I have done three collaborations with other writers. Each experience was different, and in each case the story turned out differently than I had planned. And that was the beauty of the experience.
My first collaboration was with Carl Duzett, a fellow member of the Speculative Wordsmiths writing group, on the story “Six Degrees of Zombie Kevin Bacon.” The impetus for this collaboration was a little bit unusual, since Carl had originally drafted the story and brought it to our writers’ group for workshopping. While workshopping the story, I had some radical ideas that I discussed with Carl that would have made it a significant different story.
Carl and I discussed this and agreed to do a collaborative rewrite of the story. We did, and we were both pleased at the pulpy mashup of crime, horror, and social commentary that we wound up with. The story has garnered some interesting rejection letters, and almost sold! (How the story almost sold is a longer tale to be told over drinks.) I wound up with a lot of influence over the direction that this story went, but the core idea, and the title, were Carl’s. And some of the most beautiful and shocking pieces of writing in the story were Carl’s as well.
My second collaboration was with my old pal, Nathan McKnight. Nathan and I collaborated on a story for the Paper Golem anthology, Cucurbital 3. Lawrence Schoen likes to give writers a challenge, and the theme for Cucurbital 3 was no exception: madness, darkness, mattress.
Nathan and I came up with a really bonkers story about a talking penguin and a man dragging a mattress across Antarctica called “The Fifth Mattress.” I can’t say is was a really great story but I can say it was a really strange story, and a fun story to write. Ultimately the story didn’t sell, but I’m glad we had the opportunity to collaborate on it. This story probably had the closest shared vision, as Nathan and I spent many hours discussing it throughout the writing and revision process.
My third collaboration was with the amazingly talented and prolific Evan Dicken. Evan and I had long discussed collaborating on a story, and decided we wanted to do something steampunk, but something different than the traditional Victorian setting. This was the genesis of our Reconstruction-era New Orleans steampunk story, “The Titan’s Daughter.”
Evan definitely had more influence over the direction of this story, but I was extremely happy with the scenes that I wrote. As we were writing this story, the endings we had in mind diverged sharply, and we found we had very different visions on the direction of the story. We sat down and had a long discussion about the way we wanted the story to go. Ultimately, we chose to go with the direction Evan wanted to go, and we were able to finalize the story together with a shared vision.
This turned out to be the right decision as we were fortunate to recently place the story with a podcast to-be-named in the near future. I’m still waiting to give the “official” announcement, but really excited to be able to hear our story live.
The greatest thing about collaborations is also the hardest thing – giving up your own vision in order to experience the vision and ideas of your collaboration partner. You’ve got to check your ego at the door, but if you can do that, you can find some incredible stories together.