Co-authoring a Novel - What You Need to Know and How to Do It Right by an Amateur
The decision to write a novel especially your first one can be quite an easy one to make but a very difficult one to execute. The thought of sitting down with just you, your computer, your imagination and hot beverage (mine is green tea - healthy and delicious) can be extremely daunting. I always thought that my first novel would be fluffy chick literature and all that goes with it and it would be something that I wrote, published and marketed alone. So how is it that here I am on the verge of completing a co-authored novel dealing with some deep and sometimes personal issues with someone I have been friends with for only 2 months and who I have never met? How come it has proved so successful for me in a literary and personal sense (in that I have gained a friend)? This article, will give all you budding writers out there an insight into how to make co-authoring work. It is written from personal experience and makes no guarantees but it will aim to provide sound advice. So are you ready? Then let's begin...
Research, research and research some more - First and foremost, I did a little research about it. I had seen some of the work that they had done and I had to decide if the style of writing was what I needed for the book. I looked on various websites in order to gauge this especially because I had not met the person in question. I would not usually advise on this route but for me it worked out great. I have been warned that I may be getting in over my head, but what is life without a little risk? For me, it is a calculated risk. I have done my homework and research and even now I continue to do so. The writing has come on a-pace and I am very proud of what has been produced.
Humble Beginnings - Another way of allowing a co-authorship to flourish is to start small. Try working on something smaller like articles perhaps on some short stories. This adds to your research but also helps you to gain an insight into how not only their writing works but what their style is and what their opinions are on certain subjects. If it does not work, then do not beat yourself up about it. Be honest with them and tell them how you feel. This can be difficult if it is a friend or family member that you are considering taking on but honesty is the best policy. If you go on to start something major with them, then it will stall and eventually drain you both. As the Bible says "Do not despise the day of humble beginnings.." and in this I totally agree. I mean this started by sending a paragraph to my co-author and asking for another one to be written and sent back to me to see what would happen. Something like this acts as a literary 'litmus' test for you both.
Adaptability and Flexibility - Very importantly, you must be flexible because you are two different people with different ideas, personalities, backgrounds and issues and this can have a bearing on how you get on. Do not underestimate how these things will influence the writing project. You have to learn to talk these things through and not leave them to fester. But do not lose focus from the job i.e. the writing at hand. There are some days which will be spent getting through the important personal stuff and there will be days when for 4 -9 hours, it will be just writing. So be prepared, be flexible and work hard.
Meetings and discussions - Meet as frequently as possible. For me, because most of it has been done online. It can be difficult but doable (emails and chat come in handy here). If you are local, then face to face meetings are very important. I would not advise them to be done everyday or for too long. My advice would be 1 or 2 meetings a week for about 1-2 hours. That should be enough to iron out any differences and talk through any issues and review the book. Any more and the writing is in danger of becoming secondary. Then the rest of the time, it is about sitting in front of that computer and writing. I must point out here, that you must also endeavour to spend time with your family and be responsible. Yes your book is important but your family, marriage etc is more important.
Be decisive - my co author and I have had many, many discussions and even disagreements but when we make a decision, it is made! No going back. Of course, we review things and look over them especially now that we have started to edit it. Procrastination and dilly-dallying is not an option. We always look to make a decision within a specific time-frame. It can be an hour, it can be a day but never longer than a couple of days.
Document everything - I know this may sound excessive. If it does not work later on down the line (this is not going to happen with me) but then you have protected yourself. This can be everything from the name of the book to the plot to the marketing. I am an avid list maker and this has helped with the organisation and writing of the book. It is also useful should any legal proceedings happen and you need proof of stuff. We trust each other but even then you still need to be careful.
So there you have it. I know you may have heard some of this before. I would be happy to hear about other people's advice, comments and experiences in this area. I personally am loving it!