Writing: A Collaborative Project

Writing for me, and for most of us, is a solitary endeavor. We sit for long hours alone and pour emotion and ideas on the page. So it is interesting to me those writers who break out and collaborate. Authors such as Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston have  written 18 books together. I had always wondered how they were able to do it. It seems counter intuitive to me, and then I had an idea for a science fiction series.

From the beginning, I knew that this was something that would require collaboration and so I found myself searching for the right-write person to work with me. I cannot remember when the idea first formed, but it was years ago. The niggling feeling of needing to write the story never left and yet, I knew somehow the end result would be incredibly better if I had a co-author. So I never started writing it.

Finally, in 2010 I was able to find that ideal person who saw my vision of the story and wanted to add her own to the mix. And mix it did. Here is what I learned in the process:

1. When a story has numerous different characters, in our case, aliens and teenagers, (okay, maybe not so different) it was beneficial to share the load creatively. Each of us took a group of characters to form and write about. In the end, though, we each could write any of them, because they'd been so well drawn by the other. I think this helped us to create so many completely unique beings. Also, the research was split and so we were able to get right to writing a bit faster.

2. As a solitary author you have complete control of your project. When you agree to take on a collaborator you must release some of that control. As a control freak, I was surprised how this was not an issue. We each listened to the others thoughts and found ways to work that allowed us each to feel in control. Not only that but we each learned things in the process.

3. Which brings me to number three. As writers we have strengths and weaknesses. Find the right collaborator and your weaknesses are helped by their strengths. This was the part I loved the most.

4. Okay, well not the "most" most. The most was that we met over coffee every Saturday morning. We gave ourselves assignments and did our best to "turn" them in on time. This was something else that was great actually. We had accountability to each other. And the coffee was delicious.

It has been two years now. The coffee shop still sees us each Saturday morning where we work on our writing for 3-5 hours together. Our first book in the series will be released this week and we are working on our second in the series. For both of us, the collaboration process has been a smooth and enjoyable process. One that, we both agree, will continue.    

As a devout reader, D. Jean Quarles spent her young years with a book in hand. Later she owned a bookstore and while writing was something she did, it wasn't until her children were grown that she completed her first women's novel. Currently she is working on a young adult science fiction series with co-author, Austine Etcheverry.

You can find her at: Her website
And them both at:  The Exodus Series
                                   The Exodus Series Blog


Karen Cioffi said...

What great insight into co-authoring. I think about finding someone to collaborate with on a book. But, as you say it needs to be the "right-write person."

I especially like the idea of having someone who can offset ourr weak spots - and hopefully we would do the same for our co-author.

Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing

NancyCL said...

Love this article. Thanks so much for sharing!

T. Forehand said...

Great idea to work with another writer. Co-authoring works well for many and certainly something to consider when working on a big project or one that has many parts. How do you deal with a difference of opininion on where the story or book is headed? Has that been a problem?

Margaret Fieland said...

Interesting. I've collaborated on a poetry anthology with five others (we worked exclusively online) but never co-authored anything. Thanks for the informative article.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Love your story Jean. I think it would be a really fun undertaking, not only finding someone who strengthens you weak spots but pushes you beyond what you might do on your own.

Shirley Corder said...

It must be a huge challenge to find that "write" person. Thank you for the insight into the world of collaborative writing.

elysabeth said...

Very good idea. I'm not sure I have a series that would take co-authoring, but I know my next novel (if it ever sees the light of day, which is looking dimmer and dimmer right now) needs a lot of research before I can really write it but I haven't a clue where to start and not sure that co-authoring is the way to go - but something to think about. Thanks for sharing this and congrats on the release of your first co-authored book in the series - E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of Finally Home, a YA paranormal mystery

Magdalena Ball said...

I also have collaborated/co-authored several books (no coffee house for us - we collaborate across continents) in the poetry celebration series I've been doing with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, and the benefits have been enormous - not only in terms of idea-sharing, an instant critique, and of course sharing the workload, but in terms of keeping us on track and accountable to our shared goal. I haven't yet done this with fiction, but maybe in the future.
Magdalena Ball

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I know co-authoring has worked for many writers, but not for all. I'm glad that you and your co-author have made it work.


elysabeth said...

Congrats, Susanne. You are the winner of the woodsy bookworm from this posting. I have your mailing address. Should be in the mail Friday - E :)

Unknown said...

WOW! That's quite a testament to both writers. It's a very exciting approach to me. Done right, you should have twice as much creativity and half as many mistakes?? No tot mention twice as much writing should get done. You also have a built in critique group. do you feel you put in the same amount of time and effort? That must be difficult to do. BRAVO!!

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