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Co Authoring

Being a writer tends be a solitary experience outside of read and critique groups or conferences. However, those experiences are more about learning and discovering ways to improve our writing. They're where writers go to socialize...because as I already noted, it is a solitary profession. Except, when you have a co-author.

Writing with a co-author is a different experience in some ways but also the same in some ways as when you write a book on your own.

I'll explain how I've worked with two of my friends and co-authors in the past and what the differences and similarities are in the writing experience itself.

When I worked with JR Rain on our PSI series (Psychic Sensory Intelligence), I had come up with an idea I really liked but in a genre where I hadn't really developed a readership. My main readership is in the thriller and mystery genres, so doing a paranormal urban fantasy type of book wasn't something I'd really done before. JR had been a friend of mine for years and also a good mentor. He really knows the publishing business and he's a great writer. I reached out, told him my idea and we decided to collaborate as he had a readership in that genre. JR had worked with several co-authors at this point so I figured if I was going to do it that he was the right person to work with. I'd never worked with a co-author before and I was anxious because writing is solitary and personal. It's one thing to put a book out into the world and receive criticism (good or bad) from readers you don't know to writing a book with a colleague whose writing you respect and enjoy. But JR and I were on the same page (no pun intended...well, maybe) and we devised the way we wanted to work together. Since the overall idea was mine, I wrote out an extensive outline and character bios. Once I'd done that, I wrote the first chapter and sent it over to JR. Then, he wrote the second one...and back and forth in this manner until we had a completed manuscript. What was interesting though in this process is that storytelling has to be fluid, so even though there might be an outline at play, characters may decide (yes on their own...we are writers and characters do talk to us) that they want to deviate from the outline. This happened a bit writing the series with JR and at first I would sit back and read it...thinking...hmmm, that's not how the outline went...but then, I'd reread it and usually agree that the story had taken a turn for the better, that my co-author's idea worked to move the story forward in a more interesting way. What I really enjoyed about this was then figuring out how to write the next scene outside of the box that had been created by the outline. It sort of became like a game and I discovered something about myself as a writer. That was that I could be less rigid and free flow the writing at times rather than always being so focused on the outline. JR and I wrote four books this way and had a great time doing it.

I also worked with my good friend Jen Greyson on another urban paranormal/fantasy series. We talked a lot on the phone and e-mailed our ideas back and forth, which generated some great energy around the stories. We worked in tandem quite a bit in that we developed the characters and outline together through direct communication. Then, Jen would write a few chapters and send them to me. I'd edit, add to, delete etc and anywhere I felt the story needed to play out differently, Jen and I would discuss it and compromise or agree. I loved working with Jen and writing that series. We're currently figuring out how we continue it as we both have quite a few projects at the moment. I believe though that we will get back to it. It was just too much fun not to continue.

Writing with a co-author does eliminate the solitude to a degree because you're communicating with the other writer on a regular basis and sharing ideas, developing characters, themes, etc...Both Jen and JR live in other states so there was still the actual planting my self in a chair and writing the pages on my own. The nerve wracking part was when sending back pages to another writer and hoping they like them! There's also the accountability factor. When you agree to go into this type of partnership, you both have expectations of writing something good in a time limit that works for everyone and the hopes are you reach readers who love the books. At the end of the day when the book is published you are there for each other in a way that no one is there for an author who hasn't written with another writer. If the book bombs you can either support one another or point fingers (don't do that...) and if the book takes off, a celebration is in order.

Here is the best take away I think I can give on co-authoring...if you're considering it and you like the other person's writing style, their stories and appreciate and respect them as a person, then go for it. It can be a lot of fun and I found that I grew a great deal as a writer working with other writers. Growth is what it's really all about in my opinion. Not just in writing but life in all areas. As Benjamin Franklin said, "Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning."


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