publisher, but we believe that The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels have been—from the beginning—true success stories from the beginning. From our writing, to the editorial and creative staff of HarperVoyager, to the marketing team of HarperCollins, to the amazing writers invited to podcast with us in Tales from the Archives, to the filmmaking talents of Bald Groove, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences may have taken its first steps with us, but became a flash mob of epic proportions through trust, communication, and faith in some truly inspiring individuals. Consider the words of actor, producer, and director Kenneth Branagh when he was asked what his secret was in creating successful films: “Surround yourself with people more brilliant than yourself.”

We did, and now we’re headed up to Pennsylvania to step through a steampunk looking glass.

Shall we dance?

–Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris


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