I've co-authored five books. Four of them worked, the fifth didn't. When the collaboration works, it's a pleasure, when it doesn't it's a struggle. I'm going to share with you the guidelines I now use before I venture into new co-writing project.
Number 1. Check your ego at the door. If you are not willing to let go of your own voice, then co-authoring isn't for you. What two authors do is find that third, unique voice. The first author I worked with didn't want to lose his voice. yes, his style and voice were good, but when the book was finished, it was easy to see who had written what. That isn't what you should be striving for. You should have a seamless story that sounds like one voice.
Number 2. Know the other author's strengths and weaknesses, and more importantly know yours. The idea author to co-write with is one who strengthens your weaknesses, vice versa. With Shadow Worlds, a science fiction thriller I co-authored with Darrell Bain, I knew nothing about quantum physics. Darrell had the science background, but his dialogue and characterization needed a little help. Those are two of my strong parts. So together we created a action-packed story of science with characters and dialogue that made the pages sing.
Number 3. Can an author who outlines, and one who likes to write by the seat-of-their-pants work together? Can an author who lives to write genre fiction and another who tends toward literary fiction create a book. Yes, but it's harder to do. Maggie Pucillo and I are good friends. We thought why not write a book together. And we did, A Spiral of Echoes, but it wasn't easy. I'm tend to write genre fiction, wham, bam, keep the action going. Maggie likes slower paced fiction, more narrative. It was alot of give and take. At one time we even set the book aside and said it wasn't going to work. But we pushed on, met each other half way, and ended up with a paranormal romance, that neither of us could have written by ourselves.
Number 4. It's very hard to write with someone who doesn't have the same work ethic. If you're a stickler for setting timelines and your co-author is more casual about them, you will drive each other crazy.
Number 5. Then there is the author that blends perfectly with you as far as style. The author that loves genre fiction. Is an outliner like yourself and shores up your weaknesses. That's what Randolph Tower and I have together. Ice and One last Sin were true pleasures to write. The words and dialogue flowed. The agreed upon timelines were met. The two finished books a perfect blend of two voices.
If you decide to give co-authoring a try, that's what I want for you. Take time to think things through. Yes, it's fun to brain-storm story plots with an author, but writing is hard work. Be prepared to bend a little, open up to new ideas. Someone is never right all of the time. The results may surprise you. I love co-authoring, but it certainly isn't the right path for everyone.
Barbara M. Hodges is the author or co-author of 11 works of fiction. She lives on the central coast of California with her husband Jeff and two basset hounds, Hamlet and Heidi. Barbara is very involved with basset hound rescue and you will always find a basset hound scamp in her books.
She is also the president of the Central Coast Chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of Public Safety Writers Association.