The One About Co-Writing (Part Two)

7 Aug

And then they… no, they didn’t dance. They finished the one about co-writing.

 

6. Discuss the Book and All Future Plans for the Book Frequently. This may seem like a weird thing to do at first, but I promise it’s worthwhile. No one will be more supportive of you and your future (obviously awesome) fandom than your co-author. So talk about it. Where do you want this book to go? What are your dreams? If your dreams are as bad as Flynn Riders, then come up with some better ones. While it may seem like you’ll never get anywhere, laughing about who you think your readers will ship in the future and drooling over certain publishing companies will help not only to set your standards of achievement high, but it will also make you and your co-author closer. Along those same lines, you’ll establish similar aspirations for the book. This is very important. If you’re envisioning yourself as the next New York Times Best Seller and your buddy is really just wanting to write a story to share with the family, then he or she might not be so inclined to slave over the manuscript like you are. Talking about where you want to go with the book will also help you tackle the big discussions in chunks instead of all at once. Do you want to have more than one main character? How long of a book are we talking? Do we want to make this into a trilogy? A saga? A series? Multiple series? When should we draw the line and maybe move on to other things? Brooke and I went through this a lot with our “cycle” WilderQuest. A lot of times, we let all of our gushing ideas accumulate for months before we addressed them, and because of that, our ideas would often clash and clash hard. Again, communication is the key.

 

7. Keep the Book Consistent. What tense? What point of view? Formatting. It is a big deal. Let no one tell you otherwise. Ever. Because it is a big deal. Especially if one of the people involved is OCD. That was me, Sarah, if you were wondering. This is probably one of the most important things to keep in mind while you are co-writing. A lot of times, you and whoever you choose to write with will have very different ideas of how things should look. In fact, your styles will likely be very different as well. And although it can become a really big road-block if you let it, there are a lot of ways to avoid locking up over inconsistencies. This may end up requiring you teach a few Microsoft Word short cuts to your authoring compatriot or sacrifice your own ideal title headings for ones that your buddy likes more. Again, be ready to compromise and work through the problem with God’s grace and serenity. Agree on and then set up a chapter template, make character description sheets up, and share what you think about each others’ writing. Brooke and I often talked through inconsistencies that arose, making notes of some character’s preference for certain things and also how to properly indent paragraphs. And more often than not, all that was needed was brief clarification. Here’s what happens when you don’t do this:

“Evangeline huffed in irritation, glaring at Liz with her cold, dark brown eyes.” — Chapter 2, written by Sarah

“Evangeline’s bright blue eyes flashed; fear was evident in her face despite the chaos of battle.” — Chapter 11, written by Brooke

See the dilemma? While these sentences didn’t actually come straight from WilderQuest, this very thing actually did happen. You’ll find that you and your friend will likely have characters that the both of you created almost entirely by yourself, or you’ll come up on a part in your book where one of you planned out the battle scene to the gory details. These aren’t bad things, but always keep in mind that the other person working with you is probably not telepathic. If you have things planned out to the very last dotted i on the page, be sure to share this and be willing to compromise if your better (writing) half has an idea. Plot bunnies multiply exponentially where inconsistencies are, and no one wants to have to chase all those fluffy mongrels off.

 

8. Make Achievable Goals. The word “achievable” here is very important. Goals will be the things that help propel you through the tough times of novel writing and also push you to the breaking point, and goals will also often be a test of your teamwork finesse levels. Whether it’s a goal to reach a certain word count, write a certain number of chapters in a week, or a setting and meeting a certain dead line, you will find that it is very important one, that these goals that you set can actually be achieved, and two– without butting too much into the next point, that you encourage your friend to meet the goals that you do set. Seriously, just knowing that someone else who you know is human (because who can be sure about these big time author people) tacking a crack at reaching that really hard goal will help you to do better, even if you don’t achieve that goal in the end. Granted that nothing is quite as satisfying as knowing that you and your writing compadre have reached a goal on time. So strive to meet those goals. Or make a point to laugh about them later. Both are pretty enjoyable, although one of them is decidedly more productive.

 

9. Encourage One Another in Writing and in Life. This is definitely the biggest benefit of writing with another person. Although, undoubtedly, you will have your ups and downs, good days and days that main characters end up in dark pits being tortured to death, you will also have days that you finally pull out of your writer’s block and the first person to throw you a party and send you cake is your co-author. Days that you’ll disparagingly decide that your novel will never go anywhere and you might as well stop now and take up some profitable career now like your mom has been telling you to for the past sixteen years and the one to dispel all that is your wonderful, high-spirited writing buddy. In fact, you’ll find that the friends who write together, often stay together. Like, seriously, Brooke and I have been life-buddies since the tender age of two. There is something about spinning a tale with another uniquely amazing individual that is really pretty awesome in-and-of itself, and you will likely discover that the people who “get you” the best are the people that you write with. So, with this pretty awesome relationship in mind, don’t overlook the importance of daily making an effort to build each other up and encouraging one another to strive for each of your “bests” — whatever that best looks like. And if you’re pen pal is just having a rough go of it in general, be there for them– pray for them. Trust me, riding through the storms of life with someone is one sure way to ensure that when you write together– it’s just that: together.

 

10. Co-Writing Can Be Lots of Fun. So Enjoy It. One of the best feelings you’ll have while co-writing is the moment when you and your friend finish a book, and you read back through it and realize that you’ve shared a very unique part of yourself with another person who feels the same way. I have learned so much from co-writing and continue to learn about not only my own style and abilities, but also about other people and how to best interact with others. Truly, nothing will improve your writing as quickly as working together with other talented individuals because you will find yourself wanting to put forth your best so that they will do the same. Instead of standing on the precipice of a new novel alone, you will be standing with a friend and fellow warrior. Some of the best memories I have are from late-night role-playing sessions, really, freakishly long book planning discussions, and the intermittent moments of shared insider jokes and character impersonations. So have fun with it. Co-writing is probably one of the most fun things you’ll do. And while it does take a lot of work on the outset, the rewards that you reap in the long run will far exceed the little troubles that you go through at the start.

 

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Well, there’s our take on co-writing. Did you think of something that we missed now that we’ve reached the end? Think that you could explain one of the points better? Have a story to tell that fits one of our ten points? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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

  1. Brie August 9, 2014 at 2:31 PM #

    This really helps. I’m writing with Victoria. It’s my first time co-authoring and now I am so excited.

  2. Harry September 14, 2014 at 9:44 AM #

    I think cowriting could be so fun. My cousin and I both like writing a lot, and he recently pulled out the idea of writing a collection of short stories together. Sort of like Brother’s Grimm (but more like Cousin’s Olsen).

    • Sarah Spradlin September 14, 2014 at 12:28 PM #

      I agree completely, Harry! And that’s awesome! 🙂

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