Children’s Writing Weblog

Four Ways to Use Collaboration to Inspire Your Writing

Posted on: December 17, 2010

Today, the myth that writers are a solitary breed is less popular than ever, thanks to the many forms of communication writers can use as they work with their editors, their publishers, and their readers. Being a writer nowadays doesn’t mean you have to struggle in isolation as you build your career. In fact, it doesn’t even mean you have to write on your own. One of the greatest ways to create new and interesting stories is to collaborate with another person on a project. So if you’ve hit a wall and are struggling for more ideas, here are four ways you can take advantage of connections with others in order to write new stories.

Work With Another Writer

Working on a story with another writer is a great way to get the words flowing onto the page. You can bounce ideas off of each other, or you can take turns writing the story to see where it goes. However, if you invite another writer into your creative process, be prepared to lose some control of the project. Make sure you’re okay sharing with him or her. It’s probably helpful if both of you have similar artistic visions.

Collaborate With An Illustrator

Many children’s books are illustrated, so this tip makes perfect sense. If you know an illustrator, then consider asking him or her to collaborate with you on a new project. If you have seen illustrations out there that you like, don’t be shy! Write the artist and pitch a new idea. Working with an illustrator up front can lead a project in new directions, especially if you and the illustrator go back and forth on the project and let it grow on its own. If you don’t know of any artists, then pick a work of art that you love, and write a story that can take place inside of it. (Note: Use this as a creative writing exercise only unless the art is in public domain. See below for more on public domain works.) The only thing to keep in mind regarding this method of collaboration is that most publishers often do not accept manuscripts that are already illustrated, unless the author is also the illustrator. So if you do want to work with a particular illustrator, you might consider self-publishing the book to retain its artistic integrity.

Rewrite The Work Of A Famous Author

This is a less active collaboration, but it’s still a great project. Think of some of your favorite classic stories, and see if you could adapt or retell it in a new way. Think also of all the new books out now that somehow retell a classic story, such as The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, which retells Homer’s The Odyssey but from the point of view of Penelope, Odysseus’ wife. Do you have a favorite story that you could retell for a child? How would you do it? Think of your writing of it as a sort of homage to that famous author or classic book. But first, make sure the original is in the public domain, which means its copyright has expired. This is most common with older works. You will have to make sure the work in question has an expired copyright, which occurs seventy years after the author has died. For more information, check out the U.S. Copyright Office and other sites that can help you find works that are in the public domain, such as Public Domain Works.

Write From Music

Finally, you can write from music or work with a musician to inspire you. Think of the classic children’s symphony Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev, and you’ll know that music can do wonders for children’s storytelling. This is the kind of energy you’d like to use to inspire your own stories. (And again, heed the warning to use only music in the public domain, unless you get permission from the creator of any work under copyright.)

Next time you’re looking for inspiration on a new project, consider looking beyond yourself. Consider thinking of ways that you can work with other creators and pieces of art in order to come up with something new for children to read.

This guest post is contributed by Kate Willson, who writes on the topics of top online colleges. She welcomes your comments emailed to

Interested in learning how to write a book and send it to children’s book publishers? Come on over to The CBI Clubhouse for audios, videos, insider writing tips and much, much more!

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