by Gina Sestak
Writing can be a solitary pursuit. We sit alone in a room, pounding away at a keyboard, or take long lonely walks to work out plot points. We live inside our own heads, interacting with the fantasies who live there.
But there is another way, an intersctive way. Collaborators bounce ideas off one another. They may exchange text to edit or agree to each write certain sections of a work.
Collaboration is nothing new in the mystery field. Ellery Queen was famously the pseudonym of two men who wrote the fictional detective together.
I've even collaborated myself before, but only on non-fiction. My only published hardcover, Informed Consent: A Study of Decision-Making in Psychiatry, was a collaborative effort, written by a six-person team. It was a full time job for me and two of my co-authors. The other three held faculty and administrative positions as well. We worked on it for three years of weekly meetings, first conducting the underlying study, then drafting the manuscript. We each took responsibility for various chapters, which were then edited together to form a coherent whole. It was very structured. I also collaborated with one of my co-authors on a journal article, Legislating Human Rights: The Pennsylvania Mental Health Procedures Act. That was a little more free-form, but still structured very academically.
This past summer I began working on a film script with another person. It's based on his idea. I admit that. I came on board primarily to help out with dialogue. And it isn't to a point that I can publicly reveal the story details to a bunch of strangers on the internet. The process is interesting, though. We brain-storm about the story line and characters, which really gets ideas flowing. We exchange written material as email attachments, some of which refuse to open. We're working on it.
I've found it's easy to maintain enthusiasm when there's someone else invested in the writing process. And that ideas come fast and furious during those brain-storming sessions.
What about you? Have you ever co-written anything? Why or why not? What was your experience?