Wednesday, September 8, 2010

CO-AUTHORING . . . THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

 Look . . . Co-authors, and they're both smiling!

I recently picked up one of my “how to” books on writing novels and was excited to see that it included a chapter on Co-authors. For those observant people out there, you know that one of my books, Mark of Royalty is co-authored. (Check out the author photo…see, 2 people.) Lots of authors don’t want to have a co-author, and I totally understand why.  Even the chapter on Co-authors in my “how to” book slightly discouraged attempting this, especially with a family member.  But…

 I did, and I even lived to tell about it.

My experience….it’s hard but totally doable and worth it.
Why did I ask my sister to co-author with me?  Well, because I didn't know how to write. At least I didn’t think I knew how to write. Check out my English grades. (Please don’t, I was just kidding.) Just trust me. I was not a writer. In my family, my sister Stephonie, was the writer, and she was good at it. So this is how it all went down:

1.    I call up my sister, Stephonie, and tell her I thought up this great story. (It actually came from a
      dream. Don’t tell me, that’s so Stephanie Myer.)
2.    I tell my sister the story; every detail I could think of. Of course, she loved it. I’m a genius.
3.    Then I tell her that I want to write it down, you know ….for prosperity.
4.    She tells me it should be a book that should be submitted to a publisher.
5.    I laugh.
6.    She doesn’t.
7.    I tell her okay, but only if she helps me. (I’m shaking in my boots at this point).

So we go on from there in writing bliss; bouncing our ingenious ideas off of each other and writing together until we turn out this incredible novel.  Urrrrchhhh! Hold on. Back up.

It’s all great when one of you has writers block and just then the other one happens to turn out a great scene with Jane Austin-ness.  But it doesn’t always come together like that.

If you are thinking about co-authoring,  or going into business with a family member, or just having someone critique your work, here are 5 tips I learned from co-authoring with my sister:

1st Get on the same page.
Make sure it is clear what is expected of each other (It stinks when you both write the same chapter). Remember, someone needs to have controlling interest that will make the final decisions.
On the technical side of things, make sure you have compatible programs. Trust me—it makes things a whole lot easier if your computers can talk to each other.
 
2nd  Have patients and Expect that it will take longer.
It’s true.  I know that 2 people are supposed to be faster than one, but consider that whatever you do needs to go through the other person too. Besides, everyone doesn’t work on your time schedule.  Allow for twice as many interruptions, because there are two of you.
 
3rd  Be considerate of each others feelings.
Remember that they are putting their love and energy into the project as well.
 
So what do you do when you don’t like what they wrote? Believe me—it’s hard to tell someone that you have to cut the scene that they just spent weeks writing. My sister and I learned that we needed some time between scene reviews. Stephonie would send me a scene, and I would tell her what I liked (which was a lot…she’s a great writer), but I would wait about 2 weeks before I told her what I didn’t think fit and what I thought we needed to change.  
Not everyone needs that buffer time; as a writer you should have a thick skin.  But as sisters we needed to do what we could to protect each other’s feelings. Don’t want any family reunions to be uncomfortable.  We put the extra time there for our emotions, which inevitably attach to our writing, to disperse a little. 
 
4th Keep an open mind.
This is really hard when you have in your mind how you want something to go.
You’re going to face that moment when whoever you’re working with tells you that they don’t like your idea, and that it should be done a different way. At that moment, you’re going to want to reach through the phone and choke them. But keep open about it and you might just find some better ideas than you came up with in the first place.
 
5th  Prepare to be stretched.
Being stretched isn’t fun, but in the end you’re better for it. When Stephonie came up with the idea for the music video I thought she was crazy (but then all the best people are.) I just nodded politely and told her okay, and hoped that it was a bad dream that she would forget about. Then she started pushing me. She’s always pushing me. She sent me shooting locations and emailed me links to modeling agencies so we could start picking out actors. I was busy, and this was out of my comfort zone, but she kept pushing. In the end, it got things moving and I never would have done the video without her. She forced me to greatness. Thank Steph for making me stretch.

Co-authoring is a tough process, but in the end, I have to admit: two heads are better than one. And I’m thankful that I had someone along for the journey, that when I had those little moments of doubt, there was someone to encourage me. When I was frustrated, I had someone who would listen to me. And when I was tired or busy, someone was there to help pick up the loose ends and push me forward.
Would I do it again?

Yes, but this time it can be Stephonie’s baby, and I’ll be the backup author.

2 comments:

  1. very fascinating POV and I think it's applicable even when you are working with an editor.

    On a more personal note, weren't the models expensive?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your so right Tamara. I wanted to jump off my bed and commit harry carey when the proposed changes came back from my editor. The only thing that saved me was my thickening skin I had gained from working with my sister, and some brownies.

    ReplyDelete

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