The Challenges of Co-authoring
The number one question that we receive (we being Chelle Bruhn and myself, Katherine Ernst, the co-authors behind J.L. Fynn) is how we manage co-writing. Most people think writing jointly would be more difficult than writing alone, but in our experience it isn’t at all. Writing is usually such a solitary endeavor and having a co-author means that you have a partner through every step of the process. However, there are definitely pitfalls to watch out for.
The first thing you need to consider when finding a co-writer is whether the two of you have a compatible writing style: both in the way that you write, but also in terms of how you plot out your book. Are you going to be able to agree on important plot points or the direction of the book? Is one of you a much flowery writer than the other? Will one person’s writing be glaringly different than the other’s? Chelle and I have been best friends since we were fourteen and have very similar tastes, so this was never difficult for us, but this is the issue that hangs up most writers and causes them to shy away from co-writing, for good reason.
Even if you have a compatible style, though, you need a compatible writing process. Co-writing definitely takes more planning that solitary writing. Even if you’re both pantsers and you decide that, say, one of you will write the first half of the book while the other writes the second half, you still need a plan of attack for revisions. Plus, you need to be able to depend on your co-author 100%. There’s nothing worse than coming up with a writing schedule only to have one writer fall down on the job.
Another consideration with co-writing, which might sound petty but is important, are the nitty gritty details of the publishing process or book production, including which agent to go with, what publishing direction to take, whose name goes on the cover first, etc. Chelle and I are both pretty laid back and compatible so these issues were never a big deal for us, but sometimes this can be a major point of contention.
The final thing to consider about co-writing is what you’re going to do after the book is written or co-promotion. For the most part, having a co-author is such a boon at this stage because now you’re not the only one responsible for marketing duties, but what if the other person falls down on the job? What if you’re working your butt off to move copies and your friend is resting on her laurels while taking her half cut? It can cause resentment, so it’s important to discuss these issues before the book comes out and have plans in place for who will handle which duties. (That’s why it’s also important to have a business agreement in advance that lays out your duties and the split of profits and expenses.)
All those challenges aside, however, finding a co-writer is like finding a spouse. It’s hard to find a good one, and a bad one can make your life harder than not having one at all, but if you find a great one (like I have in Chelle), then you’ll be better off for the rest of your life.
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