When you meet the one, it all falls into place. You no longer have to carry the burden alone. The workload is shared, you encourage each other through the tough times and celebrate successes together. With the right partner, co-authoring can be an incredible experience that fuses the synergy and talents of two writers into creating one cohesive book.
About a year ago, I was talking with my writing friend Chuck. One of us (I don’t remember who) brought up the idea of writing something together. We both got excited and started discussing what we should write. He typically writes fantasy novels and I write nonfiction, short fiction and children’s books. Even our writing styles were (and still are) worlds apart, but that didn’t stop us. We both felt this could work. Not because of what we had written in the past, but because of us. Our personalities, work ethic and most of all, our ability to trust one another to get the job done right.
We took a strategic approach when choosing a genre to write and researched the top selling self-published books. According to Author Earnings, in 2017 romance had the second highest number of ebooks sold, right below literature & fiction. We also learned that romance readers go through books like potato chips, self-published authors in this genre do well and series sell better than single titles. It wasn’t long before we decided to commit to a three-book romantic comedy series, under the pen name, C.K. Wiles, to see what would happen.
We fell easily into a system that works for us. Chuck and I would brainstorm the story idea together, which is a fun, creative part of the process. Next, Chuck creates a detailed outline of the story that we go over together to make sure everything is there. He then takes off and starts writing. After he gets a few chapters completed, he begins sending them to me. I go through to add more emotion, fill in any holes in the story line and tighten the writing. Once he has sent me everything, I send the edited chapters back to him so he can make final adjustments and we talk through any areas that need more work. We both read it through one more time before sending the finished manuscript to a copy editor.
While our writing system made the process smooth, we found many components that make a co-author partnership successful.
Know Your Strengths
Each writer brings his/her own strengths to each book project. Figure those out early and embrace them. This is less about making sure tasks are equally divided and more about working with your strengths to ensure you publish the best book possible. Chuck is a fast fiction writer and not a fan of developmental editing. I am a slow fiction writer, but I love taking a rough draft of a manuscript and molding it into a great story. This works well for us and we can typically get a book finished in a little over two months. When it comes to the publishing aspects, I take the lead on that since I have experience in that area. We hire out the covers and copy editing, but I am able to format the books (print and ebook) and upload them into the various platforms.
Trust Each Other
Find someone who you respect as a writer and are confident in their skills. Chuck and I knew each other for years and provided feedback and critiques on each other’s work. I value his opinion and suggestions with my writing, so I knew before forming this partnership that I could work with him and vice-versa. When it comes to co-authoring, this trust is crucial. You have to be confident that you and your partner have the same goals and visions for the book. Then allow each other the freedom to make changes and adjustments to produce the best book possible. There will be times when you disagree, and that’s okay. Talk through them and come up with a solution you can both live with.
Leave Your Ego at the Door
When you are working with a co-author, you have to let go of your ego. The whole goal is to create a book you are both proud of and are happy to have your name (or pen name) associated with it. Chuck and I have different writing styles, but with our co-authored books, our writing melds together to create a new, unique voice. It is not about, “this is mine” and “that is yours,” it is seeing it as “ours.” If we got caught up in claiming different parts as our own or not being willing to work as a team to create the best book possible, we wouldn’t get anything finished.
Because of our effective partnership, we achieved our goal of publishing three books in our Curtain Call series. We have enjoyed our co-author experience so much, we are moving forward together with other writing projects as we work to market our series and get those books into the hands of readers. Co-authoring can be amazing with the right person. If this is something that interests you, take the time to find another writer you trust, one whose strengths and weaknesses compliment yours and one who is okay with checking egos at the door. Then you will enjoy a compatible relationship where you can create literary art as one.
BONUS: As a thank you, click here for a free digital copy of Showtime Rendezvous.
Kerrie Flanagan is an accomplished freelance writer with over 20 years’ experience. She is thrilled to be writing romantic comedies with her favorite writing partner, Chuck Harrelson. Together, under the pen-name, C.K. Wiles, they are the authors of Showtime Rendezvous, Stage Bound and Bared Secret.
In addition, Kerrie is the author of, Writer’s Digest Guide to Magazine Article Writing and 8 other books published under her imprint, Hot Chocolate Press.
You can listen to this episode of the Stark Reflections Podcast where Chuck and Kerrie talk more about their co-author experiences.