Today is Valentine’s Day, so I asked two of my new authors from the upcoming Stepmothers & Wolves: Villains Reimagined Anthology to write about writing together. The following is from C.H. Spalding, which is really a husband and wife writing team. Love and the written word. What could be more Valentine’s Day than that?
The best conversations, and the best collaborations, begin with one question: “What if?” “What if the people who colonized the Moon were trapped there because their hearts and lungs could no longer support Earth Gravity?” “Oooh, and what if they developed a distrust and hatred of Earthers because of it?” “That makes sense. What kind of a political system do you think would develop?” “I’d prefer something not too derivative of Earth, a little alien, but that would make it harder to convey.” “Oh, if the main character is an Earther trying not to get spaced during the Revolution, we could have the way things are there unfold in front of his or her eyes….” “Great. What scope were you thinking of?” “I was thinking YA short story for this one, maybe turning into a novel down the road, so I want to have the main character survive.” “OK, but we’ll need an important secondary character among the Lunars. Are you thinking romance element?” “Maybe, but only as subplot.”
That’s the kind of way our collaborations begin. Ideas boomerang between each other and then start to come together into a shaky structure. We knock pieces off and add others on, shorten here, lengthen there, find the supports that will help it stand on its own. The questions continue to spring out during the process. “How about this?” “What do you think of that?”
We have an advantage; being married to each other, we can throw out ideas at 6:30 in the morning or eleven at night, in the middle of dinner or while helping kids with homework. Usually the one who started the idea springboard writes—perhaps the first draft, perhaps only the first scene. The second may revise, or may take over a scene or a point of view. Sometimes the story gets passed back and forth like a snowman’s body, growing all the time.
In solo writing a story can evolve into something very different than it seemed at the start; writing takes off, plot deviates, and soon the story is unrecognizable. With collaborating, a lot of the trying out of ideas happens before the writing stage, so often beginning and end are both set before the first words are written. Only the roads that connect them are still to be laid out, stone by stone. One person may build a bridge to shorten that road, or the other may bring in a detour, but by this point there is a feeling that you are only uncovering something that is already there—the story you were meant to tell, together.
It’s fun, at the very worst. For it to also be potentially profitable, at least one of you needs to be willing to hunt up markets, revise, and submit. This is easier working together; the person who is optimistic today writes this cover letter, while tomorrow it may be the other who actually has the energy to check formatting requirements. Together, you eventually find…anything is possible.