Thoughts on collaboration

I’ve been pretty quiet on social media this week due to my day-job. I’ve been working on a rather large presentation, and I had the gentleman due to give that presentation in my office this week to help me hash out the content.

Now, collaboration isn’t something I’ve done much of in my career. As a journalist, it was pretty much all on me when it came to researching and writing articles; those few times I’ve worked with other reporters, it was to divide-and-conquer the phone calls and research, then one of us would sit down and pound out the words.

And in my current role in corporate communications, it’s still been me sitting down and writing. Now, I’ve had a lot more folks with input — both before and after the creative process — but rarely during. Usually, there just isn’t the time or the resources to really dive deep into the words with someone.

This project is different, because it’s a really-big-deal presentation. At first, I wasn’t all that excited about having someone in my office with me to hack out the concepts and words. Writing is a solitary thing, after all, and I’m basically used to just getting the work done, then getting the feedback.

(And as an aside, I’d like to think I’m pretty good about feedback and editing. I’ve written a LOT of words in my career — probably close to two million words in journalism and marketing, and another 375,000 or so in fiction. I’m past the point of being super-precious about my writing. NOT every word, as it turns out, is golden. I accept that wholeheartedly.)

But I admit, this process really worked. My colleague thinks very conceptually about the points he needs to hit during each part of the presentation. I naturally tend to think more in terms of narrative and flow, how the script ebbs and flows and teases the emotions and intellect toward the conclusions we want the audience to have.

The pairing of the two of us went well. Brainstorming was easy and intuitive and natural. I helped with the concepts, but really brought the framing and narrative to the table. He backstopped that against the business needs of the overall presentation.

Two days and 8,000 words later, I think we’re off to a pretty great start, one that should allow us to work on the rest remotely, via email and phone calls.

There aren’t that many writers I know who collaborate with other writers when it comes to fiction. I think the most famous example is Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who write the Expanse novels together under the pen name James S.A. Corey. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett came together to produce Good Omens, one of my favorite novels. And a lot of writers in Baen’s stable collaborate — that’s actually a part of the publisher’s strategy to cross-pollinate fan bases and help overall sales.

I think there’s real value in a writing collaboration, but for me personally, there may be one insurmountable drawback. Collaboration is time-consuming. I blocked off nearly two days of my work schedule for this current project, and my colleague came up to New York from Washington to get it done. To devote that kind of time to my fiction — which, by the way, has to accommodate my day-job — would really detract from the time I spend with family and friends.

But I admit, the good work over the past few days has me thinking, hence this particular ramble. I’ve no plans to do it any time soon — I already have a current fiction project I’m working on which I’ll be able to tell you about soonish — but if the opportunity came up, I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand.


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