I just finished reading Floaters: Three Short Stories. It consisted of - you guessed it! - three short stories. Two published authors who both did crime stories and felt they had compatible styles, decided to collaborate on a story. Each of them had written and published several stories that used the same main character, and they agreed to 'loan' their main character to the collaborative work. The book consisted of their joint effort, followed by a short story from each of them. The intro explains that one author wrote about 3k words, then handed it off to the other author, who then wrote about 3k words. It got passed back and forth a few times, although it wasn't clear what changes, if any, they made to each other's work.
My thoughts? The collaborative work was mediocre, although I don't know that I would have realized there were two different authors, had I not been told. However, to my surprise, I enjoyed both of the individual short stories that followed, much more than I did the collaborative work.
In my writing group, we've done this exercise we call "Roaming Paragraph", a couple times. In a random order, one person starts the story, emails it to the next one on the list, and person 2 adds their share, and passes it on to the next. Each person typically writes between 150 and 300 words. The last person adds his/her share, although they don't have to actually 'end' the story. It's an interesting exercise, I think we all enjoy it, it's both interesting and amusing to see what each of us does with the work-in-progress we're given.... but the final result is far from a work of art. Granted, our group includes a wide variety of experience, as well as a variety of preferred genres.. but trust me, the final outcome is not anywhere near ready for public consumption.
As I've mentioned in previous posts, I take part in Nanowrimo. One of the things I enjoy about Nanowrimo, is perusing and taking part in the forums on the website. Some of the threads talk about writing software and technology, some threads talk about issues and problems authors run up against, and some threads have nothing to do with writing. There is one thread that I particularly enjoy taking part in, called The Smoking Pen. Boiled down to its basics, The Smoking Pen is collaborative writing, with perhaps dozens of people taking part, each contributing a few lines at a time, in no particular order, in no particular direction, and with no particular goal in sight. The Pen 'opens' in early October, continues throughout November (Nanowrimo month), and typically ends in early December. Some people begin posting in the beginning, and continue to the end, others pop in for a post or two and disappear.
The experience is fun, and funny, and very social... and that's about all you can say about it. You can excuse the typos (we have no edit button!), but postings are full of inconsistencies and nonsense, and lack any sort of structure or order.
My verdict on collaborative writing? Collaborative writing can be fun, and it can provide a learning experience. But for me, at least, it should be kept in forums, and in writing groups, and off the bookshelves.
Not much in my teapot today..