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Collaboration is Good

I'm in the midst of making my short film, which started as a story I wrote on my own. We've completed principal photography. I'm in the editing room and it looks like we were able to capture everything we needed. But in order for me to do that, I had to trust a lot of people with my story and my vision. I created the story, yes, but I had readers look at it and had them give me notes for revision. Then I turned it over to actors and they had to inhabit the parts and bend my vision to fit theirs, for their acting is their art. Then I had to bring in a cinematographer who I had to trust to get the images I'd described to him into the camera. I'll have to trust that the musicians who put together the soundtrack will apply their art to the best of their ability. And then my art, after the story is written, is to become the conductor and make sure all those collaborative artists plying their trades work together to synthesize into one piece of art.

For prose writers, this level of collaboration, on any level, can be hard. They want to be the final word on what is said and what isn't, but I find that writers who don't have any collaborative spirit are the sort of writers that no one wants to work with. I've been an editor and I've dealt with writers that don't have any of that collaborative spirit. They might be good writers, but they'd be too much of a headache to work with again. At least for me.

So what I'm proposing is this: get out of your comfort zone a little bit and try to work on something collaboratively. It's going to teach you a lot of things about yourself and your writing. This was really how I learned to write. I started in screenwriting and had at least one, sometimes two, screenwriting partners for most of the big stories I wanted to tell and it taught me a lot about how to be an artist who can defend his vision when he needs to but can acquiesce to necessary demands for the good of the story.

Working with a co-writer is a completely different game and it's a process I love. There are few things I find more exhilarating than those conversations you have with your collaborators trying to refine the story. To find it. To learn its shape and define its contours. You need to find out what excites the both of you about it. What this teaches you is to be able to argue for your ideas and back off when your idea isn't the best one. Now, this might not work for everyone if they have too much of an ego, but it's my belief that you can feel when your collaborator is right, even if you don't want to admit it. It will teach you how to flow with the story and make sure you come out with the best possible version. It will teach you how to back off and be humble when you need to be.

These collaborative skills will go a long way in teaching you things about being a writer. Because that's the relationship you'll need to have with your editor. You need to trust them to help make your art better, but you need to be able to articulate for yourself why a thing needs to stay or works better for the story. Because at that point, you're working to make the story better, even if it means you're wrong about something.

Giving collaboration a shot will also help you identify what might be a problem before it becomes one in the story. Two heads really can work out story problems you might not have noticed on your own.

I'm a big believer in trying new things every time I start a new story, something to challenge me into being a better writer and storyteller. Learning how to collaborate is one of those skills I wouldn't want to do without. If you haven't done it before, give it a shot. You might find you like it.


I've been working on more writing and turned a lot of stuff into editors, but nothing has hit yet. I'll keep you posted on that.

I've also been toiling on my short film like you wouldn't believe. I can't wait until you'll all be able to see it, but that might be quite a while yet.

As a reminder: Please join my short story Patreon here. Your contributions to the Patreon help me write more like this.

The Aeronaut and Escape Vector are still out and still need your purchases and reviews. If nothing else, they can use you telling people about them. If you want signed copies, visit the shop here on this page. 

Also! here's the full list of "rules and guidelines" I've been collecting over my years of studying writing advice and process. 

 As far as my work outside of all this: There's a lot of great stuff on Big Shiny Robot! and Full of Sith for you.

 And please, please, please don't forget to check out any of my books, drop reviews of them on Amazon or Goodreads, and follow me on twitter and Facebook!

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