Mar 25, 2013

Go Teen Writers Blog Stop: Cowriting (plus a giveaway)



Today I'm happy to announce that I'm hosting authors, Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson, for the blog tour of their new release, Go Teen Writers: How To Turn Your First Draft Into A Published Book! Stay tuned at the end for a free giveaway!

Without further ado, here is Mrs. Morrill's guest post on cowriting:

by Stephanie Morrill

Before writing Go Teen Writers: How To Turn Your First Draft Into A Published Book neither of us had ever co-written a book. We were fortunate in that our skillsets complement each other, and the process wasn’t just painless, but rewarding. We were able to produce a book we love and believe in, and we’re closer friends because of our time on the book. Here’s what we did well that made co-writing so fun:

We made sure we were at the same place

We had a heart-check about the book. Because we work on the blog together, we already knew we had the same heart for teen writers, and we wanted the same principles we use in the blog to go into the book as well. So for a while, we just traded occasional emails about ideas for the book until we landed on a vision we could both get behind.

This step is vital because everything will build on it, so if you’re thinking about co-writing, we encourage you both to allow a little time pass while you brainstorm so you can be sure you’re going to work well together.

We sought the opinions of others about our partnership

We talked to our agents about the wisdom of the project. We had a couple of small presses who were interested in the book, so we also talked to them about if we should go small press or publish independently.

Even if you don’t have an agent, it’s a good idea to talk to others and see what they think about your partnership. Do they have concerns? They might see problems you can’t.

We tried to make it even

After receiving the blessing from our agents, we got on the phone for a couple hours and hashed out a table of contents. Then we went through and decided who would write what. We worked hard to make sure the content was split fairly between us.

We also talked about how the editing and publishing process would go. Jill has more knowledgeable about independent publishing, so she volunteered to do the formatting and bookstore stuff. Because of that, I took over as much of the editing process as I could, though of course we both had to be involved in everything.

There a few ways to co-write a book. You can each be involved in every word that goes on the page or you can trade off who is writing. For us, it made sense to decide who would write what and then weave it all together at the end.

It’s very important that you and your co-writer  talk honestly about what skills you bring to the table and that you communicate concerns up front. Be sure your working styles and expectations line up well.


We regularly communicated about where we were in the process

After we had figured out the table of contents, the next step was to write the thing.

Cue contracts and deadlines for both of us.

Jill found herself with two looming deadlines, so she had to set the Go Teen Writers book aside while she met those. Because she was clear with me about what was going on, and let me know that she would have to write her sections after she turned in her fiction manuscripts, we were able to coordinate it all so it worked with minimal frustration.

We respected our deadlines and motivated each other

If one of us said, “I’ll have this to you by Friday,” we made sure it happened. And when we were feeling tired or overwhelmed, we were able to strengthen each other. This trust and encouragement is what made us thrive during the co-writing process.

It doesn’t end when you’ve written the book

This is a really important thing to keep in mind. You’re not just writing the book together—you’re publishing and promoting it together. For us that meant agreeing on a season of promotion, planning what we were going to do and what we were going to spend, and then executing our plan.

It also means you’ll be splitting money, which as we all know can make people weird. Make sure you talk through how the money will work and that you’re both comfortable with the plan.

Have you ever co-written a book? What worked for you and what didn’t? If you haven’t, is it something you’re interested in, or are you strictly a solo writer?



Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson have written a combined two dozen speculative and comtemporary novels for teens. They also blog obsessively at www.goteenwriters.com. When not writing or blogging, they can be found at the teen table at writer's conferences or wherever chocolate is being given away. Come hang out with Stephanie at www.stephaniemorrill.com and Jill at www.jillwilliamson.com.
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23 comments:

  1. Heheh, yes I have co-written a book, when I was at the young age of...9.

    That worked out...eh...okay, I guess. xD It is very amusing to me now. That was probably the first time I actually tried to write a series. It was horribly similar to the Magic Tree House books...yeah. Not so good. But oh, well, I was NINE, so.

    Loved the post! :D

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    1. That's an impressive undertaking for a 9-year-old, Amanda!

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  2. Co-writing a book is one my author bucket list, for sure. =) So glad it was a rewarding experience for you and Jill!

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    1. It was a really good experience, and in a lot of ways it was less work than writing a book by yourself. I'm such a control-freak, that I wonder how I would be with fiction...

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    2. Yeah, fiction would be harder, I think... :-/

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  3. I would definitely consider myself a solo writer. I've collaborated on stories with friends before, but at the end of the day, when it comes to a piece that I really care about (and it isn't just a short writing exercise I'm doing with friends just for the heck of it), I have a very personal vision for the piece.
    Maybe in the future I might try co-writing something more seriously, but for now, I've found that writing alone i what works for me. :)

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    1. I completely get that. I'm not the best cowriter, though I haven't done much with it. I tried with my sister once. The lack of success might've been because she was my sister, though.

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  4. Dang! I'm not old enough for Facebook or Twitter yet so I can't enter. ;P Ah, well. Great post! I think it would be really hard to write with someone else.

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    1. Oh! I'm sorry about that! I completely forgot to add a free entry option. I'll manually add you in, Magic Violinist!

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  5. Magic Violinist, there are lots more giveaways on other blogs. Check out the listings on the GTW blog all week. Here are four for today and they're all giving away the ebook.

    http://goteenwriters.blogspot.com/2013/03/four-chances-to-win-new-go-teen-writers.html

    Sadly, no one else is giving away the $25 gift card... That is very generous, Kelsey! And thanks for hosing us too!

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    1. Oh dear! Thank you for that comment! I didn't put anything about a $25 gift card. Must've been a glitch in the system or something. I *wish* I had $25 to giveaway.

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    2. I entered every single one! Fingers crossed!

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  6. I haven't yet, but I'm talking to my friend about possibly co-writing one when our schedules free up a bit. Seems like fun though. :)

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  7. I'm co-writing a novel with a good friend right now. :) It's harder than I thought it would be, but still fun.

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  8. I'm co-writing with a friend at the moment, and we are loving it. What we do, is we plan, and write, and edit. We plan together what happens, and take turns writing the chapters. Then we send the chapter just written to the other person, who edits it, with comments about what we could change, and we re-write it. So, basically, every chapter is written by both of us. :)
    Usually, I am a solo writer, because I can get deeper into my books, stories, and songs. It's hard to read someone else's thoughts. ;) I guess I can work with both!

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  9. Cowriting seems like a cool idea, but I agree with Jenny. Plus, my first drafts are ... first drafts, and I'm not sure how well I'd be with cowriting and letting someone else in during the preliminary stages. It seems like it would be really fun if I knew I worked well with someone and it all worked out well, though.

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  10. I love cowriting, but I've never made it all the way through a cowritten novel. Great advice!

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  11. Aww man! I don't have facebook or twitter, so I can't enter this one! :(

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    1. I'll enter you manually! I forgot to add the free entry.

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  12. I don't think I would know how to co-write a book. I have a writing blog and would love it if you would review it some time: http://ourwordsdefineus.blogspot.com

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