Collaborate

Among the ridiculous number of simultaneous projects I currently have on the go, a quick thought on collaborations. I used to play in a band. A duo really, but we wrote a lot of music together, always collaboratively. Sometimes we split the music and lyrics (I rarely wrote lyrics by the way, I'm very much a prose writer), but usually we collaborated on everything. One of us would come to a rehearsal with an idea and we'd piece the song together bit by bit. Usually we came up with something that sounded better than if we had worked alone. I depend on that sounding board to write music and one of the reasons I don't any more is because I don't have a collaborator.

I've been thinking about this a lot of late because I've just completed work on my first collaborative piece of fiction with my brother Darren.

We have tried collaboration before a few times. We tried taking alternate chapters. We tried taking on different characters. Nothing really worked and I consigned the whole endeavour to the 'revisit one of these days' file. Little did I know Darren was hatching his own variation on the concept.

Despite its prevalence in other arts, collaboration is an unusual idea in fiction. I can't think of more than a handful of collaborative novels. And yet all writing is a collaboration to some extent, even if it's just a writer-editor effort.

What we eventually hit on was taking alternate drafts. The result was similar to writer-editor only with the editor taking a far more active role adding character layers and additional narrative. Our model was less '50 per cent text each' and something more like what Joel and Ethan Cohen do: share the writing credits where one or the other might take the lead on any individual project. Seems to work well for them. Why not us? We are already brothers after all.

Darren is spruiking 'Concentrate': the debut novel for young readers by the Brothers Groth over on his site so check it out.