A Bit Of Collaborating by Ann Evans

Hello everyone, sorry to follow on from Reb yesterday, it's purely coincidence that Reb and I are both hanging up our AE blogging pens, but I think this will be my final blog for Authors Electric. I’ve loved reading everyone’s blogs over the years, but my writing is leading me further away from Indie writing, so it’s difficult for me to write on topics that our blog’s readers will be interested in.

Happy to say I’m busy writing for reluctant readers, with about a dozen books published now with educational publisher Badger Learning. These are for teenagers with a lower reading age than their actual age. I’m also writing crime novels for Bloodhound Books; and as always magazine articles on all kinds of topics. 

However, something I can write about for this blog, which ties in with Indie publishing and mainstream publishing is that the latest book accepted by Bloodhound is actually a collaboration between me and a good friend. So, two authors and one title.

Collaborative writing isn’t for everyone, and in my experience, only happens occasionally with a particular story idea, and with a particular person. 

Although our book has only just been accepted, and we’ve only just all settled on what its title should be, which is:  The Bitter End, people are already asking, “So how does collaborative writing actually work?”

For myself and co-writer Rob Tysall, it’s been a sort of evolving situation. Neither of us could have made a deliberate decision such as, “Hey, let’s write a book together!” It was nothing that straight forward.

We’ve been working together for about 26 years. Rob is a photographer, and we’ve always teamed up to do magazine articles together. I do the writing, he does the photographs. But it means we’ve spent lots of time together chatting, and he’s always come up with story ideas for when I’ve been stuck for an idea. 

Then one day about four years ago he suggested an idea for a book, to which I immediately said, “I can’t write that! It’s too dark. It’s too deep. I don’t think along those lines!” But this idea was growing and growing in his head and he wouldn’t let up.

For a while I didn’t make any actual progress, but we did a lot of talking, and plotting and planning, until I relented and drafted out the beginnings of a story. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t quite how he’d envisaged it. But we decided not to scrap the idea, but began working on it together.

Admittedly his first suggestion that I change a section, sent me into spasms! Someone telling me what I should or shouldn’t write! Unheard of! And that’s where a solid friendship gets to work. We listened to each other’s ideas and reasoning, discussed every scene and sentence, and didn’t fall out! In fact. Some of the most tragic and intense scenes would reduce us to fits of laughter as words and ideas ran away with us.

There are dark sections in this book, particularly from the viewpoint of one particular character (no spoilers here) where Rob was in his element and waxed lyrical while I typed. The practicalities of a collaboration, at least in our case, is that just one person does the typing, that keeps the style ‘uniform’.

So, imagine if you will, a male Barbara Cartland lounging on the sofa dictating to his secretary the words of his latest masterpiece. It wasn’t quite like that, but you get the picture.

Creating the characters together with their actions and dialogue and in-depth backgrounds proved successful, and through teaming up with someone from the opposite sex it allows you to get a whole different perspective on what a male character would actually think, do and say, which was very different to what I had that male character originally doing/saying.

And then, as Stephen King says, comes the part when you must kill your darlings. Halfway through writing the book, Rob says, “You know (character) has to die, don’t you?”
“What? No! You can’t kill (character)!”
Don’t worry it’s not the dog…

Looking at the book we’ve just finished, I think the proof of the pudding as to whether the collaboration worked, is by us both realising that without the other, the book wouldn’t have been written.

So, collaborating with a friend, is it something you’ve done or tried to do? And did it work for you?

Further info: http://www.annevansbooks.co.uk

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Jan Needle said…
Fascinating stuff, Ann. Sad that you're leaving.
Bill Kirton said…
A timely question, Anne. I've just embarked on my 4th short story collaboration with Eden Baylee. She lives in Canada and we've never met. We both contribute stories to RB Wood's 'Word Count Podcast'. RB posts a monthly prompt, various writers compose and read their own stories.
Eden and I had both contributed to the podcast several times when we decided to experiment with a joint effort. Of course, the fact that it's a podcast means there are literally two voices.
We both find the collaborative process highly stimulating. One of us starts a story, the other continues it, the first then develops it further and the second writes a conclusion. For me, it's the fact that the characters and plot move into ways and directions I'd probably never have thought of, so I'm taken into unexpected areas. It's very challenging but even more rewarding. The word count of each story is only around the 1500 mark but, nearing the end of the current exercise, I'm beginning to think alternating chapters of a novel might be very interesting, too.
Dennis Hamley said…
There are some great examples of successful collaboration. Vera and Bill Cleaver, for instance, a married US couple who wrote really good pre-Columbian fantasies, and Jan Burchett and Sara Vogler, who write splendidly anarchic stories, including one for me, Doing the bank' for the 'Oxford Anthology of Mystery Stories', which had me crawling helpless round the floor. But I'd never dare try it myself.

Ann, sorry you're leaving. Shall we all start an 'Old Electrics' rival group?
Best of luck with Badger and Bloodhound.

Umberto Tosi said…
Sorry to see you go. I've enjoyed your posts - this one especially, having a long history with collaborations myself. Good luck with your new endeavors. I do hope you'll drop by and guest blog on occasion.
Ann Evans said…
Thank you so much for your comments, and good wishes. I think I'll be reading and commenting more than ever now. Good luck to you all with your writing endeavours, and will hopefully keep in touch via Facebook and Twitter. In fact I'm going to go and find you all now. xx
Ann Evans said…
Thank you for your comments and good wishes. I'm sure I'll be reading and commenting more than ever now. Good luck with all of your writing endeavours, and hopefully will keep in touch via Facebook and Twitter. In fact, I'm going to go and find you now. xx

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