Collaboration

Balance of Powers

And now, let's take a break from being emo for a while and talk about much more exciting things. Such as Balance of Powers! Remember that one time last summer when I did a Kickstarter together with Naomi Alderman, Adrian Hon, and David Varela? Alt-history cold war occult thriller, we said. Just give us a little money to make it more awesome. And you gave and gave. And now! We have done it! Now Balance of Powers is live! Go! Read! Talk on the forums!

We're sending out updates once a week, with intermittent bonus content sent to subscribers in between. The first of those went out yesterday. And other very, very exciting things are happening, as well...

I do love me a good launch announcement. More of these on the way, amigos. I've been a busy girl the last few months, and I sure do have a lot of show-and-tell to do! 


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Four Keys to a Great Creative Team

Yesterday, Adrian Hon posted a comment in a MetaFilter thread about brainstorming that has me thinking about what makes a great team work so well. Adrian's experience is similar to mine -- at least in part because we've worked on some great teams together. But I've worked with other smooth, almost effortless teams, too, and after some reflection, I think there are four fundamental components required for everything to mesh in just that perfect way.

Communication. On a truly great team, everyone is up front about what they're expecting, and about what they're producing. There is no unspoken culture of mind-reading, no witholding of crucial information. If your official deadline is Thursday but you're hoping to get something in on Wednesday, you just say it instead of hinting. If you're sending in a draft but you know your best work isn't in it, say that, too. If the client comes back with feedback, everyone is copied on the email. Communication is constant and thorough.

Trust. Every team member needs to be able to trust the others. This is partly a matter of reliability -- trusting that everyone else will put in the hours, deliver on time, bring their A game. On the deepest lizard-brain level, everyone has to trust that everyone else is working to create the best outcome possible for the project. Not, most emphatically not, just in it for the best outcome for the individual. There is no room for office politics on a great creative team.

Constructive disagreement. On a good team, if your idea is crap, your teammates will let you know. Nobody is taking it personally; it's not you, it's the work. The faster you can kill the not-quite ideas and deconstruct why they didn't work, the faster the good ones will rise to the top. But at the same time, nobody pulls ideas down as petty retaliation. (One of the very best parts of the Balance of Powers team is our ability to argue productively about even very minor story elements, nearly always resulting in a stronger whole.)

The X Factor. All of the above are necessary for a good, functional team. If you don't have those ingredients in your mix, your team won't just fall short of expectations in its creative output -- it'll be downright dysfunctional. But there is also a certain element of chemistry that can rocket a team from merely good to legendary. It can take the shape of complementary skills, a shared creative vision, empathy, all adding up to a team that is very much greater than the people who make it up.

Now, you may notice that all of these factors also go into making other great relationships, too, from friendship to marriage. That's no accident. And as with a great friendship (or romance!) when you find yourself on a truly exceptional creative team, make the most of it. Any team can be a good team with enough effort, but the really great ones don't come along every day.


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Changed and Changing

As you may recall, one of the reward levels for my Shiva's Mother Kickstarter was a bespoke short story. The deal was this: I'd write a short story of up to a thousand words per my backer's general requirements, and they'd be free to use it however made them happy. I was frankly astonished that any of them sold -- and in fact all four of them did, in the end.

The first of these stories I wrote is Changed And Changing, for Lucas J.W. Johnson's transmedia project Azrael's Stop -- he asked if I could play in his world for a little while, and I was of course delighted to do so. It was a bit of a stretch for me to write as I do precious little pure fantasy -- I was concerned the result if I tried would be a little trite -- but I am actually quite pleased with how it came out.

Now Lucas has put it out into the world for your entertainment. Thanks to Lucas for supporting my art and for sharing the result!

Please do read it and let me know what you think -- and then be sure to poke around Azrael's Stop a little more!  


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Balance of Powers

I've launched or announced an awful lot of projects this year. But I'm hoping you have tolerance for just one more from me, because this is the Big One, the one my heart beats faster for, the one that is a pure work of love. 

Allow me to introduce you to Balance of Powers.

We truly love this world that we're spinning together, and we love the story winding through it. And as for me, I really, really want to see how this business model pans out. (A lot of you are probably wondering the same thing!) Our Kickstarter is asking for a mere $5000, but we're not-so-secretly hoping to blow past that. The more we get, the better we can make the experience.

So if you have a few bucks to spare, please send them our way. If you don't, we'd appreciate it if you could spread the word. Let's bring Balance of Powers to life. And... thanks, you guys.


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A Map of the Floating City

Gentles all, I hereby invite you to cast off from these desolate shores, leaving the poisoned air and boiling seas far behind us. 

That's right! Our doors have just opened at FloatingCity.com. This indie game is the creative vision of Thomas Dolby and a select team of artists and collaborators -- a team you'll be joining the minute you sign up. Play commences today, and will go on for several weeks.

I don't want to say more for fear of giving too much away, so I'll just add: Be sure to dive into the forums, and check the Gazette regularly!

I would be very much delighted if you'd take a look and let me know what you think.


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