Here’s the seventh interview on collaboration. This series celebrates collaborative creativity in honor of the Shared Worlds summer camp, which challenges teenagers to build and share imaginary worlds.
Mary Buckham and Dianna Love both write character-rich, plot-driven novels of suspense. With Break into Fiction®: 11 Steps to Building a Story that Sells, they condense years of writing and teaching experience into an accessible and straight-forward method geared toward aspiring writers who want to “develop a budding idea into a full-fledged novel with depth, emotion, and dynamic pacing.”
Mary Buckham writes romantic-suspense novels, including The Makeover Mission and Invisible Recruit. She co-founded WriterUniv, which offers writing classes via e-mail or newsgroup. She gives seminars and presentations on writing throughout North America.
New York Times Best-selling author Dianna Love writes action-adventure novels, including two Bureau of American Defense novels with Sherrilyn Kenyon. Like Buckham, Love travels the continent giving workshops on writing.
Below, Buckham and Love talk about how they collaborated on a book despite the fact that they live across the country from each other (Washington and Georgia, respectively).
What are the benefits of collaborating on fiction writing? How do you do it? When does it work? How does it positively affect the final product?
Dianna Love: I’ve had the great fortune of collaborating on both fiction and nonfiction. In both situations, we meet and work online, and use up a lot of “any time” minutes.
I think a collaboration works when the authors have one goal in mind – the book. Sounds simple, but you must really trust your writing partner and your instincts at the same time, which is not easy for many writers and can damage the final product. Trusting your writing partner’s strengths affects the final product by taking a fiction story to a whole new level and resulting in a nonfiction book like Break into Fiction® becoming the new standard in teaching writing.
Mary Buckham: The benefit of collaborating is to challenge you to expand your writing abilities and really learn what are your strengths and your opportunities. As Dianna and I dug into analyzing stories and analyzing our own writing to create the Break into Fiction® template, teaching program and book, we had to move beyond our own world views and assumptions. That’s growth and adds immensely to any final product!
Can you share some advice (and maybe some words of caution) for fiction writers setting out to collaborate?
Dianna Love: The first and foremost piece of advice I would give is not to choose a writing partner because it’s a friend or someone you’ve known a long time or someone who was “willing” to collaborate. Both of my collaborations have come more out of accident than a decision to co-write a book. Sherrilyn Kenyon and I were touring when the discussion of her series came up and we started talking about taking her stories to a high concept level. I brainstormed something off the top of my head that she got excited about and asked me to co-author the series, bringing my dark/edgy thriller voice to her snarky/sarcastic signature voice. We decided to try one book and if we didn’t kill each other, we’d try another one. The good news is we are still best of friends.
Mary Buckham and I met at mystery writing conference in Boise, ID in 2005 and found we both analyzed stories to determine what made some more powerful than others. We developed the Character-Driven™ Power Plotting program we taught across the country. We were fascinated that in addition to unpublished writers attending our retreats, we had a significant number of published authors who wanted a simple way to figure out quickly if their stories would hold up or was full of holes. Having built the program with both plotters and pantsers (seat-of-the-pants writers) in mind, we didn’t realize what the overwhelming response would be and finally decided we had to put this in a book since we couldn’t teach everyone. That’s how we came to publish Break into Fiction®.
The only other advice I’d offer is that if you have any reservation in discussing any part of the collaboration from agents to money to who does what parts to promoting…think twice about doing it. A collaboration is very similar to picking the person you marry. You shouldn’t go into it without a lot of thought, but once you get a good partner it can work for a lifetime. I’m blessed with great partners who are talented writers.
Mary Buckham: I think it’s vital to find a writing partner with the same work ethic and long range goals that you possess because there’s always stages in a project where one or the other gets called away to put out bigger fires, or one or the other could easily turn away and focus on other projects. But if you have discussed intentions, expectations, and see that the other backs up their words with their actions, then you should be in a good situation.
Best intentions don’t get a book written. Great writings partners can and do create amazing books!
Jeremy L. C. Jones is a freelance writer, editor, and part-time professor. Jones is a frequent contributor to Clarkesworld Magazine. He is also the director of Shared Worlds, a creative writing and world-building camp for teenagers that he and Jeff VanderMeer designed in 2006.