Must writers perfect all aspects of writing, so that they can personally take an idea and flesh it out into a manuscript acceptable to publishers? Can we all be expected to dream up a story, write every word with flawless grammar, organize it into neat chapters, emotionally connect with readers and create unforgettable titles?
In some writers' cases, perhaps yes. But in my own writing, as well as many others, I'm seeing a lot of teamwork. Case in point: Writer's Digest recently interviewed James Patterson, holder of The New York Times bestsellers record at 42. He's sold more than 150,000,000 books worldwide!
While some frown upon coauthoring, he freely admits that he teams up with other writers. Typically, he comes up with the idea and writes an outline. He shows it to his agents and one will say he could write a book from that outline. The coauthor writes the first draft and Patterson takes that draft and writes subsequent drafts. For example, regarding the book Sundays at Tiffany's, Patterson says, "I worked with a co-writer, and then I wrote seven drafts."
He notes that most movie scripts and TV shows are written by teams. "In America, we get so caught up in individualism and heroes. I'm big on teams." "I have a file of stories that's 400 pages thick, and they're stories that I want to tell."
If I understand what Patterson's saying, he's an idea machine. He loves dreaming up story lines. Then, he drops it off to someone else to write it. Finally, he takes that draft and polishes it.
He doesn't do it all. He doesn't want to do it all. He doesn't feel obligated to do it all. He relishes the teamwork and celebrates it.
In my case, I research and write my manuscripts, but then give them out to many people to get their input before I re-shape the manuscript. Then, I give it to people who spot grammatical infractions as readily as a preppies spot fashion infractions. After that, of course, I send it to the publisher for final editing or to a professional editor if I'm self-publishing.
My point? If you can do it all and love to do it all, go for it! But since people differ so much in their strengths and talents, surely many writers will be great at creating story ideas, but lack the patience to sit down and write a 500 page story. Others can choose just the perfect word or delight in putting those words into creative sentences and paragraphs that wow us plain writers. Some come up with catchy titles; others love painstaking research.
So if you find yourself stalling out for some reason, stop and reflect. Could it be that God has gifted you for one or two parts of the writing process, and He wants you to team up with others to complete the parts that frustrate you? Teams have certainly worked for James Patterson. It's hard to argue with 42 bestsellers and 150,000,000 books sold.
What are your ideas on teamwork? How do you use teamwork in your writing? I'd love to hear your comments.