Friday, September 28, 2012

Are two minds better than one?

I used to direct films, and I had to collaborate with other creative folks to get the film done. I know, I know. People love to believe there are "auteurs" who do everything on a film, but they're few and far between. And directors have a lot less power than you might think they do to shape a picture. For every Orson Welles, there are thousands of Alan Smithees toiling in the trenches.

In film you have to work well with others when you rely on so many other people to help you create your vision. There are cinematographers, costume designers, lighting designers, set designers, actors, writers, and producers... And you have to find a way to get their best work and create the best film that you can. All this and stay under budget.

When I was done wracking up huge amounts of debt on my credit card, I moved on to working in TV. I produced and wrote ads for cable shows for about 12 years. I worked on shows like Iron Chef, A Baby Story, Ice Road Truckers, and Next Food Network Star. I had to work with Creative Directors who were former producers and sometimes frustrated by the lack of creativity in their new job. I would occasionally work on a project for days only to be told to scrap it and start over. So I became a fast writer and developed a thick skin.

But with novel, a writer is everything: the costume designer, set designer and cinematographer. They don't have to collaborate with anyone. I was surprised when I got my first notes on my first book from my editor. They were so polite and tactful. "You may wish to..." or "I would suggest..." I was an auteur--or at least an author--at last! And being a smart one, I followed most of my very experienced and talented editor's suggestions. And my copy editor's. And my agents.

I tried once to write a screenplay with a friend. We got it done and made it into a film, but I always thought it lacked something. A unique voice, perhaps? Our voices became so mixed that they became slightly schizophrenic. In the end I felt like his best work was missing and so was mine. That experience has made me cautious about collaborating on a very personal writing project again.

So would I be willing to collaborate with a mega-selling author and share credit for a book? Who knows! James Patterson certainly hasn't asked yet, so I'm not so sure I couldn't be "bought." After all, I used to work in advertising...

But speaking of collaboration--I'm in a really cool book right now with twenty other very cool novelists called MAKING STORY: TWENTY-ONE WRITERS AND HOW THEY PLOT. And this is definitely a case where 21 heads is better than one!


Catriona McPherson said...

Hey Meredith,

I know what you mean about polite edits - they can be so courteous you have no clue what the advice is. Not a problem for me anymore with Editrix Lestrange (aka Suzie Doore.)

Meredith Cole said...

How funny! I've heard that some editors can be rather harsh--but they've got a long way to go before they can compete with most TV Creative Directors!