Thursday, August 27, 2009

Series: Co-Authoring for Lazy and Informative Two-Somes

We’re back….

Yep, time for another dose of co-writing fun with H&T.

So this is #4 in the series, and ironically enough, coincides with week four of our new collaboration,
The Fates
. Yep, we had so much fun the first time that we decided to go back for another puff on the crack pipe.

And given that we are writing together again, we decided to turn this week’s update on its head a bit. We’ve talked to you about the relationship in writing, how to deal with conflict, and ways that successful teams have approached writing their fics. But we’ve not really fielded any questions from you…

So, with that said, we shot some emails out asking for questions on what YOU wanted to know, either about the process in general or specifically how we deal with things during the course of writing.

We received some excellent questions, and answer some that may surprise you, so pull up a chair, prop up your feet, and dig in!


1. How do you go about choosing who writes which character? Have you ever thought of swapping (aside from the crackfic chapter for Breakfast at Tiffany’s)?
  • H: Speaking for myself – no. I’m just more comfortable writing Bella. Don’t know why. When we decided we were going to start The Fates, it was never a question of who would write what (simply because my writing of Edward stinks – hehe!)

  • T: Ha! Well, I think Vladward would disagree with H, but really it was a comfort thing. I recall tossing around the idea, but by this point, we have natural inclinations toward the characters’ voices, and it would have felt uncomfortable to switch it up. We did swap the genders for our goddess of love and god of war though. Ultimately, we spent a lot of time brainstorming how to approach The Fates because our original ideas would have been difficult to write collaboratively. It took us months to flesh out how we could make it work within the realm we were already familiar.

2. How about secondary characters and story lines - do you arm wrestle over who tackles what?
  • H: A lot of it depended on the arc of the story. In Breakfast at Tiffany’s (aka BAT), the secondary characters tied to the story line. In the Fates, the addition of new characters with direct points of view created an opportunity to branch out. I wanted to take one in particular because I thought I could have a lot of fun with him. As for the actual story, it’s not wrestle over who gets them, but who takes them. It’s usually more of an ‘ugh, you deal with that’ as opposed to ‘hey, I want to do that.’ Then again, there was the one time that we did literally flip a coin.

  • T: There have been a couple of times when one of us called dibs on a character we really wanted to write, but by and large, we write by surprise. So, one person might steal a character right out from the other, though typically we’ve discussed general direction of those secondary story lines in advance. I imagine we are exceptionally lucky because I can’t remember a time when we both really wanted to write a character or story line, and it went to the other person. I think the key there is planning. Even if you don’t know exactly what’s coming, knowing strengths and weaknesses will help there.

3. What do you do if your partner is more prolific?
  • H: I am punting to T on this one, so I guess I would be considered the prolific one….

  • T: I think prolific depends on the definition. H is faster than I am usually, but we’re both fairly quick. We go on writing binges where we immerse ourselves in the back and forth, and we can write a lot in a short period of time, but we both need schedules free to do it. It goes back to communication. If I’ve got a lot going on, I’ll let her know, “I can handle one revision and one chapter in the next couple of days.” That way she isn’t waiting for something, and I can assuage my guilt. I know there have been times H has had to wait a couple of days for something, and she’s probably pulling her hair out (by the way, I’m ready for the start of the next chapter ;). If we weren’t both relatively efficient, I think it would be a deal breaker though. I would have a hard time waiting more than a few days for anything I sent out. I’m pretty sure she would too. It really was luck for us that we have similar expectations. I’ve seen partners struggle with this, going in, the speed and quantity of writing expected in a particular time frame really should be discussed.

  • H: I have to come back on this one…a few days??? I remember one time where you were climbing the walls after a few hours woman!

4. Why collab? Easy enough question but really, I just want to know why? It seems that it would add more stress to the process by having to run everything by the other.
  • H: Honestly (no, lie to me!!) I have so much more fun writing with T. It’s an adventure. I tell the story about writing the one shot, and having my blackberry glued to me while at the natural history museum with my son, because I was so curious to see what she came back with. I compare it to passing notes in high school, and in some ways it does feel like that.
    Aside from the ‘fun factor, it’s a great exercise in growth. Writing with someone forces me to deviate from my typical solo writing style – specifically the tone. As for running things by each other, I seriously can’t think of one time where there has been a ‘what the hell are you smoking’ moment. We know the approach we want to take, and have a healthy enough respect for each other to be able to talk about things if there is something that we are unsure of.

  • T: I have pretty much decided I won’t write fanfic solo again. It is a much more painstaking process. In part because I have to write more, but it’s just slower, and my motivation goes down when someone else isn’t relying on me to hurry up and get them something (see above). That said I don’t know that I would even bother trying with anyone but H because we’ve had so little conflict and have a similar approach. I do think for most people, in most situations, it probably is easier to write solo because you can just make on the fly decisions. However, the process is simply more fun with a partner for me.

5. Since you both do different POV's is there a master outline and then individual ones that you each work off of in relation to the character pov you're working on?
  • H: Honestly, we Ramboed it on BAT up until the last 6-7 chapters, and I think it hurt us more than helped us. We’ve taken a bit of a different approach with The Fates (tracking against key plot points that we need to hit and how they all tie together as opposed to a hard chapter by chapter outline) and it has made for a much more fluid writing style, and a much more intricate story. We know what we need to accomplish and how it all interconnects, but it’s not a hard and fast ‘in chapter 17 x happens.’

  • T: Totally depends on the story. With BAT we flew by the seat of our pants. Though as H said, we have more of an outline now, we’ve been careful to leave enough play that we can still set each other up. We start out a chapter by saying, “What’s our goal? What has to happen as a result of this chapter?” From there we can go multiple directions.

6. You've now added the lovely Legna into the mix, so you're giving new meaning to three way (bite me, I'm a perv) how has this addition changed your process, if at all?
  • H: Can you tell that q came from Ninapolitan J I don’t think it has changed things much at all. We write, and when it’s a chapter where Legna’s Fates weigh in, she plugs into the process. I do think we scared the crap out of her at first…we tend to be very prolific, writing chapters in chunks, then going back to weave everything together. When she received 5-6 chapters in the course of a few days, I think we may have taken a few years off her life. But now that we are in full swing, I don’t think it has changed the process at all. If we were writing chapter to chapter, it might make a difference, but given that we operate so far ahead, it’s been pretty seamless.

  • T: Nothing more to say. It’s nice to have another eye and another perspective though. We love what Legna has added in terms of the Fates, but it hasn’t impacted writing process. However, her insight and feedback as a beta has been wonderful, and her writing of the Fates dead on.


7. How do you work thru differences of opinions or vision? I imagine at one point or another there may be instances where you don't always agree. How do you resolve that?
  • H: I think the closest we’ve ever come to disagreement was when we were trying to thresh out the concept for The Fates. T came up with the idea based on a review, and we probably iterated through 2-3 different approaches before we settled on the one we have. It was never a ‘your idea sucks’ type of thing, more of a ‘yeah, I don’t know how well that would work…what if…’ type of conversation.

  • T: Again, we’re either very lucky or particularly good at working together, but we don’t have conflict. We just recently discussed the fact that we’re both very competitive so it’s amazing we work so well together, but maybe that was part of the key. We both want a solid final product so we take the same approach. We can be very direct with each other, and not take it personally. That’s an intangible thing, but so very important. I think you have to trust your gut to an extent. If you’re having trouble talking with a collaboration partner about things, or having a lot of conflict, it may not be the best match. Now that doesn’t mean we don’t discuss and change, but it never feels like disagreement. It feels like collaboration which means building and growth rather than fighting. Your browser may not support display of this image.

8. Have you ever considered posting in a joint account? So the reviews are not split? I know of many collab teams and the review split is always challenging as readers tend to "meet" one of the authors and stay with that one. In some instances they will go with the author that is more active on boards etc. How do you handle that?
  • H: When we started BAT, neither of us were very well known (both still in the middle of completing our first fics), so the thought of posting under a single account never came up. When we started The Fates, I mentioned something about it, and we decided it was a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. We’d have the centralized reviews so there is no disparity, but we’d lose the word of mouth or author awareness via alerts and general ‘brand’ (sorry, I’m a marketer, I can’t help but think that way). On the flipside, there is the synchronization of schedules with two accounts (e.g. I am traveling this week and have a 15 hr time difference) that can make posting at the same challenging. There is also the disparity of reviews between our two versions of both stories. It is hard to deal with on both sides, as we both write the story, and therefore share in any accolades or critiques. Ultimately, we are fortunate that we have a handful of reviewers that post feedback to both our profiles.

  • T: I thought this was a good question that a lot of people might not consider. H has always had about triple the reviews I do. And yes, we are a team, but it is hard sometimes to see that big picture and feel like the fic is doing as well as it is. It’s the nature of the beast, of course. You have to be secure enough to know that you both contributed equally regardless of what it looks like on paper. A partner getting higher review counts does need to be sensitive to what that might communicate. I see benefits to a joint account from that perspective, but in the end, there is something about identity that would be hard for me to give up.

9. What do you do if you feel like one person's character is taking over the story or getting too much of the limelight?
  • H: In some ways, BAT was such an Edward centric story, but I never felt like there was a disparity in the characters, if that makes sense. The reality is – doesn’t matter what the fic is – Edward will almost always overshadow all the other characters in the reader’s mind, so I guess that puts who ever isn’t writing Edward in a position of weakness so to speak.

  • T: Interesting, I always thought Bella was the star of BAT. I still rank her among my favorite fic Bella’s because she was so bold. I don’t really think we’ve had a major issue with characters taking over though. There is give and take, ebb and flow. Ultimately, I would argue that because we write back and forth, we know what’s coming. H has written some killer scenes that I sit down and say, “Damn, I can’t live up to that,” but what it does is to force me to rise to the occasion the best I can. That way the story is balanced, and that’s what’s important. All of the characters are part of one arc.

Just Cause they Asked:

10. Would you consider your writing styles similar? Has writing together changed how you write individually?
  • H: I don’t consider our styles similar at all, although we’ve had people comment that the writing flows together so you can’t tell who wrote what. I will say that our styles when we write alone are totally different than when we write together. I don’t know what it is, but we get much darker when writing individually. Our combined work tends to be lighter or have more silly moments. We also tend to work more people in – more of a character piece than focusing solely on two characters.

  • T: That’s a tough one to answer, and I’ll go with yes and no. We have similar approaches to writing, similar values in fanfic, and a strong feeling about our end goals. I think that becomes stylistically similar and is what accounts for that flow between our POV’s. There are brief moments when we haven’t labeled a section where I take a second to figure out whose POV it is, but by and large, I think we have a different “voice” which is complementary more than symmetrical.

11. Can I have in-ur-endoward? Hell, I'll take Garrett off of your hands too.

  • H: You’ll have to talk to T about In-ur-endo. Garrett’s all mine and I’m not giving him up!!
  • T: I think you have to get in line for Garrett. Adorakable thrustward is up for grabs though. He’s a diamond in the rough, ladies. Have at ‘em!

In all seriousness, we are having a lot of fun writing together again, and can’t rave enough about how fulfilling the process and end product are. We know a number of other teams feel the same way, so with that said, here is a list (complied from the Indies and shout outs on Twitter) of some great collaborations – either multi chapter or one shot format. Happy Reading!

1 comment:

  1. I have just started my first collaboration (with 22blue), so this very timely and useful. I must admit that I was surprised to see how easily my new collaboration is working and I really like the story we've come up with. I'm sure the conflict part of your article will come in handy in the future!!


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