Tips for Co-Writing

My blog mate Rayna Vause and I wrote a novella together, and this week we’re starting on the next in the series.  Along the way, we’ve discovered some tips for making a collaborative effort successful.

1. Choose you co-writer with care.  Make sure the person is a good fit from a personality standpoint and that your strengths and weaknesses balance each other. For example, my borderline OCD, German nature makes me a natural proofreader.  Yes, I actually care deeply about commas and sentence structure.  Rayna has an incredible imagination and often takes our story beyond where I thought it could go.  She’s learned to tolerate, with good humor, my constant return to sentences past.  And I’ve learned to embrace any new idea she comes up with on the fly.  Chances are, it’s going to make the story far better.

2. Outline the story and characters in detail before you start but be willing to discuss changes.  Mutual respect is key here.  We all know sometimes the story gets better or the plot needs to change as we develop and get to know our characters.  Listen to your partner when she makes suggestions, even if those suggestions seem off the wall or unnecessary.  Ask the important questions, like “why do you think this change will make the story better?”  Because that’s the goal, right?

3. Agree on goals and deadline. Be honest and clear about your abilities.  Then stick to the agreement.  Make sure you hold up your end of the deal.

4. Start with a short story or novella. This gives you both an opportunity to feel out the relationship and make sure it’s working before you tackle a larger project. A short also gives you a chance to work out the bugs in your process. Who’s better at what? Do you need to do more pre-writing planning to smooth out the bumps?

5. Enjoy not writing solo.  Embrace the ability to have another writer as deeply immersed in the story as you are to bounce ideas off of.

Remember, a collaboration gives you a chance to improve your writing, to see how someone else approaches those mid-story snafus.  Be willing to learn from the experience.

Has anyone else attempted to write in tandem?  Do you have any other suggestions to make the process run smoothly?

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5 responses to “Tips for Co-Writing

  1. Amen,

    You gals said it. Kathye Quick says it best. We each have strengths and we utilize them to move the story where it needs to be. The best part is the brainstroming, beacause we don’t always like what we come up with, but when we reason and talk it out, we ALWAYS end up with a good and solid resolution.
    The best part of it is, we’er freinds and we get to eat, and laugh while we do what we do when writing as a team.
    Thank you for a great post.

  2. I agree, Patt. Writing is such a solitary life. Sometimes it’s nice to make it social. Plus, I’ve learned a lot from the partnership that I’ve taken back to my solo projects.

  3. Okay I can see the structure for you two, and BTW – congrats on the sale!! Many more to you. Patt and I are not so formal when we write.

    Patt and I started with a treadmill. She was on one and I was on the other in a gym, of all places. We talked writing between panting and gasping and became friends there. A few months later, I showed up, at her house and asked her to help me with a fantasy I was writing. When I explained the premise to her, she pulled me to her office by my ear and showed me a similar story she’d been workin on for a while. I guess we actually were twins separted at birth.

    From then on it was magic. Her strengths are my weaknesses and visa versa. I LOVE the plotting, she fills in the great descriptions along with the holes I find myself in at times.

    But we are not analytical or as structured as you guys. We write and then peice the story together following a loose plot line. We don’t always write from point A to point B, sometimes finding a flash of brilliance belongs at point Q. But in the end, it turns out great.

    We take breaks for laughter, food and naps (where we often find our next great inspiration) while we keep an eye on the sy-fy channel.

    I guess what I’m, saying, when you find your perfect fit – anything goes, because the end product always works.

    Now – onto book 2 for you giys!!!!!

  4. Kathye, I’m the OCD organized one. Poor Rayna.

  5. Oh – and as you probably noitced, my fingers fly over the keys, just not in the right places. Patt is the proofreader in this wirters-marriage. But it does make for some laughs at times.

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