sartorias: (Fan)
Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint has now become a shared world, under Kushner's guidance. At BVC I talk about it and about collaboration.
sartorias: (desk)
Catherine Lundoff invited [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija and me to talk about how Stranger originated.

After writing this, I began to think about how many ideas spark just to smolder out, and which ones take fire. Some of them smolder for years. One, for three decades (but that one I didn't know how to write until the nineties, and I do a draft every few years.) It's fun when the spark comes from someone else, but it takes fire for me, too. Much, much rarer. Collaboration can be such a tricky thing.
sartorias: (Default)
Andre Norton and Me.

Today is the anniversary of Andre's birthday, so there are homage posts.
sartorias: (Default)
Andre Norton and Me.

Today is the anniversary of Andre's birthday, so there are homage posts.
sartorias: (Default)
The other day I mentioned a few ideas about collaboration: here are those and more thoughts about it.

One of the most interesting (to me) mass collaborative efforts is Yuletide; seeing what kinds of stories people ask for, which books and authors show up frequently and which (sometimes much loved) works don't spark the urge toward fan fiction.

This year there have been a lot of requests for a better ending for Mockingjay, for example. Some dismiss fan fiction with the "Oh, it's all about slash--orgies between all the male characters." There is certainly plenty of slash, but there are other fictive explorations that sometimes transcending the material, like the one I've linked to a couple of times, written by a college student, crossing Narnia with Philip Pullman's anti-Narnia fantasy world in a spectacular end-times extravaganza.

Some works leave readers with the yearning to fix, or to linger in the world exploring the corners, or with much more to be said. Human storytelling is so fascinating--how we go about it, the results, how we adapt it to the media around us, and of course the results.
sartorias: (Default)
The other day I mentioned a few ideas about collaboration: here are those and more thoughts about it.

One of the most interesting (to me) mass collaborative efforts is Yuletide; seeing what kinds of stories people ask for, which books and authors show up frequently and which (sometimes much loved) works don't spark the urge toward fan fiction.

This year there have been a lot of requests for a better ending for Mockingjay, for example. Some dismiss fan fiction with the "Oh, it's all about slash--orgies between all the male characters." There is certainly plenty of slash, but there are other fictive explorations that sometimes transcending the material, like the one I've linked to a couple of times, written by a college student, crossing Narnia with Philip Pullman's anti-Narnia fantasy world in a spectacular end-times extravaganza.

Some works leave readers with the yearning to fix, or to linger in the world exploring the corners, or with much more to be said. Human storytelling is so fascinating--how we go about it, the results, how we adapt it to the media around us, and of course the results.
sartorias: (Default)
I love it when I discover novels riffing off of other novels; the most obvious grand game of collaboration and literary riffing was the Arthuriana, which in its turn spun off the Song of Roland-Orlando Furioso-Faerie Queene waltz of splendour.

But even later, like the other day, rereading Vanity Fair and discovering the seeds of Gone With the Wind.

Then there are direct collaborations. Today Tor.com offers a story by Michael Swanwick and Eileen Gunn, two writers I'd sort of associated with rugged individualism in my mind. Does it seem like collaboration is happening more frequently?

Or maybe it's just me, being involved in two collaborations right now. Both I am enjoying intensely, though the styles of these two collaborations couldn't be more different.

I've done some collaborations in the past that were fun and hard work with less fun.

The fun thing about collaboration is that there is someone to pick up the dropped balls, someone as eager about the project as you are (a thrill for me who bores people into catatonia if I uncork), someone who shares the heavy lifting and brings energy.

It isn't always going to work; I participated in one many years ago that should have been fun, but being told 'No, it has to happen this way'--being told I was wrong--sucked all the joy out of writing, and turned it into yet another opportunity for anxiety. Who needs that?


I know of people who began collaborating, but each person's vision began to go in different directions, so they ended up either dividing things (and if you can divide a world or story, that in itself seems to me a good sign that it's not working) or abandoning it, filing the serial numbers off their portions, and going off on their own.

Collaborations seem to work when the two can find a process that each likes; when each brings a special knowledge that complements the other's; when they discover they have similar things to say. When it's okay, even exciting, to be over-written--or when compromise is easy to work out.
sartorias: (Default)
I love it when I discover novels riffing off of other novels; the most obvious grand game of collaboration and literary riffing was the Arthuriana, which in its turn spun off the Song of Roland-Orlando Furioso-Faerie Queene waltz of splendour.

But even later, like the other day, rereading Vanity Fair and discovering the seeds of Gone With the Wind.

Then there are direct collaborations. Today Tor.com offers a story by Michael Swanwick and Eileen Gunn, two writers I'd sort of associated with rugged individualism in my mind. Does it seem like collaboration is happening more frequently?

Or maybe it's just me, being involved in two collaborations right now. Both I am enjoying intensely, though the styles of these two collaborations couldn't be more different.

I've done some collaborations in the past that were fun and hard work with less fun.

The fun thing about collaboration is that there is someone to pick up the dropped balls, someone as eager about the project as you are (a thrill for me who bores people into catatonia if I uncork), someone who shares the heavy lifting and brings energy.

It isn't always going to work; I participated in one many years ago that should have been fun, but being told 'No, it has to happen this way'--being told I was wrong--sucked all the joy out of writing, and turned it into yet another opportunity for anxiety. Who needs that?


I know of people who began collaborating, but each person's vision began to go in different directions, so they ended up either dividing things (and if you can divide a world or story, that in itself seems to me a good sign that it's not working) or abandoning it, filing the serial numbers off their portions, and going off on their own.

Collaborations seem to work when the two can find a process that each likes; when each brings a special knowledge that complements the other's; when they discover they have similar things to say. When it's okay, even exciting, to be over-written--or when compromise is easy to work out.
sartorias: (Default)
My BVC post today is on history that never was.

Another thing I've been thinking about is collaboration. I just finished writing the first draft of a YA post apocalyptic adventure with [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija. It's been great fun. (She talks about it here.) I've collaborated a number of times over the years, and in different ways, beginning as a kid with another kid writer. That went joyously when we were thirteen and fourteen, but later in high school the other writer began telling me how the story was to go, and I'd lose interest in the project, and just never get around to my next segment.

That made me wary of collaboration, especially as once or twice various people said, "Let's write something together!" during my grad school years and just after, but either they'd want to talk about it and not actually get to the writing, or we would discover that we couldn't negotiate something or other. That changed when I moved in next door to Dave Trowbridge in Hollywood. We went to see Star Wars four or five times together, then one night (this was 1977) sat down and said, "We can do that."

The first thing we did was list everything we loved in science fiction. Then we began hooking it all together. At first we used elements from Star Wars, but those were nothing more than plot points: we needed a big bad, we wanted a variety of planets. We definitely wanted space pirates. FTL drive. The thing is, we meshed perfectly in collaboration--Dave's strengths were math and science, mine were history and cultural evolution. We had (still have) the same sense of humor, and the same liking for the irruption of the unexpected, the numinous, amid all the razzle-dazzle action. When we get the e-books of Exordium done (we're giving them a good buffing, as the ideas still hold up but the prose doesn't) I'll talk more about that.

Next came Planet Builders, and a different kind of collaboration, involving Bruce Coville as our point person, Debra Doyle and James Macdonald; later it extended to others. I made the map, Bruce outlined the basic story, Jim and Debra were instrumental in providing an overall plot. Then we came up with the characters and portioned out the books, each of us writing our own book, but checking with the others to see that continuity was maintained.

Not long after that I was contacted and offered the chance to collaborate with Andre Norton on continuing two of her SF series. Andre Norton! I'd written to her at age fifteen, asking for advice on getting published and she wrote back. She took me seriously. She told me to study history and to keep writing; the second was not a problem as I was Ms. Loggorhea, but I took her advice on the first. So I looked forward to this collaboration, even if the two series were not among my favorites of hers.

I never felt comfortable with this collaboration. There's no use in going into a lot of the background, but part of the problem was we never met. We talked out the ideas, and the plots over the phone. Some of that talk would be cautionary stuff on her part--there wasn't to be any sex. The violence couldn't be graphic. I knew that--I was rereading the books over and over in my effort to match her tone, and also to include plot points of her other collaborator in the series--but these warnings from someone I admired made me anxious. I finally realized that I had no ownership here. I was trying to bring shading and complexity to some very simple characters, but at all times I was aware that she owned the story, the characters, the overall feel. Dave Trowbridge turned out to be my silent collaborator on all those books: the nifty sfnal touches were all his. He even wrote sections, as I used our old method: I sent him my draft, with markers [put some techie stuff here]. Just for a single example, he figured out a way to make rockets make sense in the future. So this was a three way collaboration, with Andre not knowing about Dave, and Dave not getting any credit except in a terse acknowledgment up front.

After those four books were done, I swore there'd be no more collaborations. But as soon as I make any kind of vow like that, something always comes along to trip me up. The first one turned out to be another anxiety-making thing: Byron Preiss contacted me to continue Oz books, with the full support of the Baum family. I was going to turn it down, but something he said made me feel responsible: I felt that Baum's books should be the basis for any continuation, and the way he talked, he'd only seen the movie. He wanted to "update" Oz, make sweeping changes. I was horrified! I felt that there was plenty of good story material is corners and bits of the existing Oz stories. I took on the project partly because we desperately needed the money (though I would get partly stiffed, and the illustrator got totally stiffed when Byron was killed in a wreck) but also because I felt a misguided sense of duty.

So I was in effect collaborating with someone who was dead. There is an entire saga behind this which I won't get into. Poor Byron is gone, and so are his grand plans. But once again I found myself laboring in someone else's world, trying hard to match tone yet bring it to modern tastes, yet keep it middle grade. I tied myself in knots over that project, and never felt that it was any better than mediocre. I also had a LOT of cooks stirring the pot, who all wanted different things . . . and not one of them had ever read an Oz book. They only knew the movie, whose elements are jealously guarded by whoever owns those rights. The first outline had NINE iterations, based on plot ideas dictated to me by other people, before I wrote a word.

More determined than ever to stick to my own stuff, I was finishing the last of that when [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija contacted me, asked what kind of experience I'd had in Hollywood, and would I be interested in collaborating on a cartoon series?

There's no use in going on about Hollywood. For most people without connections, there is a great deal of effort, many close calls, lots of disappointment. But meantime, each time we got together, it was like working with Dave again . . . but different. I'd thought that Dave's and my collaboration was successful partly because we were male and female, about the same age, had the same cultural background, though our main study interests had widely diverged.

[livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija was a generation younger than me (though already a professional in the entertainment field, which she'd gone into straight from college), she'd had a completely different upbringing (I highly recommend her memoir, All the Fishes Come Home to Roost, which is about being a kid on an ashram in India), and while she liked history, her interests were focused mainly on Asia. But we shared so many beloved books, movies, types of story, and ideas that we each brought in strengths that the other didn't have.

With Dave, we'd get together (and later, email) to hammer out general plot ideas. This meant in the seventies going to really nice restaurants as we talked out story, then we'd each go home and write out agreed-on bits. The fun of that is getting the other's segment and seeing how the story takes on life. Then we'd rewrite the other's bit--we knew when we came up against speed bumps, we could put a marker. [Dave works in some kind of techie talk here. Sherwood gives us some kind of social jabber here.] The other would fill it in, which made writing so fun, almost effortless.

With Rachel, we evolved a different method: we sit side by side, and write it together. The specifics are usually me doing the typing as I'm pretty fast (though neither of us is a great typist), and one or the other of us extrudes prose. She's more of a stylist than I'll ever be, so sometimes she'll get caught, trying to get the words right; I'll just start typing something to get the scene going, then she'll see a catch point, and begin dictating a flow. Or she'll catch me up short, pointing out where what I'm writing makes no sense. Out it goes before it can shipwreck the entire storyline, we get back on track with some talk, and race on.

This kind of writing has led to us crawling around on the ground if we disagree on just how something is done. One time she looked up how one would use a knife to cut out something from one's own arm, and lay on the carpet acting it out, while I typed it up. We make tea, and go sit downstairs, and bat what if?s back and forth. Characters are born, take on stories, and come to life this way; plot points snarl dramatically. Funny scenes spark, horrorific ones make us go "Ew!" as my fingers clatter over the keyboard. She's got logic, I have image. She has a strong grasp of contemporary sensibility, mine arises out of decades of reading Western lit. We both venture into non-Western forms of entertainment in an effort to broaden . . . everything: she has the edge there.

My thoughts on collaboration, at least from my point of view: it dies as soon as someone in the collaboration claims, or has, ownership. When the give and take is free, it's exhilarating.
sartorias: (Default)
My BVC post today is on history that never was.

Another thing I've been thinking about is collaboration. I just finished writing the first draft of a YA post apocalyptic adventure with [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija. It's been great fun. (She talks about it here.) I've collaborated a number of times over the years, and in different ways, beginning as a kid with another kid writer. That went joyously when we were thirteen and fourteen, but later in high school the other writer began telling me how the story was to go, and I'd lose interest in the project, and just never get around to my next segment.

That made me wary of collaboration, especially as once or twice various people said, "Let's write something together!" during my grad school years and just after, but either they'd want to talk about it and not actually get to the writing, or we would discover that we couldn't negotiate something or other. That changed when I moved in next door to Dave Trowbridge in Hollywood. We went to see Star Wars four or five times together, then one night (this was 1977) sat down and said, "We can do that."

The first thing we did was list everything we loved in science fiction. Then we began hooking it all together. At first we used elements from Star Wars, but those were nothing more than plot points: we needed a big bad, we wanted a variety of planets. We definitely wanted space pirates. FTL drive. The thing is, we meshed perfectly in collaboration--Dave's strengths were math and science, mine were history and cultural evolution. We had (still have) the same sense of humor, and the same liking for the irruption of the unexpected, the numinous, amid all the razzle-dazzle action. When we get the e-books of Exordium done (we're giving them a good buffing, as the ideas still hold up but the prose doesn't) I'll talk more about that.

Next came Planet Builders, and a different kind of collaboration, involving Bruce Coville as our point person, Debra Doyle and James Macdonald; later it extended to others. I made the map, Bruce outlined the basic story, Jim and Debra were instrumental in providing an overall plot. Then we came up with the characters and portioned out the books, each of us writing our own book, but checking with the others to see that continuity was maintained.

Not long after that I was contacted and offered the chance to collaborate with Andre Norton on continuing two of her SF series. Andre Norton! I'd written to her at age fifteen, asking for advice on getting published and she wrote back. She took me seriously. She told me to study history and to keep writing; the second was not a problem as I was Ms. Loggorhea, but I took her advice on the first. So I looked forward to this collaboration, even if the two series were not among my favorites of hers.

I never felt comfortable with this collaboration. There's no use in going into a lot of the background, but part of the problem was we never met. We talked out the ideas, and the plots over the phone. Some of that talk would be cautionary stuff on her part--there wasn't to be any sex. The violence couldn't be graphic. I knew that--I was rereading the books over and over in my effort to match her tone, and also to include plot points of her other collaborator in the series--but these warnings from someone I admired made me anxious. I finally realized that I had no ownership here. I was trying to bring shading and complexity to some very simple characters, but at all times I was aware that she owned the story, the characters, the overall feel. Dave Trowbridge turned out to be my silent collaborator on all those books: the nifty sfnal touches were all his. He even wrote sections, as I used our old method: I sent him my draft, with markers [put some techie stuff here]. Just for a single example, he figured out a way to make rockets make sense in the future. So this was a three way collaboration, with Andre not knowing about Dave, and Dave not getting any credit except in a terse acknowledgment up front.

After those four books were done, I swore there'd be no more collaborations. But as soon as I make any kind of vow like that, something always comes along to trip me up. The first one turned out to be another anxiety-making thing: Byron Preiss contacted me to continue Oz books, with the full support of the Baum family. I was going to turn it down, but something he said made me feel responsible: I felt that Baum's books should be the basis for any continuation, and the way he talked, he'd only seen the movie. He wanted to "update" Oz, make sweeping changes. I was horrified! I felt that there was plenty of good story material is corners and bits of the existing Oz stories. I took on the project partly because we desperately needed the money (though I would get partly stiffed, and the illustrator got totally stiffed when Byron was killed in a wreck) but also because I felt a misguided sense of duty.

So I was in effect collaborating with someone who was dead. There is an entire saga behind this which I won't get into. Poor Byron is gone, and so are his grand plans. But once again I found myself laboring in someone else's world, trying hard to match tone yet bring it to modern tastes, yet keep it middle grade. I tied myself in knots over that project, and never felt that it was any better than mediocre. I also had a LOT of cooks stirring the pot, who all wanted different things . . . and not one of them had ever read an Oz book. They only knew the movie, whose elements are jealously guarded by whoever owns those rights. The first outline had NINE iterations, based on plot ideas dictated to me by other people, before I wrote a word.

More determined than ever to stick to my own stuff, I was finishing the last of that when [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija contacted me, asked what kind of experience I'd had in Hollywood, and would I be interested in collaborating on a cartoon series?

There's no use in going on about Hollywood. For most people without connections, there is a great deal of effort, many close calls, lots of disappointment. But meantime, each time we got together, it was like working with Dave again . . . but different. I'd thought that Dave's and my collaboration was successful partly because we were male and female, about the same age, had the same cultural background, though our main study interests had widely diverged.

[livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija was a generation younger than me (though already a professional in the entertainment field, which she'd gone into straight from college), she'd had a completely different upbringing (I highly recommend her memoir, All the Fishes Come Home to Roost, which is about being a kid on an ashram in India), and while she liked history, her interests were focused mainly on Asia. But we shared so many beloved books, movies, types of story, and ideas that we each brought in strengths that the other didn't have.

With Dave, we'd get together (and later, email) to hammer out general plot ideas. This meant in the seventies going to really nice restaurants as we talked out story, then we'd each go home and write out agreed-on bits. The fun of that is getting the other's segment and seeing how the story takes on life. Then we'd rewrite the other's bit--we knew when we came up against speed bumps, we could put a marker. [Dave works in some kind of techie talk here. Sherwood gives us some kind of social jabber here.] The other would fill it in, which made writing so fun, almost effortless.

With Rachel, we evolved a different method: we sit side by side, and write it together. The specifics are usually me doing the typing as I'm pretty fast (though neither of us is a great typist), and one or the other of us extrudes prose. She's more of a stylist than I'll ever be, so sometimes she'll get caught, trying to get the words right; I'll just start typing something to get the scene going, then she'll see a catch point, and begin dictating a flow. Or she'll catch me up short, pointing out where what I'm writing makes no sense. Out it goes before it can shipwreck the entire storyline, we get back on track with some talk, and race on.

This kind of writing has led to us crawling around on the ground if we disagree on just how something is done. One time she looked up how one would use a knife to cut out something from one's own arm, and lay on the carpet acting it out, while I typed it up. We make tea, and go sit downstairs, and bat what if?s back and forth. Characters are born, take on stories, and come to life this way; plot points snarl dramatically. Funny scenes spark, horrorific ones make us go "Ew!" as my fingers clatter over the keyboard. She's got logic, I have image. She has a strong grasp of contemporary sensibility, mine arises out of decades of reading Western lit. We both venture into non-Western forms of entertainment in an effort to broaden . . . everything: she has the edge there.

My thoughts on collaboration, at least from my point of view: it dies as soon as someone in the collaboration claims, or has, ownership. When the give and take is free, it's exhilarating.

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