Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Co-Writing: Tag! You're it!

As you guys know, my sister Kath and I are co-writing a book. We still are, even though we’ve pretty much ground to a halt because of Stuff. Stuff includes day jobs, kids, shift work, other commitments…you know: stuff. Like housework. While I’m perfectly content to live in my pyjamas and be smothered by dust bunnies, apparently Kath has higher standards than that.  

“You should do something about those cobwebs,” Kath told me the other day, looking at my study ceiling.

“I am,” I told her. “I’m collecting them.”

In the meantime, my alter-ego is co-writing with another author. This is a whole different game altogether, because there are certain expectations here beyond “Hey, let’s see if we can do this crazy thing.” Mostly because her pseudonym and mine are both already published authors in the genre, so there is at least the expectation that we can do this, although it remains to be seen if we can do it well.

I’ve never met my co-author. We’re both published through the same publisher. Her first book came out the same time my second one did, and she sent me an email saying hi. So we emailed, interviewed each other on our blogs, that sort of thing.

Then, last Thursday night my time (she’s in the US) she sent me an email with the subject: Question. And it started with “Now, don’t feel like you have to say yes, but…”

I said yes.

By Friday night my time, over a series of increasingly excitable emails, we’d sketched out our main characters, a bit of a supporting cast, and a vague idea of a plot. By Monday morning my time, we had one scene to go before we finished the second chapter. Holy crap. That’s almost Nanowrimo speeds!

And we’ve done this with no more planning than “You write as much as you feel like, then email me, and I’ll do the same.”

I like this “Tag, you’re it!” style of writing.

You know that scene you get stuck on? The one that’s maybe not fun anymore, or you’re a bit bored and it’s suddenly more important to be on Facebook? Well, you know what? No excuses. Your co-author is waiting for her turn to write.  

You know how sometimes you get stuck because you’re a pantser not a plotter? And if you don’t know what direction you’re going in, you kind of give up and move onto something else? This time, you don’t. Because it turns out that if you’re stuck, maybe she isn’t, and maybe she’s going to take it in a direction you never saw coming.  

My favourite part so far? While I’m asleep, this book is still getting written. Seriously, I wake up, and there it is in my inbox, and the Magic Writing Fairy has added a whole new scene!

So far we’re in the Happy Manic Creative phase, which is my favourite phase of all, but I know that sooner or later it’s going to be like Actual Proper Work. Which is also fine, but that’s also when things will get interesting.

Who has power of veto if we need it? (When you’re co-writing with your sister, it’s your mum, obviously.)
Whose editor do we pitch to?
Who gets to write the synopsis? (I vote for her. I hate doing those.)            
Who gets to write the really fun scene? You know, the naughty one, with the…um… extra naughtiness. And condiments.

And, possibly most importantly, who gets to name the parrot?  


Has anyone else tried co-writing? I’m always open to advice.


  1. I actually asked a friend to try this about a month ago, just a fantasy story for fun, and it's exactly what you say.

    I even thought if we ever do it again, we could ask you to join, so we could have a three-way. :-)

    1. It is fun, and strangely liberating to give up some control of the process.

      Also, you totally shouldn't say the the word "threesome" when my pseudonym is listening in. That's just another idea to add to the pile!

  2. I'm not much for co-writing. Perhaps, it may depend on the book. The closest I've ever come to someone I could co-write with are my two ideal readers (crit partners).

    Good luck. If you're enjoying it, that helps fuel the fun.
    Bood luck!

    1. Hi DG. I know I couldn't have done it on any of my current WIPs or ideas. It had to be something new, do that we both felt like neither of us had ownership of the idea.

      I'm really enjoying it so far. It's interesting having to learn a new way to write, and exciting to get new pages and discover what she's done

  3. I've never tried writing a story with someone else. I don't think I'd be good at it.ha I think it requires a different skill set.

    You go though! Good for you!

    1. It's been fun so far! It's definitely different though, and weird when you send the characters off for their scene and they to something unexpected. It reminds me a lot of playing pretend as a kid ... anything could happen.

  4. Yes, I've tried this with a friend. As you say, it has a different momentum entirely than writing alone. Darn, I wish I knew what you two were writing. Oh, wait, I know. I tagged you on my blog for The Next Big Thing "thing," and you can tell us all about it by answering those questions, or do it for the novel you want to publish under your real name too. :)

    1. Lol! Thanks LG! Hey, I'm sure I'll accidentally out myself one day by signing in as the wrong google id or something!

      Yay for being tagged! Can't wait to play!



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