Second Draft

How We Do It Pt 1: Why

Posted in Collaboration by Michael Skeet on Wednesday, March 3, 2010

At last year’s Worldcon in Montreal I chaired a panel on collaboration. I was, if you’ll forgive me, a logical choice, having written a fair amount in collaboration over the years, and having had two pieces (“I Love Paree,” written with Cory Doctorow, and “Beneath the Skin,” written with Jill) published.

I was a bit surprised, when the panel got underway, to learn that with the exception of those panelists from the Cecil St group, none of the participants had ever collaborated in what I’ll call an equal partnership. No offence to the others (I won’t name them, mostly because I can’t remember all of them, I don’t want to leave anyone out, and I’m too busy—or lazy—to go back through my notes), but it seems that to a one they collaborated in some variant of the following fashion:

  1. Well-known writer gets an assignment.
  2. Writer realizes s/he won’t have the time (or doesn’t have the interest) to complete the assignment.
  3. Writer recruits another, more junior, writer to help.
  4. Well-known writer puts together an outline and character notes, to varying degrees of detail.
  5. Junior writer writes the project based on these notes.
  6. Well-known writer vets and/or edits the result.

That wasn’t what I had in mind when I set out to write up interview questions for the panel. Yes, it’s collaboration of a sort. But the collaboration I had in mind was more the sort I’ve experienced, where two writers of roughly equal standing work on a project together from start to finish.

The difference between the reality I learned about at Worldcon and my own experience of collaboration is one of the bigger reasons for Second Draft‘s existence, really. And so I hope, over the next few weeks, to write out (as I work it out in my own head) the mechanics of the collaboration Jill and I are working on now, with comparisons to my previous experiences. And I may collect similar experiences from friends, because Cory, Dave and Karl have all done this sort of thing as well.


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