When Is Collaboration In Writing Bad?

Posted: April 23, 2013 in Novel, Reflections, Writing
Tags: , , ,

This is a rather unique question, and one that came up very unexpectedly for me. You see, I heard from some friends and teachers–all published writers as well–that James Patterson, author of the famous Alex Cross books and a few YA books whose names I tend to forget–that Patterson uses ghost writers to help get all his work done, which is how he’s able to publish 9 books a year. At first, I didn’t want to believe it, but then I did some research and sure enough, I found a NYT article about this “collaboration”. And it broke my heart.

Should he work alone or should he work with ghost-writers? Most would say “no”.

Now, collaboration isn’t always a bad thing. Technically speaking, my friend Matt looking at Reborn City is a collaboration. Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson wrote a children’s reimagining of Peter Pan together, and it is certainly not a “technical” collaboration. And who can forget the legendary meeting of the pens of Stephen King and Peter Straub?

But those were collaborations that everyone knew about, everyone agreed to, and the fans were fine with. Most fans are still unaware of these Patterson collaborations, who he’s working with, and he gets all the credit. And it explains why the last couple of Alex Cross books haven’t been exactly up to par.

And we, the fans, are the ones who hurt the most. After all, we expect that the writing is original and from the author. And it’s…not. It’s a ghost-writing collaboration that is making the rounds on the Internet and that nobody really wants. We feel a little betrayed. And yet I still want to read his work, with hope that Patterson will someday return to writing on his own and doing what he does best, even if it means he’s not putting out nine blockbusters a year.

I’m not sure why Patterson does this–though I think money has something to do with it–but I hope that he cuts it out soon. It’s not what the fans want, it’s hurting the quality of his work, and honestly, if I were him I wouldn’t want this. I wouldn’t want to be working with several different ghost-writers and spending less time on the actual work just so I can be prolific and get a ton of money in. I mean, I plan to be prolific, but I plan to be prolific on my own, not with the help of other writers. Why can’t Patterson do the same?

What’s your take on these collaborations? Is it a good thing or a bad thing?

  1. When its Kevin J Anderson and Brian Herbert. Those men ruined my favorite franchise!

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