As I’m writing this, I’m mostly procrastinating getting back into my current project (I’m at like 5,000/80,000 target words, so… yeah, procrastination for the win.) I’m also dropping in here because I just finished an awesome but difficult project where I was working with a co-creator and co-author. (I am also cross-posting this on the Samurai Scribes website because of reasons.)
First, I must admit that my co-authored project was completely out of my normal comfort zone, as it was a YA novel. (You can read all about THAT experience by clicking on the Holy Crap I’m Writing YA tab at the top of the page, I’ll be adding a few more posts in that series now that the first project is done.) I was already going in relatively blind because I basically skipped the YA genre in general, which I go into detail about in the aforementioned Holy Crap I’m Writing YA series of posts.
As much fun as writing with others CAN BE (and as much of a rewarding experience as it really, really is,) I have found a bunch of problems with sharing my time and creative process with someone else. And I think these are all things that other authors should take into consideration when engaging in a project with another writer.
I write FAST. It’s all I do with my spare time most of the time, and it’s not completely unheard of for me to have a 20,000 word writing day. I will write 20,000 words in a day without thinking anything of it. I can usually complete a draft of a project within 3-4 weeks. It’s quite possible that I’m not right in the head and it’s even more possible that I’ll burn out for a longer period of time than what I already require as “recovery time” between projects, but for now I’ll be happy to accept writing 1/4 of a novel in a day. (Or a spec script for a single episode for an hour-long television show, depending on what I’m working on at the time.) I’m fast and I know it’s abnormal, but believe me, I’m not complaining and this isn’t meant to be a boast.
The second major thing that I discovered was that we had COMPLETELY DIFFERENT IDEAS about where this project was going to go. My plot was far darker and more angsty (unintentionally) than what my partner in crime wanted to do. The plot flip-flopped between several competing agendas and story lines and we pretty much couldn’t agree on anything for the first part of this project.
We also had two completely different writing styles. Our “voices” are different and after a while, I basically just took over writing the project in my voice because we couldn’t match up and it was just easier that way.
Oh, and we had different plotting styles. Yeah, it was messy. I am usually perfectly comfortable “pantsing” my way through a book, however recently, with about 20 different ideas for different projects and series, I have had to “plot” them all out, simply out of necessity. (I have the bad habit of forgetting what the hell I’m actually doing, and having 20+ ideas rolling around gets confusing, especially when you have two ideas for series that have similar worlds/mythology/genres.) I’m sincerely beginning to like “plotting” my books beforehand.
My partner had no intention of sitting down and plotting with me. So we would meet up once in a while and sling ideas back and forth. Which worked great for the first little while. Until things stopped working, or I got stuck, or the plot was going in too many directions, or [insert another problem here, we probably had to deal with it.] I ended up “pantsing” my way through this novel, which worked, despite these many other issues.
This project took a lot longer than I’m used to and ended up shorter than my non-YA books. I don’t know why it ended up shorter, but it did take me a LOT longer to get this thing completed and put me behind on my personal schedule.
I’m not saying that these are all things that will happen to you if you choose to work with another writer on a project. I’m also not saying that you SHOULDN’T write with other people. This is just what has happened to me on my first non-roleplaying game experience in writing a novel with another person. These are things that you should really look out for when you’re choosing a co-author, and these are things that you should really be aware of before you jump in with both feet.
So, happy writing.
Have you ever written with someone else? How would you compare it to writing alone?