Tuesday, December 8, 2015

2 Working Collaboratively -- Can You Check Your Ego at the Door?

In many ways, there's nothing more humbling than becoming a traditionally published author. Not only do you have critique partners giving you feedback about what's wrong with your books, you also have to work with your agent and editor, and sprinkling gold stars all over your projects is not their job. They're supposed to pick what you turn in apart and help you make it better. And then, of course, there are readers. They bring things to your work that you never imagined or envisioned, and that's the way it's supposed to be. Once a book is out in the world, it belongs to them. Hearing from them can be the greatest joy you'll have as an author.

Today, though, I'd like to talk about a different kind of joy. The joy of collaboration with another author you respect. I'm having the opportunity to work with Erin Cashman on a new project, and I can honestly say it's the most fun I've had writing in a couple of years.

If you've ever thought of trying a collaboration, you may wonder if it's right for you. After all, we've all heard the disaster stories from other writers. So how do you know if it's going to work?

Here are a few simple questions to ask yourself. You'll need to answer them honestly!

  1. Are you a control freak who has to have everything your way? If you are, make sure your writing partner isn't.
  2. Are you convinced that every word you put down on paper is perfect? If you are, you probably aren't ready for publication yet, much less ready to work with a partner.
  3. How will you divide the work? Does one write all the draft chapters while the other fleshes the out or edits, or do you each write alternating chapters? Are there multiple POVs that make it easier to divide and conquer?
  4. Are you and your partner working under a similar sense of urgency and able to provide the same type of time commitment and level of experience? If not, you'll want to have a frank conversation about expectations and the split for potential income with respect to contribution. You might be able to work things out, but you need to know for certain whether someone has a warped perspective before you start.
  5. What will you do as you individual projects interfere? Getting edits back on a solo project, family emergencies, and a lot of other things can end up derailing forward momentum. How are you going to handle that? Will the other keep working? Or wait until you're both ready to go? And how do you accommodate this financially or make up the time?
  6. Are you both willing to keep working until you're certain you're both happy? If one of you thinks a project is done many drafts before the other is content with it, you're going to run into trouble.
  7. Are you both coming to the table with a sense of the market, what's current, and what it takes to succeed in the current publishing environment? It's great for an established writer to help another writer along, but it's easier if you are both at least familiar with what's being published and what current editors (and readers) are buying.
  8. Who will handle the sale for you? It's easier to pick one agent to handle the project rather than having both agents tangled up in it. Not every agent is going to be okay with that, though. It's always best to know up front. 
  9. Can you envision working together for years and years? Because honestly, especially with a trilogy, a collaboration can be a multi-year commitment. You want to make sure that you're confident your friendship will not only survive, but also thrive. After all, projects are one thing. Friends are infinitely more important.

About the Author

Martina Boone is the author of Compulsion and Persuasion, out now in the romantic Southern Gothic Heirs of Watson Island trilogy from Simon & Schuster, Simon Pulse. Illusion, the final book, will be out in October of 2016. Martina is also the founder of AdventuresInYAPublishing.com, a three-time Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers Site, and YASeriesInsiders.com, a site dedicated to encouraging literacy and reader engagement through a celebration of series literature. She's also on the Board of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia and runs the CompulsionForReading.com program to distribute books to underfunded schools and libraries.


  1. I, for one, am VERY eager to read your collaboration with Erin!! Good luck, you two!

  2. Congrats on collaborating with Erin! I've often wondered how it would be to write a book with someone else. I write so slow though, that I'd drive the person nuts. Good luck with your project.


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