It’s not very often you see authors working as teams. There are a few, such as Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child—who also write solo—but on the whole, you don’t see it very often. Writing is very much a solo endeavor. Even if you bounce ideas off other people—as I often do—or you refine your story after it’s written by taking in the feedback you get from beta readers, in the end, you’re the one sitting there at the keyboard pounding out the words.
Musicians work in teams all the time. In fact, it’s rare to see a song written by just one person. I just finished reading Dancing with Myself, Billy Idol’s autobiography. It’s a great story about a guy who started out in punk in the seventies and worked his way up to be one of the most iconic stars of the eighties and beyond. One theme I saw throughout the book was that he worked with his guitarists to write his songs. Primarily, this was Steve Stevens, one of the most proficient guitarists out there, though he did work with Mark Younger-Smith for a time in the nineties. But almost any album you pick up will show the songs are a collaborative effort, whether it’s a solo artist or a band.
But even though we writers tend to work alone, that doesn’t prevent something special from happening when a few of us get together to hatch shared world projects. That’s just what happened to me this week—last night, in fact—as I got together with Casey Cowan, creative director of Oghma Creative Media, and science fiction authors Gordon Bonnet, whose conspiracy theory-heavy Kill Switch is available as an eBook preorder on Amazon, with print copies available April 14, and JE Newman, author of Changeling, a novel about the world after the superheroes have left (also available on Amazon).
Even though it was an informal visit, Casey hoped putting us together in one place would spark something, and it did. Over dinner, we hashed out a shared world project, the details of which I can’t reveal at this time. I think it’s gonna be an exciting thing to work on, though, and I think readers will like it. Part of the experiment will also involve reader feedback to determine the later course the project will take. The idea is to be on the edge of where writing is going, at least in part, a direction posited by Jason Merkoski, author of Burning the Page. Jason was on the development teams for the first two Kindles, and I highly recommend his book, which predicts some trends in the eBook market, one of which is a form of audience participation in the plot line of novels and stories.
When I went back to school, one of the classes I had to take was a business communication course. One of the things taught in that course is brainstorming and how companies can use it to initiate new projects. I thought it was a neat concept, but never expected to take much part in such things myself.
And yet, that’s exactly what we did at that meeting. We may not have followed the “letter of the law” by all of us writing down every single idea that came to mind, but we did end up with a consensus, nevertheless. We did it through talking, first about separate ideas we’d all come up with that might lend themselves to a shared world, then by hatching a concept completely independent of our solo projects.
Then we started paring them down, bouncing ideas of one another, evolving things suggested, dropping some things and completely changing others so they didn’t even resemble the initial suggestions, until we had something we were all excited about: a project that allows each of us to explore the world in our own unique ways while contributing to the whole, with the finale to be determined by reader consensus. And, in the end, the hope is that we attract readers to our solo projects while at the same time finding new writers to possibly extend the concept in a unique way by adding that twist at the end you expect from good science fiction.
I’ll keep you posted on this project, which should debut sometime next year, hopefully coinciding with our science fiction/fantasy ezine we intend to launch sometime in early 2016. So stay tuned to this blog for further developments, and I’ll pass them to you as I get them. If you’re a science fiction/fantasy fan, I think you’ll like what we’ve come up with.