Monday, June 8, 2015

Collaboration is Making Me a Better Writer

A lot of the time, writing is a very solitary process. We write alone, and the worlds and stories we create exist in our head alone until we share them with our readers. We spend a lot of time in our own heads, which is not a bad thing. In fact, it's one of the reasons many of us write in the first place.

But letting someone else into that headspace--or better yet, creating a shared headspace with another writer--can be a very powerful thing. And in my case, it is making me a better writer.

Now, I have collaborated on projects before--specifically comic projects. Mo Stache is something I created with artist John Cordis. I write, he draws, and together we make Mo. I have a couple other comic projects as well (one you'll see very soon), and so I've had that writer-artist experience a few times over the past several years.

But not with fiction. With fiction, it's always been my vision, my world, my story.

Until now.

For a little over a month now, I've been working with Jolene Haley on what I consider a dream project. It's a story that is inspired by two of our favorite things--'80s horror movies and rock music. It's so much more than that, as you'll see when we start sharing details, but those two things are at its heart and I love it.

There are so many ways my writing has benefited from this collaboration so far. Take the characters, for example. They are much more fully-realized right now than in previous first drafts I've done. This is especially true of the the supporting cast. It's not uncommon for a writer to have a very clear vision of their main character, but at least for me, the supporting cast usually comes into its own during the revision process. This is especially true because I am more of a "Pantser" than "Plotter" (or as I like to call myself, a "Signposter").

The world of this story is also more well-defined with the two of us building it. From the town's history and traditions to the people and places that populate it, our little town is filled with places inspired by those Jolene and I have visited in our own lives. The setting of our story is much richer because of our collaboration.

But where I think the collaboration process has had the most profound effect on my writing is in the areas of style and voice. The way I write dialogue, the rhythm of my prose, etc. Working with Jolene and learning her style has really helped me reflect on my own. I've realized where I need to get better, and I've learned a lot from Jolene because she writes relationships and character interaction in such a wonderful way. We've found a common voice together, and it's really a great combination of both of our styles.

We crossed the 47,000-word threshold on our project this week, and it's amazing how much we've accomplished in just over a month. I could not have asked for a better writing partner than Jolene, and I cannot wait to share our project with everyone. Stay tuned!