Have you ever thought about collaborating on a novel with another writer? I’m working on a novel off and on with my wife and believe it or not we’re still speaking to each other. She supplied me with the initial ideas for the plot. I do the actual writing. She reviews what I’ve written and acts as line, copy and story editor and then I incorporate her corrections and ideas and the cycle repeats. Sixty thousand words later we might stand a chance of actually finishing the first draft.
I’m pretty sure most coauthor efforts aren’t as blissful as ours.
For example, during a collaboration between novelists Edwin O’Connor (1962 Pulitzer Prize for ‘The Edge of Sadness’) and Edmund Wilson, Wilson wrote:
“In writing alternate chapters with Ed, I very soon ran into difficulties. He would not always accept my cues of my methods, and I found my narrative blocked. I suspected that this was deliberate and that we were playing a game of chess, and this suspicion has been corroborated by Mrs. O’Connor’s telling me that, in sending back Chapter 4, Ed had said to her with satisfaction, “Well, I guess I’ve got him now”.
Arthur C. Clark and Stephen Baxter used to solve their disagreements during the writing of the ‘Time Odyssey’ novels by vigorously arguing on the phone or email until one of them came up with a better idea that they could both agree on.
Stephen King and Peter Straub during the writing of ‘The Talisman’ didn’t seem to have any significant problems at all. Stephen King said during an interview: “We wrote the beginning and ending together. Peter put on some jazz in his office, and I wrote for a while as he read magazines. When I was done, he’d pick it up where I had left off. For the rest of the book we divided the work. I’d write a chunk for a month or so at my house and then Peter would continue another chunk at his.”
They did the same thing during the sequel ‘Black House’ by taking turns sitting down at the computer to try and push the story forward.
During a joint interview King said, “Peter’s a friend and I only have about three of them. He makes me laugh harder than anyone else.” Straub replied, “That’s because you’re twisted.”
Then there was the SF husband and wife writing team of Walt and Leigh Richmond who wrote mostly for Analog magazine in the 1960’s. They had an interesting method of collaboration. Walt would sit in his chair and telepathically transmit story ideas to Leigh while she typed. In all of the published stories Walt was given full credit as coauthor.
A good example of the downside of the collaborative experience is Harper Lee’s effort with Truman Capote which is perhaps the most infamous backstab in American literature. Lee is of course the author of her one and only book ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. At Capote’s request Lee helped him on and off during his writing of ‘In Cold Blood’. The two, who were long time childhood friends, had a rift and the collaboration ended. When the novel was published, Capote dedicated the book to Lee and his longtime partner but failed to acknowledge Lee’s contributions to the work. Lee was very angry and hurt by the betrayal.
If you’ve ever seriously considered a collaboration, there’s an interesting 20 minute podcast on the nuts and bolts of it at Adam Scull’s website, Eat Sleep Write. This man, woman collaboration was for an alternative history novel called ‘Saving Jackie K’ in which the Soviets botched their attempt to kill John Kennedy and ended up killing Jackie instead. For this outrage a decades long war between the US and Russia ensues bringing them to the brink of nuclear war until something very unusual is done to save the planet.
To listen to the podcast at website: http://eatsleepwrite.net/63