How do you find the right co-author for you?

Just to be clear I’m not currently looking for a co-author. I might in the future, might not, who knows. But if I ever do decide to look for one I’d like to know how to do it effectively.

Basically what the title says. Those of you who’ve worked with or are currently working with a co-author (or multiple, I guess), what do you think the best way to find a co-author is? How do you find someone whose style and ideas mostly align with your own? Or who you know won’t disappear without explanation at some point?

Beyond that, how do you like working with a co-author? Is it faster? Slower? Do you think your story was improved because of it? Any information you can give would be helpful.

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I’ve only tried it once, and it didn’t work out. I’m not sure how much I can extrapolate from that experience, except: don’t work with someone who hasn’t finished at least one big project in the past, or lots of small ones; and, this forum’s prohibition on “looking for coder” threads is actually probably in place for very good reasons.

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If they have exactly my sensibilities, life experience, competence (not below, not above), writing style, and thought process.

It ain’t happening.

Here’s some other reasons why it’s a bad idea.

  1. Dead time. You gotta wait to hear back from your partner. Agonising.
  2. Accountability. Neither of you are wholly responsible for the project. The project will be the first to go if something else comes along for either of you.
  3. Profit margin. It’s already pretty narrow for IF. You’re slicing it in half.
  4. Teamwork. Humans are awful at teamwork by default and if you haven’t done a co-authorship project like this before you’re bad at it too. Most people who have done it are still bad at it.

So what’s the benefit?

  • You have less work to do. (in my experience this isn’t true at all; I often spend more time fixing someone else’s crappy work than I would have spent writing it from scratch)
  • You have someone to keep you motivated. (in my experience this isn’t true at all; I’m the one who has to constantly check up on people to remind them)
  • You have someone who can fix your crappy work. (in my experience, this is what most people in group projects use their teammates for, including myself, shamefully, on occasion)

Bad idea. Don’t do it.

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Well, the above comments certainly match my experience in dealing with certain people in other, somewhat related fields.

That said, I’d appreciate it if this didn’t just turn into a thread for everyone to vent about their bad experiences. I posted this thread specifically to see how best to avoid situations like the ones you both described. Although I know there’s no surefire way.

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Writers like @Eric_Moser and @adrao may be better equipped to answer that, then, having finished and published co-authored HGs in the past.

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I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a writer of fiction (interactive or otherwise) actually going in search of a co-author. All the successful collaborations I’m familiar with started with people who already knew and liked each other personally as well as admiring and supporting each other’s work. Trying to find a co-author any other way seems like a supremely bad idea.

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Yeah, that’s probably true. I just figured I’d ask.

It is difficult indeed. The first collaborative game in HG (to my knowledge) was Starship Adventures, lead by @Felicity_Banks ! (a great experience yet under-rated game, due to some initial bad reviews… more recent reviews are better, and the game is free, so do feel free to check it out!)

After that shameless self-promotion… I hardly knew Felicity or any of the others back when we started. For something like this you need a charismatic project leader who is not afraid to drive the entire thing forward… you also need to be confident enough to boot out anybody who doesn’t deliver… and the enthusiasm of all involved.

I loved the project, met great people through it (Felicity I still haven’t met in real life, but I did meet Eric Moser a few years back, at the same time as @Chris_Conley, great people! Plus also @Jacic ).

There is another thread somewhere about the pitfalls of joint projects though, I would recommend checking that out!

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First I have to say that my experience comes mostly from creating roleplaying forums, RPG Worlds and Campaigns and from programming so my advise is more general.
You should find people who are above highschool group project Level, do not look for someone to write “your” project but build something together.
Do not look for someone you writes the parts you do not like.
Look for someone who has similar time to spend in the project as you, so that you both feel comfortable with how much each of you provides.
A group project needs to be more organized than a solo project.

Find better ways to communicate than just per Mail. Make use of project planning tools to divide the work. A test and create model used in agile programming might also help.

Choose a partner who likes your style and whose style you like. Think of the project more as work and not as Hobby.

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That’s a good point. I actually have participated in several collaborative authoring projects over the years, as well as quick game jam sort of things where everyone wrote unrelated small works; but these were all hobbyist, not for profit, arranged mainly within the interactive fiction community at Intfiction. As Adrao says, organizing a larger shared fiction writing project where everyone contributes to a single end result requires one (or, if it’s huge like Cragne Manor, maybe multiple) organizer person(s) to design the structure and lay out the guidelines and communicate with everyone and prod people to submit work and stitch everyone’s components together at the end.

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Thanks for sharing @adrao! It’s a good idea to have a project leader to keep everyone on track or give someone the boot if they’re not contributing. Out of curiosity, and if you don’t mind answering, how did you end up joining the project in the first place?

All good, practical advice @Kaelyn. I’ve got a little experience from roleplaying forums myself, I wasn’t sure how much of it would apply to writing fiction. But I guess a few basic principles are the same.

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I think there was a thread in the forums about it (maybe it is still there somewhere?). I wrote… and they allowed me to join. Not all people who started eventually contributed anything (from my memory). Again, I emphasize the importance of having a strong leader, who ends up doing far more work than anybody else… these things work best when each person can kind of do their own thing… so, there should be room for each person to write things in the way that they want… though it should also be agreed that somebody at the end is going to do some heavy editing. It’s a difficult one to get right…

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@SamsonJBodney

All of my collaborations within the IF community (past and present) have been what I call “organic” in origin, and have been “fallen” into.

Usually what happened is that we were communicating over something specific, and this led to “something more” or “something different” that then becomes the collaboration.

I’ve tried to initiate collaborations formally, but for “this” or “that” reason, they never got beyond the exploration phase.

The following are elements (in no particular order) I feel that are needed to get a collaboration project moving forward:

  • A shared vision
  • Trust
  • Flexibility
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Drive

Both @adrao and @Kaelyn have opened up about the need for elements such as Leadership and communication, so I will focus on answering this part:

The people I have worked with in collaborations both within IF and outside of IF are creative of at least the wunderkind level. It did not matter what their profession in life was, each and every person I have worked with and work with now are creative people that amaze me with their creativity.

It is humbling working with creative people at this level, and not only do I learn from them, but they can take something I bring to the table and make it that much better.

When we were/are actually writing, the project flies by. When there is downtime, for whatever reason, it depends on what else needs to be done or is happening on the project.

I think every project I ever collaborated on was better because it was a collaboration. It is my belief that my individual projects have all benefited from what I have learned from the collaborations.

If you have follow-ups, please let me know.

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