7 Tips to Co-Authoring Without Violence . . . Hopefully

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If you thought it was difficult writing alongside the voices in your head then try it with someone in the same room.  You can’t ignore a co-author by making noises, watching television, drinking, or taking a nap.  Well, you can, but they’re able to move on without you or dump ice water on your head.  So, it isn’t recommended that you pick a fight with them like you would with your characters.  Here are some tips to keeping the bloodshed to a minimum.

  1. Unless it’s agreed upon, neither of you are in charge of the whole show.  Decisions need to be shared or a system created to give each other autonomy.  As soon as one author tries to take over the entire project, it’s going to fall into disaster.  Something to keep in mind here is that you need to get your ego stroked while doing the same to your partner because authors, like most artists, can be touchy.  We don’t have telepathy to share identical dreams.
  2. If something you really wanted was removed from the story, do NOT go on a crusade for revenge.  Talk to your partner and see if you can find a way to include what you wanted.  If they refuse to walk with you then perhaps the partnership needs to be worked on at its foundation.  The moment you begin destroying what they like with no other reason than revenge, you’re done.  Negotiation is key here.
  3. Communication is key, especially if you’re working with autonomy on different sections of the story.  These pieces need to fit, so you need to know what is going on.  Read each other’s sections once they are complete and before you move on to see where the story is going.  This is a risky method of writing and can lead to an enormous amount of editing runs, but it’s been done.
  4. Never settle disputes in the following methods:  duel at noon, drinking contest, steel cage match, slap game, drag racing, international scavenger hunt, or gathering friends to side with you.
  5. You have to pull your weight if you want your name on the book.  Don’t hook up with an author who has the dream, talent, and work ethic simply because you want to say you published something.  You need to be involved.  This isn’t a high school project with the one kid who does nothing except put their name on the paper or supply cupcakes.
  6. Partners need to adapt their styles and techniques to fit with each other.  If you’re a pantser and you’re working with a planner then you need to accept that there will be at least one pre-writing meeting.  If you’re a planner working with a pantser then you need to pull back your outlining urges enough to let them go.  Do not expect the other to jump to your way of thinking and leaving everything that makes them an individual behind.  That will hurt the final product and eliminate whatever uniqueness the real combination of styles would have created.
  7. Whenever things begin getting tense, you take a break.  It can be together to relax with a movie or going out for a walk.  It can be alone to get your own thoughts in order and then return to talk things out.  The chances of fights happening are higher than you think, especially if you don’t have a hierarchy.  Keeping a partnership even only works with manners and open minds, so a collapse of that means trouble is happening.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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13 Responses to 7 Tips to Co-Authoring Without Violence . . . Hopefully

  1. There are even bigger life lessons hidden inside this post. I like the idea of co-writing something, but don’t think I could do it in reality.

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  2. L. Marie says:

    Sage advice! I think especially of the first one. Many collaborations die on this hill. I can’t help thinking of musical collaborators who no longer work together.
    There is a husband and wife writing duo who write urban fantasy novels under a woman’s name. I didn’t realize they were a duo until I subscribed to their newsletter.

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  3. The cat picture says it all. Is it alive or sleeping… lol

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  4. 5. I don’t want my name on the book(s). In fact, after the one time the other author put my name on a story anyway (our short story “Solitude”), I told him I’d quit working with him (meaning no free copyediting, either) if he ever did that again.

    4. I know better than to fight a duel against my brother; he’s a far better swordsman than I am. (There’s a joke in that somewhere, one that other fans of The Chronicles of Amber may get.)

    2. I allowed him to lie about Morgen’s backstory, so there’s nothing he could change that I wouldn’t accept.

    1. Take it from someone who knows: telepathy doesn’t make co-authoring a novel easier. My twin and I are mindlinked, and we still argue sometimes about our shared writing projects.

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    • Not really sure what order to go in here:

      5. I’m curious. Why didn’t you want your name on the book? Also, do you never want your name on the book?

      4. This is why I try not to work with family.

      2. Can’t tell if that’s a good or bad thing.

      1. I’d assume telepathy can make it even harder. Negotiations are rather moot when you can read each other’s thoughts.

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      • I don’t want my name on the books because I have a weird aversion to ‘drawing attention to myself’ in that way. *shrug* It’s not as if I don’t tell anyone I was involved; I just don’t want the book covers to have my name on them. (I don’t have this problem with nonfiction. Is that weird, too? When The Grumpy, Grouchy Old Man’s Guide to Grammar is finally published, it’ll have my name on it.)
        As for whether or not I’ll ever be okay with getting credit for stories I helped write… I don’t know. Maybe. Eventually. Probably around the time I stop having an aversion to sharing pictures of myself online.

        (We are seldom able to actually read each other’s thoughts… but feeling each other’s negative emotions when we’re arguing is a pretty good motivation to avoid anything that causes us to feel that way in the first place.)

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      • Not a fan of the picture thing myself. You ever consider a pen name that’s nothing like your own? I guess nonfiction is a different beast. You get seen more as a researcher and teacher, which can come under a more manageable type of scrutiny.

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