I met Morain McLaughlin on the day I moved across the world. We shared the same travel agent, courtesy of her and my boyfriend’s mutual workplace, so we were put in the same hotel and on the same flight. Other than that though, we had nothing tying us together.
But I noticed Morain straight away. She led her team of eight through check-in, luggage deposit and customs, all with the patience of a saint and the demeanor of a cheerful mother. As I impatiently shuffled forward one line over, part of me wished I was under her wing. Everything seemed to run so smoothly for her and her eight people, and as far as I could tell, it was all thanks to her.
Fast forward two years, and Morain is still a producer extraordinaire, but she’s also a writer. A writer who is interested in a collaborating with me. If it were anyone else, I might have refused, but after seeing Morain move eight worried Europeans to North-America, I’m quite convinced she’s capable of anything. Even if that anything includes helping to handle my writer’s blocks.
So without further ado, I give you: Morain McLaughlin on collaborative writing.
Starting out collaboratively
by Morain McLaughlin
Writing is a solitary business, whatever its format. It can be a fantastic way to explore our thoughts – to stir the pot and see what bubbles up. But, on some Saturdays, does facing a pure white document on-screen feel too empty and lonely? Hello Word.
So why not try to write with someone? Make that weekend writing experience something social. Combine it with food and drink. Bouncing ideas off another person can get the grey matter moving. Take those ideas and charge ahead!
Whoa there! So how’s this actually going to work? It’s scary enough reading over your own first drafts. Now you’ve got to take these new super-cool, mutually-devised ideas and prove to a co-writer that you can do this? That you can write something interesting and compelling? It’s a hard enough thing to prove to you!
There are a few things to consider.
The person you’re writing with may have more or less experience than you but it’s probably just as sicky-scary for them when they hand over that first chapter. Remember, it’s a draft. Your overuse of a phrase, messed up grammar, poorly placed punctuation and glut of typos are OK. The best words spoken to me recently were: “Don’t look at my comments yet! Finish the chapter first. I want to know what’s next!” What motivation! What you deliver can be utterly imperfect. Enjoy that giggle over a really bad sentence, because you know what, really bad sentences are funny!
Respect each other’s time. What better way to actually get something done than to know that person is waiting for you to deliver. They are working just as hard for you.
Both writers must compromise for the big goal: to write something together. Perhaps you really want to write about a fifteen-headed god who likes to throw warriors into bottomless pits. You want dark and powerful beings who fling lightning bolts over the heads of invading mage-armies! But, if that fills your writing partner with cringe-worthy terror, you need to drop it. Save that for your own writing. You’re working with someone else now and it’s just as important to respect another’s boundaries as it is to push their limits.
I’ve just started a project with a fantastic writer and I certainly need to consider my own words! Most importantly, we’re actually writing something, and that’s just the coolest thing of all.