I’m not massively experienced in working with other writers. When Richard (Salter) informed me that I’d be part of World’s Collider (which, months later, I’m still excited about), my only concern was that I’d be really bad at it – or maybe just hate it.
Yesterday, I spent some time talking to Steven Savile about my contribution to his forthcoming steampunk anthology, Empire of London (and yeah, I’ll still be excited about that a few months from now, too). Together, we gave a bit more shape to the pitch I sent in, and the story changed. He suggested a couple of things I really liked. And I realised something – I love it.
There’s a worry among many aspiring writers like myself, that working with someone removes your control and your ability to write as, and what, you want. But the truth of the matter is that when you find the right people (and in this I have been exceedingly lucky), you can take their contributions as a positive influence and understand that, as long as they’re improving the finished product, the collaboration is a positive one.
I’m working on a couple of things I’m doing without anyone else’s input, of course. I guess most writers always will be. But working together with other writers and with the overarching guidance of an anthology’s editor has been a really positive experience so far.
My friend, Dustin Poms (who is both an accomplished artist and an amazing writer), provides a similar sort of service. We kick ideas back and forth via email, and it makes a huge difference to developing the concept that’s already in your head. Sometimes I’ll say something silly, and he’ll ask if he can use that for a story in the future; sometimes the opposite happens. I think a lot of the time, the benefit is not having an active participant but having a suitable sounding board; someone equipped to absorb what you’re saying and bounce it back in a new light (because mixed metaphors are amazing).
So what I’m saying is, don’t shy away from collaborative projects. You can retain your individuality and so can your writing… But you stand to gain amazing new insights and ideas that will put an entirely new spin on your story’s development.