collab creations and lessons and debates and junk

Because writing is often such a solitary activity, I like to work on group projects from time to time, just to keep things fun and interesting. I’ve done it quite a bit since I started blogging.

One good example of this is the awesome and ongoing PoopingRainbows. Another is the kickassy Park Manor. I’ve even worked with photographers.

In the past I’ve done blog series like “Peter e-mails bloggers” (and here is part two of that post.)

And I am currently working on a new series called “Debate Club.” I started my first debate with Lauren, but we’ve both gotten a little sidetracked. That happens to me any time I see something shiny.

Now small-scale posts, and the medium-scale PoopingRainbows, are one thing, but I have long been curious about what it would be like to do a giant project with another writer.

A while back I had an idea for a novel. The more I thought about it, the more I dug it. But it was missing something. Then it dawned on me.

A female perspective!

I immediately knew who I wanted to have work on the novel with me.

I pitched the idea, and Eleni said yes!

And so we started planning our novel. Woo!

As we’re slowly getting to the finish line, I am thinking back on some of the lessons we’ve learned about co-writing.

Firstly, Eleni and I are very different people. Which, really, we should have realized. You know, she’s a Greek fashionista, and I am from a small town in Cape Breton and own a dozen plaid shirts.

But despite the fact that our writing covers similar topics, sometimes, we have verrrrrry different writing styles. Our processes are also different, to use a douchey term. We have worked together before, including on our blog series “Peter & Eleni’s Infinite Conversation,” but never on something of this scale.

I wrote the first chapter and sent it to Eleni as a jumping off point. I didn’t do a good enough job explaining that it is a true collaboration and that Eleni could meander in any fun direction she thought of, so she tried to stay too close to what I wrote. (Which, really, WAS pretty delightful.) It wasn’t until months later that she finally explained how it handcuffed her. I think a bit of a downside of being friends is that she didn’t want to offend me.

But once I explained that her chapters are her own (the story is told in alternating chapters from the male and female perspectives), she really found her voice.

I started off pretty confident of my voice. (Which might not surprise you.) Ideas for books (short stories, blog posts, shopping lists) appear in my noggin pretty far along in the development process. And once I know the story, I just want to write it out.

Eleni is much more meticulous. I sweat every word. Eleni spends a holiday with each letter. I think it is fair to say that Eleni thinks more about what she’s writing, while mine is more instinctive. (She’ll probably disagree with that in comments.)

First drafts are my favourite. And while I tweak later, my final drafts often look a lot like my first. Eleni LOVES re-writing. It’s where she really shines. For me it is a necessary evil. Like taxes. Or democracy.

Eleni also believes in getting feedback from others. I am militant about sticking to “our vision” for it, and guarding against the dangers of group decision-making.

Eleni would be happy doing 75 re-writes. I am more into doing one. Possibly two.

And this is where we get to the good part of writing with someone you are friends with.


She knows that her usual process (taking prolonged breaks from writing) would grey my hair even more. And I know that my process (writing balls out and getting it out to the world) would leave her feeling like she didn’t put her best writing down on paper.

So we compromise.

I do more rewrites than usual. She does fewer than she’d like.

Instead of polling everyone we know, as she’s prefer, we’ve enlisted a small group of beta readers to give us feedback.

We’ve both had moments of frustration with the process, but not really with each other.

It helps that we’re good friends. It helps that we’ve long been fans of each others writing. And it helps that she’s an amazingly talented.

I was right about who the perfect person is for co-writing this book.

And you’re going to love it.

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