Several years ago I learned that there are certain imprints, certain publishing houses in entirety, that solicit authors to write for them (or authors volunteer) and the author is then given a Canon or Bible for the series, often a trilogy. He--the author--has set parameters he must stay between, certain character traits, for that matter a list of characters, and so forth. This is commonly done with series fantasy where you see a lot of authors writing for the same on-going series. Harlequin, I've been told, also utilizes a bible for some projects.

At first, my gut reaction was, "How terrible." About five minutes later, when I finished digesting the information, I decided that wasn't so bad. In fact, it sounded rather exciting. Challenging too.

I got to give collaborating a shot with the Three Kings series, and A Christmas To Believe In. Dyann Love Barr, Alicia Dean, and I weren't given parameters, but we sat down and established them together. The resulting books had to fit those parameters. And, oddly enough, all the authors had to be equally comfortable with all the other authors' characters.

Sometimes we wanted to bang our heads. Sometimes we didn't have a choice to do anything but groan and erase words we labored over. Sometimes we came up with something really cool that the others' leaped to incorporate it. All in all though, it was extremely challenging. But it was an experience that was very rewarding as well.

So much so, that this year I've decided to do it again. I'm collaborating with my critique partners, Dyann Love Barr and Kimberly Kennedy, on another Christmas trilogy. This time, it's going a little more smoothly because two of us have been there before. But we're still in the initial phases and all of us know the true work is yet to come -- the part where we have chunks of our own stories and now we have to make sure we haven't run down the wrong path.

It really is an experience I'd encourage all of you to try at least once. Pick a writing partner you're comfortable with. Someone you can be honest with and can listen to with just as much honesty. Sit down and brainstorm an idea together and see if you can pull off two or more books in parallel. It will absolutely teach you to write within constraints. While most authors might shudder at the idea of being confined at all, really, it's not so bad.

It can also be a great way to practice writing to a deadline, because, you'll find that you almost have to set time frames to pull a collaborative effort off. You'll end up either waiting on someone, or someone waiting on you, if not.

But the best part for an author who's struggling to make a name for herself, is that once the books are out there, the promotions get a whole lot easier. You can split advertising costs and buy space for the project, not just one book. Every blog post that your writing partners do is one for you as well. Vice versa. Someone is almost always shouting out about their book, and all collaborators see a benefit in this. For instance, right now in this post, I've promo'd Dyann and Alicia. And since we don't all frequent the same stomping grounds, that's a broader base we're covering.

So, writers, band together. Give it a try. If nothing else, you'll have a phenomenal learning experience.



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