Thursday, September 20, 2007

Writing in Tandem

Do you think that you could write a novel ... with someone else? Perhaps even (shock horror) with your significant other?

The idea isn't as off the wall as it might seem at first, and Jane Sullivan in The Age explores the idea of collaborative writing.

Rebecca Sparrow worked with her mentor Nick Earl to write Joel and Cat Set the Story Straight:
... a story about the battle of the sexes set in a senior high school
Bookninja declared herself unconvinced about the wisdom of writing a novel together:
I personally think it’s a recipe for murder and burial in a cold wood’s shallow grave. Try to edit my clever aphorism, will you?
And Nick Earl dropped by his blog and explained how it worked for them:
Rebecca Sparrow and I managed it by writing in tandem (her idea, and one used by several others previously). I had my chapters (from the main male character’s POV), she had her chapters (from the main female character’s POV) and we alternated. The deal was you took whatever came in and you worked with it - no changing the other author’s work. We kept that up right through to the editing. Our editor worked with me on my half, and with Bec on her half.

So, we each had our own novel within the novel, in a way. It was still a new adventure though, sitting waiting for the Tuesday chapter to arrive before you could write Wednesday, then sending Wednesday off as soon as you’d hit the last ‘.’.

I think it’s essential to have the right partner, the right story and the right ground rules. Plenty of other people seem to have been happy to take it on with less clarity than that though.
Sullivan also tells the apocryphal tale of Dymphna Cusack and Florence James who wrote Come in Spinner (1951) together under the name Sydney Wyborne:
... when the book won the Daily Telegraph prize, the editor refused to speak to Cusack when she called to make an appointment, and insisted he would only talk to Wyborne. (Obviously Come in Spinner couldn't possibly have been written by a woman, let alone two.)
Other successful collaborative writers include British husband and wife Nicci Gerard and Shaun French who have produced a series of bestselling psychological thrillers under the name Nicci French.

And I fed my adolescent passion on bodice rippers by Sergeanne Golon - in reality husband and wife team, Serge and Anne Golon.

It doesn't look such a daft idea, does it?

9 comments:

Madcap Machinist said...

I thought that writing exercise we did was fun. No reason why it can't work. How come the Penguin wikinovel doesn't get a mention?

Granted, that one got out of hand...

Anonymous said...

yeah, you should definitely write a novel with Abu. rock!


Viz

Madcap Machinist said...

btw the link to bookninja is broken. peace!

bibliobibuli said...

link fixed, machinist. thanks. the writing exercise where i got you to write a bit and then swap books?? we should do that again some time ...

viz - write with abu? haha! actually he did start a novel once, it was called "and the detective wore fur" and it was about our cat muffin going around the neighbourhood solving crimes, and written in a sort of dashiel hammet style with the protagonist sitting on the keyboard.

Sharanya Manivannan said...

Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris collaborated as well. But they eventually divorced and Dorris committed suicide not too long after...

Poppadumdum said...

So did Judith Michael...

bibliobibuli said...

sharanya, poppadumdum, i knew there had to be more examples out there so thanks!

Erin said...

The only thing that comes to mind is IG Passarella and his Wither book. I think something may have went wrong there because each sequel he wrote alone. I just got the impression because of his wording about it on some forums.

bibliobibuli said...

thanks erin. hadn't heard of him/them before but looked him up. now you've got me curious too