Monday, January 10, 2022

Balancing on the razor's edge

 The very first professional project I ever worked on was a comic book script, and the artist was a long-time favorite of mine, but one that I had never met. I was delighted when I heard he'd be illustrating my little eight-page script, and being an enthusiastic lad, I gave him descriptions of exactly what I wanted in every panel.

Yeah, that didn't go so well.  It's a collaborative effort, you see. The idea is that we tell a story together, not that I dictate a tale and expect his vision and mine to be precisely the same.  It was my first real collaborative effort, and at the end of the day, I was exceedingly pleased with how he told the story, once I realized that he was the artist and I was the writer. 

I have moved on and collaborated with a lot of people since then, other writers and artists alike. Sometimes I've asked to be in charge and other times I've asked THEM to take charge, depending entirely on the circumstances. More often than not we discuss who is doing what before the collaboration begins, because at the end of the day it's about having fun with the project, not about anyone's ego.  If you are worried about YOUR vision and not the shared enjoyment of a project, you might not be quite ready to collaborate.

My buddy Charles Rutledge has a great way of putting it. We're playing with each other's toys in the sandbox. The operative words here are playing and toys. We go into every project we do together with the idea of having a good time. Period. If we sell what we write together, that's just gravy. So far we've written three novels, four novellas, and about a dozen or so short stories together, and I have had a blast with all of them. We have plans laid out for at least three more novels, one of which is half done and would have been fini9shed by now but I have a few pending deadlines to finish first. THE TOURISTS GUIDE TO HAUNTED WELLMAN is a fun project first, and both of us have plenty enough on our plates. I'm looking forward to finsh8ng the Halloween-themed tale of his occult detective and mine soon. They've met before, you see, and there's always fun and carnage when they end up in the same towns. 

If we fail to sell it, by the way. we'll probably print it ourselves but that is a different subject for another time. The point is, I love writing with Charles. We have fun and both of us respect the other enough to not let something as foolish as whose name goes first or who wrote what get in the way. In most cases, he reads over my latest sections and edits as he goes, and I do the exact same thing in return. Should he have a problem with an edit I make, he's welcome to put it back, but honestly, it's usually us catching each other's typos. 

The same is true when I work with Christopher Golden, but we almost always work from a plotted storyline because he's more comfortable with that. It doesn't bother me in the least and both of us have been guilty of straying well away from the laid-out plot when we felt the need. No harm, no foul, so long as we're both having fun playing in the sandbox. 

Guess what? We always have fun playing in the sandbox. We've worked on multiple short stories and a full series of novellas. 

The very same guys and a few others are the people I go to with questions about my writing. We're known to look over each other's works when asked. It's never a problem for me and I doubt it is for them.

\I have collaborated many, many times. I've even, when the mood struck me, ghostwritten a few tales for friends who were in need of the assistance fully understanding that any words I wrote were theirs to change, as the stories were theirs, and I was lending a hand. No ego, just fun. I could tell you who, but no, it's not for me to say. 

The secret, by the way, is exactly this simple in my opinion: Respect. I respect them. They respect me. We have fun playing together and we don't sweat the small stuff. 

The first rule is always the same. Have Fun. The second rule is also always the same: Respect Your Co-Creator.  I have worked with several collaborators and in every case, I learned new things and I had a blast. 

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