Why don’t we see authorial groups like we do with musical bands? A quick answer could be that performing a musical work often requires a group of musicians while writing is completed in isolation. As artists, writers may be selling their work short by attempting to keep it pure and cleansed of external influences. Of course we are all influenced by other artists work but what I’m suggesting is to collaborate; a process where two or more minds produce something that could never be formed by individual writers working in isolation.
Writing a novel—any writing in fact—is a complex mix of many different processes; plotting, structural design, constructing themes and visions, discovering unique plot twists…it’s never simply putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. There’s editing too, and in some situations a good editor can tease out an author’s ideas to produce a work of art that is more intelligible. This is more akin to a record producer who tinkers and cleans, tidying the work as it exists on the page.
Collaborwriting as a group can help to avoid common pitfalls of writing such as a loss of confidence in your ability and becoming overcritical of your work. I know first hand how debilitating these moments can be. Human nature and an environment of trust will ensure we do not become too critical of a collaborative work. Group dynamics can also foster supportive behaviors; lifting members out of their low points and at other times they can stand on each others shoulders to reach heights not possible alone.
A moment of genuine collaborative writing, or “Collaborwriting”, occurs off the page when two minds collide and meld together two form something unique. An early theory about the formation of Miranda, a moon of Uranus, suggested it was formed by the collision of two planetesimal bodies melding to form a single moon. Hugo and Nebula award winning author Kim Stanley Robinson used Miranda’s unique geological history to highlight and suggest the human mind is the integral part of environmental beauty:
After that they hiked down the spine of the buttress in silence. Over the course of the day they descended to Bottoms Landing. Now they were a kilometre below the rims of the chasm, and the sky was a starry band overhead; Uranus fat in the middle of it, the sun a blazing jewel just to one side. Under this gorgeous array the depth of the rift was sublime, astonishing; again Zo felt herself to be flying.
“You’ve located intrinsic worth in the wrong place,” she said to all of them… “It’s like a rainbow. Without an observer at a twenty three degree angle to the light being reflected off a cloud of spherical droplets, there is no rainbow. The whole universe is like that. Our spirits stand at a twenty three degree angle to the universe. There is some new thing created at the contact of photon and retina, some space created between rock and mind. Without mind there is no intrinsic worth.” – Blue Mars (Pages 435-436).
Further illustrating Robinson’s metaphor, the intrinsic beauty of good writing is not contained on the page, that is just ink and paper, and it is not the words and punctuation we craft as writers, it is the thoughts and feelings the writing manifests in the reader’s mind. I’m not suggesting that this higher plane of communication is unachievable when writing in isolation, but that through collaboration we open up possibilities and manifest ideas and concepts that could not be formed by any singular sentient mind.