Hello, PubCrawlers! Today I’m going to talk about something that some of you may or may not ever contemplate doing, and that is a writing collaboration. There are a lot of ways for a collaboration to go wrong and a lot of ways for a collaboration to go right! Collabs can be great because it’s often like having a built-in critique partner, someone to help you smooth the kinks and right the ship if it veers off course. And they can be terrible if both parties aren’t clear about their goals and expectations for the project.
First, let’s talk about two common types of collaboration within fiction
Each writer tackles one perspective in a Dual POV novel.
The Pros: This is a great method for collaboration if you and your partner have two very distinct voices and you’re writing in first person. One of the biggest critique I usually have of dual POV books written by a single writer is that the voices of each character aren’t different enough from one another. This can cause confusion for the reader. Having a partner can really help to eliminate that.
The Cons: One perspective can often feel unnecessary to readers. Perhaps you picked Dual POV because you wanted to write with your friend, but your styles are quite distinct. So you split the narrative into two voices and went on your merry way – you each wrote a scene from your chosen perspective, passed it back and forth to make sure it fit, then continued until the book was done. But upon reading, your beta readers and critique partners mention feeling like the book could have been written from one perspective only, without any loss to the essence of the story.
The narrative is tackled by both writers, scene by scene.
The Pros: This is a great method if you and your writing partner get along really, really well, and have similar voices. This method is a lot like, as I mentioned above, having a built-in critique partner. Everything you’ve written is then read by your partner, polished for clarity, and then, ideally, they write the next part of the scene and pass it back to you. What comes out is often much more polished than your general first draft.
The Cons: We talk a lot about killing darlings and not letting work be too precious – this is the kind of collaboration where that mindset becomes absolute necessity. Nothing can be too precious, or you run the risk of hurting your collab, and the story. And what if you want to take the story in an entirely different direction than your partner? What if you have totally different ideas about what the villain in the story might do or where the MC might go? If you can’t compromise on these things, this is one of those times when working alone might be better for you.
So now that I’ve talked about the two most prevalent collaborations when it comes to fiction, let’s talk a bit about what to do before you dive into the project.
When you have a new idea you’re desperate to write and a partner who seems to be on the same page as you, it can be tempting to dive in immediately. But I beg you, take a breath, and talk some stuff through first. You never know when you might need to invoke certain aspects of your agreement, especially if you find yourself with an agent or a book deal.
In fact, the best thing you can do is draw up an actual Collaboration Agreement and sign it. If you have an agent, ask for their advice on this. Many agencies have templates for this and help you draw up your agreement. If you don't have an agent, you can google “collaboration agreements for writers” to find several available templates. I know this might seem like overkill now, but I promise you, even if your book is just for fun and never sees a printer, you will be more at ease with your partner and your project just knowing you are both on the same page.
I think a lot of writers don’t talk about certain things when it comes to collabs because they worry that it will seem greedy, or like they don’t think their partner is trustworthy, and to be honest, if those are concerns for you, you probably shouldn’t be entering into a collaboration at all. That fear is the same fear that prevents writers from fighting for the rights of their own intellectual property, and that’s not okay – it’s your work! Your creative achievement! You should feel comfortable knowing you are protected no matter what, no matter how much you like or respect your partner.
So that being said, here are just a few things you’ll need to hash out before you start:
Percentage of profits. Who gets what? Who is responsible for what? If it’s 50/50 then that makes things super easy, but it still needs to go on paper. And if it’s NOT 50/50, then be specific about who is responsible for what. For example, Is Writer A responsible for research, outlining, and polishing, leaving Writer B responsible for the actual writing?
Termination. What happens if Writer A decides to terminate their involvement, before or after a book deal? Does the manuscript fall to Writer B, and if so, what is the percentage of credit that is divvied from there? Will the person who defaulted still get a percentage of profits, a credit, or nothing? This is especially important because if one of you gets bored or sick or you have a falling out, there is precedent, in writing, for what happens to work from there.
Credit. Whose name goes first in the credits/on the front of the book and in what order? Is copyright shared?
This is certainly just scratching the collaboration surface, but I hope I’ve touched on some useful information for anyone who is hoping to start their own writing partnership. Let me know in the comments if this has been helpful!