How to Work With a Co-writer
Working with a co-writer has many advantages. First, you have the benefit of another person’s perspective and ideas. Secondly, you have someone to share the literary load with you. Because you will work closely with this person, you are well-advised to choose someone with whom you are compatible. Your co-writer should be someone who has a level of skill comparable to your own. He or she should also be someone whose dedication to the process matches yours and someone whose stance on proofreading and editing mirror your own. You should both be able to take constructive criticism and be open to suggestions that will make your story better without getting angry at each other. Remember, the idea is to produce the very best book you can. You should also choose a co-writer whom you can trust, someone who will be as protective over your material as you are.
Once you have found a co-writer you want to work with, the next step is for the two of you to decide in advance how you will approach the actual task of writing. What process will you use to finish your novel? Here is how my co-author and I handle our projects.
First, we toss around ideas for a good story. Once we have settled on one, we hash out the main characters, action, and settings. We get together to discuss as much as possible about the story and then set down a rough outline. From there, we do a draft of a synopsis and divide up the parts. Each of us is assigned particular segments. We have a very detailed agreement on what action will take place in the story so we can write our parts according to plan. We are flexible enough that we can incorporate new ideas as they come up.
Then we each start writing. Once one of us has finished a segment, we sent it to the other to review and make suggestions. It is then sent back for the suggestions to be accepted. Comments that are not accepted will be discussed. Much of our work can be done by email.
As each segment is written and approved by both of us, it goes into the story. We call that our ‘working copy’. It is built upon and sent back and forth as sections are added. Sometimes transitions are needed to link the successive parts for cohesion and flow.
Once the entire book is finished and we have a completed working copy, the editing and proofreading starts. I am lucky that my co-writer is a stickler about spelling, grammar, etc. as am I. The manuscript will undergo numerous readings and revisions to polish it and catch any typos or other errors.
We learned a lot in the writing of our first novel, Tangerine , which we have been able to apply to our second book, Little Piece of Heaven . For instance, writing the synopsis. Now, I have to say that writing a synopsis is harder than you might think and something neither of us enjoys. I would rather, in fact, clean a dozen toilets or ride my bike with a flat tire than do a synopsis. However, a synopsis is necessary if you plan to pitch your work to publishers. Therefore, on our second novel, we wrote it first and used it as a plan or outline we could follow. This works much better, in our opinion. Once the book is finished, the synopsis itself must be revised to accommodate any changes you made along the way. Still, you have the draft and won’t be starting completely from scratch. Many writers do the synopsis only after their novel is complete, and I respect them for it. But, we believe we have found a better way.
Another important lesson we learned is that having a strong plan going into the project helps immensely. While we might adapt the plan during the writing of the book, it is still best to at least have one before you start. It is your blueprint and will guide you as you build your novel.
My co-writer is also my friend. In fact, we were friends for years before we had the idea of writing a book together. It has worked out very well for us. It’s a lot of work, but we’re having fun doing it.
Writing a novel is a process. If there is a short easy way to do it, I don’t know what it is. Our method works for us. You will have to find the right method for you and your co-writer. Keep plugging away at it, and believe in yourself and your project. A positive attitude is a huge part of being successful in your writing. Good luck with your writing and may it bring you the results you desire!
Corrections: A number of things have changed since I wrote this piece. We have produced a couple of short story collections which we have released in advance of our novels entitled Catch Her in the Rye and Blue. Also, we have wrestled with and finally decided to change the name of Little Piece of Heaven to Betrayed. And we are almost certain we will release Betrayed before Tangerine.