Joining Forces with other Writers

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that with the right co-author, writing books can be easy and productive. In the last three years I have joined forces with two different authors, one is my friend Ruth Ann Nordin to write My Lord Hades, the other was a writer who would like to remain anyomous, writing under the pseudonym Timothy Reese Richards.

For those looking to join forces with other writers, here are a few things I suggest you do to make your partnership a good experience.

1. Pick your partner. Pick a partner you are familiar with and work well with. Many people gravate toward their critique partners or long-time writing friends.

2. Have a contract. Even if you are best friends, have a  contract made out for each project you will be undertaking. The contract protects all the authors involved and allows you to outline all your writing tasks before hand.

3. Assign each author a task. By outlining the responsibilities and assigning a task to each author, no one is stuck doing everything. Strengths can be divided among both authors and weakness in one author can be taken by the other.

4. Figure out who gets last say. This one is important. There will be times when you and your co-author don’t agree on how something should go. It is best to decided ahead of time who will have the last say in the arguement.

An example contract

12 Comments

  1. One thing I learned is it may take one run through of writing a book with someone before the roles become clearer because you get to figure out how the two of you blend together as you go along. 🙂

  2. Stephannie Beman says:

    True. I’ve heard of authors getting in the situation where they do all the work and their more popular co-author sits around and gets to put their name on the book in the biggest letters. :}

    1. Greedy people. What a pain. This is why it’s good to think long-term. 😉

      1. Exactly right! Greedy people. We worked just fine together. We assigned tasks equally as possible so no one took on all the work and the other benefited from it.

  3. Alexa Adams says:

    I have a step-sister who writes. Several years ago I tried to get her involved in a writing project which stalled as soon as it began. The problem was stylistic – my influences being archaic literature and hers reality TV. I’d like to try to get the project rolling again, but I think I need to convince her to start writing. If she can set the tone, I can follow it. The problem on our first attempt is I wrote the first chapter and it totally bewildered her. Do you have any advice on how to proceed? Is is possible for two people whose writing is so markedly different to collaborate successfully?

    1. It’s great to see you here, Alexa! 🙂

      Stephannie Behman and I already co-authored one book together and are going on to the next one this summer. It took us the first one to figure out how our strengths and weaknesses worked together. I think her style is a lot different from mine. I sound more like your step-sister and Stephannie sounds like you (from what I’ve read of your work).

      We started off writing it together but then decided it was easier to have one person write the rough draft and the other one rewrites it. We made an outline together and discussed the main plot points. Then I wrote the first draft. She took it from there, let me know if she felt any changes had to be made, and rewrote the scenes with her style.

      So I think it’s possible for people with writing styles that are different to work well together. In fact, my weaknesses are Stephannie’s strengths and vice versa, so it’s actually worked well.

      Last night, we did sit down again to discuss our goals and updating our contracts. We have one for My Lord Hades and will be making one for the Christmas romance we’ll work on. I think it’s important to decide ahead of time what the goals will be with the book. Who will get the rights and royalties? Will they be equally divided? How will you manage if there is a falling out?

      I’ll let you know what Stephannie and I agreed on. (I hope Stephannie doesn’t mind.) You see, I recently asked Stephannie to be my editor, so we agreed that in exchange for my writing the first draft and whatever else that I should need to do (which will be dicussed in more detail when we go to draw up the contract), she will give me a discount on any future editing jobs. In turn, I will hand over the rights to the book and royalties to her. She will have her name on the cover and mention my name in a page in the book. Now, I know this particular arrangement is not for everyone. I’m just giving an example of what to think about. This way, should Stephannie and I have a falling out for whatever reason, there’s a clean break.

      But your situation is with a family memeber so a clean break may not be necessary in your position. I guess the bottom line is that as long as both of you can agree on who does what and how the profits/rights are divided up, the issue of style shouldn’t be a problem. 🙂

      Sorry for the ramble.

    2. Stephannie Beman says:

      If you want to trade-off chapters, you’re going to have a problem, because you’ll never be able to imitate her completely and you shouldn’t, because that is not being true to yourself as a writer.

      I would suggest you do as Ruth and I did. Each of you make a list of your strengths and weaknesses, then try to assign each person a task. For example, when Ruth and I did My Lord Hades, this was part our division of tasks:

      a. The initial research will be done by Stephannie Beman. (I love research so this was fun for me. Ruth ended up helping me with some of this too.)
      b. The outline will be drafted by both parties. (This is important. You both have a chance to draft an outline or have points of plot to follow.)
      c. The basic draft (the bones of the story) will be written by Ruth Ann Nordin. (She is really good at drafting a story)
      d. The rewrite (the fleshing) will be done by Stephannie Beman. (Ruth tells me that I’m good at this part.)
      e. All revisions and edits to the draft will be discussed by both parties, but changes will ultimately be Stephannie Beman’s decision. (I still say it saves problems if one person has the last vote.)
      f. It is the hope of both parties that Unwilling Bride will be between 65,000 to 100,000 words. (Setting a goal of how long the work will be is also important. As are other goals)
      g. It has been pre-decided that Unwilling Bride will be submitted to The Wild Rose Press first, and printed in paperback with the opinion of e-book. (at the time we were both looking into traditional publishing. Publishing goals have changed for both of us since then. There were three more things after that: Query, Synopsis, publisher, and Agent)
      n. It is the wish of both co-authors that premarital sex, adultery, or rape never be part of Unwilling Bride.
      o. It is agreed upon by both parties that Unwilling Bride should be finished by the 1st of October 2009, upon which time it should be Revised and Edited by both parties so that it may be sent out to The Wild Rose Press the 1st of December 2009. In the event that one or both parties have extenuating circumstances that delay the finishing of Unwilling Bride by the deadline, then it is agreed that a new deadline may be attained.

      Hope this helped

      1. Alexa Adams says:

        Thanks ladies! You have given me much to think about.

        1. Stephannie Beman says:

          Glad it helped.

  4. I have a friend who’s writing is almost identical to mine. We wrote over half of one book several years ago and when I reread it, I can;t tell which of us wrote what parts. The problem is that part way through the process she joined a lot of writers groups that convinced her that in order to be a “real” author she has to have outlines and character bios and worksheets and all of these things we didn’t have to begin with, so work ground to a halt while she buried herself in paperwork. I wrote some bits up ahead, but I finally got bored writing it alone and quit.

    Then, we came up with a twist on that story – same characters, but a new setting. we divided up the work (all the research and important notes/paperwork were my department because she didn’t have the time, and I like making charts) but she kept adding more and more paperwork (back to those character bios and such – even though at this point we had been writing those characters for two years. Eventually, after two chapters it fell apart again because I just couldn’t take the constant “let’s talk about it, but never DO it”

    We’ve tried three more times to write a third book, and it always has the same results- we never make it past chapter three before she goes insane with all the paperwork we “have” to have and then the book dies; lost in the shuffle of her real life commitments with every spare writing minute given over to researching more “real author” tricks we “need to know”. It’s very frustrating because we worked great together for the first book – 21 chapters, in fact – and so I sometimes just want to shake her and shout “we did 21 chapters without all of that stuff! Why are we bogging ourselves down now?!”, but of course, I can’t do that, LOL!

    We’re half working on the book again, but I doubt it will get very far. In fact, I know it won’t. truthfully, it would have been a fun and interesting book to write, but at this point we’ve talked it to death and rearranged the plot so many times to fit her vision that there’s very little fun in it. I’ve made a rule for myself that if a writing partner isn;t fun – if I don’t look forward to seeing what they wrote rather than dreading it – then I’m not interested in it! Because that fun can very quickly turn into nothing but dread, especially if the two authors don’t agree on something.

    1. Oh yes, I was told I needed all those outlines and character bios, mapping out the towns, etc paperwork too when I was in some writing groups. I have since left those groups and found that my writing has actually flourished without all that other stuff. I think all that paperwork is fine for some authors but not all of them. Stories evolve as we write them, and this is why I will not do all that background stuff ever again.

      I guess we might not be “real authors”, but at least we’re having a blast. 😉

      1. Joleene,
        When Ruth and I worked together, I did some simple and brief character bios and plot points. But for the most part I let her write the story and I filled it in with detail.

        I still one of those authors that needs a few basics, but your friend takes it to the same level another one of my writing partners wanted to do. I still have all the notes because she got bored before we even started. LOL

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