Writing a book is never an easy process. It’s a roller coaster, filled with the highest highs and lowest lows. There are days where you’re super productive and feel amazing about your writing and days when you spend hours questioning everything you’ve ever done while eating an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s. There are days where you’re optimistic about your goals and others where you’re convinced that you’ll never not be writing this book. There are days where you feel organized and days where you feel like you’re trying to solve a murder with the sheer number of sticky notes all over your walls. Now… imagine sharing those ups and downs with another writer. Co-writing a book with another writer may feel like a big undertaking, but when done well you can be a great source of support and encouragement for one another throughout the tumultuous process that is writing a novel:
Planning is key
As you can imagine, co-writing a book can get pretty disorganized if you don’t spend some time planning first. You’re likely used to just being able to write on your own schedule when inspiration strikes, but now you’re sharing the writing with someone else. It’s crucial, before you even begin this endeavor, to thoroughly lay out what you both envision for the book’s characters, direction, and plot. That way you can hash out the details right away and then, once they’re agreed upon, you can divvy up the writing in whatever way best suits you both.
Let go of ego
Similarly to your editor, you have to go into co-writing with the expectation that your partner isn’t going to think everything you write is 100% perfect (and vice versa). It’s not easy to take criticism about something so personal to us, but take a step back and try to remember that your partner is just trying to help the book realize its full potential. And part of the beauty of writing with a co-writer is it gives you the ability to learn new styles and improve your own craft as well.
Pick your battles
Going along with our previous point, when those points of criticism or contention come up (and we guarantee they will), it’s extremely important that you choose your battles wisely. The process will be less creatively enjoyable for both you and your partner if you’re arguing with them on every little thing they’d like to change (or again vice versa). If they ask you to edit or rewrite a part that you know truly isn’t crucial to the overall message or character arc of the story, give in or make a compromise. You can absolutely stick up for parts you feel are essential, but don’t bog down the writing process by putting up a fight over every little thing.
Communication & Collaboration
The process of co-writing works best when you have clear communication throughout the process. The easiest way to ensure that you’re both on the same page (literally) is by conducting your writing through a program like Google docs. This allows you to both share one document for the writing so that you can each work on the book as needed without having to wait for the other to email you the latest draft. In addition, as we stated earlier, it’s important to establish how you’d like to collaborate on the writing. Some co-writers will each write separate versions of each chapter and come together to pick out the pieces they like from each one. Others will write on and off section by section, picking up where the other left off and simply trying to use the same voice. Find out what works best for you and your co-writer and go for it!
Hold each other accountable
One of the greatest benefits of co-writing with someone is that you’re able to hold one another accountable. When you’re writing a book on your own, it’s easy to let yourself get overwhelmed and slip away from the project for weeks or even months at a time. It’s harder to do this when you’re co-writing a book because you don’t want to let your partner down. This pushes you to stay consistent with your writing and, if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed with the project, you can have a brainstorming session to get the creative juices flowing again. When you’re in the planning stage of the project, make sure you set realistic scheduling goals that work well for each of your schedules. This will alleviate late deadline frustrations that you could be facing as the project continues. The last thing you want is for your co-writer to feel more like a publisher than a partner, right?