M.H. Mead is the pen name for the authorial duo Margaret Yang and Harry Campion. Their new release, The Caline Conspiracy is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. To celebrate their new release, they’re doing a blog tour and I asked them to talk a little bit about writing as part of a team, since I’m currently working on a coauthored project with my dear friend Allison Dickson, called The Oilman’s Daughter.
5 Things You Don’t Know About Collaboration
by Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion
We’ve been writing together for so long, we sometimes forget that not everyone shares our love of collaboration. Many author friends have told us that if they had to work with a partner, one of them wouldn’t leave the room alive. But for us, it’s not only the most natural way to write, it’s the best way.
It’s also the most misunderstood. Here are five surprising things that you might not know about collaborating.
1. You’re already doing it. If you’ve ever brainstormed, been in a critique group, used beta readers, worked with an editor, or just bounced a plotline off a pal, you have collaborated. It might not be to the extreme extent that true co-authors do it, but it’s still collaboration. Of course, you have the final say over your own book, but the fact is, an idea that originated in someone else’s brain made it onto your page. It’s really not that different for us.
2. It improves your writing. A solo author’s first draft can meander. It can have horrible grammar and spelling. It can be a complete mess that makes no sense to anyone but the author. Collaborators don’t have that luxury. We write messy rough drafts like anyone else, but we clean them up before showing them to our partners.
Something as creative as a novel can go in a million different directions. As co-authors, we have to justify each choice we make. If we say, “This paragraph deepens characterization,” or “it ups the stakes,” we’d better know what we are talking about. If we can’t back up our claim, that will be the first paragraph our co-author chops. We have to bring our A game each and every time we sit down to the computer. Our partners expect it and we owe them (and ourselves) nothing less.
3. It doesn’t cut your work in half. Many people think that collaboration means half the work for half the money. It’s more like the exact same amount of work for half the money. However, it’s a different kind of work than the kind a solo writer does. With two people writing, the rough draft tends to get done more quickly. But collaborators do more drafts than solo writers because everything has to be consistent, not only in content but in style. It may take longer, but in many ways, it’s easier. Collaboration is like tag-team wrestling. When one of us gets stuck, the other partner jumps in and wrestles the manuscript to the ground.
4. There are many ways to collaborate. We make our outline together, take turns writing part of the rough draft, then come together again to edit. This is a common way to collaborate, but not the only way. Sometimes one person writes the whole first draft from another person’s outline. Sometimes collaborators write every single word together. Sometimes one writer works on a small portion of the book while the other writer does the rest. Sometimes three or even four people write together. If there’s a way to collaborate, you can bet that someone, somewhere, has successfully done it.
5. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have writing. Writing is lonely. There are critique groups and conferences and the internet, but there will never be another person as completely committed to your book as you are—unless you have a co-author. Sure, you have your spouse and your best friends, but those are people who love YOU, not your work. When a solo author sits down at the keyboard, it’s just him and his imagination. When collaborators work, it’s us and our imaginations and our support person and back-up brain and best cheerleader and smartest critic and probably the only person who understands each and every one of our jokes.
We wouldn’t want to write any other way.
About the authors: Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion are the co-authors of GOOD FENCES, FATE’S MIRROR and THE CALINE CONSPIRACY all published under the shared pen name M.H. Mead. You can find out more about them and their books by visiting their website www.yangandcampion.com. You can also find them on Facebook. www.facebook.com/MHMead