Co-Authorship Part II: Shared Vision

Hello SE readers, Gwen with you today, and it’s my pleasure to offer Part II of the four-part series on co-authorship. Last week, John Howell mentioned that he and I wrote a book together. Using examples from our experience, he introduced co-authorship and explained some of the essential components. Today I’m going to build on his post and focus on creating a shared vision. If you missed John’s post, you can see it HERE.

Let’s start with a question. By chance, have you contributed to an anthology? If you have, you know that expectations are explained. You’re given word count limits, a theme, time-frame, and general dos and don’ts.

Authoring a book with another writer has similarities. Instead of multiple stand-alone tales, though, there’s one overarching story that might include a romance, a murder, or an adventure. These subplot threads must be seamlessly interwoven into the one story. So how is this achieved? How do two writers, with different perspectives and possibly different end goals, build one story?

Most co-authors don’t live next door to each other; they may not even live in the same country. John and I live in different states and only met briefly after the publication of our book. When we began working together, we quickly realized that communication was paramount if we were going to create a shared vision. Within just a few days, we established regular meeting times. This proved to be invaluable in addressing concerns as they came up, learning about our writing differences, and supporting creative synergism. Let’s look at these four practices.

  1. Establish regular meetings: Once both of us were writing, it became clear that we needed to meet every week – if only for a few minutes. We chose to do this via phone, though some writers use Skype, Zoom, or other media. We also touched base almost daily via email – if only to leave a hello. This helped immeasurably in keeping each other informed of what we were doing. And when we had bad days, when we struggled with family issues or other complications, we could offer support.
  2. Address concerns and issues: With any relationship, it is inevitable that there will be misunderstandings. We strove for a win-win style and supported the other’s strengths. We also created a working environment that was respectful and playful, promoting honest and open discussion. If there was a mix-up because of a fast email or some other mistake, we tried to address it early on.
  3. Recognize writing differences: One of the advantages of co-authorship is the conjoining of different but complementary skill sets. Perhaps one writer is a natural editor and the other a visionary. Each writer brings his or her strengths to the partnership, and it is a rare tutelage to work with a person who may have a different approach to writing. But this difference can also be a problem. If he or she views violence, sexuality, politics, or religion differently than you might, the two of you have work to do. It can be frustrating or embarrassing or just plain uncomfortable to talk through sensitive areas, but the depth of the story depends upon both writers successfully reaching agreement on these topics.   
  4. Facilitate creative synergism: Ideally, the partnering writers experience an amplification of creative energies by sharing their ideas. One thought leads to another, a process that can be exciting. In John’s and my case, we are generally both very intuitive, and by that I mean, we think imaginatively and easily grasp what the other is saying. This synergistic quality helped us notably as we wrote, and I suspect, it is at the core of any successful writing partnership.

If you’re considering co-authorship, I hope these suggestions are helpful. I’d love to hear if you’ve jointly written a book or paper or if you’re considering such an endeavor sometime in the future. It can be great fun.

John will continue the discussion in two weeks by explaining how to establish writing coherency. I’ll be back the week afterwards to conclude our four-part series. Till then, happy writing!

77 thoughts on “Co-Authorship Part II: Shared Vision

  1. Pingback: Co-authorship Part IV: Conclusion | Story Empire

  2. I have participated in several anthologies but co-authoring a book is an entirely different process, as you indicated, Gwen. From my work experience, I found myself more energetic in team projects. I also enjoy the stimulation from each other for alternative solutions and the creativity that may not come readily when working alone. The four practices you outlined are major components for a successful partnership. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and insight.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Writing Coherency – Co-Authorship Part Three | Story Empire

  4. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Friday 22nd January 2021 – #Review by Jessica Bakkers, #Co-authors by Gwen Plano, #Funnies The Story Reading Ape | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  5. Thanks for sharing the co-author experience Gwen. I’d often wondered if doing so would entail even greater ideas when you have a partner to bounce ideas with, or perhaps even butting heads, lol. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can’t even imagine co-authoring – oh wait… that’s not true. I used to write songs for fun with a friend from work. We’d change the lyrics on established songs to suit the occasion. Definitely easier when in the same room and for such a short job.
    Kudos to you and John – your book is on my reading list!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love that you used to write songs with a friend, Dale, and I can totally imagine you brainstorming a story with someone else. 🙂 Right circumstances, right person, yep, you could do it – if you wanted to! 😃

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Ending the week on a positive note… – OT Research Corner

  8. An interesting challenge. I’m sure you were familiar with each other’s writing, style, and personality before collaborating. Knowing in advance that you would most likely work well together would make all the difference. I think back to high school when I had a teacher who would put two random people together for projects. That puts one in a bind if you end up with a lame partner. Fortunately, you and John did not have this problem.

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    • Thank you, Pete. You are correct, John and I were somewhat familiar with each other’s work and had shared space on blog talk radio. That said, our first conversation occurred after we decided to co-write. Over the months that followed, we got to know each other via email and phone. Fortunately, we didn’t experience the bind you described.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Another great post with insight to co-authorship, Gwen. You and John are sharing excellent information with this series. I’m really enjoying it.
    Although I have no plans to co-author a book at present, it’s something I’ve considered doing in the past, and could see myself doing in the future should time permit. Fabulous post!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    Today’s Story Empire post is by Gwen Plano, and she does a bang-up job of explaining how she and fellow author John W. Howell made co-authoring a book work for them. If you’ve ever considered writing a book with someone, you really should read this post (and John’s earlier one) to get some tips on how to make it all work smoothly. Check it out, and then please remember to pass it along so others can learn, too, thanks. And thanks to Gwen for such an enlightening post. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Even though I’ve never considered co-authoring a book (so far), I found this article extremely interesting, Gwen. Thanks for laying it out so clearly. (And I missed John’s post for Part 1, but plan to read that shortly.) As soon as I end my #FirstLineFriday quiz at 4:00 today, I’ll also be sharing this on The Write Stuff. It’s going to resonate with a lot of writers who may have been considering doing this. Thanks for a great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great question, Sue. John’s going to address your point in Part III, in two weeks. But basically, once written, we went through the book via a protagonist. I took the female, he took the male and we adjusted the writing to fit the character. This process actually helped smooth the differences between our styles, and of course, led to valuable conversations about scenes, especially those involving intimacy or violence. Thank you for raising your hand. Hold on to the question. I’m sure John will address it when he chimes in. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi, Gwen! I love what you added to John’s post on co-authorship. I think the one thing that comes out of all of this is open and honest communication. But isn’t that truly the key to any relationship? I think so and I admire you and John so much for what you accomplished! “The Contract” is still one of my favorite reads! Great story and wonderful proof of what can happen when two individuals come together with a single goal. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Jan. How lovely of you to say! You are so right, open and honest communication is at the heart of any relationship. 💗


  13. These are very good tips. I appreciate the fact that you guys are sharing your experience with us. This isn’t something I’ve considered for fiction, but I’ve coauthored technical papers, and I some of these tips would have been helpful, although not all would have been possible in the early days of Internet communications.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Dan. You and your teams (and other technical writers) were the first to lead the co-authorship movement. Though not fiction, most of the principles apply. I’m always amazed by some of the medical papers I read. It’s not unusual to have a dozen doctors adding to the conversation. What a headache it must be to pull it all together! You’re right, the internet helps tremendously. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I think the chances of finding a writing relationship that works as well as yours does with John must be pretty slim. I can be a bit prickly when feedback finds fault with my baby! I always get over it quickly and it’s never caused fall-outs, but that’s because we alll know each other so well and have shared histories. I’m not sure how good I’d be at sharing the parenting with a strabger either. As you say, you have to have a mutual respect and an approach that’s acceptable to both of you. I know you must treasure this partnership you’ve formed and I’m more than a bit envious!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much, Alex. If the planets line up just right, the co-authorship journey is one of self-discovery as much as it is of learning about another person. I don’t think either of us anticipated what would evolve, but I think both of us would freely admit that we learned a lot and are grateful for it. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I have not co-authored a book, only participated in anthologies. I think synergy would play a big role – if the authors aren’t in sync, there are bound to be problems. Co-authorship is an interesting concept. Great post, Gwen.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Joan. You’re on target. Synergy, timing, personalities . . . they all play a part and need to line up just right for co-authorship to be successful. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  16. Gwen, another great post on this subject. I’m glad to see that, with my own co-authorship experience, I did some of the right things. My co-author and I corresponded mostly by email and text, but we did meet face-to-face every couple of weeks at a Starbucks. It was mostly social, but also to go over any bumps in the road. His writing style was a little big more raw than mine in terms of profanity and violence. Since we were writing a book in my detective series, I was able to convince him to tone things down a little bit or at least let me tone them down as part of the editing process. This worked well and I felt good about the end result. I’m going to share this valuable post on my blog as well. Thanks again.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Hi Gwen, Hi Harmony,
    Gwen, I agree wholeheartedly that communication is the key to co-authoring, and I would stretch that to say of anyone becoming an author. You and John have found the needed mixture by doing intensive soul searching of yourselves to discover what you both required for your work to be a success. And it worked. Not that everything goes smoothly all the time but when things do go wrong, you two have a working commitment based on trust that helps you get through the riff-raff and I found that great.
    Hi Harmony, thank you for having Gwen on your blog.
    Shalom aleichem

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Pat. I agree with you that communication is at the heart of the whole writing experience. With Indie writers, it’s almost like we’re part of a massive family. We’ve got all types, but overall we support one another. You’re wonderful. 💗

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Pingback: Co-Authorship Part II: Shared Vision | Story Empire | Welcome to Harmony Kent Online

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