Hello, dear readers. I am back, and this time I have one of those odd posts where I write about writing; in this case, about the benefits of collaboration when it comes to your writing!
Recently, I was having a conversation with someone where we both discovered the other person did the whole “writing” thing. A lot of it was the usual questions – what form do you write, what genre, got anything going at the moment, that kind of thing. But I was quite surprised when I asked them if they had a writing partner or a group they workshopped things with, and they said no. I’m sure some of the greatest works have been written by authors who went off in isolation, perhaps on some retreat and/ or drug binge and just Got Shit Done. But personally, I can’t imagine anything more painful than trying to write entirely by myself.
I’m aware it’s often easier said than done to arrange this sort of thing; I’m very privileged to both have friends that interest in being involved and having met some great people through my university course who I collaborate well with. But I really think writing always needs to have more than one person involved – hell, nearly every published book goes through various rounds of editing before it’s on bookstore shelves.
The benefits of workshopping work can never be understated, even if it’s with one person rather than a whole group. I had a friend through university who I often approached, or approached me, when some work needed to be shaped up pre-deadline; I think we both trusted each other to put careful thought and due diligence into reading and workshopping each other’s work. Even post-university, if I was thinking about submitting something for a competition or publication, I’d shoot them a message to try and get their feedback. Whether or not they’d reply is here nor there – they’re busy being a published author, accomplished writer of monologues and just generally making the rest of us seem lazy – but if they did, I know I would get some invaluable input.
Workshopping can take place with someone who knows and writes in similar styles and genres as you, but I find it can often be the most valuable without too much overlap; an echo chamber never did a writer any good when it comes to improving. My aforementioned mystery classmate writes in multiple forms and genres, not often intersecting with my own writing that much, but I think that puts them in a perfect position to critique my work. When workshopping with someone, there’s a temptation to go “I like it” or something similar, but you must try to build a workshop pair/ group based on honesty. Everyone involved needs to trust that the others will tell them the truth because they want to get the best out of their work. Never be an arse, certainly, but never be overly kind because you feel a bit bad – try to find a balance between the two, erring on the side of honesty if you can.
Another way to work with other writers, which can be both interesting and fun, is directly creating something together. My experience in this is limited to short fiction so far, but I know writer’s rooms are often a thing for screenwriting. Things like back-and-forth writing challenges can be a good way to bounce ideas with someone.
In my case, a friend and I are collaboratively building a sci-fi world through flash fiction. We have a system where one person sends the other a short writing prompt, and the recipient has to reply with a story of up to 500 words. For the first few stories, we also had to directly reference a concept or event from the previous story, but now we have broadened it to referencing from any previous story. Outside of the stories themselves, we’ve only had one or two conversations with the goal of world-building, otherwise leaving it in each other’s hands to direct both the tone and content of the world we’re making. I’ve found this to be a very entertaining project: Challenging due to the word count, tricky due to the background goal of world-building, and surprising when I get a story back and go “God, I wouldn’t have even gone that route with the prompt!”
Thus ends my post. A bit of an odd ramble, certainly, but I firmly believe in collaborating when it comes to all kinds of writing. Perhaps I’ll pop this one under “Musings”? If you have a figurative two cents to give, or some wisdom to add to what I’ve said above, please find me on Twitter here: If you have a literal two cents to give, please drop them here in my Ko-Fi! Until next time, dear readers, take care!