Co-authorship Part IV: Conclusion

Hello SEers! Gwen with you today to wrap-up the discussion on co-authorship. John Howell began with an overview, and you can find his first post here. I continued the following week by focusing on shared vision. You can check it out here. Then last week, John zeroed in on writing coherency. That post is linked here.

When talking about co-authorship, I’d like to underscore a comment made by most co-authors: it’s great fun and the story comes together in unexpected and potentially stronger ways than if it had been conceived and written by one person.

At the heart of a good writing partnership is communication. Isn’t that true for any relationship? The difference is that with a writing partner we’re usually limited to media such as phone or email or zoom. In-person exchanges are rare.

Writers must find a way to create a shared vision if there is to be one story. Take, for example, the graphic below. You and I can look at the same mountain but see different things. You might analyze how you’re going to reach the top, while I might be drawn into a mystical silence. Somehow, we must bring together our two ways of seeing.

Simple enough, right? But hold on, I like my mystical experience and I want it in the story. You like climbing mountains and you’re not willing to let it go. So, what do we do?

When you reach a divide such as the one above, you’ve begun the work of co-authorship. To resolve the differing points of view, the writers will need to set aside their egos, their need to control the outcome, and strive to find a middle ground. So how do you do that? 

There are four techniques that can assist.

  1. Commit to talking through differences. Each writer brings their strengths to the partnership, and it is a rare apprenticeship to work with a person who may have a vastly different approach to writing. It requires listening – often intently, to grasp the partner’s mindset. Once understood, negotiating the idea becomes a simpler task because our vantage point has been stretched wider which makes a discussion much easier.
  2. Clear up miscommunications quickly. It’s inevitable that there will be misunderstandings. Accept that fact. The important point is that when it occurs, you take the time to ask questions, clarify, and talk through the situation. If you are patient and unravel the blockades, you will have peace of mind, you will have grown through the process, and your book will shine. 
  3. Laugh about mistakes. John and I laughed a lot as we wrote. He was often the first to laugh, and his lightheartedness was freeing. Life is too short to spend the moments worried and distraught when we can adopt a healthier perspective and accept that mistakes are part of life. Co-writers need to remind each other to pause, take a deep breath, and find the humor in the situation.
  4. Maintain contact through social media. Often writers refer to their WIP as their “baby.” Well, for co-writers this sense of ownership is just as strong, but the “baby” is co-owned. By maintaining regular contact, writers can share their progress, their investment, their fears, hurdles, and life. This might seem excessive, but if you are working on a project together in which you are depending upon on another person, a simple exchange can bring peace. 

A co-writing experience is an immersion into a different style of writing. Begin with someone you trust, tighten your writing seatbelt, and enjoy the ride. You’re in for an experience of a lifetime. I can assure you that when you reach your destination, you’ll marvel at the outcome, be surprised by what you’ve learned, and grateful for having discovered a lifelong friend.

I’d love to know your thoughts, experiences, and suggestions on this topic. Let’s chat.

74 thoughts on “Co-authorship Part IV: Conclusion

  1. This series has been fascinating and I’d love to co-author but you really do need to find the perfect partner for it – you’ve obviously managed that and I’m a tad envious!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Alex. It was a wonderful experience, and I learned a lot through the give and take. I wish you all the best in your endeavors. 🙂

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    • Thank you so much, Carol. I’m pleased you liked the post. It’s a different approach to writing and can be an invaluable gift. 😊

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      • I did share a weekly chapter on chapter with a friend on her blog a while ago and we briefly talked about making it into a novel.. then her hubby unfortunately passed away maybe i’ll send her the links and we could revive that…a thought.. Thank you, Gwen 🙏

        Liked by 2 people

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  3. This series has been very informative, Gwen. I’ve always wondered how co-writing works and your comments about being light hearted and laughing ring make absolute sense to me. I am quite convinced that would be the only way to collaborate on a writing project, or any other kind of project.

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  5. Just the idea of co-authorship gives me pangs of excitement and trepidation. Lol. I think it must take a special relationship and I’m glad you addressed how important it is to have a regular communication, a plan for addressing disagreements and mistakes, and a positive attitude. Great series, Gwen.

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  6. Hi,
    One of the character traits that I had to learn and I’m glad I did learn, was not to take myself seriously. Two of your points, number one talking about your differences and 3 laughing about your mistakes hit on this. It amazing how laughing at yourself can reduce your tension and the tension between you and your writing partner.
    Great series, Gwen. I enjoyed the presentations from you and from John.
    Shalom aleichem

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Pat. I suspect we all need to learn to laugh more. Thank you for the reminders and support. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the posts on co-authorship.💗

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This is a great wrap-up, Gwen. I can see the growth on both authors from the co-authoring relationship. I’ve been talking with my daughter for year on co-authoring with her. This may come true in a near future when her young kids get a little bigger. 🙂

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    • Oh my, what a lovely possibility, Miriam. If the two of you decide to write together, I suspect something extraordinary will emerge. Thank you for your thoughtful response to the series and all the best to you and yours. 💗

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  8. Great series, and I agree with Gwen’s thoughts here about co-writing. That’s how I got started publishing books – my first one (Twin Desires) was co-written with a writing student of mine. She’d been taking my creative writing classes for several years, and we both realized we wrote with a similar style. She came up to me one day and suggested: “We should write a romance together.” I wasn’t into pure romance books, so we agreed on romantic suspense. We wrote our book together in six months after plotting an outline (which we changed often) and each taking one chapter after the other’s, then editing each other’s chapters. Our egos were strong enough that we were fine with our suggestions, changes, and sharing “our baby.” It was so much fun! Since then I wrote another romantic suspense on my own (she became a therapist after getting her Ph.D.) and two children’s books. I have another friend who has asked that we co-write a novel of women’s fiction. This post is encouraging me to say yes!

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  9. I enjoyed this series. I’ve thought about co authoring with my daughter when she gets some free time. This gave me a base in which to do it. All four points today were very helpful. My favorite was being able to laugh. I think that that gets us through some difficult issues in life. Great post, Gwen 🙂

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    • Thank you, Denise. How lovely to possibly co-write with your daughter! What a gift – one to the other. I hope this for you, and I know it will be another miracle in your life. 💗

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  10. A fabulous wrap for a fabulous series, Gwen. I especially like how you addressed the differing viewpoints each author might bring to a particular scene or plot thread and how to work through those. Great post today!

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  11. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    Authors John W. Howell and Gwen Plano have been writing a series of Story Empire posts dealing with Co-authorship. Today, Gwen wraps up the series with some wonderful tips on how to make partnerships work. Hope you’ll stop by to check it out and will spread the word on all your favorite social media sites. It’s that good! Thanks, and thanks Gwen for a fabulous wrap-up to a very interesting and informative series. 🙂

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  12. What a great wrap-up to a very interesting series, Gwen. You and John have given me much food for thought, and I suspect if I had many more writing years ahead of me, I’d give a writing partnership a try. It has certainly worked well for some really big name authors. (As well as Howell & Plano, Lincoln & Child come to mind immediately, as I’m a big fan of A. X. L. Pendergast.) Co-Authoring is obviously an idea that’s perfect for today’s technology, allowing easy contact with partners who live in other cities, states, or even countries.

    I love your tips today and think they’d make great guidelines for most partnerships in life. Gonna share this one on The Write Stuff because I know many others would be interested in pursuing this concept and would enjoy this entire series. Well done! 🙂

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  13. This was a great series, Gwen. I’ve gone through co-authorship and our effort culminated with a joint book signing which gave me the chance to help my friend launch his writing career and gave me a chance to introduce my other work to a whole new group of potential readers. I’m sharing this last installment on my blog.

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    • Thank you so much, Joan. I suspect all writers travel to places they never expected through the writing experience. Amazing, right? Co-authorship was definitely an unexpected (and blessed) surprise for me. 💗

      Liked by 3 people

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      • I’ve thought of the collaboration you two did often — and how well it turned out. After a couple years of blogging I started asking people to do collaborations of various length, usually just a short story. It was fun, and I’m sure it added to building my blog. Although the current “me” wouldn’t likely be able to handle it. Anyhow, stay safe and well.

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