The blog of author Harper Alexander

Writer Friends (And Co-Authoring)

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So my good friend is coming to visit me for the weekend.  We’ve been best friends for going on 17 years now.  But the really cool thing is that she’s a writer too!  Somehow, we grew up to want to do the same thing.  I think that’s so cool.

We’ve attempted to write books together in the past.  It has been both successful and not.  When we were teenagers, it was actually pretty successful simply because we only did it for fun, at that point, and we weren’t all that professional-savvy, so it didn’t matter if we had a good plot or wrote well or any of the stuff that makes a book actually publishable; we just wrote without caring where the book really went, and therefore didn’t really ever argue about where it was going.

Eventually, of course, we realized what we’d written was largely trash.  Not a waste of time, since it was practice and we were stimulating our creativity and all that, but trash.  At that point we started to get a little more serious, and after that we made a few attempts of actually writing a decent book together.

This was when we started becoming less successful at it.  Both of us were starting to develop style and smarts, and so there was a little more debating about what to do with a given storyline, which usually ended up leading to our steam trailing off before any relevant progress was made.  There was also the issue of both of us getting busy with other things, and moving to different cities, and although we always got totally stoked about trading a book back and forth through email, it  never really panned out.

At some point, we just kind of stopped trying for awhile, and she focused on her life while I wrote and self-published my own books.  But recently, we decided to try again.

This time, we totally clicked.  We started brainstorming, and it was like we were sharing a brain.  All of the same ideas started coming to both of us, at the same time, and an entire story unfolded in a single car ride.  I think there was one thing we tentatively disagreed on, but it was something to come late in the plot anyway, so we figured we could cross that bridge when we came to it.

Awesome.  We were totally going to do this, this time.  We HAD to; we had clicked so well on it, there was no way we couldn’t honor the awesome mutual ideas and finally do what we’d been trying to do for years.  We had just gone to a going-out-of-business sale for Borders books, and had a car-full of inspiration to get us started.  (That may very well have been what inspired us so keenly to begin with).

And get us started it did.

The problem is…  She’s a starter, and I’m a finisher.  I struggle writing beginnings (except prologues; I love those), but once I get past the first introductory/establishing chapter I can finish a novel no problem (hence the whole shelf of titles I’ve somehow managed to publish before the age of 25).  She LOVES writing beginnings, and has probably started half a million books in the last year, which have gone mostly nowhere except onto the bottom of the pile as the new one commences and gets placed on top.

The fact that she’s good at starting and I’m good at finishing might not sound like a problem to you – in fact, at a glance, it sounds perfect.  She should be able to get the things started, and I should be able to finish them right up.

The problem lies in the middle.  Somehow, we can’t quite get the middle to take care of itself.  As such, the aforementioned project is currently on hold.  I refuse to subscribe to the idea that it’s failing, but it is definitely currently stalled.  We have all these ideas for it, and agree on most of them, but just can’t quite put it together.

We’ve developed the theory that we actually accumulated too MANY ideas for it, and that’s causing some issues where both of us keeping track of it all is concerned.

We’ve also run into a few issues trying to decide HOW to make a joint effort on this book.  There are different ways to co-author a book.  You can each be the voice of a separate character, you can take turns writing chapters, you can simply trade off every time the other person gets stuck, etc.  What is the best way?  We’re not sure yet.  We’ve been using the method of simply trading off whenever the other gets stuck, which has worked out alright, but that can cause issues with writing style.  We’re pretty similar in our styles (or at least, we can be, if we make sure to try to sound like each other), but it’s something to think about.  Of course, if you choose one of the other methods of co-authoring, you might end up with one of you getting stuck on his designated chapter, and the other not being able to write anything until the stuck fellow gets un-stuck, or if you’re each the voice of a separate character, and they have any conversations in the book, you each have to be present to trade off prompt snippets in a back-and-forth reply system.  Tedious, and inconvenient.

Issues, issues, issues.

We decided to go ahead and consciously put our stalled brilliance for the one novel on hold, and try to write a simpler book first, just because we do think we have the necessarily discipline and ability to collaborate on a full-fledged book, now, but it might be wiser to start simple and work our way to greater things.

So we came up with an idea for a simpler book, and we’re both pretty agreeable about the whole thing, but what we’re finding is that, even if we can get it to work while we’re spending time together, she’s still super busy in her own life when we’re not visiting, and if we’re not focusing full-tilt on a project together, it’s necessary for me to put all my focus into my own books (seeing as I do have a policy of writing one a month).

So.  I am going to propose to her, when she gets here, that we go into business writing novellas together.  We already downgraded to writing a simpler book, it seems only logical that, still failing thus, we go for a shorter one as well.  THAT, I’m pretty sure we could do.  A novella should be easy enough for one person to finish – my philosophy is that, with two, it should be a total breeze.  Or at least totally doable.

We will see.  I have high hopes.  But if it works, it would be totally fun.  We could live out the rest of our days going awesome places together, coming up with cool little ideas, and jotting out quick little novellas.  Bam.  Post it on Amazon (nicely edited of course) for 99 cents.  Make a small fortune.

Ha.  Who knows, but it could work.  Length (and a valid reason for higher prices and more revenue) is awesome, but so long as quality isn’t compromised, there is something to be said about multitude and frequency.  We will see.  Wish us luck!

Time to go giggle up a storm, catch up on awkward adventures, and, hopefully, get a little bit of joint writing done.

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