Collaboration and Writing: How Producing Songs Made Me A Better Writer!

Collaboration and Writing: How Producing Songs Made Me A Better Writer! 624 416 Reader Views

by Award-Winning Author B.A. Bellec

Much of what we do as writers is a solitary effort. Then we get to the end of the writing process and suddenly the rug is pulled. No longer is writing this solitary activity. Now, as you put the finishing touches on your manuscript, you MUST collaborate.

Tasks like editing, beta reading, cover design, formatting, and marketing. They are all skills needed to produce a finished book, but you may not have them all. That’s okay. That is where collaboration comes in. Find your weak spots and partner with people who are experts. Whenever I collaborate, I always have two very simple goals:

1 – What is the core task we are trying to complete?

Whenever a collaboration starts, make sure the core task is clearly defined and stays on track. If the task is editing, don’t get sidetracked with formatting or graphics. Stick to editing and find a partner who is an expert editor.

2 – What can I learn from this person?

Once you have that core task defined and your expert picked, try to evaluate yourself during the entire process. What can you learn? For me, I know editing is a weak spot. Thus, I try really hard to find matches to fill my various editing holes. I also know I will never be a master of the technical side of spelling and grammar, and that is okay. Each time I go into an editing contract, I try to learn a few more things that will make my next editing contract go smoother.

I have a very interesting example to show you why and how collaboration makes you an infinitely better writer. Last year, I was invited to participate in an indie author project, The Anatomy of Fear. Twelve of us got together, each writing a short story with fear and a body part as the starting place. We used an online chat room (Slack/Discord/Teams) to keep everyone in touch and we also did beta reading in pods within the group. It was a fantastic way to develop our stories and because we used crowdfunding; we had the budget to add a master editor, an audiobook narrator, and an artist to help with custom drawings for each story. All of those were collaboration points to learn from, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

If you know nothing about me, you may not be aware that not only do I write novels, but I also write songs that are usually tied to the novels I am working on at that time. Why do I do that? I love music and I often find myself writing a character that is a musician. When I was creating my first novel, I had a character singing in a talent show and I wrote a few songs while I was going through the editing process as if I was that character.

My editing is particularly slow. I usually spend an entire year in the beta and editing stage. Wanting to make those songs be more than just words on a page and knowing I couldn’t sing, I went about finding a partner who could be the voice I was looking for. I spent a month looking for the right fit to bring my idea to life and match the narrative vision I had. We ended up doing 5 songs together over the next few years. I call myself a music producer and what makes me a producer? It’s vision. I can hear the final song before it is done, and I keep the creation process tied to the novel. Collaborating with musicians made me a better writer as I learned how to structure songs, which is not all that different than planning out a chapter. I also learned tons of collaborative skills mainly on how to take and receive feedback which is an extremely important skill.

Those were my early days. Let’s fast forward to today to give you a better insight into what a few years of growth looks like when it comes to song production. So during The Anatomy of Fear I had that same inevitable moment of editing downtime where the first draft of my story was done, but the beta group was still organizing. It was too early to start editing. Rather than sitting idle, I decided to write a song. My short story didn’t have music or a musician in it. That meant that this song wouldn’t be tied specifically to my story, but I still wanted it to work with the project. I continued our theme of exploring fear. In pretty short order I landed on the topic of imposter syndrome. Many of us writers get this feeling so I thought first and foremost it would probably connect with the bulk of the group I was working with.

Where my skills as a writer have leveled up, I wrote my song in just a few weeks, but just like a book, the first draft is never the final draft. I had collaborated with someone the prior year on a cover song. I really wanted to make an original with them. I thought this new idea was the perfect fit. I reached out to them and for the next month, we went back and forth rewriting the song. During this time, the anthology project had begun beta reading. The goals I set were achieved. I collaborated to write a song about fear while also not overanalyzing my first draft from the anthology.

Once the song was recorded, I set out with a new task, I wanted to make a special video. I found an animator on Fiverr who had recently done a lyric video that got to a million views. Perfect! Another collaborator. We got together to gather a rough outline for the imagery and style I was looking for. We kept progressing with our anthology editing and I would check in with the video partner here and there. That was a few months back. Here is the final product:

Once the video was done, I registered the song with SOCAN which protects original Canadian songwriting, uploaded my awesome YouTube video, and sent the music files to DistroKid which handles the release on all major platforms. None of those things were on my radar four years ago. Not only have I learned a little more about those backend tasks, but my ability to find better partners and collaborators has increased exponentially. To build a bonfire you need to start with a spark and those early songs were the sparks that have helped me grow this inferno!

The Anatomy of Fear is a short story anthology that explores the borders between fear and fantasy through fiction. Penned by 12 independent authors, this anthology brings together different thoughts, experiences, and perspectives to answer one question. What do we fear?

Just for fun, H.L. Tinsley (who was one of the masterminds behind The Anatomy of Fear) told me she liked the poem Invictus. I saw it was old enough to fall into the public domain, so I went about producing a musical version of that poem as a gift to her.

About the Author

Bryan “B.A.” Bellec is an award-winning author. His debut novel, Someone’s Story, was a coming of age story and it went on to win multiple honors including the Reader Views Reviewer’s Choice Young Adult Book of the Year. For his second novel, Pulse, he changed it up and wrote a dystopian sci-fi horror thriller. That novel became an IAN (Independent Author Network) Horror Book of the Year Finalist continuing Bellec’s trend of writing high-level stories. His third novel was a direct sequel to Pulse and just released to amazing early reviews.




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