Writing with a Co-author

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This dork-tastic grin; it lasted the whole signing.)

One of the most common questions, I get is “How does it work with two authors?” Well, I don’t know how it works for other author teams, but this is how it works for Jake and me.

For Grey Stone Jake had the basis of an idea and approached me about it. I really loved the idea. The truth is that, as a writer, you’re often approached by people who are like, “Hey, I’ve got a great idea for a book; you should write it.” And usually I don’t. But I really liked Jake’s idea and the possibility of writing YA fantasy. I’d recently just re-fallen in love with YA fantasy and was ready for a new project; it was perfect timing.

After working out some basic details about what we wanted the book to be, Jake and I got together about once a week and would go over different ideas for the next section of the book. We’d just kind of brainstorm the next few sections. And then I’d go home and write the next chapter or two, and send it to Jake. He’d give me his two cents (which were always positive–a must in the early phases of the book writing process, but sometimes he had a suggestion for something to add), and then I would write more (all the way till the book was done). Then, I edited the heck out of the thing.

It was a good partnership because Jake contributed a lot of traditionally male ideas, and I contributed a lot of traditionally female ideas. Together, I think we created a book that had action, fighting, and cool weapons, but also emotional impact, conversation, and cookies. We had strong female and male characters. It just worked to have the two of us contributing.

I did almost all of the writing and editing. And Jake was a fantastic idea bank. Any time I got stuck, he could help me out. And sometimes, even when I wasn’t stuck, he’d come to me with an idea that was just super brilliant, or filled a hole that I hadn’t realized had been there.

The other thing that made our co-writing partnership work was that Jake gave me the final say on story and editing. Maybe that sounds weird or unfair, but the truth is that it never would have worked if we’d both had our opinions all the time and tried to hammer the story into something that made us both perfectly happy all the time. It would have turned out a mushy, measly, compromised story. Which isn’t to say we didn’t both voice our opinions on things. And I definitely took Jake’s suggestions to heart and almost all of them even made it to the page. But at the end of the day, it worked for us to have it set up this way. It helped me throughout the creative process (whereas having an ever-present voice in my head saying, “Jake might not like that; you have to make Jake happy about every detail”) would have killed the story before it started. So Jake gave me freedom to write and the final say. And, in return, I was able to invest fully in the story and really throw myself into the whole process in a way that has benefited not only the writing of the book, but also the sale and marketing as well.

Below you’ll find some of the pros and cons of working as a writing team.

PROS:

  1. Two heads. Plenty of ideas, different perspectives, a built-in 2nd reader.
  2. Double the network for marketing. This isn’t quite true since we have lots of mutual friends, but I have noticed that our friend/relative/acquaintance reach is broader since we’re using two circles of friends/relatives/acquaintances to get the word out.
  3. Time saved. Right now I’m in the throws of working on our next book and marketing Grey Stone. Meanwhile, Jake is mapping out some new ideas for our next series. It’s not quite twice as fast, but with two of us working on it, we can definitely work a little faster.

CONS:

  1. You’re gonna be splitting the money.
  2. You don’t always agree. (This is why it’s important to have an understanding about who does what or who has the final say or whatever; it’s just good to decide these things in the early stages of the game). Sometimes two heads makes for a few too many ideas.
  3. It takes time and energy to coordinate, meet together, etc. I think it’s time well spent, but there’s always a coordination going on, a sharing of information.

Tips for working with a co-writer: 

  1. Jake and I wrote up a little contract. I highly recommend it. We didn’t go to a lawyer or anything, but writing it made everything clear and laid everything out on the table. Do remember that in the process of writing and selling a book, you’ll bump up against other things later in the process that you couldn’t necessarily have foreseen or expected when you were just plotting out a wee tale. So it’s okay to re-look at agreements, to re-negotiate, to whatever. But it’s always nice to have things written out so you’re sure they’re understood.
  2. Know thyself. If you really don’t like to work with other people, this isn’t for you–no matter how good someone’s idea might be. I think that for me and Jake, being friends is more important than the book and that has been helpful. Again, it doesn’t mean we’ve always seen perfectly eye to eye. But I think we’ve both tried to have each other’s back. So, just know what your priorities are. And act accordingly.
  3. Talk about it. If something’s not working with the partnership, talk about it. If something’s not working with the book, talk about it. You can probably work it out.
  4. Remember you’re not married. You don’t have to love everything the other person does. You don’t have to work together on every single project you ever do. But you do have to do what you’ve agreed to do.
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