Collusion

Every fiction writer has strong points and weak points. Maybe you think up some great plots, but you struggle with believable dialogue. Maybe you think up some fascinating characters, but aren’t sure what to do with them.

It might be worth considering collaboration with someone whose strong points and weak points dovetail with yours.

When it works, the total can be more than the sum of its parts. Charles Nordhoff had a decent career as a solo writer in the 20th century, though it’s unlikely you know any of his titles. Ditto for James Normal Hall. It’s much more likely that you’ve heard of a title they wrote together: Mutiny on the Bounty. Altogether they co-wrote 10 novels in the course of 16 years.

Nordhoff was strong on keeping the narrative moving. Hall gets credit for descriptive passages and ruminations.

On the other hand, collaboration didn’t work very well for Mark Twain. He tried writing a novel with his neighbor and fellow editor, Charles Dudley Warner. The result was The Gilded Age. For the most part, Twain and Warner each wrote his own story, and the chapters were woven together. Or, at least they were placed side by side.

The critics were not kind. A review published in 1874 compared the novel to a badly mixed salad dressing, in which “the ingredients are capital, the use of them faulty.”

So if you bristle at the idea of someone modifying your work or even suggesting that some parts be tossed out, collaboration may not be a good route. But if you can keep your ego in check, you might find a new source of creative inspiration.


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