Writing a book with a cowriter can be an awesome experience. But cowriting a book can also spiral into a frustrating mess and an abandoned project if you’re not prepared. How do you know whether you should cowrite a book? And then how do you cowrite a book?
Should you work with a cowriter?
Think long and hard about your personality before you decide to go the cowriter route. Are you a person that likes collaborating with others? Cowriting is obviously a huge collaborative project and you should stay far away if you don’t play nice with others.
Are you secretive about your writing? Do you see it as a solitary, deeply personal endeavor? I’d skip collaborating with another writer if that’s the case.
Cowriting means you bear half the workload, have accountability, and get to create something with a friend. It also means you have to work closely with someone else for months, all while pushing and pulling this massive book-baby into the world.
If you think you can handle it, here are some tips for cowriting a book:
Can you work with this person?
This might seem obvious, but you’ll save yourself a lot of headache if you ask yourself this question. The person you’re considering coauthoring with might be your best friend or a family member. But can you work closely with them for months on end?
Does their personality mesh with yours? When you get aggravated (and you will get aggravated), are you going to be able to work it out with them?
Make sure you’re on the same page
When deciding to collaborate, you need to make sure you and your cowriter have similar styles and ideas.
There’s nothing worse than getting into a project and finding out too far in you want to take the story in different directions. Talk with your proposed cowriter beforehand. Extensively. Hash out everything. And I mean everything.
Read some of their work to make sure you’re stylistically similar. Otherwise, your reader will be able to tell when they jump from one writer to another. (Of course, in books with different points of view, this may be an asset.)
Plan, plan, plan
Once you’ve talked about the story, you need to talk some more. Establish a process before you start writing. What that process is depends on you, but here are a few recommendations:
Outline. You should be doing this anyway. Just do it. Even if you’re not an extensive outliner on your own, making a thorough outline for a cowriting project is essential so both writers stay on track.
Decide who’s writing what. Are you splitting chapters? Are you writing from different points of view?
Create a timeline and writing schedule and consequences for not sticking to them. Accountability is a huge (and awesome!) element of cowriting a novel. Agreeing on these things beforehand will help keep any fostering resentments at bay when one of you starts slacking.
Speaking of slacking, make sure you agree on the division of writing. Not everything has to be fifty-fifty if you don’t want. (Though getting closer to completely sharing the writing burden would be my recommendation so when tempers flare one of you is not saying, “Well it’s my book because I’m doing all the writing!”)
Decide how you’re communicating. This is especially important if you can’t physically be in the room with your cowriter. I’d recommend setting up weekly (or more) phone calls to talk about the project and writing everything in a document stored in the Cloud.
Play to your strengths
While you’re planning, make sure you consider both of your writing strengths and weaknesses. If it makes more sense for your partner to write all the dialogue because you’re awful at it, then that’s how it should go.
(You should also work on that dialogue though. Don’t use cowriting as a crutch to not improve your writing!)
Leave your ego at the door
Truth bomb: Your cowriter will not like all your ideas or your writing.
They will think huge sections need to be rewritten. They will make a face over your character development. They may even laugh at your dialogue. (Hopefully they’re a little nicer than that, but it can happen.)
And you’ll do the same to them.
Take a deep breath and take the criticism. Your job (and theirs) is to make this story the best it can be. And if you’ve been reading The Write Practice’s blog long enough, you know how important getting feedback is in the writing process.
Work out the issues with them. Listen to their ideas and take them into consideration.
Compromise is necessary
You’re not going to get everything you want.
That character you introduced on page fifty-seven? Your cowriter thinks she’s unnecessary to the story. That long monologue they wrote before the climax scene? You think it makes the story drag.
The fact is you will both write paragraphs, scenes, or entire chapters that won’t be quite what the other person was envisioning.
Pick your battles when deciding what to cut. Everything you want to keep that your partner doesn’t should have strong reasoning behind it. That unnecessary character might seem amazing to you, but ask yourself if she really does add to the story. Maybe she’s better in another work or a sequel.
That said, if you feel strongly enough about an element your cowriter wants to ax, fight for it. Explain why the scene, character, or chapter benefits the story.
Be there for each other
If you’ve been writing for a while, you know the process has its ups and downs. Some days you feel like you’re a genius and others like you’re a fraud.
Your writing partner will feel this way, too. Be sensitive to that. Support them. You’re both working on this project because you love it. You’re birthing something together. It’s hard. Some days will be harder than others. But there will be good days too. Awesome days. Which reminds me . . .
Remember the person you’re working with is a friend. You like them. You admire them, even.
And now you get to work on this amazing project together. You’re both creating something didn’t exist before, pulling a whole world from your combined imaginations. How cool is that?
Try to stay relaxed and enjoy the process!
Have you ever cowritten a novel? Are you looking to try collaborating with another writer? Let me know in the comments!