Thursday, April 16, 2009

Collaborative Writing

Some of you will probably hate this idea. I might even hate it myself...I've yet to decide. But, I have this fantasy of writing a story the same way a director makes a movie. I'd bring together multiple writers based on their strengths (a subjective assessment, of course) and assign a different element of writing to each person in the hopes of making one SPECTACULAR story.

More likely it would be one spectacular disaster.

Do you think this could ever work? Would you want it to ever work? One of the things that I love about writing is that, for the most part, I can have as much control of my story as I want. It's mine. I may not be able to publish it exactly the way I want to, but I am basically in charge of all the decisions in the beginning. Movies with large crews do not have this same quality. On the other hand, I love to collaborate. It's when I'm at my best. I often try harder when I work for someone else than when I work for myself.

If I had control of life and death and time and people, my dream team would look something like this:

Characters: Gunter Grass and Jonathan Safran Foer.
Style: Faulkner
Plot: Dante
Dialog: Shakespeare
Interior thoughts: Virginia Woolf
And the Director? I've managed to avoid talking about him for several postings, but surely you know who my favorite writer is.

Of course almost all of those people are dead. But, I can think of several writer friends I'd love to invite. Would they say "yes" or "shove off"?


  1. I'd say YES, and maybe we could post the results or progress on The Quick Quill?

    I think it might be a disaster, but we never know until we try. You're awesome, and I LOVE that list!

  2. I think it could work--it does, after all, work for television writing. Although I also think there does need to be one person strongly forefront with a clear vision--one person to make the outline, the others to fill it in.

    That said, I think a lot of time writers in groups/crit circles/beta readers often do this, too. I often have to hold myself back from rewriting a scene--and our suggestions shape the overall story. So, to an extent, any writer giving critical advice often does this, at least to some level.

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  4. I've never thought about this, but it is definitely an interesting idea. I know a person who works in Disney (movies) and he exclusively does hands. That's all he does. He is the hand guy. It would be interesting to have people with different talents or strength and try to make something big together. I would even enjoy being part of something like this. There would be the dialog guy, the description guy, the plot guy, the dramatic scene guy, etc. Sounds like fun.

  5. It sounds like it could be a fabulous disaster, but a lot of fun even if it is. How do you think it would work?

    I'm amused by the thought of Tolstoy (someone had to say his name) and Faulkner working together.

  6. As disastrous as it does sounds, the idea is still a cool one.

    If you try it, you have to let us know how it all pans out.

    That is if all the writers you gather together don't go insane and kill each other. :) But then you'd have a WHOLE other thing to write about.

  7. I could never do it. I just...couldn't. I just can't deal with other people. Which, as my mother constantly points out, I need to get over.

    If you think you can do it, go for it. If you do, keep me posted because I'd love somebody to prove to me that it's possible. :D

  8. I'm thinking some of those authors may not get along well! :-D

  9. Davin, after my last post I am thinking of all of the "voices" the collaborators would bring to the table (not writing voices, but the people in their heads) and I wonder if that would push the finished project even further from its pure form. Or would the collective support be freeing, so that everyone would feel more empowered to speak his/her truth?

    Very interesting concept!

  10. Lady Glamis, yes, if we can ever do this--which I'd LOVE to do, we can definitely post it on QQ. :)

    Beth, Yeah, logistically one or two people would have to be at the forefront just to keep things in order. Like the movie's director. I think it's sort of like crit grups, but each player would have a bigger role, I think. They would really have to feel like they "own" part of the story.

    Krisz, That's great! I like the hand guy. That's like us having someone just to write dialog tags or something. It's makes a lot of sense, but it seems so specialized!

    Scott, I would guess there's be a preproduction team that creates the setting, the characters, the plot, and stuff like that, then a production team that will actually put together the writing. Then, maybe an editor to sort of make the whole thing flow? We'd learn along the way!

    The Screaming Guppy, I think arguments are inevitable. :)

    Jenna, I'm actually really surprised more people don't feel like you do. This is interesting. My brain cogs are definitely cogging.

  11. Litgirl, Yeah, Scott mentioned that too. I guess I didn't think about personality matches. But, if I had the power to revise them, maybe I'd have the power to send them back to the grave if they got unruly. :)

    Jennifer, Yes, I think the "purity" of the story could be lost, definitely. But, maybe it would also be the birth of something new.

  12. I think it sounds like a great idea. Something like this was done last year before the Muse Online Conference. Several writers that were going to be in a certain workshop all wrote pieces of a story that our instructor, Jan Verhoeff started. It ended up as a sci-fi type story but it worked really well. Each person thought of a character and added their part in turns. The story actually made sense. It was fun. Keep us posted as to how it all takes shape, Davin.

  13. It sounds interesting, but I don't when I would get the opportunity to engage in such insanity. I'm not sure I have an obvious strength yet.

  14. Robyn, I've heard of what you described before too. I did something like that in a sculpture class. The exercise was called "The Exquisite Corpse" and everyone worked on a different body part before we Frankensteined them together. :)

    Justus, maybe your negativity is your strength. ;) Seriously, right off the bat I can see you as the stylist/prose writer or the plot creator. So there.

  15. I think it could be a crazy-fun project, especially if we can get the authors you suggest to help. Woohoo! Raising the dead would be the best part. Hehe!

  16. Beth has a good point, it does work for television writing. Sounds like something interesting to try. But we authors are a bit dramatic to say the least...

  17. I nominated you for an award on my blog. :D


  18. I think it's a fascinating idea, and certainly a great writing exercise.


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