My latest book, Freaks!, is a collaboration. A three-way collaboration. And today I’ll tell you a little about how it came about, a little about how it worked, and share a few tips for those considering embarking on a collaborative project for themselves.
Agreeing on the Project
So. August 2010. I was fresh (read: knackered!) from all the promotion that had gone with my first short story collection, ‘Not So Perfect’. My friend, the brilliant Caroline Smailes, hadn’t, for one reason or another written for a little while either. During one conversation we both casually agreed that it could be fun to do something together and we suggested a few things but none really stuck and none really seemed to fit with us both. And then we had another conversation. And while I was talking to Caroline I noticed that someone had put their washing out and one garment caught my eye – a Superman T-shirt.
‘How about something to do with super powers?’ I said.
So, we had a starting point.
The next stage was deciding how it would work. We came up with some guides – in terms of what we were both hoping to achieve with the project and what we could reasonably expect from each other. We both have other commitments which take up our time so establishing what was expected and when, when we could call (without getting in the way of family life and other commitments as much as possible) – was important and meant we both knew where we stood and were not putting ourselves, or each other, under any unnecessary pressure. It helped keep things fun too, because as hard work as writing is, it should be fun. Mostly.
Then, further along the line, it was decided that the book (as it was now going to be) was going to be illustrated. Darren Craske, whose work Caroline already knew, was offered the opportunity to join us on our little project. And then, as they say, there were three.
I think the weirdest part of any collaboration is not having complete control over a project while it’s being created. Sure, once a book’s accepted for publication it gets edited and so that part’s collaborative, but I’d never experienced it at such an early stage before. So there needed to be a degree of flexibility and trust between us all for things to work; as the writers of the pieces (sometimes together) Caroline and I had to trust each other’s storytelling and writing, and we also had to trust that Darren’s interpretations of the stories were the best they could be. Even if they might not have been what we’d suggested!
And there was a flexibility to change things too. What the others thought mattered.
I’ll not pretend that it was all plain sailing or that we agreed on everything at the first time of asking. But we respected each other and what we did, we discussed things, and we, hopefully, came up with something good that was a good representation of the three of us which, in a funny sort of way, adds up to being more than just the three of us. So, that’s Freaks! and I, for one, am very proud of it.
Nik Perring is a writer and editor. He’s the co-author of Freaks!, and the author of Not So Perfect. His website’s http://nikperring.com and he tweets as @nikperring