In the Winter edition of The Author I saw an article by Terence Blacker called 'The seven habits of highly ineffective authors'. His final no no was this:
I totally disagree with him. In fact, the instant shaking of my head as I read his point made me realise how much I like to collaborate. All authors work differently; I know plenty who do work better alone: they get inspiration from long walks, from listening to music, from living inside their own heads. I'm not one of these: I'm a talker. I like to think aloud, chatting through my plots and characters with friends. I've always enjoyed this part of the process and I find the act of verbalising my story, and of having others question me on it, forces me to formulate it properly and to ensure the plot (in terms of action and emotion) makes sense.
I brainstorm with editors, with my husband and with fellow authors (Jane Clarke, Saviour Pirotta, Rebecca Lisle and I recently had a fantastic joint session talking through plots and characters). I like hearing what other people have to say and I like thinking about their book issues as well as my own.
Once I've written a first draft I often do manuscript swaps with authors (we do a monthly one here at picturebookden where any denner can send round a draft for comment), I show it to my agent and to my editors.
Funnily enough, it's not that common for picture book authors to collaborate with illustrators. Sometimes I don't ever meet my illustrator and the editor acts as a go-between. On Fairytale Hairdresser, because it is a series, Lauren Beard and I do talk through issues and plots and I love hearing her ideas on the text. When we were making the Snow Queen Lauren and I met up for coffee. She said; I'm thinking Russian-ish, I said; I'm thinking blue and spiky, and we ended up with this jointly inspired look:
For me the phrase 'to be any good as an author you have to be on your own' just doesn't ring true. Where Blacker is right is that the final decision has to be mine, and I have to stand or fall based on it. But for me, listening to others makes my books deeper, richer and better.
What about you?