Collaborating on a novel? Ack! How would that work? Who would put up with me? Believe it or not, I found someone who would.
Backing up: Every now and then I subject my role-playing group to my questionable skills as a dungeon master, usually for short games that only last three or four sessions. (Someone might assassinate me if I tried anything longer. And I wouldn’t blame them.)
One time I decided to use a fantasy city-state I created for a series of novels as the backdrop to the game. Halcrest has a lot of built in religious and political conflict; I knew the players would run with those. And, yup, they created characters who would maximize the friction. Perfect.
So now I had a setting and a meaty group of characters. But I needed a plot.
No worries. I borrowed one from the current Halcrest novel I was working on: The Third Crown. It was a mystery novel that didn’t quite gel. I liked the characters and the plot seemed tight—so what was missing? I had no idea, but I figured I’d test the story out on my gaming group. (Yes, I experimented on my players. Don’t judge me.)
It worked! I mean, the mystery held together and the players got to the bottom of it by following leads and testing theories—all while navigating the political and religious quagmire that surrounded them. And, most importantly, they breathed life into the story. Somehow they made it real.
I knew I had to capture that in the actual novel. But I couldn’t just write out what happened in the game. The game world was really an AU version of the novel world—the two would never mesh.
But maybe I could borrow just one of the characters for the novel. I wanted Tejain: an outsider from a conquered city-state . . . but an outsider with just enough influence to make his way on the inside, leaving a bit of chaos in his wake.
So I approached David, who created and played Tejain. Why not? I already admired him as an indie author, dungeon master and role-player. I asked how he’d feel about writing Tejain into the novel.
He said yes! After I got over my excitement, we talked logistics. I shared all my notes on Halcrest as a story world. He read the parts of the novel that I had already written and together we figured out what needed to change. Then we came up with an outline and divvied up the scenes.
He created his own locations and historic details as necessary—and I never once worried about losing control. He had a great feel for the world, so I trusted him to come up with ideas and run with them. He also took a minor character that I had scarcely bothered to flesh out and gave her vibrancy and purpose.
With the outline done, it was just a matter of sitting down and writing our scenes, which we could each do separately. Now we’re weaving them together and starting our edits. At some point in the immediate future, we’ll either meet in person or have a long video session on Google Hangouts.
The only complaint I have is the amount of time it’s taken us to reach this point. We both let ourselves get eaten up by other projects. And, hey, that happens. But I hope we’ll be a bit more disciplined the next time we collaborate!
Once we complete our edits—separately and together—it will be time to publish The Third Crown. I’ll do another meta then, in case anyone’s interested in how we handle publishing on Amazon with two different authors. (Amazon doesn’t make it easy as far as royalties go.)
So that’s my experience so far in writing with a co-author. Have you ever tried writing with someone else? If so, how did it go? If not, is it something you’d be interested in? I’d love to hear your thoughts.