Whenever I mention that I co-write with my sister, I am met with a variety of reactions, but typically those reactions center around how HARD it must be to write with another person. I don’t agree. Co-writing has its challenges and no one ever said that writing was an easy task to begin with, but co-writing also has its advantages and in some ways can make the monumental task of writing a whole novel more efficient, more fun and a whole lot less lonely.
Here are a few of the comments I typically hear when people learn that my sister, Murandy Damodred, and I are a writing team.
“OMG, how do you do that?”
Well, I suppose it would seem odd and unfathomable to someone who has never tried it. Writing is generally seen as a solitary task, but I don’t see it that way. At least, it doesn’t only have to be that way.
Writing is a form of communication and it doesn’t just have to be communication between the author and the audience, it can also be a conversation between yourself and your co-author. When Murandy and I write, I will typically set up the scene and then Murandy will respond with what she, as the character in that scene says or does in response. Then I, as the world, or as another character in the scene respond to her and so it goes.
We typically use Google Documents so that we can both be writing and watching each other write on the same page at the same time, but we’ve passed a laptop back and forth or a pad of paper before as well. Tip: Google Documents also has a lot of handy features for co-writing, such as a chat window for when you’re not in the same room and need to talk outside of what you’re adding to the page. There are more features, but I’ll let you go have a look at them for yourself.
“Wouldn’t it be difficult or annoying to deal with another person’s thoughts?”
Why yes, sometimes it is. Though, mainly, you just have to be flexible and also know how you and your partner work together. That takes trial and error and it also takes practice. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that someone who is meticulous about planning or who is a control-freak when it comes to how their story will play out attempt co-writing, but with the right partner it could be possible. When writing with another person, you have to be open to where the story is going to take you both because with two minds at work, you can never really be certain where that is going to be. Though, some planning helps. Murandy and I have taken to keeping a ‘living document’ in Google drive where we constantly add or remove ideas about the novel we’re working on, so if something changes in our plans, then we can adapt quickly and not lose track of where we wanted things to go.
“Wouldn’t you argue a lot?”
Yes. It’s great. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
We argue to hash things out in the plot or with the characters and setting and we argue as we write when a character does something unexpected or that one of us doesn’t agree with. We also argue AS the characters on the page (those are the best fights). Arguing is a part of life and it’s where the best drama comes from. In the end, I’m proud to say that each and every argument or discussion you read in our novels is REAL and it’s going to read that way. We don’t pull any punches.
“So, how does it work?”
Ok, for this, you can see my earlier response about writing as a conversation, but it goes deeper than that. For Murandy and myself, we divide the work by picking which characters we’re going to represent. Murandy is almost always the main character, or protagonist, while I play opposite her as the alternate lead and I usually control the setting she interacts with. That’s what we’ve found to work best for us, but we’ve also tried some other divisions. In our next book, Unintended, launching August 17th, 2015, there are four main characters, so Murandy is playing the two female leads while I’m playing the male ones. Then, during the process we write back and forth whether it be dialogue or action and allow the story to unfold based on what the characters choose to do and how they react to each other.
“That’s impressive. I don’t think I could ever do that.”
Well…. Thank you! Whenever I hear this comment, I’m not quite sure how to take it. I’ve written books by myself (The Crimson Winter Trilogy) and I’ve written some with Murandy (The Mirror Series, and Unintended) and I’ve also written with a team of three (Neo Central) and I can honestly say that writing with another person is faster, more engaging and entertaining and having someone to bounce ideas off of and talk about the story with only makes it more fun. Also, Murandy is great at keeping me motivated and on task, so there’s an added bonus right there.
Also, I don’t agree. You CAN do it. You just need the write partner and the right story and I promise you that it will sweep you away. You’ll be so busy writing and having so much fun doing it you won’t have time to think about how much work it really is.
Murandy Damodred (left) and Justine Alley Dowsett (right) are the owners of Mirror World Publishing and the authors of Neo Central, Mirror’s Hope, Mirror’s Heart and the upcoming Unintended. Murandy Damodred has a background in sales and media and Justine Alley Dowsett has worked in a variety of industries, but considers herself an entrepreneur and an author above all else. For more information on them or their books, please visit: www.mirrorworldpublishing.com