I really wanted to submit something to the Masked Mosaics anthology. I first learned about the anthology from my friend Beth. She writes a fair bit of superhero stuff, but I’d never written a superhero story in my life. It sounded like a fun challenge so I got to work.
By ‘got to work’ I mean I went through all my story idea notes, post-its and such to see if there was anything there I could put a superhero spin on. There wasn’t. So I started brainstorming. Eventually I came up with an idea and wrote a first draft. A very ugly first draft. I let it sit a while, then revised it. Something was wrong but I couldn’t figure out what. So I sent it to Beth to critique. She helped me identify what (at least a few) of the problems were and I started revising again.
The deadline for submissions was getting closer and closer, and my progress on the revisions was getting slower and slower.
Usually when a story fights me as much as that one was I take it as a sign I need to let it rest a while longer and come back to it with a fresh mindset, but I couldn’t do that, I had a deadline!
To cut a long story into a shorter one, three days before the deadline I decided to let the story I’d been working on rest and to write something new for the anthology. Something that would fight me less. Something short.
While taking a walk with Jo I was sorting through ideas, trying to come up with something that would be a good story, and short enough I could get it done in just a few days. He asked what I was thinking so hard about and we started talking. We brainstormed ideas back and forth until we settled on a concept and plot I thought would really work. There was just one problem. Jo had contributed just as much as I had to the idea’s development. It would feel wrong if I took all the credit for it.
So I suggested that we write it together and share a byline.
In less than a day and a half we went from rough concept and story idea, to a polished short story that I’m super proud of. I’m a fairly good writer, and Jo is an awesome one (You can read his short story The Sickening Thud at the End of it All by clicking that pretty link right there. Go ahead. I’ll wait. You won’t be sorry) but when we worked together we created a story that is, I think, better than anything either of us could have written on our own.
Working with Jo brought out the best in me. I wanted to make each word perfect and wonderful because I wanted to show off for him. And the parts of the storytelling where I’m the weakest? Well, those are areas he’s strong in so he was able to carry me a little. And, I’d like to think, the opposite is true as well. We complement one another well, in writing as in life. How awesome is that?
The story, sadly, though fantastic (even if I do say so myself), earned us a (very awesome, personal) rejection letter from editors Camille Alexa and Claude Lalumière, but I’ve since sent it off elsewhere and I’m optimistic it will find a good home in time.
In the meantime, Jo and I are planning on working with one another more in the future and I am using what I learned working on that story to make all my future solo work better. And someday I’ll even go back to the original superhero story I’d been working on and figure out what’s wrong with it and how to fix it.
Have you ever worked in a collaboration like this and had lightning strike, or magic happen? I’ve done quite a few collabs in the past (I love them.) but never anything quite as fulfilling as this one. I’m curious to see how rare it is in other people’s experiences.
I’ve also had some disasterous collaborations LOL but that’s a subject for another day, eh?