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Monday, June 29, 2015

Guest Post: The Pros and Cons of Literary Collaboration By Gail Z. Martin


I suspect that there are as many forms of literary collaboration as there are marriages, and each one is unique based on the people involved and their relationship. After being a solo author on twelve books and dozens of short stories, Iron and Blood, the new steampunk novel set in an alternative-history Pittsburgh, is co-authored with my husband, Larry N. Martin.

Epic fantasy and urban fantasy will continue to come out as solo work, but it's likely that we'll look at new series in other sub-genres as collaborations, and the short stories based in the Iron and Blood world also get co-written credit. Writing three books a year plus monthly ebook short stories plus stories for a lot of anthologies is a lot of work, and I'm not sure it's a pace one person can keep up, at least not for along.

For what it's worth, I'd say that there are three main positives about collaborating, and at least in our case, three minor negatives. Maybe it works differently for co-authors who aren't married to each other, or people who come to the work with radically different backgrounds. Larry and I have been married for 28 years, share a lot of interests and perspectives, and often finish each other's random references. It's a good beginning for a collaboration. 

So the positives:
 #1: Fresh eyes - After you've read something a dozen or more times, it gets very difficult to see errors in logic, typos or other problems. A second pair of eyes helps a lot, especially in pointing out where there may be consistency or continuity issues.

 #2: Division of labor - I do most of the draft writing, while Larry does a lot of the response to the editor's feedback and copyedits. That enables me to keep working on new stuff while we spiff up the submitted work. Likewise, I do a lot of the convention appearances while Larry handles the graphic design for the ebook short stories and our bookmarks, banners, etc. Collaboration gives us the chance to be in two places at once.

 #3: Good ideas - Every author hits a wall now and again. I don't mean writer's block, I mean knowing that you're at Point A and needing to get to Point C but being a bit hazy on the route through Point B. That's when we go out for lunch and bat ideas around, or incorporate a plotting session into a long car drive. Sometimes just a quick conversation yields a "well, what if you did this..." and the story is off and running again. 

Now, the negatives:
 #1: Burn-out - Whether you're collaborating on a book or working together in a small business, the boundaries between work and private time get blurry, especially during crunch periods. It's hard enough to leave the work on the desk when you work at home, but when both of you are deep in the middle of the same project, it can get all-consuming.

 #2: Differences of opinion - Even the most sympatico people disagree from time to time. Sometimes, we each bring different expectations to a scene, a plot point or a character interaction. That's when it's time to sit down and hash it through.

 #3: Varying levels of patience with editing - I get to a point on projects where I'm just ready to be done and move on. Fortunately, Larry is good at reminding me that the devil is in the details, and getting me back on board to do more polishing. When he's the one who is chafing to get to the next project, it's my turn to keep us focused.

In my opinion, the plusses far outweigh the minuses. Together, we can tell more stories in less time and produce cleaner manuscripts than most people could working alone. By dividing up tasks based on who has the patience or natural knack, we get to do what we're good at and enjoy, minimizing frustration. As far as I'm concerned, collaboration is a win-win!

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ABOUT GAIL Z. MARTIN: Gail began writing fiction as a child and she was always a voracious reader since childhood, she frequently chose to read books with a supernatural slant, including folktales, compilations of regional ghost stories and gothic mysteries. She credits the TV show Dark Shadows with her life-long fascination with vampires. She discovery SF and fantasy during middle and high school and that has fueled her writing journey. She graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with an M.B.A. in Marketing and Management Information Systems. 

Gail Z. Martin writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books and Orbit Books. In addition to Iron and Blood, she is the author of The Chronicles of The Necromancer series from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle as well as The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga from Orbit Books. She also writes two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures and her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies. For more about Gail’s books and short stories, follow her on Twitter @GailZMartin, and join her for frequent discussions on Goodreads

Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Summoner
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Blood King


ABOUT LARRY N. MARTIN: Larry fell in love with fantasy and science fiction when he was a teenager. After a twenty-five year career in Corporate America, Larry started working full-time with his wife, author Gail Z. Martin and discovered that he had a knack for storytelling, plotting and character development, as well as being a darn fine editor. Iron and Blood is their first official collaboration. On the rare occasions when Larry isn’t working on book-related things, he enjoys pottery, cooking and reading.
 Larry can be found on twitter @LNMartinAuthor.

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