Follow Up: Coauthoring – Finding the Right Partner & What Next?
Posted by Piper Vaughn
How do you find someone to work with?
For me, both my partnerships so far began in my former critique group. Both MJ and Xara were members and we got to know each other and our respective styles before we ever attempted working together. I think part of the reason it worked out so well for us is because we were already so familiar with each other’s writing. But some of the projects I have coming up in the future did not begin that way. Those relationships actually started off on either Facebook or Twitter. But, again, not until after knowing these people have read my work and having read theirs.
-Find someone whose style is similar to yours. This is vital because unless you’re working on something like an anthology where your stories will be tied by a similar theme but not written jointly, you want to be sure your styles will work together. Now, I’m not saying you can’t ever write with someone whose style is dramatically different from your own. In fact, that can work very well if, say, you’re writing distinct characters in first person. But if your partner’s style is so different that he/she can’t write your character(s) or you can’t blend the story into a cohesive whole, you have a problem, and the readers will be able to tell.
-Test the waters. Sure, you can find someone with a similar style, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be smooth sailing from then on. Plot out your story or even just a few chapters, write some of it, and see how things go. Are you having fun? Does it seem like your writing styles will work together now that you’re actively trying? Have you come across any issues so far? Did you overcome them? These are the things you should ask yourself. And if it’s not working, don’t force it. Once again, it’ll show in the writing. Better to scrap the whole idea than put out something you hate because those feelings will most likely show in your work.
-Communicate. Let’s say you commit to getting your chapter to your partner by Sunday. The day comes and you know it’s not going to be done by the end of the day. Maybe you’re blocked, got busy, whatever. Don’t leave your coauthor hanging. Radio silence is not the way. All authors know that life can and does get in the way. Tell your partner you need more time. Keep the lines of communication open both ways. No one wants to work with someone they can’t rely on, even if it’s just relying on you to admit when you’re overwhelmed and need more time. That is okay. Just be honest about it. Talk to each other. That’s the only way you’re going to work through any issues that arise. And if you can’t talk it out? Don’t feel bound to continue. Again, honesty. Tell the other person you don’t think it’s working out. If you’re feeling that way, odds are they are too.
-Don’t be discouraged. So you tried to write with someone already and it didn’t work out. Don’t let that stop you from trying again! Co-writing is a lot like being in a relationship. With the wrong person/partnership, it’s bound to fail. That is okay! You’ve all heard the expression, “If at first you don’t succeed…” Keep that in mind, especially if coauthoring is something you really want to do. I’ve seen a couple of people say they wish they could coauthor, but they tried it with so-and-so and now they’re wary of trying again. If you really want to co-write, it’s important to remember that it might not work out the first time. MJ was the first coauthor I wrote with successfully. There was an author before her, a friend who wanted to write with me, but for one reason or another, it never worked out. I hated to do it, but I put that idea aside and moved on. In the end, I think it was for the best. If you guys can’t even get off the ground, the plane is obviously not going to fly. So find a different co-pilot, refuel, and try again.