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Collaborating with a Co-Author

One of the most common questions we get is something like this: “How does it work, having a co-author?”

Writing is different for everyone. This is true of individual writers, but probably even more true for collaborative teams. Not only do you have a single writer’s process (some might say insanity) to deal with, but now you have two minds trying to work together. The multiple personalities of the author are not only on the inside any more! This is what the process is like for us.

1. Concept work

It never fails, Sam has the ideas. Sam is a fount of infinite possibilities, and it is a trait I really envy in him. Not a month passes by that he hasn’t come to me with a new idea for a story, if not seven. He has worlds without measure rolling around in his brain, just waiting to be explored.

If you were to witness one of our initial brainstorming sessions, you would see Sam do a lot of the talking. I would have my laptop, and I would either be recording the conversation, or taking copious notes. I would be prompting, asking questions, defining, but most of the initial concepts would be Sam’s.

Furthermore, Sam does almost all of the world building for our stories. History, language, culture, geography; these all are developed by Sam. I will occasionally have input, but still mostly in the form of questions as I fill out the framework created by Sam. As we are writers of fantastical fiction, the world building is an immense portion of what we do. Creating a unique-yet-believable setting is critical to the success of our work.

2. Plotting

Once we get into actually planning what happens in the story, it becomes very much a mutual effort. These brainstorming sessions can get…well, a little crazy. We often brainstorm in person, usually at Sam’s house, where his wife Ashley often chips in as well, and their kidlets run hither and yon. However, we also often brainstorm at random points of the day via chat. One of us will have an idea, or a question, and pop up. Sometimes we’ll talk for 30 seconds, and occasionally we’ll chat for an hour or more at a time, as we develop the ideas we’re presently working on. This kind of thing continues through the development and into the writing of the story, as we continually refine and keep the story fresh.

3. Writing

I do the bulk of the actual writing. I am in constant communication with Sam during the process, making sure that I am following our mutual vision for the story. He reads what I have written; often as soon as I’ve finished a chapter, I’m messaging Sam and asking him to look it over. There are frequently sections or scenes that I have Sam write or contribute to–he writes many of the action sequences. In every case, we go through one another’s writing, polishing and creating a unified voice, so there are not sections that stand out from the whole of the work.

4. Revision

Revision is, again, a mutual effort. In the initial stages of revision, this is a rather organic process, and very similar to brainstorming, as we develop the necessary changes, additions, cuts, and rewrites. This continues once we introduce readers–first, our beta readers, and later, as we hand the manuscript over to our editor.

Our process would not work for everyone; it is very unique to us as writers, and as people. Sam and I have been friends for a long time, and we have been telling stories together, and with our friends, for an equally long time. It is the nature of our friendship that allows the kind of synergy that the two of us enjoy. All writers and artists–individually, or working as a team–have to find the creative process that works best for them!

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