Hello. My name is Janeen Ippolito, and I am a collaborative writing addict.
I blame it on the extroversion. For me, writing has always been about connecting with others. My teenage years were spent happily engrossed in online play-by-post roleplaying games where I built crazy story worlds with my fellow gamers – X-Men and Lord of the Rings being my favorite fandoms. I’d post my section of the story and eagerly await to see what other writers’ characters would do in response. I’d spend hours crafting intricate plotlines in OOC threads or plan spinoff threads to write side stories in collaboration with other players.
By the way, in terms of characters? I had thirty-seven at my maximum, each with their own backstories and purposes. I always wanted to be able to play the games and go on the adventures.
There’s just something about the electricity of connecting with others through stories that is compelling and fascinating. Even now, my first fiction novella (due out October 29 through Uncommon Universes Press) was created in collaboration with an illustrator, with whom I also built the story world, planned all plotlines, and shared characters.
In short, my brain is super-happy working with other brains to make incredible speculative works together.
What does this look like in practice? A ton of communication with co-writers. A lot of mutual respect and trust regarding plotting and different writing styles. A great deal of sharing over Google docs. A hefty dose of humility as two visions need to be braided into one cohesive whole.
Oh, and specialized agreements about the nature of collaboration to eliminate confusion and define the terms of the work. This is absolutely essential for the health of all writers involved, especially when actual publishing comes around.
At first, I was a little sheepish about my love of collaboration. After all, you always hear about the purity of authorial vision. The need for authors to sequester themselves in absolute solitude to hear their own thoughts and purposes. Whereas if I try to stuff myself away in an office, I get distracted by all the quiet and lack of outside stimulation. Hopping online to chat with friends actually jumpstarts my writing gears, because they yell at me to keep writing and, even on solo projects, my lovable-yet-snarky critique partners will ‘sit’ on Google Docs and check in to make sure I’m actually making progress. Me, distracted by shiny new marketing tools and business ideas and meme creation? Never!
I can only conclude that before the invention of internet I’d need some kind of telephone system where friends periodically called me to jar me into work. Or some kind of specially-trained parrot to pull my hair whenever I came up with a new and must, must turn it into a shiny image with Pixlr or Canva (or in pre-internet days, good ol’ fashioned doodling).
After all this time, I’ve gotten used to my need to collaborate, and I see a lot of benefits in it, especially in my work at UUP. Because I’m passionate about entering the author’s world and understand their vision, I enjoy making long-term marketing plans and goals for their work. In UUP we’re a team and my enthusiasm for connecting with authors and their stories helps foster that sense of community for mutual benefit and growth.
Does this mean I always collaborate? Actually, it did until recently, when a story idea came out of a dream (where a lot of my ideas come from—my brain is busy at night). This story quickly turned into a Thing that I must now faithfully write out or else suffer the consequences of distraction and mind-clog. It’s been a fun challenge to work through it solo and spring new, completely finished scenes on my crit partners, instead of having everything out in the open. I’m not even outlining this one, so there’s no preparation paper trail!
In the end, I’ll always come back to collaboration in some form, because my heart is for building bridges between all of us crazy creatives. We all build fantastic visions and those visions are just too shiny to keep within our own heads.
Janeen Ippolito is an idea-charged teacher, reader, writer, book reviewer, and the Fearless Leader of Uncommon Universes Press. She writes speculative fiction laced with everyday humor and cultural tension. Her co-written illustrated novella, Thicker Than Water, releases on October 29th and the first eight chapters are available online at bloodmercy.wordpress.com. Go to JaneenIppolito.com for world-building resources and off-the-wall insights from this sleep-deprived author.