Hello SE readers, Gwen with you today, and it’s my pleasure to offer Part II of the four-part series on co-authorship. Last week, John Howell mentioned that he and I wrote a book together. Using examples from our experience, he introduced co-authorship and explained some of the essential components. Today I’m going to build on his post and focus on creating a shared vision. If you missed John’s post, you can see it HERE.
Let’s start with a question. By chance, have you contributed to an anthology? If you have, you know that expectations are explained. You’re given word count limits, a theme, time-frame, and general dos and don’ts.
Authoring a book with another writer has similarities. Instead of multiple stand-alone tales, though, there’s one overarching story that might include a romance, a murder, or an adventure. These subplot threads must be seamlessly interwoven into the one story. So how is this achieved? How do two writers, with different perspectives and possibly different end goals, build one story?
Most co-authors don’t live next door to each other; they may not even live in the same country. John and I live in different states and only met briefly after the publication of our book. When we began working together, we quickly realized that communication was paramount if we were going to create a shared vision. Within just a few days, we established regular meeting times. This proved to be invaluable in addressing concerns as they came up, learning about our writing differences, and supporting creative synergism. Let’s look at these four practices.
- Establish regular meetings: Once both of us were writing, it became clear that we needed to meet every week – if only for a few minutes. We chose to do this via phone, though some writers use Skype, Zoom, or other media. We also touched base almost daily via email – if only to leave a hello. This helped immeasurably in keeping each other informed of what we were doing. And when we had bad days, when we struggled with family issues or other complications, we could offer support.
- Address concerns and issues: With any relationship, it is inevitable that there will be misunderstandings. We strove for a win-win style and supported the other’s strengths. We also created a working environment that was respectful and playful, promoting honest and open discussion. If there was a mix-up because of a fast email or some other mistake, we tried to address it early on.
- Recognize writing differences: One of the advantages of co-authorship is the conjoining of different but complementary skill sets. Perhaps one writer is a natural editor and the other a visionary. Each writer brings his or her strengths to the partnership, and it is a rare tutelage to work with a person who may have a different approach to writing. But this difference can also be a problem. If he or she views violence, sexuality, politics, or religion differently than you might, the two of you have work to do. It can be frustrating or embarrassing or just plain uncomfortable to talk through sensitive areas, but the depth of the story depends upon both writers successfully reaching agreement on these topics.
- Facilitate creative synergism: Ideally, the partnering writers experience an amplification of creative energies by sharing their ideas. One thought leads to another, a process that can be exciting. In John’s and my case, we are generally both very intuitive, and by that I mean, we think imaginatively and easily grasp what the other is saying. This synergistic quality helped us notably as we wrote, and I suspect, it is at the core of any successful writing partnership.
If you’re considering co-authorship, I hope these suggestions are helpful. I’d love to hear if you’ve jointly written a book or paper or if you’re considering such an endeavor sometime in the future. It can be great fun.
John will continue the discussion in two weeks by explaining how to establish writing coherency. I’ll be back the week afterwards to conclude our four-part series. Till then, happy writing!