Tip One: Don't hog the writing project.
I’ve attempted several times to write stories with my friends. Each time, the project has failed because of one main problem: me. When I get excited about a project, I write hundreds or thousands of words and I tend to take over the project.
When K and I wrote Friend or Foe together, we planned that I would write a chapter, then she would write a chapter, and so on and so forth. The problem was that my chapters were almost twice as long as hers because, as I said before, I was hogging the story. It eventually dawned on me that maybe I’m just meant to write by myself. Some writers just work better on their own, and that’s not a selfish thing. It’s just an acknowledgement of the writer’s strength and weakness.
If I were to write a story with a friend now, I would be careful to give her an equal voice in the project, I would plan out exactly which parts each of us would write, I would contain myself, and I would let the story develop naturally instead of trying to control its outcome.
K was a good friend. She enjoyed the project and was very sweet when I was over-exuberant. Looking back, my statement that she wrote almost exactly like me is not true. Her stories were very different, and that was a good thing. She gave me new ideas and encouraged me to keep writing my own stories. Trust me, you don’t want to work with a writer that is just like you. You want to work with a writer that challenges you.
Tip Two: Keep recycling ideas.
Friend or Foe had initially been inspired by the feud between the Shepherdsons and the Grangerfords in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Friend or Foe died after two chapters, but years later, I resurrected it and recycled it into a new story about a feud. I’ve continually been surprised by the number of times that I will reuse an old story idea. If you think about it, recycling is actually a tremendous strength. It proves that you have story ideas worth rewriting, and it also proves that you are sticking close to your roots.