I know several authors who write with a partner. One of the writing partnerships I’m most familiar with is that of Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, the team behind the Emotion Thesaurus and the new One Stop for Writers website.
But that’s non-fiction. Fiction writing with a partner is far different because tone, voice, character development, and story structure all play a part and must mesh well together for the story to work.
What if one author wants the story to go one way and the other wants something else? What if one wants a lighter, more humorous feel? What if the authors have very different ideas for a character’s flaws or motivations?
On the surface, it seems impossible. Yet successful writing partnerships are all around us. I can think of several published writing teams off the top of my head, and as they often use a single pen name in the fiction world, more books than we know are probably written by co-authors.
How do they do it? Why do they do it? What are the pros and cons? Would it work for us?
Jennifer Hale is one-half of a writing team (with Holly Mora), and she’s here today to share seven tips she’s learned along their journey. Please welcome Jennifer Hale! *smile*
7 Tips for a Successful Writing Partnership
Writing partners. Do you have one? Have you ever considered it? Sharing the work? Having a constant sounding board; an endless source of inspiration?
Or do you cringe at the idea of letting someone see inside the chaos of your creative brain? Well, sometimes, it’s really not up to you.
We’re Jenn and Holly. We’ve known each other since our high-schoolers were in kindergarten and we shared the job of room mom, way before we learned we were steered by a common muse.
Each of us spent many of our mommy years dreaming of the day when we could get the words on paper, writing ideas on Target receipts and scheming up character names with interesting pasts attached to them.
When One Thing Leads to Another…
I learned about Holly’s writing interests after a dinner party a few years ago. She had just quit her job to write. She belonged to a writing group. It was serious business. She wasn’t just thinking about it. She was actually doing it.
I told her that I’d always wanted to write, so she invited me to the next meeting. It was there, in Karen’s living room, surrounded by other serious writers, that I first considered my writing dream a real possibility.
The next year, Holly and I started a blog and began writing a regular newspaper column for the Orange County Register. We shared ideas and edited each other’s work for months. With all that collaboration, it seemed like the natural next step to co-author a book.
Co-Authorship Is a Serious Decision
As with any business venture—and writing a book is more business than most authors would like to admit—there are challenges. The crux of a writing partnership is the relationship, and when you mix in passionate opinions about fictional characters, it can get tricky.
Getting a traditional publishing deal (if that’s your goal), may also be tough. We’ve heard that some agents and editors don’t want to work with author pairs.
And don’t forget that a good book must have consistency of voice, pacing and style. Can two authors deliver that? YES!
7 Tips to Make a Writing Partnership Work
Holly and I have found that the benefits of collaboration far outweigh the challenges, truly. If you’ve ever considered such a match, here are seven powerful tips that have helped us along the way:
Tip #1: Have a Common Focus
I know it sounds like a given but it’s easy to get swept away in the excitement before ensuring that you have the same ideals.
These are the essentials:
- major themes,
- publishing goals (self, indie, traditional),
- division of labor,
- timelines, and
- contingency plans.
If all those things align, your foundation is set. Details will work themselves out later. Sounds like pre-marital counseling, huh?
Tip #2: Don’t Be Afraid of Giving and Receiving Criticism
If you’re not practiced in either one of these, you have work to do before you’re ready to commit to an honest, reciprocal writing partnership. Communication is critical to staving off resentment. Talk about it all and have plans in place.
For example, what do you do with that scene or character or detail that one of you absolutely adores while the other can’t stand it? Maybe it stays until the draft is complete and then it’s revisited, or maybe you have your beta readers (or husbands) vote. Talk to each other.
Tip #3: Be Willing to Be a Cheerleader
If there’s one guarantee about the writing process, it’s the occasional crisis of confidence. And when it happens, you have each other to pull out the pom-poms (otherwise known as wine or chocolate, or both), and kick that doubt out the door.
This is one of the best parts of sharing the writing journey. Motivation and excitement and perspective are in ample supply.
Tip #4: Trust Your Partner and Be Trustworthy
Honesty starts with knowing your own limitations. Knowing what you can commit to and following through on those commitments. Open communication and flexible planning are critical to keeping things balanced and moving the project forward.
Trust comes with time and experience so don’t rush it. Have lots of meetings and hash-out sessions, thoughtfully considering all the logistics before you jump into a writing relationship. (This gig really is like a marriage.)
Tip #5: Push Your Envelope and Challenge Each Other
Think outside the box and be willing to explore new ideas that take you out of your comfort zone. Safe sometimes equates to boring. Take each other on otherwise risky adventures and be open.
For example, when your partner wants to introduce a time traveler to the story and you can’t wrap your head around the space-time continuum, just go with it. See what happens. At least one of you will be able to write that part.
Tip #6: Look Forward to Writing Time
Planning and writing sessions are critical. Holly and I have a standing writing date every Monday morning. We have a few favorite spots where she gets coffee, I get tea (or a Diet Coke) and we share an array of pastries—a happy mind is a creative one, after all.
If possible, schedule writing retreats, weekends away to immerse yourself, escape from the distractions of your life, and WRITE with abandon!! If you can mix in a couple webinars on the craft and writing conferences, even better.
Tip #7: Be Understanding…and Patient…and Flexible
The excitement and motivation, the frustration and writers’ block, the disappointment and the dreaminess, all these things will ebb and flow.
There will be times when life, family, the job that pays, burn-out, rejection, or any combination thereof, will attempt to steer you off course. You may need to take a break here and there. That’s OK!
Just have a plan and talk about it. Have another project or place to focus your creative energy during those times when you and your writing partner are out of sync. But no matter what, don’t give up.
Our process includes lots of lists and research and outlines. Our book, a Young Adult Paranormal Adventure, is written with two points of view, which simplifies things. Holly writes the male protagonist’s POV and I write the female’s, alternating chapters.
When we meet, we read what we’ve written to each other, discuss needed changes and take notes. When editing, we can easily spend twenty minutes on a sentence.
We read TONS of books on writing, in our genre and out. We listen to music, we post pictures of our characters on Facebook, we write blog posts, we have a Pinterest page dedicated to inspiration and we fall in love with our story over and over again.
Because we have each other.
Kismet. That’s what we call it. Fate. That’s what we believe.
It isn’t always easy or fast or as productive as it should. But whose writing journey is? Of one thing we are absolutely, undeniably certain: our book is infinitely better because of two hearts and two minds and two writers.
Write on, friends.
Jennifer Hale writes young adult fiction with her writing partner Holly Mora. When she’s not working on FORGED, book one of The Power of 7 trilogy, you’ll find her blogging about her writing escapades and other things like the inappropriate wardrobes of teens and the truth about lice.
You can find her at their blog www.itsamatterofmoments.com.
Thank you, Jennifer! I think many authors have thought about writing a book with a friend, and this post gives the perfect dose of motivation—and reality. *grin*
With the wrong partner, we can be faced with endless problems, even if we successfully publish. As Jennifer said, this really is a business partnership, and an agreement or contract should be drawn up to cover the details, especially those dealing with money.
At the same time, there’s no question that many authors are successful at making their writing partnership work. With the right person, we’d always have someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to share the workload, and someone to tell us when we heading in the wrong direction.
With these tips, hopefully we have a better way to judge whether a writing friend could also be a good writing partner. And in the often lonely world of writing, maybe learning how to be a good writing partner can help us be a good writing friend as well. *smile*
Have you ever thought of writing a book with someone else? If you didn’t pursue it, why not? If you did, what happened (good or bad)? Do you have any other tips to share? Do you have any questions for Jennifer?Pin It