Learning To Play Nice With Others
Kids are given a lot of aphorisms to try and live their lives by, things that adults tell them are simply necessary for their health and wellbeing. There’s “Go play outside,” a perennial favorite. “Clean your plate,” which is one that kids in this part of the world have absolutely no problem with. Another popular one over here is, “Don’t speak unless spoken to.” In a country where public schools have anywhere from 50-100 students in a single class, that’s a big one. Then there’s the ubiquitous, “Play nice,” which sounds more like an opinion than an order, but that’s the one that’s been on my mind lately.
I know that kindergarten is long past and I’ve been playing nice with others for several decades now, but working out how to do that with regards to my writing has been a gradual and much more surprising learning process than I’d originally thought. It’s one thing to write conflict into a story and have my people, whoever they are, solve it according to my say so. It’s another to have someone else comment on the conflict in my story, but this isn’t actually a post about reviews. It’s a post about collaboration.
I’ve always admired authors who could write something together and actually manage to get it to the point where they were both satisfied enough to publish. It seemed to me that that had to be a huge challenge, not just opening yourself and your process up to someone else but being willing to compromise and work through creative differences. If you write fiction like I do, you know how incredibly possessive you can be of your characters. They’re your crew, your children, your wet dreams. Having someone else in there messing with them can just feel weird. And then there’s the fact that whoever you’re working with is probably thinking the same thing about you sticking your nose into their work as well. Clearly it can be done, however, and for some people, the results are incredible.
Up until very recently I wasn’t really inclined towards collaborating. I’m a Peace Corps volunteer living in a small town in West Africa where the electricity is sporadic, the internet scarce and the heat enough to prostrate you for most of the day. It’s hard to make myself write for me some days, never mind writing with the idea of handing it over to someone else. Besides, who has the patience to wait for days or even weeks when technology’s tenuous grip on the region slips and I’m incommunicado? Even people who are related to me take that kind of hard (Mom, seriously, I’ll make up for it this Mother’s Day, I promise!). However, someone found me, charmed me and made the offer, and I decided to give it a try.
I’m in the throes of a major project with my coauthor now, and it’s fascinating. Our styles are so disparate that I wondered if we’d be able to stitch them together at all in the beginning, but it’s turning into a much richer way of writing than I had anticipated. There are stumbling blocks, character quirks and plot devices that are gently disputed, but everything so far has been handled with grace and efficiency, at least on her part. I’ve managed to be reliable, which is about all I can say for myself at the moment, but I can’t deny that it’s been mostly fun, and all fascinating. Anyone who’s written with someone else before and feels like throwing me their two cents, please do, because I’m pretty new to the potential rewards and challenges of this work and can always use another perspective.
Eventually I’ll post some excerpts of our joint work on my blog, and people who are familiar with my stuff will no doubt notice the difference at once. In the interim, though, I’m going to direct the interested towards another type of collaboration that I love to participate in: anthologies. Anthologies are fun because for those with themes, you know the authors all took the same basic idea, and then you get to see the myriad of ways that they ran with it. My latest release is the erotic romance Nothing Ventured, published in the Phaze Books anthology Silver Wings. The theme is m/m and m/m/f steampunk and there are three other excellent stories included. You can find it here
I valiantly struggle against the forces of oppression, circumstance and, you know, laziness to maintain my own blog at http://carizerotica.blogspot.com. There are links to my work, free serial stories, and occasional rants in which I swear I’m going for humor. Visit. Peruse. Follow me to the other bizarre places I like to invent.
Victoria, you are a model collaborator, case in point. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to chat on your awesome blog.
Bio: Cari Z is originally from Colorado, where she imagines it snowing with guilty pleasure. She and her husband currently live in Western Africa, where snow is so foreign that it defies the capacity of her poor French to describe. She’s been writing for many years, publishing for a few years and trying to get the hang of blogging and the like for less than a year, but it’s slowly coming together. She loves visitors, but she doesn’t expect you to fly all the way to Africa to see her. Come and visit her blog instead.