Saturday, May 4, 2013

To co-author or not to co-author...


Well now, that *is* the question, isn’t it, lol? When I first started writing, I really didn’t get the whole co-authored thing, and I also had dozens of questions on how it would work. *shrug* I dismissed the whole concept, actually, as something that wasn’t for me.

Then I met Julie Lynn Hayes, lol. Julie and I became friends when she edited my Nighttime series. As time passed, we became very good friends. Then the fateful day came and one of us made a joke about co-authoring something… and there you go, lol. Our first co-authored book, Be My Alien, was born.

I had my questions answered on the ‘how’ of writing together. I also found this isn’t for everyone. Stories written by two people can be a thing of beauty… or a flipping nightmare. I did worry about the nightmare part, to be honest. I found out very quickly in order to work together the co-authors had better be able to separate friendship from business. It’s give and take, and most relationships are, right?

I can’t speak for all co-authors, and this post is strictly from my perspective. But in Julie’s and my working relationship there’s a level of trust, which is needed for those times when bluntness is called for. I can tell you, this is no place for egos. Julie and I are good enough friends we can shoot down an idea, or twist an idea, or expand on it… and there’s no hard feelings. And we’ve done just that. It comes down to what’s best for the book.

We also share the workload. Meaning we both deal with edits, emails, setting up promotions, picking titles, choosing the cover, and anything else connected with our book. We both wrote it, so why should only one of us have to deal with all the little things? It’s sort of like a symbiotic relationship.

We’re also comfortable enough to write each other’s characters. Our voices are similar enough to do that and pull it off. She came up with Taz, and I created Reed. Why didn’t I take the alien when I’ve written aliens before? For that very reason. Julie has more experience writing than me, but scifi is one of my loves, lol. I’ve written aliens, so we agreed she’d do Taz for the experience. And God, Taz is a cutie.

Julie likes to say I got her into scifi, lol.

There are pros and cons to this too. One of the pros is working with someone. One of the cons is… working with someone, lol. When my hubby is off, I’m not usually on the computer. That’s our time together. So that means for a day or two I’m not available. Then there’s the fact I still have one child at home. Throw in she’s about to graduate this year and things can get busy.

I guess my overall point is co-authoring a book can be good, bad, or downright ugly. Friendships can be strengthened or destroyed. The whole damn thing can turn into a PIA of major proportions. I like to think this has helped my friendship with Julie grow. We haven’t scratched each other’s eyes out yet, lol.

As I said, these are just my thoughts. But I found this subject interesting, so I asked a few other authors to chime in too, and they have my thanks for doing this for me. What they had to say is below. J

~M.A. Church

 

~S.L. Armstrong/K. Piet
I began writing fanfiction in 2000. When I moved into the "Lord of the Rings" fandom, K. became a fan of my writing. She would email me occasionally or leave comments on my work. When I ceased writing fanfiction and moved to original fiction back in 2006/2007, K. and I began corresponding more. We also began roleplaying online. Eventually, I pointed out that the fan works we were creating together might serve us better if we just wrote original fiction. K. had never thought to write professionally before me, but I thought our styles meshed well, and I really enjoyed the collaborative environment co-authoring provided. With K. in college in Las Vegas, and me in Tampa, co-authoring was initially a very difficult and trying endeavor. We even took a year break in 2009 while K. completed her college education, and then we began writing once more in 2010.

We quickly realized that the time differences and distance just weren't working for us professionally, and in the summer of 2011, K. moved in with me in Tampa. Since then, it's been awesome. K. and I are like family, and we joke that we share the same brain. Ideas flow easily between us, and we can really motivate each other when the writing is going strong. The encouragement is just awesome. We tend to write out full scene-by-scene outlines for everything we write, and then work in Google Drive to create the manuscripts. It's a far cry from when we started, going back and forth in an AOL Instant Messenger window. Since she moved in, the cons have slowly disappeared. I think the only remaining cons, really, are a severe lack of time (since we're publishers, too) and my health (I have a compromised immune system, and so I'm constantly ill). But, we try to power through both of those, motivate one another, and sharing the same living space really helps that. While I do write on my own, it's not the default choice for me. I love co-writing, and I don't see myself flying utterly solo ever again. :D

 

~ habu/Sabb
Shabbu http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=Shabbu&search-alias=digital-text&sort=relevancerank, is the combined pen name for two established authors, one on the East Coast of the United States, habu, and one on the East Coast of Australia, Sabb, who spin gay erotica together in cyber space. Thus far, they’ve published nine e-books-to-paperbacks with Sabb’s publishing house, BarbarianSpy, and more than twice that many stories to free-use story Web sites. Sabb contacted habu on such a Web site, commenting on how similar their writing and writing topics were, and the two struck up a deeper cyber relationship. Their initial Shabbu stories emerged from role-playing banter in e-mails and were facilitated with Sabb hosting online publishing houses and habu being a mainstream professional book editor and published author.

Their coauthoring technique is one of establishing a story dilemma, each taking separate characters in a story, and tossing sections of separate perspective plot back and forth, permitting the progress of the story to reach its own resolution. Habu then, typically, remolds the work and polishes it up into a coherent storyline. Their styles are so similar that various reviewers have remarked not being able to tell which author provided what passages, and if there is any pitfall of the two working together it is that habu composes much more quickly than Sabb does and has to be careful not to overshadow Sabb’s contributions. BarbarianSpy (http://www.barbarianspy.com) publishes not only their Shabbu series, but also multiple works by the separate authors.

 

~An author friend
I did co-author a book once, a very long time ago, and it was dangerous to the friendship. My co-author and I had been friends and we thought working as a team would be no problem. Turned out that was indeed the problem. The pros? You know your co-author’s deepest darkest secrets, how your co-author thinks. The cons? Your co-author could fall into the but-you’re-my-friend play, or you could.

When co-authoring—and I’ve seen this with many co-author teams—there is a risk of the friendship coming between the team members or the book coming between friends.

You can’t let that happen. You can’t be friends with your co-author when working on the book. There is the friendship that is about the friends and then there is the co-author team that has nothing in the world to do with the friendship. You have to keep that personal friendship separate from that co-authoring business task at all times as mingling business with personal will destroy one if not both. My friend and I realized what was happening and, in complete agreement, ended the writing to save the friendship. Do I regret it? No, because it led me to being the person I am today and discovering the job of my heart as well as giving me a better understanding of authors and their lives. 

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