#tagyou’reit or The Subtle Art of Co-Writing, Part I

One of the titles you’ll see resurfacing here in the next few days is a joint effort with my writing buddy, Haley Hayden. She’s the person I share the website and Facebook page with, Sweet Tea and Other Things, and our reader group, Sweet Tea Mafia. You should check the group out! We have a lot of fun there with two of our other author friends, Raven Relaford and Bru McCormick. Now that we have that shameless plug out of the way, back to the subject at hand.

The joint effort Hayley and I share doesn’t even have a title at the time of writing. We’re tossing around a few ideas but haven’t yet decided solidly on any one thing. Perhaps because this story has morphed more than once since we began this project some years ago. Back in 2011, we befriended a couple of writers who were housed at the same press we were and we all began talking about a joint project in which we would write a military romance series together. We’d seen others jumping in to produce boxed sets together as a way of promotion for all authors involved, but we wanted to try something new, innovative. We tossed around a few ideas as to how to achieve what we envisioned and what we came up with we had never seen done before and haven’t seen it done since. We decided we would have one book broken into four sections in which the same story line would be presented from the four different characters’ POV. Sounds complicated doesn’t it? It seemed almost impossible to us at the time, but, determined, we forged forward and developed a method that worked for us.

We set up a chat room in which we would all gather each evening as our busy day lives allowed and there is where we would write. We developed a basic outline and chapter/scene detail and worked from that. A total word count was established for the entire work and each section was given equal allotment from that. If one person was short and another needed a few more words, adjustments were made. Basically the process for the writing was this. We would determine which scene we were working each day and with all of us in the chat room at once, we would write freestyle each character (writer) jumping in at will and when it seemed appropriate. It was as if we were having one lone conversation through the eyes of our characters. Once a scene was rough drafted, the character who had the highest stake in that scene or who seemed to be the dominant voice “owned” it as part of their section. The complete transcription was copied/pasted to a Word doc which we all retained a copy of to work from when developing our character’s POV of that particular scene. The writer who “owned the scene” would rewrite it totally from their characters point of view, and could use the other characters’ actions and dialogue as part of their scene/chapter. If we found anyone was in need of a bit more for their section, we’d request the others join in to “write” some more on that section. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? It worked! By the end, we produced a work of a little over 100,000 words told from four perspectives and each character had their own struggles and conflicts, and sub-plots, going on aside from the main theme of the story. It was so much fun!

Once the novel was near completion, we decided we wanted to write two more installments, tying the whole story up in a trilogy type telling. Book one went to press with the publisher we were all signed with, and book two was started. But, in the middle of production, one of our writers had to pull back for personal family reasons. We soon found a fourth who agreed to jump in as a replacement with a new character we were able to incorporate, and we were off to the races again. Less than a year later, book two went to press, although not as clean and neat as we might have liked having lost one main character in the middle of things. Unfortunately, book three never got off the ground.

Several months later, we all made the mutual decision that if we weren’t able to complete the trilogy, we’d agree to take the first two books off the shelves and all our characters would revert to each writer respectively. It was about a year later, Hayley and I began talking about what-ifs. You see, neither of us are much for leaving things incomplete. It was then we decided that we’d like to see our two characters get the ending they deserved and our readers get the sense of satisfaction that a happily ever after brings. With the rewrite, we switched tactics. I would write the chapters/scenes befitting my character from her POV, and Hayley would write from her character’s POV. Then we would give feedback on each other’s portions to try to round the story out. With this method we passed the script back and forth for several months. We took great care not to use any parts that might be attributed to any of the other original authors, and in the end we had our completed work.

It went to press with our publisher and stayed up until I took my sabbatical from the writing world. It was met with mixed reviews because it’s kind of gritty and raw for a romance, but we were okay with that. We’re not really much for conforming to the expectations of the industry. We’re kind of the girls who are busy sipping bourbon when everyone else has a glass of white in hand.

A few weeks ago, we were talking and decided it was time to brush this work up, give it a new title and a new cover, and send it back out into the world. It’s been fun tag-teaming again, and I’ve learned just how much I’ve learned since those first chat room sessions.

Next time, I’ll share with you my take on the pitfalls and the advantages of team writing. I also hope to have the cover to share and the blurb.

Does anyone else have experience team-writing? What’s your experience been like? Readers, how do you feel about books that are co-authored?

One thought on “#tagyou’reit or The Subtle Art of Co-Writing, Part I

  1. I’ve always thought it would be a fun thing to try, but you’d have to find the right person. The partnership which is Nicci French is a good example of co-writing done well.


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