Life · Writing

3 Important Requirements for Collaboration

Not everyone writes with a partner. Actually, it seems to be a rarity, and I absolutely understand why. Each person has their own process, and it can be frustrating to work when they don’t align. Or if the other persons ideas of how a character develop differ. Or if they spell it color instead of colour (Yes, autocorrect, I understand you are American, but I am Canadian. I’ll spell it how I want to).

Both of the novels I have finished were written alone, for the most part, but I have a collaboration partner who can definitely take a lot of credit for the fact that they happened. Our first collab was all the way back in high school. We clicked easily, but it was still weird, and awkward, and hilarious.

Now, ten years later, we still work together to develop stories and characters. So I thought it would be a good idea to share with you all the top three requirements for a healthy collaboration.


This one seems obvious, but I think it’s the hardest to actually manage. My partner and I have had more than a decade of friendship, and years of practice. Even now there are things I think, “Will he think this idea is stupid?”

Trust is hard to build, but once you’ve got it, miraculous things can happen. My advice for this one – don’t rush it. Don’t pick some hugely intense, emotionally draining or exposing project for your first collab. We started with a silly project that is still available, though paused indefinitely, Of Passion and Apathy. We loved the characters, and what started out as a light hearted joke turned into a project we still pick away on, almost 11 years later. Don’t be afraid to start light, and delve deep as your grow your trust.

Never. Happened.jpg
(All images are (c) S.J.Penner. Do not repost separate from this blog.)


There is something to be said to sticking to a project, even when you don’t feel inspired by it at the moment. I agree with that, and you do need to realize that writing isn’t something easy, and pushing through is require. But sometimes, with a partner, you need to let yourselves explore a bit further. It’s a way to build that trust we just talked about, and to get a feel for the other persons style and interests.

Our second project is an ongoing BEHEMOTH. At the moment the world we developed has four ongoing novels, a pathfinder game setting, drawings, comics, and a ridiculous amount more. There are tons of different little stories, characters, and ideas that we ran around with, running with some and discarding others. This means that we have a world that is intensely fleshed out, which makes any writing we do within it much more intense and immersive.

So explore together! Find new lands and new characters, even if they aren’t part of your core narrative. Have FUN!


Honesty is integral, as partners. There are two sides of it. You need to be honest in your critique, but also honest about yourself. The first is pretty straightforward.

If you hate a character, or if you think they are reacting the wrong way, you need to say something. Discuss it, let them explain their side and explain yours. If you don’t, your flow will be thrown off, making a long and amazing process slow and painful.

The second is harder. You need to be honest with your partner about yourself. A writing partner (especially a long term one) is almost like a spouse. They will see you excited, energized, and creative. They will see you annoyed, petulant, and frustrated. They will see you at your worst and at your best, and the better they understand WHY, the better they can help you through it.

For example; let’s say they want a character to have been sexually abused in their past. For some people, this wouldn’t be a problem. But for many of us, it can be a touchy subject, either because of personal experience, or because of someone close to us. It might make sense for the CHARACTER, if it happened, but maybe it isn’t okay for you to have to write it.

You absolutely, positively need to be honest. If you have hard lines about things you are comfortable with, you need to tell your partner. They can’t avoid something that they don’t know is a trigger.

Ignorance is Bliss.jpg
(All images are (c) S.J.Penner. Do not repost separate from this blog.)

Writing delves into the darkest parts of humanity, so TRUST your partner, EXPLORE your boundaries, and be HONEST when you reach a line you don’t feel comfortable crossing.

And write. Just write. Collaboration can be hard, painful and frustrating,  but I can tell you from experience, it is also a way to find your best friend.


Writing is so much more fun with friends! Remind yourself with a mug! get a mug? 100% of proceeds go directly to American Red Cross.

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S.J. Penner

Author of the upcoming series #Tyrant, artist, and inveterate dabbler. Creator of #guiltfreeswag for writers and gamers at Coffee Ink where 100% of proceeds go to Red Cross Emergency Services.

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