Monday, September 19, 2011

Working With Other Authors Without Losing Yourself by Jennifer Slattery

Hey readers, Annette here. Welcome to another Mixing-It-Up Monday. Please welcome back Jennifer Slattery as she shares Part Two in her series on working with others.

Working with Other Authors Without Losing Yourself
by Jennifer Slattery

Some people thrive in group settings. They love working on a team and standing in front of an audience. Others (like me and perhaps 85% of writers) prefer to hide in their office behind a keyboard screen. We’re used to going it alone and doing things how we want when we want…until a joint assignment comes our way. Team projects are hard in any endeavor, but merging two or more creative minds often creates migraines. By choosing your partners carefully, setting clear boundaries and guidelines, and focusing on the project more than the personality, authors can turn collaboration nightmares into successful projects.

In my short writing career, I’ve received numerous proposals for joint writing projects. I ignore most offers for one of two reasons: either I’m not convinced the other author has the gumption to follow through, or our writing levels are incompatible.

There’s nothing more frustrating than carrying another writer’s load, and as I mentioned in my previous article, every writer approaches their writing differently. Some see it more as a hobby; others are in it to win it.

But putting two Pitbulls together might not be the best plan, either. Often, it’s best to find strong writers who fill in your holes, although sometimes this takes a bit of trial and error to discover. When my devo-writing partner, Joanne Sher, and I first started working together, at times, she wanted to reach across the computer screen and slap me! But eventually we realized how amazingly compatible we were.

“It was tough in the beginning when we were first getting to know one another and each other’s personality styles,” Joanne said. “But once I saw her motivations and strengths, I grew to appreciate her greatly and saw what a great fit we were! But I’d hate to see two Jens try to work together!”

Our meshing took time and a great deal of cyber-chatting. “The communication between us is so important,” Joanne said. “When I have a question I’ll throw it Jen’s way, and she does the same to me. We aren’t afraid to share our opinions on each others’ work, either—or take criticism.”

You might be tempted to ask, is it worth it? Considering all the challenges, why would an introverted, creative, outside-the-box thinking writer do it? For debut novelist Valerie Comer, it gave her the “in” she needed to help launch her career. “When I saw Barbour's call for proposals last December, I knew this was likely to be my best shot at getting my foot in the door,” Valerie said. “I saw Barbour's public request for proposals in December and mentioned it to Nicole. We brainstormed a bit and she asked if she could find a couple more authors to pull in. By the next day, we had a team, and a week later we had a proposal ready to submit. The rest, as they say, is history!”

Through this partnership, Valerie gained much more than a contract. “[I get] the chance to see how [my writing partners] design a story and what their writing process is like, up close.”

You know that phrase about two heads? The sentiment is true in writing as well. By working together, authors are able to benefit from one another’s strengths without losing their originality. When Valerie Comer, Nicole O’Dell, Cara Putman, and Annalisa Daughety started their anthology—a collection of four novellas centered in the same time and place, they pooled their ideas then focused on their portion of the assignment. “We brainstormed the setting, theme, and premise when we assembled the proposal, and each of us came up with our own story line,” Valerie said. “I wrote mine first, mostly because all the others already had contract deadlines that came first. When I got their drafts for critique, I found ways to insert a mention of their characters or situation into my own.”

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Jennifer Slattery is a novelist and freelance writer living in the Midwest with her husband of sixteen years and their thirteen-year-old daughter. She works for Tiffany Colter, the Writing Career Coach, and is the marketing manager for the literary website, Clash of the Titles. In 2009 she won the HACWN writing contest and in 2010 she was a CWG Operation First Novel Finalist, placed second in the Dixie Kane and fourth in the Golden Pen. She has a short piece in Bethany House's Love is a Flame (under a pen name), with forward by Gary Chapman, another piece in Cathy Messecar's A Still and Quiet Soul, and another piece scheduled to appear in Majesty House's Popcorn Miracles. Catch one of her faith-stirring devotionals at Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud and find out more about her critiquing and marketing services at Words That Keep.

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