As you’re no doubt aware, Murandy Damodred and I co-write our novels. From speaking to other authors, I’ve learned that our way of doing things is unique. Instead of dividing the work by chapter or scene, we divide it by character. So when we write, we write back and forth like a conversation, each responding to the other.
I’ve written a post before outlining the benefits of working this way, which you can find here. Now, let’s talk about the challenges associated with writing with another person.
Probably the toughest thing to get straight when first starting out writing with another person is creating a consistent narrative voice. The first book Murandy and I co-wrote was Neo Central and back then, it wasn’t just the two of us, we had a third person writing with us. It took a lot of drafts and a lot of editing to smooth three distinct writing styles into one narrative voice. Now, when Murandy and I write together, we have a style we share, so this is less of an issue but here are some tips for making this process easier on you and your partner.
First, decide which of the two of you is the narrator. With Murandy and I, that’s me. I write the descriptions, the setting, and the actions and dialogue of the minor characters, so Murandy when writing her characters’ thoughts and actions does her best to conform to the style I’ve laid out. Then I read over what she’s written and tweak it to sound as if I had written it myself.
Secondly, it’s much easier to write this way in third person perspective as opposed to first person, but whichever perspective and distance you choose, make sure that you’re both consistent about it and that you both understand how to write in that style.
2. Dividing the work
As with anything that is based in a partnership, you’re going to want to make sure that there is a fair division of labour. You don’t want someone basically writing the whole thing, with the other person only interjecting their thoughts every once and awhile and you also don’t want to stick just one person with all the editing. The way Murandy and I handle this is by trying to make sure we each have a character in every scene. It doesn’t always work out that way, but in those scenes where it’s not fairly balanced, I try and write something she will enjoy reading when I’m finished, and vice versa for her. Basically, we try to keep each other entertained.
3. Editing comes later
This is very important. When you’re writing by yourself, you have the ability to choose when to stop, or to decide how quickly you work on one part over another. On a whim, you can go back and work on a part at the beginning, or stop and edit something you just worked on. With a partner, it’s important to keep a steady pace and keep the work going forward. Edit later. What’s more important during the writing of the project is to maximize your efficiency of working together. That way each person stays engaged in what you’re doing and no one gets bored or frustrated.
With only one person writing, you can write whenever you want, or whenever you find the time to pick up your writing utensil of choice. Which two or more people, scheduling writing time becomes a concern. It’s important to block out time to put to writing and make efficient use of that time. It’s also helpful to be consistent. Murandy and I are currently writing once a week to accommodate the fact that she has a newborn, but even before that, we had a schedule and the time we set aside was used specifically for writing. .
5. Conflicting ideas
It’s also super important to be able to work well and be able to compromise with your writing partner. You’re going to have conflicting ideas. That’s just going to happen. It’s how you use these conflicting ideas to improve your work and to improve your partnership that will really define your strength as a team. When Murandy and I disagree, we use that to fuel tension and conflict in our story and ultimately we let our characters and fate decide the outcome of the plot.
Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll consider writing with a partner. It really can be a rewarding experience. And if that’s not for you, maybe you’ll still consider reading one of our books, just to see how they turned out. You can find our books in our store, or get them from your favourite book retailer.
And coming soon… Uncharted!