KaBooM WritersKaBooM Writers

Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!

Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!


The KaBooM Writers Notebook: Our Blog

Writing With Others

 

I’ve had two fairly recent experiences of trying to write with others. The first one involved a good friend who was between jobs. I had finished a draft of a novel and so felt that her idea to co-write a screenplay had appeal. Over time we had talked about different ideas for a screenplay.  Based on these sessions, I had dutifully gone home and written out several plots but when I showed her the plots, she gave them a blank stare. That should have tipped me off.

But here we were a year or so later with some time to collaborate. We downloaded a screenwriting program and its tutorials. I read Syd Fields’ book and shared it with her. I broke down the screenplay of CRASH into scenes and recorded information on color-coded index cards. We thought to use CRASH as a model because it involved a larger than normal cast of characters and that matched my friend’s original idea of telling a neighborhood story. But as we began to talk, it became clear that she and I were on very different pages.

She had much professional experience in letter and grant-writing but wanted to branch off into something creative. I have decades of writing and teaching fiction so I soon recognized a phenomena common to many people who start to write in middle age. Most of these brave souls have authority in many areas of life and they carry that authority into this new enterprise. That authority is not transferable. Yet the new writer cannot recognize that every new idea they have is not a good idea. And arguing for it on “creative” grounds is a common defense.

Eventually our meetings devolved into sessions where she typed with joy and I was supposed to applaud but not offer any commentary, as it became her screenplay. At that point, I withdrew and suggested she take a class in screenwriting. She completed the screenplay through the class. She invited me to workshop the night it was discussed and, not surprisingly, its many weaknesses were pointed out: there were basic formal issues that relate to competence in craft. These were things I knew and had pointed out but were things that she could not hear from me.

I’d like to share one of the best pieces of advice I’ve come across for beginning writers. Jane Smiley wrote an essay for a wonderful out-of-print anthology called Creating Fiction, edited by Julie Checkoway. Smiley’s essay is titled, “What Stories Teach Their Writers.” The first nugget is “Your first duty, if you want to become a writer, is to become teachable.”

I want to become teachable as a collaborator.  How does one collaborate successfully?   Should both writers be at the same level of experience?  Clearly I failed the first time out.

Now I’m in the midst of a second writing collaboration, this one for a grant in a field that I am less familiar with than my collaborator is. However, as the more experienced writer, I am again embroiled in this thorny issue.  I believe I am simply going to conclude that I don’t write well with others.

Maybe you can share some good advice about how to make a collaborative writing project succeed. Anyone?

One response to “Writing With Others”

  1. G.M. Koehler says:

    Lynn: this is a great question… on a quick online search what comes up easily are references to *assigned* writing for class credit: now I’m intrigued to dig deeper to look for craft comment on professionals writing together….

    but one piece that digs a little deeper even for students is this one (http://writingcenter.tamu.edu/2010/composing-process/collaborative-writing-peer-response/managing-group-writing-projects-2/) where at least the author thinks through “roles” that will be required for collaboration to become positively productive (project manager; referee; recorder; editor, assistant editor). Hmmm, I find myself wondering: what if a pair of folk could think through the project in terms of those roles? Would that help?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *