Category Archives: Co-authors

Should You Co-Author a Book?

A few weeks ago I received a call from a fellow writer. Knowing I’d co-authored Billy Neville Takes a Leap with Patricia Santos Marcantonio, the writer wanted to know how hard it was to co-author a book. She had been asked to help write a sci-fi story and she wasn’t sure if she should do it.

Co-authoring can be tricky. There are pros and cons and a constant shuffle for balance. If it’s something you’re considering here’s some tips to help you decide.

1) Pick someone whose writing you know and like.

Pat and I have been a writing team for almost twenty years. We met in a college creative writing class, formed a critique group, and have been working together ever since. We know each other’s weaknesses and strengths, and we’ve learned how to agree to disagree when we have to.

2) Set your ego aside and let the story take you on a journey.

As a co-author, your partner will love some of your sentences and hate many of your ideas. Like that old saying ‘kill your darlings’, this is the time to check your ego at the door. The story is more important that your brilliant words. Once you set your ego aside, you’ll be surprised how the characters unfold. Once we discovered the essence of Billie, she took over, and all we had to do was sit back and take dictation. We alternated writing the chapters and there were times when we couldn’t tell who wrote what. That was when we knew the process was working and that Billie had come to life.

3) Be flexible and willing to compromise.

It’s good to establish a schedule and try to stick to it, but life often gets in the way. There’s no reason to be rigid and insist that you keep to schedule if your co-author is ill or expecting out-of-town company. Also, be flexible when it comes to disagreements. As you write the story, be open to suggestions and willing to listen to your co-author’s ideas. Be willing to win some, lose some, and don’t take it personally. This is a product, not your first-born.

4) Have a long-term plan, and if necessary, put it in writing.

Who is responsible for writing each chapter? Who is responsible for research? How will you market the book? Who pays for what? How will you split royalties? Who owns the copyright? All of these business questions should be addressed before you begin writing. When we started River St. Press we learned how to maneuver through all the business questions before we ever thought about writing a book together. With all the technical stuff out of the way, the writing part was easy.

Writing Billie Neville Takes a Leap was a rewarding experience. Together we developed a character with spunk. Marketing is a pleasure instead of a chore because we don’t have to do it alone.

There are lots of ways to write a book. If co-authoring is something you’re considering, don’t be afraid to take a leap. You just might surprise yourself and have fun along the way.

-Bonnie Dodge

Ten-year-old Billie Neville wants to be a daredevil, just like her hero Evel Knievel. She also wants a best friend. Riding “the best bike in the whole world” Billie’s desperate to enter a bike jumping contest with three boys named The Meanies and show them her cool bike skills. When Evel comes to town to jump the Snake River Canyon, Billie learns she has to be a friend to make friends and that not all heroes have to soar over canyons.

 

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Find out more here: Billy Neville Takes a Leap

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Filed under Archives 2016, Co-authors, critique partners, kid's books, Writing

Collaboration is not a four-letter word

My friend, writing buddy and business partner Bonnie Dodge and I have different writing styles. I mean, different.
However, we successfully collaborated on our new children’s book, BILLIE NEVILLE TAKES A LEAP. The story is about a tomboy who dreams of being a daredevil amid the backdrop of the famous Evel Knievel jump over the Snake River Canyon in 1974. We were excited about collaborating on a project, and also a little nervous we might kill each other before the process was over. But we found a great way to work together.
Here is how we did it.
We came up with a thorough outline of the book. Namely, the important things that had to happen in each chapter to propel the story forward. Because of that, and to use a cliché, we were literally on the same page as far as the book.
We decided to each write a chapter. Because of our different styles, we decided against first person. We wrote the book in third person, in which we could more easily blend our distinct styles.
We edited each other’s chapters and then edited the book as a whole together, which also helped to blend our styles. This worked out well. Sometimes, we even had to stop to remember who wrote what. Bonnie and I have been critique partners for years so we also knew how to tap each other’s strengths to improve the chapters we wrote individually.
We knew our characters, both major and minor. We agreed on what they wanted and what made them unique. We both really liked and clued into our main character Billie. She spoke to us and we told her story.
When we disagreed about how a passage was written, we discussed the section until we could both live with the final outcome, which was usually better because of the discussion.
Collaboration is also helpful in that your writing partner may catch inconsistencies that you missed. Two pairs of eyes are indeed better than one.
We ended up with a great book that we are both proud of, and are still good buddies. In fact, we are going to collaborate on another book.
Patricia Santos Marcantonio

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Filed under Archives 2014, Co-authors