Team Writing


I recently mused about writers having more ideas than time. Is there a solution to the conflict between over-inspiration in a finite lifespan?

How about sharing the load?

The Association of Ghostwriters claims 50% of best-sellers are ghosted. Shocked?

The Old Masters of painting sketched out their ideas on canvas, leaving students to produce the overall work, returning to add characteristic touches such as fabric folds and hands, scribbling a signature and collecting the fee. No-one quibbles about “ghost-painting”.

I regret that hiring a ghostwriter is out of my financial league.

One alternative is “collaborative” writing, with co-authors both credited. Collaborating on a single story has worked for authors who are already very familiar with each other’s work and usually builds upon established personal friendships. I’m not there, yet. Perhaps after a few best-sellers, a famous fellow author whom I respect might tap on my shoulder and ask to help with my latest opus… Dream on! 

Another approach is the “shared world”, where someone with an overall vision invites other, individually-credited, writers to explore their own ideas within that larger universe. Opening up your own creation to a bunch of strangers is risky, but expands its scope, and introduces new ideas that might be picked-up and developed by the originator of this literary universe.

There are two ways to handle this. The originator can provide a starting story and leave the story-crafting to a bunch of strangers (brave man, Mike Lynch) such as the “No Revolution Is Too Big” series.

Alternatively, s/he could establish strict ground rules, such as “no time travel”, “no humanoid aliens”, “no magic or mysticism”… This might sound like control-freakery, but could be to avoid conflict with planned stories.

In either approach, contributing writers can share a cast of characters to provide continuity. One excellent example of this is the “Thieves’ World” series, where any story’s major character can pop up as an “extra” in other stories (a passerby, someone at the bar, a name dropped into conversation…).

In either case, the originator must be brave and trust his/her contributors to not damage the original concept. Kudos, then, to those who have crafted their own universe and have trusted and embraced a wide range of writers to contribute to its expansion and development.

“Go, Team!”

Image courtesy of nokhoog_buchachon /

One thought on “Team Writing

  1. Pingback: Writing Fakes | Andy McKell

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