Ten writers for children. All with something to say.

1/26/10

Not Always a Solitary Life


I have experienced two instance of collaboration with editors in my writing life. First, years ago when my second short story (adult literary fiction) was accepted for publication, the editor, in his acceptance letter, suggested I use a different title for the story. At first I thought he was wrong, but, since titles have always been a struggle for me, I soon realized he had a point – and, perhaps more importantly, I needed a new title if I wanted the story published!! After a few weeks of agonizing and brainstorming, I finally came up with a more acceptable title.

Then, just over a year ago, as a break from working on middle grade novels, I submitted a humorous essay to a magazine regarding an anchor-dragging mishap in Pirate’s Cove. The essay was accepted for publication, but the editor wanted me to add a little “what did I learn from my misadventure” paragraph to the end of the piece. Though I thought the “lesson” of the piece was already clear, I added the requested paragraph and received clearance from the editor.

In both of the above instances, I initially shared the sense of resistance alluded to in some of the other posts on this topic. In both cases, however, I came to appreciate the value of an objective person’s input and perspective.

Which brings me to the two methods of collaboration I value, and use, the most: critiquing and brainstorming. Belonging to a critique group, as others have pointed out, is a form of collaboration. Group members give praise and encouragement but also point out issues ranging from typos to plot/character inconsistencies, all of which ultimately improves the story. Still, the most exciting form of collaboration, for me, comes when I am brainstorming story/character/plot ideas with friends. Bouncing ideas off others seems so much more effective than sitting alone in my shack, watching the weather and hoping inspiration strikes. Even when I do most of the talking (which is most of the time!) just the process of voicing my ideas and/or frustrations out loud seems to result in finding the “answers” more quickly, after which I can return to the shack and resume the solitary aspects of this life I have chosen . . . .

5 comments:

Edie said...

Good points, Mark! Writing is for the most part solitary, but those wonderful brainstorming sessions and times of active discussion with like-minded people are reviving and refreshing.

Lauren said...

I too enjoy brainstorming with friends and peers-- it is the most enjoyable part of collaboration.

Stephanie said...

I think brainstorming is great, especially with an editor. Because you know anything you come up with is heading in the right direction. Enjoyed this post Mark:)

Christy said...

I agree that voicing an idea or frustration gives the writer a needed distance. It puts one in the mindset of the reader audience, and allows hearing anew. When I went to art school the critique sessions, where we put our work on a wall, were the most valuable learning opportunities. It did NOT feel competitive--every author/artist so different,--the sharing helped to understand, appreciate and develop those differences.

David LaRochelle said...

The possibility of being published is great motivation for collaborating! I don't think I've ever had anything of mine published without incorporating at least a few suggestions from the editor.