That word sounds so evil…like working with the enemy. Well, I do some collaborating, but I don’t consider Tracy an enemy…yet. Okay, maybe it’s not collaborating. Maybe it’s team writing. Or co-writing. Or…I haven’t taken the time to look up the difference. I just do it.
The question we get asked most whenever people find out we’re writing a book together is, “How in the world…?” Which is kind of funny. They don’t ask what the story is about or how we find the time to work together or what we’re going to spend our advance on or when we’ll be scheduled on Oprah. They just can’t figure out how two people can write one story and still act like they get along.
So if you've been thinking about writing a book with someone, let me try to explain how we do it. Maybe it'll help you find your own method. If you’re an analogy type of person, here are a couple for you. A.) If you’re into westerns: Tracy is the scout. She rides ahead, looks around, shoots down a rabid wolf or two, then lets out a loud whistle. I come riding behind with the wagon, kick up some dust, then decide it’s time to stop and eat. Hey, someone’s gotta do it. B.) If you’re into construction: Tracy and I work together to lay the foundation. Then Tracy and her hulking muscles puts up the studs and the drywall. I fill in the cracks, paint, and add a few rugs and picture frames. Tracy tells me whether I really should have painted the living room red instead of brown. We hold a thumb war to decide which color sticks.
If you want me just to tell you how it works, well, here is my attempt. Tracy and I are alto buddies. We’d been stuck together during church choir practice for quite a few weeks, and I’m one of those evil members who talks between songs, during solos…whenever I can fit a word in edgewise. The director’s my father, there is no grade, and I no longer live at home; I figure I can get away with it. Anyway, Tracy found out I’m a writer and mentioned that she’s always wanted to write a book. We joked about working on one together.
Then I started reading her blog and discovered that she, like me, is klutzy. She also has things happen to her that couldn’t happen to anyone else. In fact, we probably were invited to submit to an agent on the weight of Tracy’s bio alone. She survived a plane crash into a corn field in Santa Claus, GA. That fact right there is enough to make people want to read her stuff. I also discovered she has the perfect sarcastic and unexpected sense of humor for chick lit. I had an idea; she had the sense of humor; we decided to give it a try.
We arranged a long walk on the beach. A very long walk. An I-don’t-know-if-I-will-ever-be-able-to-walk-again walk. When we came home, we were writing partners as well as friends and choir buddies. We researched methods for co-writing, we came up with a loose contract (which we later refined and signed over appetizers at Long Horn), and we mapped out an outline for the story.
Time to actually start writing. We decided we’d probably switch off chapters, then edit it together to make sure we keep the same voice. But, just to make sure we were on the same page, we both decided to write chapter one, then compare notes. Well, though I’m the more experienced writer, her chapter was a lot more fun. After pulling out my funny lines, we stuck with Tracy’s version. I rewrote it, smoothing and embellishing, and handed it back to her for a yay or nay.
And thus was birthed our writing system. Tracy writes a section, emails it to me, and works on the next while I do the rewriting, adding in dialogue and other details as they hit me. I email it back, and the cycle continues. She doesn’t have to worry about grammar. I don’t have to worry
about direction. It’s a blessed thing.
And that’s how we write a book. Together. Last week we skipped town for a couple days on an Editing Escape. My mother sent along a wishbone to solve any major arguments. We didn’t have to use it. Yet. This week, we’ll put the final touches on our story and send it to our agent. Then we’ll decide which book we want to do next.
After we pull out the wishbone, that is.