And as if to celebrate our collaboration, Stranger
has been nominated for YALSA's Best Fiction for Young Adults
. The final list will be announced in February.
The way Sherwood and I collaborate is that we first sit down and discuss the plot of the entire story, taking notes. Before we write a chapter, we discuss what will happen in more detail. Then we sit side by side at a computer and write the chapter. Usually Sherwood types, with either of us or both of us actually writing. (I would be dictating.) The result is a book where any given sentence was probably written by both of us together. When we have a first draft, we pass it back and forth for rewrites and polishes and additions.
Sherwood thinks on a much larger scale than I do, in every way. I tend toward intimate scenes with a few people, shorter lengths, and less lavish description. She goes for epics, LONG epics, and more description. Our work together tends to split the difference: medium length, medium description, a large world but we only see a small part of it.
We think differently about worldbuilding. Sherwood creates entire worlds from scratch, with economies, ecologies, and cultures. I tend to start with our world, make a few changes, and extrapolate from there. The werewolf Marines books are typical of my general tendencies in that direction. I didn’t create a new ecology or economy, because werewolves exist secretly within our own ecologies and economies, but instead focused on how werewolf culture might have evolved alongside all the other real cultures, and the details of how their powers work. How might pack dynamics (actual wolf behavior, not the alpha male bullshit) translate into human culture, is there a limit to how much transforms with them when they shapeshift, do they have origin myths, etc.
Sherwood tends to start with an image. I tend to start with “What would be the most interesting/dramatic path that follows logically from what we’ve already got?”
The best part of collaborating is that it’s impossible to get writer’s block. If I go blank, Sherwood will provide something, or vice versa. It’s also just fun – a bit like playing a role-playing game. We’re different enough to keep things interesting, but similar enough to have infinite fun inventing creatures, mutant powers, difficult situations for our characters, etc.
The worst part is that we’re both absent-minded and not very computer-adept, so we have repeatedly lost files, accidentally copied old versions on top of new versions, etc. It can also be hard to find the time for both of us to get together.
I’ve tried collaborating with a number of people. It doesn’t always work – sometimes our prose styles don’t mesh, or our working styles are incompatible, or we argue in a way that isn’t fruitful, or we have wildly differing visions, or we plain don’t get along.
When I saw the movie Pacific Rim,
where giant robots can only be operated by a pair of pilots who are capable of working so smoothly together that they can make one mecha move as if operated by a single person, I thought, “Sherwood and I are Drift-compatible.” Call us if a giant monster appears and you need pilots.