noun: collaboration; plural noun: collaborations
1. The action of working with someone to produce or create something.
Mirror Image is published today, August 23rd. Although I have written before, this is my first collaboration, and some of the most frequent questions I get are: What is it like to collaborate on a novel? How is it even possible? Would you recommend it? In order, the answers are: exhilarating, with technology and, without hesitation.
I should add at this point that finding the right collaborator is the key to success, and I have been very lucky to work with New York Times best-selling author, Michael Scott.
First, a little on Michael. Undoubtedly, he is best known for his highly successful six book young adult series "The Secrets of The Immortal Nicholas Flamel." What is less well known is that his prodigious output (108 titles) is split between young adult and adult. I have a lot of catching up to do!
The initial contact was through our mutual manager. I had just delivered the first book of my new erotica trilogy to my agent, and it was beginning to generate a lot of interest. When I was asked if I would be interested in collaborating with Michael I was a little intimidated, to say the least. However I just happen to love reading gore and eroticism. I especially love the old fashioned scary novels and movies where you know that it's not all in the minds of the lead characters: there is something actually out there! When I read the original manuscript, I discovered that's just what it was: scary horror with a great monster. How could I say no!
The first practicality to consider was communication. Michael is based in Ireland and I live in Los Angeles so there is an eight hour time difference. Skype,
WhatsApp, FaceTime have made the world very small indeed. There is only so much that can be communicated through email, and nothing beats a face-to-face chat. Initially, we looked at using Google Docs but eventually settled on Word, with the master document saved in a mutual Dropbox folder. All the notes for the book were shared in a OneNote notebook. One of the advantages of using Word and OneNote is that everything is available on all devices and is cross platform. Michael is mostly Windows and Android based, while I am Mac and IOS.
Michael is a great believer in plotting, whereas I am more of a seat of the pants writer. Learning how to plot from him was one of the greatest lessons I learned in this collaboration. On an Excel spreadsheet, with the chapters across the top, and the characters down the left hand side, we worked to shape this world. I've never written this way before, but it was a revelation as timelines and characters slotted together like an intricate jigsaw puzzle. One of the most challenging things Michael would ask me was: well what happens next? It pushed the story forward and created an energy which, I think, translates onto the page which gives Mirror Image its increasingly fast pace.
Once all that was in place, then the real work begins. Writing is mechanical, it’s a slow and lengthy process, exchanging chapters, editing, adding story layers, then editing again. (And again, and again...)
And when it’s finished it’s not easy to add the final full stop to a book that has taken months to write. I really wanted to do one more pass, just to add another layer, but Michael said, no, it's done. Time to let it go. Every writer knows that feeling. There's always that element of sadness, a parting of ways. The only way to get over that is to move on with the next book.
What did I learn from collaborating: a good writing partner will always challenge you and make you a better writer. A good collaborator supports you, teaches you. Writing is a lonesome process and a collaboration adds an extra energy to that.
My advice: try it. It's a lot of fun.