I’ve now written four novels with other people. The first three I wrote with Carrie Lofty. This fourth one, I wrote with my husband, Andres. A surprising number of writers have said, “I don’t know you do it. I could never write with someone else.” Others have asked me curious questions regarding how the actual work gets accomplished. So that’s what I’m going to talk about today.
If you’re interested in this, first, you need to pick a partner. It should be someone you trust and with whom you have a commensurate level of ability. Even so, I still recommend you put together a partnership agreement in the event that things break down later. You can’t be too careful with your intellectual property and the right to work you’ve helped create. So once you’ve worked up an agreement (your agent can help you or a lawyer) and signed it, then you need to develop an idea together. Extensive communication is necessary for this to work. I know co-writers who talk all the time on the phone. You can also use IM, chatrooms, email, Skype, whatever works best. It will vary from book to book how much planning you want or need; that will also be impacted by your writing style(s).
In terms of dividing up the work, it’s critical to decide who’s doing what and for each partner to hold up his or her end. If you promise to revise X chapters within a set time frame, and then you don’t do it, you’re letting down someone who trusted you to pull your weight. For obvious reasons, that won’t end well. In some partnerships, the authors write together in Google docs. (I do this with my husband, Andres.) Others email new words back and forth to each other. I know other partners who vary the POV by chapter, so one writer takes this character, and the other takes someone else, and the POVs are staggered through the book this way. You will likely have to experiment to find out which fits your team and your project best.
While it can be challenging to remain in accord and to remain calm during deadlines while you’re struggling to get the work done alongside someone else, it’s also uniquely rewarding because there’s one other person who shares your joy and your satisfaction in what you’ve created. You always have someone to listen to your crazy ideas, someone who’s every bit as excited as you are, each time the book hits a new milestone.
Who can collaborate? Well, anyone, though people who have major control freak tendencies may have trouble relinquishing the reins enough to let someone else play in their sandboxes. But the rewards may be worth stepping outside your comfort zone, as you’ll always have someone else cheering and motivating you. You’re also accountable to this other person, as their success (or failure) is tethered to yours.
Feel free to ask questions about my experiences below! What do you think; could you ever write a novel with someone else? Why or why not?