The One About Co-Writing (Part One)

4 Aug

A couple weeks ago, we received a request from Victoria W. :

“I have a question. I’ve been considering finding co-writing with someone on this story idea I had. There’s just one problem: I’ve never co-written anything and I don’t know how! I was wondering if you lovely ladies had any tips and/or guides that can show me how to get this up and off the ground. 🙂 “

And because we are the prosaic writers we are who can, of course, never do anything with brevity, we have elected to endow you with the knowledge which has come from many years of struggle and strife via a two-part blog post. Kidding. Co-writing is the best.

That being said, there are a great many things that one should be prepared to do in order to reap the most benefits from your collaborative project.

 

1. Everyone Has a “Chapter 10.” This is probably the most negative thing that we have to share, but it is a necessary thing. Your co-writing relationship will be tested. And tested a lot. One of the ways that this relationship will be tested is when you have a disagreement about plot. Or grammar. Or feels. Or characters. Or you find out that your plot has been breeding cute, little fluffy bunnies for months. It just happens and cannot be avoided. So when that time comes, ride through it with as much grace and serenity as God is willing to provide and hope the both of you are alive to tell the tale later on. Kidding. It’s only almost that bad. Brenna and I had a “Chapter 10,” Brooke and I had a “Chapter 10.” And look, we’re not too much worse for the wear. When you do hit your “Chapter 10,” get outside advice and make sure to set aside time to clearly articulate your feelings and opinions. Not in rant form. Because rants get no one anywhere ever. (Passive aggression is also not advised.) Be sure you are ready to compromise or even allow the other person to have what they want. With this attitude, you will conquer many a novel-esque conflicts with the maturity of a professional.

 

2. Establish a System. What is your POA (or Plan of Action for you non-military acronym learned people)? How are you going to write the book?  How are you going to edit the book once its done? These are important questions which you should assuredly have at least tentative answers to going in. Brooke and I, for all of eternity (we’re not that old; I’m kidding), have been using an outline method with alternating POVs (points of view). Meaning that, when we started a new book or series, we sat down at our laptops and talked on the phone for six hours writing an albeit, tentative, semi-comprehensive outline that featured an alternating pattern between two main characters. Now, as we have matured, we have brought in more main characters and story-telling devices, but the basis remains the same. Find something that works for both you and your co-writing compadre and stick to it. We would not suggest flying by the seat of your pants (by the way, if you want a history of this phrase, which Brooke and I discovered while writing this post, click here.) By assigning chapters and working through the plot at the beginning, you will be better prepared to edit and change the ideas you have because of the basis already established. Whatever it is that you choose, be sure that it is consistent and that everyone is on the same page to ensure that the beginning of your partnership is as smooth and well-organized as possible. This will prevent a lot of hick-ups in the long run, while also serving as a point of reference for the rest of writing project.

 

3. Communication Is the Key That Opens the Door to Success. While this is, in fact, an FFA metaphor from Success Conference, it is also true of most endeavors which require the cooperation of more than one individual. We are people. We have different ideas. Different imaginations. Different schedules. Different stress levels. Seriously, we’re different, yeah, we’re different. And admit you just sang that in your head. So communicate about all the things. Even if its just the fact that you’ve gotten a new hair cut (Skype is a great way to show that off, by the way). Keeping your writing buddy aware of the goings on in you life while also letting them inform you about theirs will ensure that you aren’t surprised when they drop off the face of the planet for a week or two because school started, they went on vacation, etc. This will also ensure that when problems arise, your first reaction is to talk it out and make the situation clear. Because you are a writer, you will assume the worst, and things bound out of proportions in your brain all the time. So be swift and poignant when you communicate. Have fun with it. If you characters are making snide comments, share the snide comments. If you had an idea for a plot twist, by all means share the plot twist (and don’t hide it from your co-author either, because that makes for bad ju-ju). Have an idea for feels? Share! You’re in the adventure together, so share stories like you’re around a campfire and plan out the next steps of your quest carefully. When things pop up or a brilliant idea hits you, talk about it. Also, don’t be afraid to laugh about your mistakes, remind your co-author of past insiders, and do some good ol’ fashioned catching up every once and again. You will likely get tired of the plot at some point during the writing process, and that’s perfectly okay. Don’t deviate so far from the book that you’ll never feel motivated to write about it again, but take breaks to just talk. Communication is very important. Do not forget this. Ever.

Ever.

Brace-yourself-The-p463jn

4. Assign Separate Duties. So you’ve got a plan. Great. What now? Perhaps one of the hardest things to do when collaborating with someone else is assigning duties early on. At this point, you’re probably still trying to preserve whatever delicate sliver of sanity you have left because writing, and actually calling things as they are and giving tasks is a lot like acknowledging the crazy. This is perfectly normal. However, forgoing assignments is a lot like forgoing studying before a big test. There’s a chance you might still pass through the valley unscathed, but you’ll be much more prepared to take on the world and ace that thing if you study. Similarly, you’re a lot more likely to succeed with your novel-writing endeavors if you take the time and say, “Okay, I’ll do [x, y, and z]. How about you do [a, b, and c]?” Brooke and I did this and still do this (on the aforementioned six-hour long phone calls). After brainstorming and building up a plan, we would then assign chapters. Sometimes we alternated. You take even, I’ll take odd. Sometimes we bartered. And sometimes, I was a stupid-head and took all of the battle chapters and left Brooke with all the infamous “journey” chapters in which pretty much nothing ever happened ever. But, the duties go beyond just who is going to write which part of what chapter. Duties can also include who is going to keep up with all of the documents, combine the book as we go, process ideas and jot them down, keep a character journal, buy snacks or appropriate instrumental writing music. Anything that is a high priority for you and your writing friend should be listed out and assigned. This cultivates security and eliminates some of the awkwardness of first starting a project. Something else to note here is that everyone is not meant to be the quarterback of the team. Meaning that you and your writing buddy need to figure out what your combined strengths and weaknesses are before you assign responsibilities. For example, I might not give Brooke the task of keeping up with all the documents because her computer has been known to get viruses and crash. Likewise, Brooke would not give me the more romantic chapters of the book because she knows I don’t write romance very well. By making sure that everyone has a manageable task to conquer at all times, you will ensure that there is always something that each of you can be working on independently from one another without piggy-backing on one or the other author too much.

 

5. Balance Out Those Assignments. You remember the thing I said about the battle chapters? Yeah, so you’re going to want to write all of the really exciting chapters. But so does your co-writing compadre. What? What do we do now? Balance. If one of you gets a journey chapter, the other gets a journey chapter. If one of you is keeping a character journal, the other should be keeping a plot journal. Be just and fair in your dealings. Believe me, you friend will know if you’ve given him or her the short end of the deal and now they’re having to write about the seven-hundred mile trek all by themselves while you’re off frolicking with your climax chapters and battle scenes. You will also both then establish skills in multiple areas. A lot of times, the reason we don’t want to write a certain type of chapter is because we are unfamiliar with it and aren’t sure how to handle it. Here is a benefit of having a partner in crime. Sometimes, you’ll find that what you are good at writing, the other person is not. And what you struggle with, they do not. Use each others’ skills to cultivate new and improved abilities that will stick with you through the rest of your writing career. While it may seem like a lot of prep work before you get started, you will find that the more you do it, the easier the balancing becomes and the more fun you’ll have writing with a friend. Besides, no one wants to be writing buddies with a  battle chapter grubber. They’re just no fun at all.

 

Hope these little tid-bits of the trade helped answer your question– or at least get you started in the right direction, Victoria! We’ll be posting part two of this article very soon, so keep an eye out. And if you have a question, comment, or something to add to what we’ve said above, put it in the down-below! We’d love to hear about your own experiences in co-writing and maybe some pointers that you have picked up along the way.

Advertisements

4 Responses to “The One About Co-Writing (Part One)”

  1. Harry August 5, 2014 at 1:56 AM #

    Reblogged this on Kards and Keyboards and commented:
    A great post from EEB, a writing blog that I whole-heartedly support!

  2. Victoria W. August 5, 2014 at 3:18 PM #

    Thank you! That was wonderful advice and I just loved it. I can’t wait to see what you have to say in part two 😀

    I’ve always talked to my sister about some (*sister comments in the background* ALL) of my ideas and she shares her little sister wisdom, but it’s different when you are starting with someone you’ve never done that with and you’ve been writing on your own (not excluding God, mine you) forever. I’m even more excited to try writing with someone thanks to all of your great wisdom! 😉

    • Sarah Spradlin August 5, 2014 at 11:31 PM #

      Awesome! I’m glad it was of help 🙂 hopefully I’ll get part two up within the week!

      Haha. I understand that younger sister feel 🙂 they are not afraid to be honest! We’re excited for you too!! Co-writing can be a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun 🙂 and you certainly will have our prayers as you begin!

      • Victoria W. August 6, 2014 at 3:40 PM #

        Thank you Sarah! 🙂 That means a lot 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: