Friday, September 25, 2015

Sometimes It Takes Two

Hi everyone! I apologize for my absence…I was traveling this month. (Part of the trip had to do with research, so it wasn’t a vacation from all things writing!) I hope you’ve had a great September so far.

Writing can be such a solitary activity, but many of the writers I know use their families and friends as sounding boards. What would most of us do without these wonderful people who give of their time and attention to cheer us on or help us out?

Another fun way to make writing not so lonely is to co-write. I’ve had the opportunity to do this with two different friends, using two different methods. The ways to co-write a book vary as greatly as friendships do!

With one friend, I was writing a Regency, Jane-Austen type novel. Over email and cell phone conversations (we live in different states, 1,000 miles apart), we plotted out the entire story ahead of time, including character sketches and chapter outlines. When we were ready to write, we adopted the same voice so that you often can’t tell who wrote which section. I wrote the first chapter which we had already discussed, then read it to her for her approval; when I was done, she wrote the second, which we again discussed in advance; and we continued to alternate. It worked well for us because she’s one of my best friends and we knew how to communicate and come to agreements. Yet we gave ourselves some autonomy, which made it fun, both for the writer and for the one whose turn it was to listen. We couldn’t wait to see what the other had written!

This also made the story a rich, shared world. We have inside jokes. The characters were created from two minds instead of one, thus making them more well-rounded. I benefited from her ingenious plot ideas (hopefully I have a strength that she benefited from, too!). Our friendship is the stronger and deeper for having crafted something together over such a long period of time. The project is on hold, as both our lives got busy, but we anticipate returning to it.

With a different but also dear friend, I’m writing a contemporary children’s mystery. This friend is local, and our weekly meetings to write are/were highlights of my week. The writing is slower because we decide how each sentence is written then and there, but we also have a ton of fun discussing the story world and its plot and characters. If you write with someone side by side, try really hard to stay focused on the story and not get hung up on details that can be worked out later. This will make your time productive.

So if you want to co-write with someone, it’s best to establish with him or her how you’ll be writing together first of all. Make sure your writing is compatible, and take time to outline or at least discuss the story’s plot (unless you both want to wing it!). Editing will clean up any dissimilarities or holes.

I’ve heard of many other instances where multiple people co-wrote books or stories. Back in the 1930s, a group of detective novelists (including Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and G. K. Chesterton) collaborated on a mystery called The Floating Admiral. Each writer wrote a chapter after reading the previous chapters, but no one knew how the story was going to end. Each had their own theory and advanced the mystery in that way, dropping clues for the next authors to pick up on. It remained for the last author and the prologue-writer to tie all the threads. Now that sounds fun!

Have you ever co-written a story? What are some co-authored books you’ve read or heard of ?

Kelsey Bryant is an author, blogger, and copy editor who loves the Lord. She revels in many things: the beauty of God's Word, the music of English, the wonder of nature, the joy of creativity, the freedom of motion, the richness of literature, the intrigue of history...and much more. To learn more about her, visit her website or blog 


  1. Co-Authoring is how I actually got started writing. My friend(s) (I did this with over half a dozen different friends at different times) and I decided on a time in American history and then we each created a family and wrote letters to each other as though we lived in that era. It was fun seeing what actual events we could pull into our story. :)

    1. Oh, wow, that sounds like a lot of fun! That's a really neat first project. :) Epistolary novels/stories are interesting, but it seems like it'd be especially fun for the author(s) if a real someone else is writing letters back and forth with you.
      Thank you for sharing!

  2. I've always been interested in co-writing, but I've never tried it. My family has helped me greatly in brainstorming for stories, though. ;)

    1. Co-writing is a great motivator, too. :) If one person is lagging, the other can reignite their interest. But yes, what would we do without our families? Mine have been so supportive, too. I think it's fun for them to help their writer family members. ;)


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